An Open Apology from the Christian Church to All Gay People

… as written and told by John Shore:

The reason that we have so hated you is because we have so feared you. We feared you because we fear our own sexuality. We fear our own sexuality because its power is so far beyond what we are capable of controlling: so utterly, quickly, and inevitably does our sexual lust transform us from pious, composed believers into fevered, bucking animals.

And there you are, out and proud.

There you are, embracing that within you which we can barely acknowledge in ourselves.

There you are, consciously, purposefully, and wisely integrating your sexuality into the whole of your identity.

There you are, with an audacity we now find inspiring and humbling, daring to believe that you, just as you are, are worthy of the most supreme love.

You joyously claimed the rainbow; while we, mired in our stubbornness, insisted on seeing only blacks and whites.

As one commenter seriously jokes: The last line of the piece should be “And then I woke up.”

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Travis Mamone

    As a queer person, I’m unfortunately skeptical whenever Christians pen open apologies to LGBT people. I appreciate the gesture, but nine out of ten times it’s just words. Rarely do I see in one of these open letters, “Now we’re going to join you in your fight against oppression.” Also, if one Christian does repent (forgive me for using evangelical language) and becomes an ally, unfortunately that does not mean the entire church is changing. John Shore may be on his way to be an ally–and if he is, thank goodness!–but the church as a whole has a long way to go.

  • Travis Mamone

    After exploring John Shore’s website, I see that he does not believe homosexuality is a sin, so I definitely give him props for that! Just wish he would apologize on behalf of himself instead of all Christians. Most Christians still have a long way to go.

  • indorri

    I have to disagree with him on his evaluation.

    I think those Christians who hate homosexuals do so because they have been taught to by centuries of oppressive indoctrination.

    They hate homosexuals because they see them as an enemy. A despicable thing that must be removed from their lives.

  • Pattrsn

    Nice start but institutions don’t vilify individuals because their feelings but because they represent a threat to their power. Historically, and also of course presently, churches have used control over the morality or sinfulness of gender, sexuality and sex as a method of control over people and as an instrument of power. When churches renounce that strategy and apologize for their misuse of it, that will be a real step.

  • Heidi McClure

    I think you’re both right. Different people have different reasons. But these are probably two of the biggest. For that matter, some people appear to be afraid of their own sexuality because they fear/know that they really are that hated, despicable other.

    Or to quote the angry mob from Beauty and the Beast, “We don’t like what we don’t understand, in fact it scares us.”

  • Ben Roy

    I was once told by a Christian minister that a true Christian cannot be friends with a homosexual, nor can they associate themselves with homosexuals in public or private because their “sin” is a willfull affront to god. This wasn’t/isn’t that ministers personal idology being placed on the denomination he represents, it’s what the denomination teaches. So going by this mans/denominations teaching’s anyone who calls themself a Christian and openly associates with homosexuals is not in fact a Christian at all.
    BTW, the denomination I’m speaking of is a offshoot of the Methodist Church.

  • Jim Engel

    PS. Oh, and we forgot to mention, it’s also because we cling to mythology as a source of ultimate truth… yeah, there’s that, too.

  • chicago dyke

    well, it’s not my sexual fantasy, but if it works for you, J. i’ve never been into furry culture but go for it if it makes you feel good. oh, wait… ;-)

    when will these believers realize: we’re about so much more than sticking parts in holes. really! we shop, we gossip, we buy shoes, we play rugby, we read books, we get our nails done. hopefully you believers do too, and do more than thinking about controlling your bucking, fevered animals all day.

    cause you know what? that never works. no matter how hard you pray. it’s gonna spring its cage and there’ll you’ll be, all over again. spanking and shaming and praying and the whole cycle just repeats itself.

    i recommend books, and tepid showers to start. try sewing, or painting. cooking is great, too! works for that pre-bucking stage when you’re around sexy people you want to get fevered with. but take it from us: just have sex. like, once or twice a week, maybe more at first. once a day is almost always enough! and then you can go on and spend more time doing things that don’t require so much praying and guilting time. i wish you the best, sincerely!

