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why marriage equality matters to my family

marriage equality

For my whole life I’ve kept a terrible secret from almost everyone I’ve ever known.

I spent years making sure to cover my tracks, keep it in the dark, pretend everything was totally normal.  After years and years of this silent struggle, I’m only now learning to grow comfortable enough to say the words out loud:

my mom is gay.

Okay, so maybe it’s not the deepest, darkest secret in the world, but put yourself in my shoes for a second.  For a kid reeling from his parents’ divorce, alone and afraid and left holding his heart in his hands, my mom coming out was the worst, most unfortunate news ever.

It meant I would become even more weird and different than I already was in the eyes of my peers.

When my mom came out, I was in the fifth grade, just entering middle school.  There, already quite consciously feeling like the opening attraction to a carnival freak show, I was sometimes called ‘faggot’ (I suppose because some kids thought I was gay and others just relished in using words their parents disapproved of).  But I didn’t know what that word meant. I didn’t know there was a gay rights movement, I didn’t know there was an LGBT community.  I would definitely not talk about these things with my mom, because that would have been admitting to myself that this was all true.

For 18 years, I didn’t talk about my family situation to anyone else either, not a single person anywhere I went.

So although I didn’t know what “coming out” meant for my mom, I did know that gay wasn’t good.  It was something to be made fun of, feared, shamed, rejected.

I knew this because I consistently heard and internalized this message in school and also in church for years.

I witnessed my classmates – God’s own children – being bullied or mocked for being gay and I said nothing in their defense.  On Sundays, I would sometimes hear verses from Leviticus or Romans being pulled out of context and used as weapons against gay people, and I would nod my head in diligent affirmation.  So I kept quiet, tried to blend in, sang and raised my hands at the right times in desperate worship of a God who called his children “abomination.”

My extended family didn’t know the truth about my mom at first.  Neither did my school or church friends.  They never understood why I never let them to come over to my mother’s house because every day in school and church I would plaster the biggest, most fake smile on my face and get through the day pretending I was normal and dying a little inside.  This was the life I lived.  It’s what I thought I had to do.  “Camouflage,” I’ve heard it said, “is nature’s craftiest trick.”  So I hid from the spotlight and I survived, all the while shaking in my boots that I’d be found out and ostracized for being who I am – the weird and wounded son of a gay mom.

Maybe it’s not hard to understand why I became one of the bullies.

Not in a schoolyard-thug sort of sense (I’m much too small for that), but in a clobbering, spiritual and religious one.  In order to protect my secret and keep safe my scarred psyche, I ideologically and theologically demonized homosexuality, this thing that tore apart my family.  Echoing the shouts of the Christians before me who defended evils like slavery and segregation, I propagated a false teaching of the Bible that – actually antithetical to the Spirit of Christ – seeks to spiritually exclude and emotionally neuter an entire group of vulnerable people, cutting them off from God’s healing love.

In those days, I heavily opposed anti-bullying measures if I suspected them of protecting LGBT teens and I fought same-sex marriage legislation.  What’s more, I saw this issue as the one crucial litmus test for Christian orthodoxy, and didn’t consider anyone who celebrated same-sex relationships real Christians.  I felt a particularly special contempt for those supposed believers who threw away the Bible in order to support something as horrendous as gay relationships.  My homophobia – fueled by apparent betrayal and pain and self-righteousness – caused my family a lot of pain, and perpetuated much evil in the name of God.

love

A year ago (almost to the day) was when I changed my views on this issue.

After months of prayer, intensive Bible study, and actively and repeatedly encountering the presence and the fruits of the Holy Spirit in the lives of LGBTQ Christians, I decided that I could no longer morally condemn gay relationships on religious grounds.  In biblical terms, my hardened heart could only work against the reconciliatory mission of the Lord’s all-healing Gospel for so long.  I finally understood the point behind the scripture’s warning: “what God has called clean, do not call unclean.”

I wrote about my change of opinion on this blog and my life changed forever.  The reaction I received after writing that post forced me to leave my campus ministry, a group I had always intensely fought for and given years of my life and thousands of dollars to.  Around 80% of my social network – my close, coveted, trusted Christian friends and community – evaporated into thin air.

I was lost.  Spiritually empty.  Dried up.

So I searched and to my surprise, I felt an understanding and a welcoming acceptance in the gay Christian community that I have scarcely felt anywhere since.  I cried a lot.  I knew that because of the way I had treated these women and men for the majority of my life, I did not deserve to be forgiven and loved and surrounded with support like this.  And yet the grace I found from my LGBT brothers and sisters reintroduced me to the idea of Christian community, turned me back to God, and began to heal my bleeding heart.  Where I had flung stones, they were breaking bread.  Where I had cowered in fear, they had the courage to come out and claim their God-given identities as redeemed and sanctified.  I did not deserve the love I received from the gay Christian community, but they lavished it upon me still.

