SPIRITUALITY: Responding to Joey Faust and Kingdom Baptist Church

The Rev. Shelley Hamilton Contributing Columnist

Fort Worth gay Pride was visited by Pastor Joey Faust and members of his congregation, Kingdom Baptist Church.

Kingdom Baptist and Faust aren’t strangers to the LGBT community in Fort Worth. Most recently Faust and Roman Marroquin were arrested for interfering with public duties. How strange that people who claim to be followers of Christ use precious time and resources in such unproductive ways. After hearing about this incident I went to the Kingdom Baptist Church’s website. I read an overview of Pastor Faust’s life. I was unable to determine with whom he holds his professional credentials (ordination) or where he attended seminary. I read parts of his blog, a sermon and some vitriolic responses to those who disagree with him. He is more bizarre than we have come to expect from fundamentalists. He’s fixated on sin, especially what he considers the “sin” of homosexuality. Sadly, he doesn’t seem to like anyone. He’s suspicious, angry and hate filled. I’m sad for him and the people who follow him.

Early in my ministry with Metropolitan Community Churches, I encountered pastors like Joey Faust and their followers. I appeared on radio and TV programs with them and responded to their columns when they reviled queer people. I realized after a time that they wouldn’t be transformed by my — or anyone else’s — rebuttal of their declarations regarding the vileness of same-gender love. No amount of historical and archaeological evidence will calm the fears and anxieties of people who cling to spiritual communities led by men like Faust. Because I have spent a life time trying to help queer people heal from the toxic effects of such religion I feel particularly qualified to speak about what I consider the “ethos” of fundamentalist religious communities whether they be Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist or atheist.

Viewing the world through the narrow lens of one perspective is dangerous and rooted in rigid ignorance. Here’s the truth: No one knows who God is, what God thinks, did or does, where God is — or even if God is at all. My experience — primarily with fundamentalist Christians — helped me understand that religious rigidity in people and cultures frequently disguises deeply embedded fears, anxieties and an inability to live with ambivalence and uncertainty. All of us have difficulty accepting there are no ultimate answers to the great questions of life. Who are we? Where did we come from? Why are we here? Who is God? What is eternity? Personally, I’ve found freedom and peace by simply embracing the ambivalence and uncertainty of day-to-day life.

Religious communities such as Kingdom Baptist Church are often rooted in fear, hatred and anger. People who want absolutes seek spiritual and political leaders and communities who offer them what they want: answers to the mysteries of life. In relationship with other like-minded people their ability to filter the world through this narrow lens is strengthened and their denial mechanisms are fueled to perfection. They experience satisfaction and self-righteousness in their narrow convictions. I consider this bondage. It’s so powerful I doubt rationality or unconditional love will mend their cold, cold hearts.

Someone asked me recently: How should queer people respond to assaults like this? I remember in the early days of Metropolitan Community Churches when met with protests from churches like Kingdom Baptist we would surround them and sing hymns or show tunes, which admittedly caused distress. Sometimes we fell to our knees and prayed. However, the best counsel comes from Jesus and can be paraphrased as, “If you visit a town — or temple or neighborhood and people are un-welcoming and reject your words of love and grace — shake the dust from your feet … ” My brother says folks should do the right thing because it’s the right thing, not because they fear retribution from a God who’ll punish them if they don’t. We know who we are and who we love. We’re proud and grateful to be who we are. We’ve fought long and hard for our right to be; we will continue to do so. I say, grant them grace and keep praying for transformation.

The Rev. Shelley A. Hamilton is an ordained minister specializing in pastoral care services, spiritual direction and counseling for the LGBT community. She can be reached at 214-236-1224 or revsah44@yahoo.com.

—  John Wright