An Open Letter to the Pentecostal and Charismatic Churches Who Will Never Accept Me, a Lesbian
Dear Pentecostals and Charismatics,
There are many groups in Christianity that have influenced me over the years. But you? I dare say that you have the most. In fact, I’d say it is people in your movements that have raised me in the faith, nurtured me, and taught me everything I know about the fire of Holy Spirit.
Pentecostals and Charismatics, we might not have hit Pentecost season yet — but I have some questions for you.
I’ll get straight to it. You believe in miracles, in prophecy, in a God who can still raise people from the dead in 2021. So why, charismatics, is the mere notion of God blessing LGBTQ+ identities off the table? I don’t understand. Surely bringing someone back to life is more difficult for God than celebrating the sexual orientation God gave them in the first place? Surely it is more plausible that God bless someone’s gender identity than make their limp corpse start breathing and heart start beating again?
Many of you’d speak so casually about how you’ve seen angels. How you’ve witnessed food multiply like in the Gospel. How you’ve had startling visions that have come to pass. How come all of these radically supernatural things are possible in Jesus’ name, but you are incapable of entertaining the possibility that God might be supernaturally more loving than how you have portrayed Her? That much of your theology is… wrong? Was it not you who taught me that “anything is possible with God?” Is it not possible that God miraculously designed Queer people and called us “good?”
Even further: Was it not you who preached that we are all inherently broken… but your own theology, analyzed and interpreted through the eyes of men, is somehow exempt from this? “We are all sinners,” you say, but the set of concepts human craft from this ancient text cannot be a by-product of that sin? Our “righteousness is filthy rags,” but your queer-antagonistic doctrine can’t be?
Many of you call people like me “lukewarm,” “backsliders,” or “apostates.” How come, then, many of us can “speak in the tongues of angels”… but to you, our Loves makes us nothing? We can speak prophetically, reveal all mysteries and knowledge, and have a faith that moves mountains — but to most of your churches, our Queer love makes us nothing.
We can give all we possess to the poor and give our bodies over to hardship — but because of our love, it is nothing. Our love has been patient, it has been kind, it rejoices with the truth of our identities. It never fails. So why, Pentecostals and charismatics, are you failing us? Why are Bethel and Hillsong failing us? Assemblies of God, Church of God, Four Square, charismatic Methodists and non-denominational churches — why are you failing us?
Are you telling me that you can accept that dreams come from God, but not Queer love? You can believe in a God who moves mountains, but not a God who moves people out of churches? A God who miraculously heals, but not a God who desires to heal poverty, the environment, systemic racism… even religious trauma from people like you? Is healing only reserved for the people you deem broken and not your systems that actually break them?
Charismatics: Those are not my only questions. You know what else I’ll never quite understand? Speaking in tongues.
When I was a young tween, I was “baptized by fire” behind a church welcome desk. Weeks later I started unsuspectingly speaking in tongues while watching The Proud Family on Disney Channel, to the elation of my mother and pastor. But this “gift” came with fearful warnings. I was told I could lose it under several conditions: If I stopped doing it enough, if I believed the wrong theology, if I sinned too much. And that left me terrified. Traumatized. I was scared that the moment I could no longer perform glossolalia, it was evidence that I’d lost my salvation and been doomed to an eternity of fiery posthumous torment. I had endured many night-sweats and stomach aches and anxiety-ridden hallucinations obsessing over your instructions.
So how come, Pentecostals and Charismatics… I can still do it?
Let’s be real: I’m gay. I was designated female at birth. You’d bar me from leadership in many of your churches. So can you explain how Holy Spirit still speaks through me despite the fact that your belief system professes I could never speak for Her? Can you explain how She never left even when I realized your churches will always leave behind people like me? Can you explain how I have left so much from my former faith behind — hell, purity culture, penal substitutionary atonement, “nonaffirming theology” — and somehow, I still have this? You know, it’s funny. Some of you told me that “speaking in tongues” is the highest evidence of salvation. So why would many of you consider people like me “unsaved”?
Speaking of tongues, I have some words to fellow white Pentecostals and charismatics. Over the years, I’ve heard many of you relay hateful messages towards immigrants. How can you say, “This is America, speak English!” to your fellow human kin, then disobey your own decree when you speak in tongues at church? Or are all forms of language only appropriate when they’re spoken by white Christians? Why do you shout “build the wall!” then go on to read scriptures about how only Hell has gates while Heaven has every tribe, tongue, and nation?