This is kind of the point of the Christian gospel.  (Sometimes I cry when I remember this.)

I don’t have all the answers now, not by far.  But I do know the direction this whole thing is turning.  As one fellow follower of Christ once prophesied, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  Always.  And that’s good news for those of us who believe that God is bigger and more powerful than the racism, sexism, and homophobia that some attempt to read into and impose upon the Holy Bible.

I know too that the best biblical arguments out there today are actually for the inclusion of LGBT folks into the church and for welcoming gay Christians into faithful monogamous partnerships.

And I know that things will keep getting better, that God’s will is being accomplished here on earth as it is in heaven.  I truly am so grateful to the Illinoian constituents and legislators who raised their voices in support of marriage equality earlier this week and firmly declared that my family is equal to yours.

I want to say this also: to the people who have called me or my mother homophobic things over the years, to my family members who have cut ties with my mom, and to the folks who say I’m not a Christian anymore because I believe that committed, Christ-centered gay relationships are pleasing to God, I work every day to find forgiveness in my heart for you.

I don’t look down on you because in so many ways, I can’t blame you.  I was you.  For most of my life, I was exactly where you are on this issue.  Unlike some of my other “liberal” brethren, I actually deeply understand your perspective and why you hold it.   And I’m sorry this issue has come between us.  I want to tell you all that I still completely see you as my brothers and sisters in our faith, and I pray every day that the Spirit work in all of our hearts to lead us into greater knowledge of God’s Truth (John 16:13).

It’s just that, to me, that truth is and always was love.

Or, as one of our most famous Christians put it, “now faith, hope, and love abide, these three – but the greatest of these is love.”

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Bob #

    God calls us to accept and love others, just as He accepts and loves us. BUT we can only be with Him through Jesus, who died for our sins. Through repentance and love we can be saved from our sin and be with God. He does not say to continue in our sin, identify ourselves through our sin, and embrace it! He says to deny our sin, follow Christ, and through Christ’s blood we can be with Him.

    God calls us to accept others and love others, but He does not allow for us to continue in and embrace our sins without repentance and change. Accepting LGBT into the church? We accept the liars, cheaters, murderers…we all sin. The difference is that a homosexual is identifying themselves by their sin, embracing it and living it out. No one in the church or who has any understanding of the BIble would encourage someone to cheat on his wife, kill someone, lie, cheat, steal etc. We are called to rebuke our brothers in love. To be accountable. With any reading of the New Testament in context, homosexuality is easily defined as a sin. Is this sin any different than any other sin? NO. A homosexual is no worse than someone that has lied to their parents.

    We have all sinned. We all continue to sin. But loving Christ and accepting Him as our savior includes turning from our sin continually. There is a continual process of turning from our sinful desires and focusing on Him. NOONE is perfect. We will all fail. That is the beauty of His sacrifice! If you accept that homosexuality is a sin (as it is clearly defined in God’s word, new testament, in context) then there has to be a process of turning from that sin and moving towards repentance and change. Accepting a self proclaimed homosexual into the church comminuty without any expectation of change is the same as accepting someone who is openly cheating on his wife, without any rebuke or counsel. I urge you to really read through His word and gain more context in the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice and God’s love for us, as well as His call to love others. The Bible is a word of Love and acceptance, but at some point repentance must take place.

    Here is one of many passages mentioning the act of repenting and turning away. For context, this is Paul speaking to King Agrippa in defense of himself against the Jews. : Acts 26

    “So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven. 20 First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and then to the Gentiles, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and demonstrate their repentance by their deeds. 21 That is why some Jews seized me in the temple courts and tried to kill me. 22 But God has helped me to this very day; so I stand here and testify to small and great alike. I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen— 23 that the Messiah would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would bring the message of light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”

    I do not hate thr LGBT community. I think that oppressing and bullying them is wrong. But the church cannot simply accept them in their sin without there being any form of rebuke, with repentance and change. Would you accept a child molester into the church without ever expecting him to take steps to change his sin? NO. Nobody would. Even the firmest atheist would find this rediculous. The sin of homosexuality is no different. No worse, no better. And it should be treated with the same loving rebuke and repentance.

    This verse may speak even more strongly towards the issue of repentance. I believe that God loves and wants us to love, but loving our neigbor sometimes means lovingly rebuking them for their benefit.

    Romans 2:3-5 (New International Version)

    Romans 2:3-5
    New International Version (NIV)
    3 So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

    5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.

