Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Diverse Friends

Sorry I have been fairly silent recently. This is basically my final semester of college courses, since next semester I will be student teaching, which is basically the same thing as being a full-time teacher in terms of hours, just without pay. I'm getting ready for all of that, and I'm also finishing my Senior English classes, which are pretty stressful. Graduate school applications are also pretty intense right now, so in general I'm finding it pretty difficult to blog.

With all of these things happening at once, I sometimes forget just how important these last few months are. Everything seems to be coming together at once, not only academically, but also socially. Over the past four years, I have met hundreds of people, both in-person and online. Some are Christians, many are not. Many of the online folks are gay, gay but celibate, ex-gay, post-gay, or some weird combination of all of the above.

I have grown a lot over the past four years. I have had so many great conversations with folks, both in-person and online. The conversations have been about God, faith, sexuality, and life in general. I have made a ton of friends on all sides of the controversial issues, and hopefully I have helped them grow and learn in the same way they have helped me grow and learn. Certainly, there have been some pretty intense talks and conversations, and quite a few debates with harsh words.

But I hope, and I have quite a bit of confidence about this, that despite the harsh words and the arguments about such controversial topics, strong friendships have been maintained and built. I'm in the unique position of being a conservative Evangelical Christian and a gay guy. I believe in God but I also have pretty hands-off beliefs about government, unlike many conservative Christians. I am not going to meet a single friend who I agree with 100 percent.

When talking to a traditional Exodus guy, we can experience a lot of connection when it comes to talking about battling temptation or fitting into Evangelical culture as men who struggle with same-sex attraction. We argue, often, when it comes to things like politics, or labels, or expectations of orientation change, or the theories of psychological development of homosexuality. It has been hard, I suppose, for a Side B guy like me to get along with both gays and ex-gays.

The experience, though, has been a needed one. If you don't get out there and meet people who are different from you, you aren't ever challenged. It would be easy to assume that all Evangelicals are bigots and all Exodus guys are delusional or anti-intellectual. Getting to know them, however, has shown a lot of diversity among them, almost as much as there is in the gay community. There is also a lot more open-mindedness, realism, and genuine academic curiosity than one would originally assume.

Now, the only hope would be that those on the conservative side of the spectrum would take a chance to get to know those on more liberal sides more often, and really get to know them without any prejudice or preconceived notions. As I move forward out of college, and start to build new relationships in graduate school and whatever community I eventually move to, I hope to keep living out this principle of getting to know people from all walks of life.

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