  • good_creon

    This is going to be tricky, because in the end I am really glad more and more Christians are beginning to come around on the gay rights issue, but I can’t help but see the cynical ploy in all of this. Now that it is becoming socially hazardous to expound anti-gay sentiment, all of a sudden they realize that they were wrong to interpret God this way, and OF COURSE homosexuality is fine, God loves everyone. It’s an attempt to save face.

    I think the reason it bugs me as much as it does is because it does a great disservice to the Christians who have supported the LGBT community for years, before public sentiment changed and when it was still a fairly brave stance to take within religious establishments. I have many friends who a Christian who have been supporters of the LGBT community as long as I have known them. Doing so now, however, carries far less risk, and while it is better late than never, it still induces some eye rolls from me. They were late to the party on slavery, and civil rights, and they are once again late here. Just like saying you were stuck in traffic gets old as an excuse, these constant apologies that they “misread” God’s love is just as annoying.

  • marco

    Apologizing on behalf of a group of people is part of the narcissistic megalomania that is part and parcel of religiuous faith. And it is simultaneaously reaping rewards by showing off “good behaviour” without taking personal responsiblity for anything.

  • smrnda

    I think a big factor is that Christians, and most other religious people as well, have a repressive, simplistic view of sex and relationships. Their St Paul looks at marriage as an appropriate outlet for sexual activity, and really doesn’t see it as a very good thing to begin with, a necessary outlet for people who can’t be good and celibate. Christians promote marriage as a kind of institution that’s all about doing thing By the Book and following rules, as well as gaining status. Marriage is an accomplishment that doing the right way gets you status in a lot of churches – it’s all about forcing yourself and your relationships into a box that other people approve of, so they will approve of you. Control sexuality and you can control people, since nobody will really fit into the narrow box you’ve built for them.

    Same-sex relationships are all about *not* doing things by the book, but working things out on your own based on what you want, and being willing to go where there isn’t a script. It’s a threat since once you let people work out relationships on their own, they quit needing the church to tell them what to do and to provide approval.

    **More on John, I think he’s got good motives, but he can’t apologize for anybody but himself. He’s just one guy, with a minority viewpoint within his clique at that.

  • John Shore

    So I AM a narcissistic megalomania! Shoot. I hate it when my wife is right.

  • Anna

    For a lot of them it seems to be a sort of “how dare they!” reaction. They’re so invested in their belief in sexual purity that it upsets them to see people happily breaking the rules, not being punished for their transgressions, and (worst of all) being accepted by society at large.

    They’ve so convinced themselves that abstinence-until-heterosexual-marriage is the right and superior option that they want those who dare to live otherwise to be punished. And if the church can’t punish them, then they support the state denying rights, benefits, and protections. It’s not just gay issues either; this also feeds into their opposition to contraception and abortion.

  • guest

    …at least you have a sense of humour about it ;-)

  • Richard Wade

    As lyrical as it is, this is an apology to no one in particular for bad things done by others who are no one in particular.

    The problem with these third-person, generic, non-personal, hypothetical, “apply to affected area as needed” apologies is that they can be cheap substitutes for taking real action to stop the offenders and their offense. How many Christians does the author actually, directly, and personally confront toe-to-toe, eye-to-eye with these powerful terms in an attempt to persuade them to stop their contempt, disdain and abuse? I’m impressed when Christians actually get in their bigoted brothers’ and sisters’ faces. I hope he does that, because it seems to be extremely rare.

  • skizzle

    You may be a nice and well-intentioned narcissistic megalomaniac, but yeah still a narcissistic megalomaniac.

  • Zorntap

    Oh, cool. The Christian Church. Where is it headquartered? Didn’t know there was just one. Learn something new every day when I come here!

