Jesus’ queer sensibility

Faith and GLBTQ equality go hand in hand at California Faith for Equality

Samuel Chu (left) and Harry Knox (right) met with local pastors from California Faith for Equality at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Sacramento.

Samuel Chu (left) and Harry Knox (right) met with local pastors from California Faith for Equality at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Sacramento.

Photo By kel Munger

Harry Knox, a Methodist minister, is the director of the religion and faith program of the Human Rights Campaign and was recently appointed by President Barack Obama to serve on the president’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships. Samuel Chu, a pastor at Immanuel Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, is the interim executive director of California Faith for Equality. They spoke to SN&R during a recent visit to Sacramento to meet with area pastors.

How would you counter the perception that GLBTQ equality is a “gay people vs. religious people” battle?

Harry Knox: We really have to understand that politics happens within community, always. The way to combat that impression is to simply be in community in all the ways that we can be with our neighbors. All GLBT people are not people of faith, but as often as not, we are, and we have to claim the powerful language of that faith tradition when we’re talking about our lives with our neighbors so that they know that’s what motivates us, in part, to be politically active.

For instance, as a Christian, I talk about community. That’s really a big part of who I am, and it comes right out of my sacred text, the Bible. It’s how we organize ourselves as a church. Our Jewish friends will talk about justice and all of the language in the Hebrew Scriptures around that. Our Unitarian Universalist friends talk about seeing the divine in everyone. All of us share a common value: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

Samuel Chu: There’s this sense among some people of faith that, “Well, I don’t know any gay people in my church.” The reality is that they just haven’t met everyone at their church. That’s a job for the church community, to get to know their gay members. It’s not about being a “gay” church, it’s really about being a community for everybody.

In my congregation in Los Angeles, the point is that we’re supposed to be serving all the families, all the singles, all the couples, of all sexual orientations and family types and makeup. The message needs to be that the faith communities are the anchor of the larger community in which we live, and we have to be there for everybody. And we are—our communities are made up of all sorts of people!

In a recent TV interview, Harry said that “being gay is a gift from God.” So how gifted are gay people?

Knox: I’ve come to understand that being gay is a gift from God. I used to think it was my cross to bear. Now I understand that it has opened me up spiritually, causing me to delve deeper into my faith. It’s helped me to become vulnerable and become more connected to my community. It has given me the opportunity to give back to my faith and my community in ways that I never would have if I’d just been a regular old Methodist preacher from the South Georgia Conference.

Chu: As a straight person, I affirm that everything Harry is is a gift from God! It’s a gift to Christianity itself, because this struggle is teaching us what it means to be good news in all of its fullness. We deny ourselves the gift of the fullness of community when we don’t affirm every culture and every person their full humanity. That’s what church is supposed to be.

Knox: That vulnerability and community is the Jesus Christ story, when it’s well and accurately told. Jesus Christ made himself vulnerable in order to reconcile us to God and each other. That is ultimately a very queer sensibility, and it’s wonderful!