I am intrigued by Iglesia Ni Cristo (INC) members who cite verses in the Holy Bible as a way to convince me that I should deny my homosexual tendencies and return to the INC. Here are two such verses:
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (English Standard Version)
Leviticus 18:22 “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.” (English Standard Version)
So if you are a gay INC member, what are you supposed to do? I think the answer lies in how strongly you feel the Holy Bible should serve as a guide in your life. If you passionately love the Iglesia and believe in the Bible, then you need to seriously rethink whether a gay existence is feasible. Can you have both the INC and a gay life? Some INC members purport that it is possible- simply go to church but don’t let the INC into your personal life. Or do you live a celibate existence, recognizing your gay tendencies but choosing not to act on them? Other members have chosen this path, perhaps because they don’t want to hurt their families or be ostracized by their friends.
While I respect both of those directions, in my opinion, religion is not a buffet bar. You cannot pick and choose your doctrines in order to make your life more convenient or palatable. Either you believe all of the doctrines in your religion, or you leave the religion. In the same vein, you cannot abide by only parts of the Holy Bible. In 2004, I made the decision that the Holy Bible would not dictate how I would live. This decision, coupled with my firm position that living an openly gay existence is just as valid as living a straight existence, helped me to finally discover spiritual peace. So whenever someone invokes 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 or Leviticus 18:22, I am not bothered by it, because my sense of morals or ethics is not bound by those verses.
To those gay INC members who are still struggling: I hope you make a decision with which you will be satisfied, because an unsatisfactory decision is simply the wrong decision.
The first (and until now, the only) post I wrote for this blog was back in 2009. I never actively publicized the post, and yet in the last 9 months, I had three people respond to it. I can only imagine how many more people are emotionally suffering over being a gay Iglesia Ni Cristo member.
I’ve read a lot of content on the Internet from people who say that either you should relinquish your homosexual tendencies and actions lest you be damned to hell or you should just leave the Iglesia Ni Cristo lest you be considered a hypocrite. The issue is far more complex than these people make it out to be. For members who were born into the INC, leaving the church could mean being disowned by their family and friends. It could mean feeling immense guilt over any emotional repercussions on their parents. It’s not just about the thought of being excommunicated. Unlike our Jewish, and Muslim and other Christian counterparts, a public “Gay Iglesia Ni Cristo Members” support group does not exist, at least not in the United States (where I live). Many of them are working through their conflicts by themselves, with nobody to whom they can confide.
Gay INC members choose different paths to deal with their inner conflicts. Some decide to continue going to church as they have always done and say nothing about their sexual orientation to fellow church members. Others go to church (whether to please family, God, or themselves) yet lead personal lives that are wholly separate from INC. Others simply stop going to church altogether. Some disclose to loved ones that they are gay, others do not. Those who have stopped going to church may or may not tell their family members about their attendance status.
As more gay INC members (both current and former) come across this blog, I hope that one day we can publicly develop our own support group without the fear of being ostracized. Perhaps this blog can serve as a stepping stone to this new community. For now, just knowing that there are other INC members in the world who are dealing with similar issues may be what we need to provide ourselves with some comfort.
I decided to create this blog because it’s time that gay members and former members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo create a community (albeit virtual) so that they would never again feel alone in their struggles to reconcile their sexual orientation with their religious beliefs. I have observed that some of my gay Jewish or Christian friends were able to connect with other gay people of their respective religions. Why can’t we, current and former INC members, do the same?
Having been born into the church, I left INC in 2004 after deciding that I could not be part of any religion that deems homosexuals unfit for heaven. However, my severance from the church was a calculated effort, not immediate. The process started in February. On the days when I attended service, I purposely did not turn over my name tag. I wanted the deacons to think that I always attended but just forgot to turn over the plastic that had my name inscribed on it. That way, on the days when I didn’t go to church, they would be conditioned to believe that my forgetfulness got the better of me.
In February, I missed one service. In March, two services. By May, I missed half of the services, and my overseers finally called me to find out what was going on. Of course, I never picked up the phone. (They had only my landline number, so they were never able to reach me via cell phone.) They called again in June and July. I don’t remember the exact date, but one Thursday in early July was the last time I ever set foot in the building called “The House of Worship.” The experience was liberating and devastating at the same time.
About 80% of my social network was the church. When I decided to leave, I also decided, painfully, to let go of this network. The INC members were really very nice people. But I couldn’t tell them what was ailing me. I couldn’t reveal that I was gay. I just had to leave on my terms, quietly and discreetly.
Over time, I made new friends in the secular world in which I had chosen to remain. I wanted more gay friends, so I made more of an effort to find them (though my natural shyness made the effort a bit difficult at first). While I am much happier now, I admit that Mom and Dad still don’t know that I left the church. They do know that I’m gay, for I told Mom in December of ’04, and she, in turn, informed Dad. The whole family and my relatives know now. (In my family, once someone finds out something, the whole family tree starts to shake its leaves.) I believe that if my parents found out that I have not been attending services for five years, they would feel many times more pain than they did upon learning of my coming out.
Whatever problems that you are trying to resolve, be rest assured that many INC people are in similar predicaments. You may not know who they are. You may not know who I am. But you certainly have my support. Please comment if you like. I hope that we can finally establish a small community for ourselves.