Your complaints about the Black Lives Matter movement are particularly despicable. Tell me: Was it not God who ordered vandalism and property destructions of idols? What makes you think statues of slaveowners are exempt from this? How come you love flame-related imagery for Holy Spirit but can’t even see when whole cities were being baptized by fire from riots and speaking in tongues when protestors chant George Floyd’s name? Breonna Taylor’s name? God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah by fire because of how people were being treated — so what makes you think God wouldn’t support destruction of a Minneapolis police station for the same reason? Do you not know whose shoulders you stand on — the roots and origins of the movement you participate in, which was pioneered by Black Christians?
Pentecostals and charismatics, I’m in awe. You believe God can divinely impart knowledge to you about people you’ve never met! You believe you can prophesy and speak words of knowledge over strangers! You truly, authentically, completely, totally believe GOD CAN DO ANYTHING. So why do your actions consistently preach that God is unable to impart divine knowledge and wisdom through immigrants? Indigenous people? Transgender people? People of different faiths or no faith at all?
But instead, you love to call many of these people “divisive.” But was it not Jesus who said he “did not come to bring peace, but a sword?” Did Jesus not promise that he will “turn sons against fathers, daughters against mothers?” Was it not John who spoke of Jesus’ actions and said, “So there was a division in the crowd because of Him?” Isn’t division necessary for justice? Was Moses not supposed to piss off Pharoah in order to free God’s people?
You taught me that the Holy Spirit is like the wind, reckless and wild, that blows wherever it pleases! It is you who brought me to Jesus’ words, “that we cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.” So why, Charismatics, do you try to control where Spirit is moving? Why are you placing limits on Her, chaining Her to your niche traditions and policies, choking Her with your millstones of harmful theologies, and torturing Her by oppressing the walking temples She inhabits? You taught me that Spirit “leads into all truth!” So why do you believe it is YOU who leads into all truth? What makes you believe your niche corner of the faith owns a monopoly on global Christendom?
I’m tired, Pentecostals and charismatics. You might always see me as someone who rejects God, but in fact, I’m taking your own beliefs more seriously than you ever did.
All those worship songs I passionately belted from my lungs with hands raised and tears rolling down my cheeks? The ones with lyrics that declared “You are good!”, that begged “break my heart for what breaks Yours”, that professed the “reckless love of God”? The ones where I asked Spirit to lead me, where I begged Her to “take me deeper than my feet could ever wander and my faith would be made stronger”? I meant them then. And I believe them more than ever now.
For once in my life, I truly believe the things you told me. I believe that God’s grace extends to all. That everyone has immeasurable worth. I agree that “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God” and I profess that “nothing can separate us from the love of God.” There are no religious conditions or spiritual stipulations to those truths. You were the ones who added those hefty yokes and millstones to the text. YOU were the ones “making God into your own image” — an image of hate. And I used to give lip service to your hollow, “lukewarm” ideas, but now I’m following them to their most logical, life-giving, literal end.
The truth is: I spent years of my life tirelessly thirsting for “God’s will” in religious deserts like yours that left me dry and parched. My heart longed to know “God’s purpose and plan” for my life; more than anything else. I would’ve died for it. But in all my zealous naivete, I missed the forest for the trees.
That’s why I need you to face something, Pentecostals and charismatics: Much of your belief system still “steals, kills, and destroys” people. It does. It “prowls around like a roaring lion,” seeking whom to devour. All over the world, it wreaks havoc on human bodies. Every nook and cranny of one’s Imago Dei is squashed, sanitized, and suffocated on the cold assembly line of your religion.
The rotten fruit is there. And if it’s true that the letter always kills and the Spirit always gives life — why must you try holding onto them both so tightly? Weren’t you the ones who taught me to ask “What do righteousness and wickedness have in common?” Then why do you honor the law of death over the Spirit of life?
Pentecostals and Charismatics: You might never deem me one of you ever again. But that’s okay. You taught me that God calls us to do the unpopular, and that sometimes “taking up our cross” involves a personal cost. So here I am. I would rather dare to believe that God truly desires that we live “life and life abundantly.”
The thing is… I don’t just believe this for myself. I believe it for you, too. I believe that God wants you to “go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do.” You don’t need to live by their standards anymore. If it is true that “everything good comes from God,” then anything that brings you joy is good. You do not need to fall for the lie, straight from the pit of nonexistent hell, that happiness is different from holiness.
So Pentecostals and charismatics: Here are my cards. They are on your table — the one where you feed people like me crumbs when the dogs are full. You taught me that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom,” and truly I tell you, where there is freedom, the Spirit of the Lord is already there.
No matter what freedom looks like.
Even if that freedom means walking away from you.
“Let the dead bury their own dead.” Luke 9:60