Being queer and Christian

%28Photo%3A+Submitted+by+Murr%29

(Photo: Submitted by Murr)

By Alison Bergblom Johnson

Six weeks into her freshman year of college Rachel Murr believed getting involved with something on campus would help her make friends and overcome her shyness. She was sick of the solitary inside of her dorm room on Friday nights.

She was not fully out yet, not even to herself. Still, she found herself drawn to joining the GLBT  group on campus. At the same time she was drawn towards her campus’ Christian group.

“I had my own stereotypes and was afraid of being labeled for life when I just wanted to visit,” Murr said in regards to the GLBT group.

Integrating her faith and sexuality has been a long path for Murr, but one she believes is worth it. Her advice for college students struggling with reconciling their faith and their sexuality: “I think that we can trust that God will speak to us when we ask. That has to come alongside unpacking what we’ve been taught.”

Murr grew up in the Catholic church and said it felt safer than the Christian group in college because the Catholic church she grew up in didn’t talk about sexuality. When she was about 10-years-old her family visited her lesbian aunt out-of-state and she thought the aunt and her partner were roommates.

In college, a neighbor in Murr’s residence hall invited her to the Christian group before she had the opportunity to decide which group to join. In the Christian group she found a welcoming, supportive place where she was tapped to be a leader. She also experienced the Christian group intentionally teaching that homosexuality is wrong,  she said.

Two years into her membership she began to consider her attraction to women but felt that attraction was wrong. She knew she couldn’t discuss her sexuality inside the group.

About ten years after college, Murr said she came face to face with how miserable she was. She put on her walking shoes and went on a silent retreat.

“I came away sure God was okay with me,”  she said.

Still, she didn’t come out immediately after this epiphany. In an unusual twist to many coming out stories it was her parents who finally urged her to come out.

Murr felt conflicted with her faith and sexuality. (Photo: FreeStockPhotos.Biz)
Murr felt conflicted with her faith and sexuality. (Photo: FreeStockPhotos.Biz)

She was attending a Vineyard church then and she began talking about being attracted to women. Eventually she came out and was stripped of her church leadership roles because she acknowledged not only that she was lesbian but also that she intended to date. Murr said she felt the church treated her as a threat.

Some people in the church backed her and fought inside the church against this decision.

“Having other people debate about whether you’re fit for leadership sucks,” she said. “Eventually, it didn’t work out and I left.”

At MCTC,  Director of Student Life Tara Martinez said that while there are groups specific to different faith traditions on campus, the Christian Club, which has been active in years past appears to be inactive now.

There isn’t any blatant, or even really any kind of discrimination not especially, if anything there’s small lingering things that are embedded not just at MCTC but everywhere else,” said Tommy Leick, Director of Communications for the Pride Club. He feels the climate is different at other colleges:

“I have a friend at St. Kate’s and their LGBT group is kind of small and they can’t do much because they can’t really talk about it or do things on campus, which is strange,” he said.

Rachel Murr’s book, Unnatural: Spiritual Resiliency in Queer Christian Women, grew out of her Social Work master’s research project. She interviewed eight lesbian and bisexual women who come from non-affirming Christian denominations and described their current faith as meaningful and affirming.

One additional story is included in the book is Lawrence’s. He is a transgender man. When asked to tell one story from the book that most strikes her, Murr tells his. Lawrence was born female and transitioned at 28 years-of-age.

Murr was hesitant to include his story, but did so after reworking her book to make it clear that Lawrence’s experience and the eight women’s stories were not the same. She finally did include Lawrence because his was a story from depression to joy.

“Lawrence’s transition saved his life. His was a story that needed to be told,”  Murr said.

The stories in the book speak to challenges faced by the people profiled, many of them caused by non-affirming Christians. At the same time in their stories, these people chose to reclaim what they felt was precious to them: their faith.

Likewise, Murr has found a new faith community that welcomes her. However, she said she did have to figure out if church is good for her.

“I feel happier, for one, and hopeful for a good life,” she said. “I don’t feel limited by a few bad options.”

Murr will be attending the events listed below to accompany her book release.

 

Queer Voices

Sept 23 7PM

Intermedia Arts

2822 Lyndale Ave S

Minneapolis MN 55408

$5 suggested donation

 

Book Release Party

Sept 25 7PM

Open Book

1011 S. Washington Ave

Minneapolis MN 55415