Below is the text of my Godcast commentary:
In his book Freedom, Glorious Freedom John J. McNeill wrote:
Gays and lesbians need to develop a conscious awareness of the destructive role of fear in their community. Our greatest enemy is not some outside opponent -- it is the fear within us.
I once had a friend who was very active in the MCC I attended in Atlanta many years ago. He was a member of the board, he helped coordinate worship, he was everywhere at once within the church. However, outside the church he was closeted. I remember the first time I visited his house and discovered all his gay related books locked away in the hall closet. Even his books were closeted!
Growing up in the South I can understand the deep fear this man had. He was basically a good ole boy. His family had deep Southern roots and certainly would not take kindly to one of their own being "that way." So, he hid. But the fear that drove this man was palpable. You could feel his paranoia and fear even if you just spent a little time with him. This deep fear played itself out in several ways in his life, making his personal and professional lives a misery.
I know that fear well because, as a good Southerner, I hid my own sexuality for a time. The fear of being revealed, of showing the world my true nature, was real and terrifying. I knew I would lose friends, jobs, church status and maybe family members if the truth were known. It's this fear that kept my friend and his books locked in a closet.
It will finally be this fear that defeats the gay and lesbian community. It won't be attack ad from the religious right. It won't be an organized assault by mainstream churches on the "sin" of homosexuality. In the end, our own fear will be our downfall.
Jesus tells us to have no fear of those who can kill the body. We are assured by God that when we live a life of honesty and integrity, free from the fear of retaliation, we will be blessed with an abundant life. We are God's children and "if God be for us, who can be against us?"
I can't adequately explain what a freeing experience coming out is. The English language is not equipped with words to describe that absolute joy and relief I felt. Yes, there were losses. I lost a few friends and I can't worship in truth and in spirit at my old hometown church anymore. But my losses have been minimized by the abundance with which God has blessed me.
Now, as an open lesbian Christian, I have a wonderful partner, a job where I can be open and accepted, great loving and caring friends, a church community that values my gifts, and a family that, though they may not understand, has embraced both me and my partner.
Coming out is the best thing that you can do, not only for the community at large, but for yourself. You'll experience loss, and pain, and probably make some enemies. But in the end you defeat the biggest enemy you face: the fear inside that one day would have consumed you.