Blogger at Late Enough
A part of this piece was orginially posted on my personal blog.
A long time LateEnough.com reader believed that I would care about a series of email conversations with her friend, the friend's pastor and the friend's young teenage daughter who, six months ago, told her mom that she was gay.
Back in January, the daughter was terrified to come out because her family attended a conservative Christian church. She honestly thought her parents would rather have her dead than gay, but she took the chance and thank goodness, she was so far from wrong.
Her parents immediately expressed their unconditional loved for her but inside worried about reconciling their faith as Southern Baptists so they turned to their pastor. At first, they felt some support until his personal council was followed up by public pronouncements equating homosexuality with bestiality among other irresponsible ideas. The family left the church quietly because they could not abide by this sentiment. However, because the girl's father was still on the email list, they recently received a newsletter impressing upon the congregation the importance of listening to the pastor's three-part series on homosexuality.
The newsletter also included more malicious misinformation:
Even if a biological or genetic factor is discovered for homosexual behavior (as some say is in alcoholism and a multitude of diseases, disorders and behavioral traits) we have never said that a person is and should become 100% of what his genetics describe. If everyone acted out according to all the biologically urges, genetic predispositions the world would self-destruct in five minutes! Plus there are probably HUNDREDS OF SEXUAL ORIENTATIONS if you want to get right down to it. There are hundreds of sexual predilections, obsessions, preferences. They are not healthy and the mental health community knew that until political correctness caused the American Psychological Association to snatch just one of them—homosexuality—and remove it from the list of disorders.
You are NOT 100% of all that genetics tells you you are predisposed to be BEHAVIORALLY! Thank God! Besides that, it seems clear that there are many other factors involved in homosexuality besides anything genetic, including socialization, childhood sexual abuse, early sexualization, parenting styles, and much more.
This conservative Christian mom replied to her pastor not just for her daughter but to remind the pastor how his choice of words and lack of love affect his congregation. She shared the changes in her heart and in her relationship to God over the last few months.
With this courageous mom's blessing, I am reposting her response (with names removed or replaced titles):
Since I am no longer on the church email list (my husband) shared your email with me. I understand that you’ve just wrapped up a series on homosexuality. The tone of this email and others I’ve read from you regarding homosexuality since we’ve left the church is in stark contrast to the conversation I had with you just five short months ago when I told you of my own child's profession. Your vilification of a subset of the human species is quite evident.
I am not writing to try to persuade you one way or another because I know that could never happen. I wanted this email to serve two purposes.
First, I want to remind you how important your job as a pastor is. You are shaping not only the minds and judgments of teenagers and young adults but also of their parents. These are the parents who, statistically speaking, like us, will one day find out their child is gay. There are many in your youth group and congregation today who are gay. Instead of love and acceptance, your sermons may be producing hateful cruel words on their parents’ lips that will also make them vilify their own children. our words are a sword that will cut the flesh of these young people who grapple with the realization of their own sexuality and learn to hate themselves even more. These kids are dying at their own hands or at the hands of others because pastors like you speak your own truth and not God’s truth. You speak lies in the name of hate but wrap it up as love. God says love is good, in all forms. God says judgment is for him, not for man. God says it is a sin to stand above any man.
Second, I wanted you to know how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned in the past five months. The dogma I was spoon fed by the Baptist church my whole life had me clouded and confused when (my daughter) told me she was gay. I knew I would always love her, but because of the “teachings” I had received my whole life through ministers like you, I wondered how I would reconcile my faith with her truth. The truth was, there is no reconciliation because my faith was false. The God I serve is bigger than any religion. The God I serve loves my daughter unconditionally and wants her to be happy and find love in return. I know now for a fact that finding love is not a sin no matter what you or other pastors preach from your pulpit. I am so proud of myself for reaching beyond what I thought I knew with regard to human sexuality and clearing up decades of false teachings that indoctrinated my mind. For the first time in 44 years I have finally learned what Jesus meant when he said to love others as ourselves. I have learned there is a story behind every face, a story that, if you listen and do not judge, may break your heart. And I’ve learned to gain knowledge from their stories and become a better person because of their trials and tribulations. I’ve been able to meet amazingly brave lesbians, transgenders, parents of gays, straight allies, many of whom love the Lord and serve a Mighty God, one mightier than I even knew. For that, I am thankful. I just wanted you to know that it is possible to break free from the propaganda the Southern Baptist Convention has preached for the last fifty years and find truth, justice and mercy.
(My daughter) has been, still is, and will always be the most important thing in my life. There is nothing she has done, is doing or will do that will ever change my love for her. And I will die in support of her right to feel that same love for another person one day and profess it before God and her family in a legal and spiritual way. It is not your’s nor any other persons “right” to say otherwise.
I had reservations about leaving the church when we did. It was difficult because we had formed some really close bonds and friendships. But I know God pulled us away just in time. Had (my daughter) not told me when she did and we had stayed for your series on homosexuality, I know the lies of homophobia would have rooted deeper in my heart and I may have lost her forever. My condemning words may have pushed her thoughts of suicide into action. As the song goes, I was lost but now I’m found, was blind but now I see. I thank God for his amazing grace that opened my eyes to the real truth. My mission in life now is to help others make their way out of the dark shadows of “truth” cast by the Southern Baptist churches.
And I just wanted to add that (my daughter) was never sexually abused as a child, she was never exposed to sexually explicit material as a young child and her father was not an overbearing alcoholic, but she is still gay. I was subjected to all those things and I am NOT gay so you’ll need to come up with a different theory because homosexuality is completely about biology not upbringing. This is not a choice, this is the way she was born, it was the way God made her and intended her to be. As Lady Gaga wrote in her song, “I’m beautiful in my way, cause God makes no mistakes, I’m on the right track, baby, I was born this way.”
I thank God I’m on the right track now, His track.
I am honored by this family's bravery and desire to tell their story. I believe it will help other families who feel confusion and despair around their faith and their sexuality or the sexuality of those they love. I have always been taught to shed light on the dark places so more people can find their way out, and I hope one day being gay does not bring anyone to a dark place.
PS. A few hours after I emailed back-and-forth with the mom and sent her some of the posts that I wrote on Late Enough in support of gay youth, gay marriage and on upholding gay rights as a Christian so she could feel less alone, her teenage daughter unexpectedly emailed me. To read the teenage daughter's email and experience with growing up in a conservative Christian church, go to Late Enough and scroll down to “Hi Alex” because that section of this experience doesn't quite work as a repost.