As a hardcore atheist, I readily identified with Ivan Karamazov while I read The Brothers Karamazov. So much did I hold onto our shared atheism that I read “The Grand Inquisitor” three times, just because I couldn’t understand it the first time and simply could not let an argument against God by a fellow atheist go over my head without deeply contemplating it. In the end, I think I understood his first two points quite well, and can sort of wrap my head around his third. As for Ivan, he had a mental breakdown because he didn’t believe in God.

One of the Christian, straight members of Cal Q&A recently–as of when I actually wrote this–had his article recently featured on some huge Christian blog; his post was about how Asian American identity fit in American evangelical Christianity (excerpted from http://natejlee.com/francis-chans-ethnic-identity-journey/). I’ve had major respect for him after he wrote a piece about Asian American Christianity’s lack of engagement in social justice for hardboiled magazine (http://hardboiled.berkeley.edu/archived-issues/year-16/issue-16-1/the-moral-model-minority/), but I never bothered to read his blog until recently. After I read his article on that big Christian website, I found myself drifting through his blog for hours, soaking up his words like a dry sponge. In particular, one passage from Nate Lee that stood out to me came from a post about Christianity and homosexuality (http://natejlee.com/coming-out/):

“The Love I see exhibited by Jesus is a love that joins. In response to his love, I joined a queer organization on campus at Cal [it was Cal Q&A!]. There, I heard story after painful story about people who had been hurt by the church, and I learned to sit with them in that pain without trying to justify it or separate myself from those who, for better or worse, also claimed the name ‘Christian.’ Most people there welcomed me and I became friends with a lot of awesome folks. Others, once they found out I was a Christian, weren’t as thrilled. ”

I laughed and chuckled when I read that, because the latter group he mentioned definitely applied to me. On one hand, I hope that Nate didn’t feel it was me, but on the other hand, I’m pretty sure he felt my coldness; my only hope is that he could see that I warmed up a bit to both him and Ryan by the end of the year. That said, Nate was very generous by saying next: “And I don’t blame them; if I were gay, I probably wouldn’t trust Christians either.”

Since breaking free from conservative Asian Christian ideology after growing up with it for 18 years of my life, I’ve been both extremely critical and, and the same time, drawn towards it. I keep relative up-to-date with drama going on in my home church because, well, almost nothing would give me greater joy than watching it burn and crumble down–both literally and metaphorically. But a desire to watch them disintegrate isn’t what tugs at me to go back; rather, it is a hope to see them change into those special breed of Christians who–in their humility and understanding that all beings are in sin–are the salt and light of the world, and a hope also of personal healing from this.

During my sophomore year for Cal Day (the day when prospective students visit UC Berkeley), I, as a representative of Cal Queer & Asian, had the experience of sharing a table with Intervarsity–Nate’s Asian American Christian fellowship. Of course, I was quite unhappy about it. The girl tabling for Intervarsity greeted me warmly, and I fake-smiled and exchanged pleasantries. She graciously tried to continue the conversation, mentioning that Nate and Ryan have spoken during their fellowships about what a blessing Cal Q&A has been for them, and I nodded and replied: “Ah yes, they have come to our meetings before.” Then there was the influx of the crowd. Being a queer organization, it is very hard tabling, since the people coming up to the table need to be relatively out and comfortable going up to a table that is so obviously queer (plus, there was the added situation of having a Christian org right next to us sharing the table). And therefore, I sat there, watching person upon person going up to the Intervarsity table and this very nice Christian girl explaining their organization/fellowship to them, while nobody came to mine.

Eventually, this WASP-y dad and his daughter came up to their table: he was looking for a good, Christian fellowship for his daughter to join after she goes to college. After the nice Christian girl gave a rundown of their fellowship, he asked her, “How do you reconcile your faith with the Berkeley environment and liberal culture? For example, this organization right next to you,”–here he looked at me and I looked straight right back at him–“They’re… they’re… so……. diverse..”

The nice Christian girl kindly explained to him that there is actually no problem with with the liberal culture (here she quoted a verse or two from scripture about how everyone is a sinner and nobody is worthy of Heaven), and then mentioned that some of their members even go to our group.

“Oh,” the father replied, looking quite dejected.

After he awkwardly thanked her and they left, she turned to me an apologized for the father’s behavior and what I had to endure.”So diverse,” she quoted the father with disdain, “Really now… I can’t believe it…”

Surprised and taken aback from her apology, I told her it was all right, and we continued our tabling. As I had to table for the entire day, we parted ways after she finished her shift. I never saw her again. This past year, I’ve asked a few of my friends who have been a part of Intervarsity if they could figure out who set up their table for Cal Day 2011, but I suppose it must be pretty hard to find such specific and trivial information from so far back. One of my greatest regrets is never being able to give a proper “thank you” to her not only for standing up for me and my community, but also for the immense healing her individual deed has given me.

If I were to believe in the Christian God, this would have been the first time I ever felt His love. My past Sunday School teacher, who had a secret abortion, once quoted her new church’s pastor during her testimony: “Other people mediate God’s love, grace, and acceptance to us, which breaks the shame and brings the healing.” While this sounds nice and gives context to my experience with Christians who are accepting of queer people, I’ve given this idea a lot of thought, and, if I am to accept this statement but also be logically consistent and neutral, then I must conclude that the people in my home church were–and still are–conveying God’s displeasure and voicing His judgement upon me.

But still, I cannot help but see her action as an act of divine grace. In her understanding that we are all undeserving of God’s grace, she has communicated a kind of acceptance I have never felt before. It’s strange–most arguments for the acceptance of queer people are based on the fact that we’re human and therefore deserving of respect, but hers is based on the idea that everyone is unworthy and thus there should be no judgement. The grace and acceptance she mediates from God stems from her humility, and I am so deeply touched that she would consider herself to be just as unrighteous as me, who has been shamed and looked down upon for his sexuality by the very same people who use the title “Christian.”

I cannot, however, suspend my logic and rational disbelief in God. Her conveyed grace burns in my heart, but I adhere to my ideas.

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