opinion

'As a gay Christian, Christmas is a time to remind people that faith is about love, not judgement'

Joey Knock explains why Christmas is a religious holiday to be enjoyed by all.

2019-12-19

This article first appeared in Attitude issue 304, January 2019

How do you start a piece about being a gay Christian at Christmas time? Obviously with a summer’s day at the seaside.

In July I took a trip back to my home town for its first Pride in 15 years. When Southend Pride last took place in 2003, Section 28 was still on the statute books, making it illegal to “promote homosexuality” in schools.

Three Christians were protesting as the short parade passed by. Thankfully, no one could hear what they were saying. Blocking their view and voices were 15 other church leaders and local Christians.

They cheered and held up queerfully created placards saying We’re sorry and You are God’s treasure. My usually stoic heart was caught off-guard.

I already knew about the Christians at Pride movement although I didn’t realise how powerful it would be to see them in action, with my mum standing next to me.

Seeing visible LGBTQ people of faith is hugely important. I’ve always been a Christian and always been gay.

 
 
 
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Feeling cute bc it turns out, I’m cute #christmas #instagay #gaylondon #disney

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But it wasn’t until I was a uni student that I met other LGBTQ Christians and knew I could be both. But as the protestors at Pride show, some people still think you have to choose between your faith and sexuality.

On Easter Sunday, I was at church with my mum. We’d been worshipping there for 15 years. I learnt that donations made that day, including mine, would support the Christian Institute.

That’s the vehemently antiLGBT+ charity that funded the “gay cake” case in Northern Ireland.

No wonder so few queer religious people in Britain believe their faith community is welcoming of LGBTQ people. When I told my mum I didn’t know if I could go back to that church, I was worried it would dent our relationship.

Sunday services and lunch together is our thing, especially since my dad died. Mum completely understood.

“I don’t want to keep going somewhere I have to justify my son being gay,” she said.

My Christian faith stays strong despite the pain I’ve felt. I still have the sense that God is there by my side and that Jesus preached a radical theology of unconditional love and acceptance, which I believe in.

Now, I’m more likely to pass St Paul’s Cathedral on my way home from men-only club XXL than going in for a Sunday service.

But my faith still motivates me to stand for social justice and show love, not judgment, to everyone rather than worrying about my gay sex life.

At the very beginning of the Bible, it says God created people in his image. God created me knowing I’d be gay and loving me because of it.

It’s humans’ misreading of biblical texts and misusing religion that say I’m wrong. I know I am God’s treasure. My mum’s just moved to a new church.

 
 
 
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Our Christmas tree is the best 🎄 🥐 #christmas #christmastree #croissant #croissants #instagay

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It’s LGBTQ inclusive and recently hosted one of Southend’s first same-sex church weddings.

I know I’m safe when I visit. I’m lucky to be supported so much by her, although I wish family was always about love rather than luck. If you don’t have close family or friends who support you, there are LGBTQ inclusive groups and places of worship for all faiths across the country.

For me, Christmas has always been about love and family. I’ll be back in Southend soon to decorate the tree with mum and sing carols too loudly at church.

Coming together to share love, whoever it’s with, we can all be part of the spirit of Christmas, just as shepherds and the magi gathered with Mary and Joseph in Bethlehem to share in the love of a new-born baby.

Whether you’re a person of faith or not, whether your family is the one you were given or the one you chose, there are people out there who love you and accept you exactly as you are this Christmas.