Let me begin by saying, I have a deep and abiding faith in and love for God. I cannot remember a time in my life when that has not been true although today it is a faith that has been tested and so is stronger and certainly more grounded than it was when I was first married or even the mother of teenagers. It is definitely less idealistic today than the untested childlike faith I had in a Jesus who loves me and a God who would never let me go. I wish I could claim my love for the Church has never wavered but sadly, my love for and confidence in the Church has taken a beating over the past decade. Yet, I am finally beginning to understand how impossible it is to effectively love others if we (the Church) do not first, sincerely, love ourselves. Having said that, I am grieved by how far away from love parts of the Body have wandered. With this in mind I write my letter.
Let me just jump in with both feet. I am concerned about the relationship between the Church and LGBT people. In the name of full disclosure, I should tell you, my son is gay. He has been gay his whole life but he revealed this truth to me, to our family, a little over four years ago. Obviously the timing of this letter has less to do with my son’s “coming out” than the SCOTUS decision to affirm the rights of same-sex couples to marry, yet my son’s experience of organized religion is ultimately my motivating factor.
While Friday June 26 was a good day for US civil rights and I am personally happy for my son, it was not such a great day for the Church. Prior to and in the wake of the SCOTUS announcement various Church leaders shook their fists, spewed dire warnings about the end of the world, and called down hell fire and damnation on LGBT people and their allies. Eventually, cooler heads prevailed and today other than a few die hard fist shakers, most Church leaders have begun to urge their followers to take the higher ground and love “them” while holding firm to their “faith”, an attitude that at least on the surface seems more decorous. Others, like Christopher Page, are my true heroes in this conversation. Page gently promotes a perspective that might actually cause people to look rationally at how the SCOTUS decision impacts them. And while I obviously hope more people read his post, I have a more urgent plea, not as much for the general populous, as for leadership.
When my son finally said those words to me, “Mom, I’m gay.” I was grieved—NOT by what he was confessing but by what I understood in that moment about how difficult it was for him to admit it. I had watched him struggle in the months prior. I had suspected what he struggled to say. But honestly I had no idea. I did not realize, at first, that my son had already spent countless hours begging God to change him, to take the gay away. I did not yet know that he had gone through years of shame and self-loathing. I was ignorant of the fact that he tried to force himself to be attracted to girls, like his friends, and his brothers, and his father, and his role models, and his pastors; and felt like a failure. I didn’t understand because he was afraid to tell us, worried he might be rejected by his family and his fellowship, afraid that if he was found out he might end up homeless, hated, and alone.
His struggle literally made him sick, so sick we had to pull him from school the end of his sophomore year. My son, that beautiful brown-eyed boy who loved to dance before the Lord in worship, even contemplated ending his life. He actually wondered if it would be better to be dead than admit to his friends and family he is gay. Mind you, all of this was BEFORE he ever acted on his same-sex attraction. I am exceedingly glad he decided to risk sharing his secret with us—face to face—rather than in a suicide note.
I can handle the fact my son is gay but I need help to direct the anger I feel toward organized religion. The Church—most of the Church—is and has been abusing children—my child—and I have to continually remind myself it isn’t the whole Church. Not all Christians take on the roles of judge and jury instead of family and friend. Not all of us spew condemnation or threaten civil war. Not all blame natural disasters and all of society’s ills on LGBT people. Not everyone kicks their own children out of their homes, removes them from leadership roles or bans them from youth groups and Christian fellowships. Motivated by a sincere desire to follow Christ, to honor God, and to love children the way we have been loved, some of us have chosen instead to reexamine what we have been taught and to find hope in the Good News of the gospels, the walk and words of our Lord, and the counsel of the Spirit.
I love the Church and I do not want to bring her strife. But, I am also aware that the relationship between LGBT people and most of the Church is tenuous at best. Although some in the Church have begun to open their hearts, minds, and doors to LGBT people most continue to label, bully, shun, shame, and exclude. By shutting the doors of fellowship to LGBT people we are the antithesis of Christ found in the gospel. Still, inclusion of LGBT people in the Body has divided fellowships, broken families, and tarnished, yet again, the Bride’s image. With regard to this issue the media does not “know us by our love” but instead seems to take pleasure in showing us at our worst. It certainly doesn’t hurt their rating when they do. Both sides have flung mud and behaved badly and neither side’s bad behavior speaks for God. We must find a better way.
Please, do not hear what I am not saying. As much as I personally believe I am correct and those of you who adhere to the view that homosexuality is a choice, same-sex attractions are the devil’s temptation, and acting on same-sex attractions is sin are incorrect, my pleas is not to simply take my word for it. Instead, I ask you to agree to be guided by the Spirit, to ask the Spirit to teach you what it looks like to love your neighbor, especially the LGBT neighbor in your midst. For I guarantee you, there are LGBT people in your midst—MY SON GREW UP IN YOUR MIDST. Please, decide to do the homework you need to do FULLY, in order to understand how our words and actions have impacted LGBT people. Do not simply reread the words the teachers of the law have taught you, but rather with the guidance of the Spirit, intentionally wrestle with the other point of view. Learn what scripture says AND DOES NOT SAY about same-sex relationships, and salvation, and our role as the body, from the other point of view. Look at Biblical culture and Church history and our culture from the other point of view. Find out the science with regard to human sexuality. And, seek to understand the personal stories of LGBT individuals.
While some on the far right have increased their shouting about end times struggles I do not share their doomsday prophesies. I do, however, believe the Church is on the precipice of a significant shift. By more fully understand these issues and the people behind these issues we have the ability to cast out fear and discover the truth about what love looks like. On multiple occasions throughout scripture the Church is given a mandate to love others as well as an admonition to avoid judging them. The Jesus I found in the Bible befriended the marginalized, embraced the downtrodden, cautioned the self-righteous, and encouraged a fresh reading of scripture. As leaders, mentors, and role models refusing to wrestle with one of the major moral, spiritual issues of our day is a disturbing option. Please, prepare your hearts and minds to receive counsel from the Spirit on this issue. Spend time reexamining the example of Christ in the Gospels. Know that God is speaking to the Church concerning our LGBT brothers and sisters. And,He has not called us to a ministry of condemnation but rather to the gospel of reconciliation.
You are all in my prayers.