    November 7, 2013
    • Bob, thank you for your comment. I appreciate getting to dialogue with other believers on this and many other issues. I want you to know that I agree with just about everything you said, with the exception of your assumption that same sex erotic acts are always considered “a sin.” I don’t think this is necessarily the case. I would imagine that the New Testament verses you alluded to above are probably Romans 1:26-27, 1 Timothy 1:9-10, 1 Corinthians 6:9, passages that (respectively) address issues like idolatry, pederasty, and promiscuity and do not actually have a word to say against committed, monogamous same-sex relationships as we understand them today.

      Bob, I think that with a very similar hermeneutical (or textual) lens with which we view the many apparent “pro-slavery” passages or “anti-women” ones in the Bible, so too the ostensibly “anti-gay” verses fall into their proper cultural “context” (as you yourself say above).

      So to reiterate: God is still God and Jesus Christ is still His only son and sin is still sin – but, biblically speaking, committed gay relationships do not by default fall in this category of sin.

      I know my stance may not be the popular one in many segments of the Church today, but I think it is actually the most biblically-faithful position to take. Again Bob, I agree with the majority of what you said – I’d just encourage you to actually engage with the strong biblical case *for* same-sex relationships instead of just assuming gay sex is always wrong and theologizing about sin and adultery and repentence (because I already agree with you on these other points!). What do you think? I’d love to recommend any reading, resources for you, etc!

      November 8, 2013
  2. You have had a rough ride, and I mean no disrespect to your mom, but I really cant see how this is “the most biblically-faithful position to take”. The Bible repeatedly portrays gay relationships as sinful, in both old and new testaments. In none of the clearer references to homosexual behaviour, is it positive or even neutral about it. And none of the references make a distinction between loving monogamous gay relationships compared to gay relationships that arnt.

    You claim that 1 Timothy 1:9-10 is a reference to pederasty. My favourite translation, the NIV renders this passage “We also know that the [religious] law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for the sexually immoral, for those practicing homosexuality, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine”. I dont see anything about pederasty there. I guess your theory is based on an obscure translation of the Greek word ‘arsenokoites’? If that’s the case, what grounds do you have for rejecting the most widely respected translation of that word?

    And you claim that 1 Corinthians 6:9 references promiscuity. My favourite translation, the NIV renders this passage “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” This passage also employs the Greek word ‘arsenokoites’. So in Timothy you interpret the word as referring to pederasty, but in Corinthians you interpret the word as meaning promiscuity? What grounds are there to believe it has a different meaning in different passages? What grounds are there to believe that the most popular translations are incorrect?

    Does your approach that the Bible does “not actually have a word to say against committed, monogamous same-sex relationships as we understand them today” also apply to other sins? EG are there exceptions to murder being sinful? Can we conclude that because the Bible does not specifically mention murder by … say … laser-beams that this therefore isnt sinful? Or when the Bible says “You shall not steal”, since the Bible doesnt specifically mention the internet as we understand it today, can we conclude that stealing over the internet is therefore okay?

    Best regards,
    Stasis

    December 11, 2013
  3. Hi friend,

    I am so sorry you experienced such suffering. Your pain is real and true Christians will have compassion on you and hurt with you.

    Proverbs 3:3 is a great verse promoting balance. “3 Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:” (KJ V)

    If Jesus were only merciful when He rescued the young woman caught in the act of adultery, He would have comforted her, chastised her accusers, and blessed her with unconditional acceptance of her AND her conduct.

    If Jesus were only committed with dispensing truth, He would have spelled out to her and the on lookers that she was guilty of terrible sin and should be utterly ashamed.

    No… Jesus is full of mercy and full of truth. The two are NEVER to be found separate. He is Mercy and Truth. He did not shame her. He rescued her from shame and destruction.

    He then told her, “Go… And leave your life of sin.” John 8:10

    I believe homosexual and lesbian ongoing conduct is perversion and grieves and offends the God of the Bible. I believe we are to love with great kindness these fine folks. Yet, we are never to promote, endorse, encourage, or celebrate their conduct in question.

    One of my favorite verses is Ephesians 4:32

    ” 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

    God bless you,

    Jim Grunseth”

    – biblical counselor, missionary on Cru Staff 33 years

    Read Romans 1:16-32;
    1Corinthians 6:9-20
    John 8:4-10

    August 13, 2014
  4. Lily #

    Thank you for taking your time to pray and actually research the historical and social context of what the Bible says about monogamous, loving same sex relationships as we know of today (which is basically nothing). As a lesbian whose parents are still in Cru ministry for over 30 years, (I’m still not out to them), I would not hesitate to forgive them for coming around or at least try to understand biblically even after so many hurtful things had been said about the lgbtq community. With joy, I forgive you for all the spiritual abuse you had towards lgbtq. We need more people like you. I’m still working on whether or not I want to label myself as Christian, because I personally no longer believe in an organized Christian religion. But at least now I feel at ease that it is possible for younger gay people who still want to practice their faith can still be able to do so.

    July 19, 2016

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