Well hello there, friends…we’re all still standing after last week’s post, yes? Let me just say that I’m glad you are still here, truly.
In the aftermath of last week’s gay marriage post, a couple of people asked me why I felt the need to write on such a controversial topic. Their question wasn’t accusatory; they honestly wanted to know why I, a self-proclaimed controversy-phobe, would take on such a lightning rod issue. So here’s my answer to that question, in case you, too, were wondering.
For quite a long time now I’ve felt an increasing disconnect between how I present myself here and in other spaces online and who I am in “real life,” so to speak. And while I’ve never been intentionally dishonest here on the blog or on social media, I came to feel that some of my thoughts and beliefs, particularly those related to the LGBTQ community, had become something of an elephant in the room, like I was living the “don’t ask, don’t tell” philosophy. It felt disingenuous. Truthfully, I was beginning to feel a bit fractured – almost like I had an online identity and an in-person identity — and I was tired of keeping up appearances. I wanted to come clean here, to set the record straight.
It’s funny, back when I first began to claim my identity as a Christian, I hesitated to broadcast that to my “in real life” community, partially because I was afraid of being judged. The truth is, for non-religious people (which is not to say that my entire “real life” community is non-religious, but many of my friends and family are), the label “Christian” is not necessarily positive. As a person new to the faith, I was more comfortable claiming my Christian identity online, where I could talk about my faith with other Christians and not worry about being labeled in a particular way. At some point during the last couple of years, though, something shifted as I began to realize that I was less religiously conservative than many of my online Christian peers. At one point I even felt like I was “too Christian” for many of my in-person peers, and “not Christian enough” for my online community. That was fun.
Long story short, I reached a point in which I didn’t feel that I was being true to myself, and I didn’t feel like I was being true to you. And let’s be brutally honest about this: part of the reason I maintained this split identity for so long was because I didn’t want to lose readers. I know, it’s gross, but it’s the truth. I felt pressure — pressure to keep building my platform, pressure to grow an audience, pressure to present the best possible scenario of potential readers to my publishers. I’m not blaming the publishing industry entirely – my own ego certainly plays into this (i.e. more readers and more subscribers means I am more popular and more successful – yay, me!) — but the need to build a viable platform was definitely a factor.
The harsh reality was that last Thursday’s post about gay marriage was a huge risk for me. I lost 47 blog subscribers in two days, and that hurts – not only because my platform is still small and that loss is big (to put it in perspective, it would typically take around 6 or 7 months or longer to add 47 new subscribers to my email subscription list), but also because, well, it’s hurtful. I took the time to look at some of those readers who unsubscribed – I was curious if I knew any of them personally, or if they’d been long-time readers. And it hurt to know that in many cases, one post was enough to prompt longtime, loyal readers to unsubscribe. These were readers who had, up to this point, ostensibly found spiritual or other sustenance in my writing, in some cases for years, but were willing to or felt compelled to sacrifice that because of one point of disagreement (albeit a substantial point, but still). That was painful.
On a more positive note, however, I also feel relief. You know where I stand now, and even if we don’t agree on this particular issue, I don’t feel like I’m hiding anything important anymore. We can move forward in a more authentic, honest way. And as I said at the start of this blog post, I deeply appreciate those of you who have stuck around, particularly those of you who disagree with me. I really do believe that we can disagree, even on important issues, and still move forward in authentic relationship and in Christian faith, learn from one another and love one another.
So. For the record, I will not be making a habit of writing LGBTQ/Christian/same-sex marriage posts in the future. This is not my new “thing” – frankly, I don’t have the guts for it. I much prefer to delve into other deep issues, like the spiritual discipline of walking my dog.
I am heartened to know, though, that if I do step into a tricky topic every now and again, this is a place where we can engage in conversation, a place where we can come to the table, and a place where something that begins as a chasm might just become a bridgeable gap.