    I thought I’d inject a reality break here. Characterizing Christians as a group as inherently anti-gay makes no sense. It violates simple math. Polls say that 76 percent of Americans self-identify as Christians. That’s slightly over 3/4 of the population, then, which is Christian. 53 percent of our population favors gay marriage; we can assume that an even larger majority is gay “friendly” without taking the step of accepting same-sex marriage (i.e.,giving it the official status of marriage). Though my own views are irrelevant to this post, I’ll disclose them, anyway: I’m a left-wing believer passionately in favor of gay marriage. Of course, I realize most Americans are much more in the middle than I am. By definition.

    Elementary logic, when applied to the above figures, tells us that it’s NOT POSSIBLE for Christians, as a group, as A WHOLE, to be anti-gay. The statistics make it impossible. To wit, 53 percent of the U.S. pop. advocates gay marriage. 76 percent of that population is Christian. Any way you work those numbers, NOTHING supports the myth that Christians, as a group, are inherently anti-gay. Of course, we can always up the bar, No-True-Scotsman style, by saying, “Yes, but are they actively involved in addressing gay issues,” etc., but I’m primarily concerned with the set-in-stone notion that being Christian amounts, as a rule, to being anti-gay. The numbers say the opposite.

    So why do many atheists cling to the false stereotype of Christians as anti-gay? Because you want to? Because it complies with received wisdom, even if it mocks the numbers?

    I really want to know. We’re all used to 3/4 of our population being treated by the media as some fringe group at odds with the common pulse. Surely, I don’t have to point out to this crowd the absurdity of that notion, however popular the idea/meme/stereotype may be.

  • smrnda

    I think the reason is that there’s a difference in terms of the opinions of average, run of the mill Christians and what self-appointed leaders of Christians say. There are probably a lot of quiet supporters of gay rights among Christians, but a lot of this quiet support doesn’t go so far as to challenge leadership on GLBTQ issues.

    I guess my take is that if I met a Christian who said they were okay with gay marriage, but who attended a church where the pastor was opposed, I’d tell them that their ‘support’ is pretty much worthless. Every warm body in a pew gives the leader power. Yeah, the warm bodies in the pew can vote however they want, but this should be a deal-breaker issue. If a person told me they supported same-sex marriage but that they still attended a church whose party line was against it, I’d have a hard time viewing them as a supporter.

    Perhaps it’s a more ‘if you’re not with it your against it’ philosophy, since weak support might as well be no support from my point of view.

  • Anna

    I can appreciate that there are many Christians who support gay rights. However, it’s simply not the case that the majority of active religious believers support it. Religiosity is correlated with non-acceptance of homosexuality:

    A simple indicator of religiosity — religious service attendance — is a powerful predictor of views on same-sex marriage, with seven in 10 of those who attend weekly saying they are opposed, and seven in 10 of those who seldom or never attend saying they are in favor. Significantly, when asked to explain their position, almost half of those opposed to same-sex marriage focus on religion, including the statement that such a position follows the respondent’s religious beliefs, or that it is based on their interpretation of the Bible.

    Furthermore, there are very few Christian denominations that demonstrate full acceptance of LGBT people, which would include asserting that homosexual relationships are equal to heterosexual relationships, conducting sacramental marriage for same-sex couples, and ordaining openly gay people into the clergy. How many denominations are doing this? And what percentage are the members of those denominations of the Christian population as a whole?

  • Zorntap

    Anna, you’re taking the scenic route around the facts. We have direct evidence, in the form of opinion polls, that a majority of Christians are pro-gay. By using such qualifications as “active religious believers” and by citing technicalities regarding church attendance rate, etc., you’re dodging direct statistical evidence. When we have direct evidence for something, we have no choice but to accept that direct evidence. To wit, direct observation reveals that our moon is populated by craters. Any number-crunching that would suggest otherwise is deceptive. It’s time misspent.

  • Anna

    Around the facts? The fact is that the Christian church as a whole (meaning the official position of the vast majority of denominations) does not support homosexuality. This is not even taking into account that 70% of people who are actively involved in churches are anti-gay.

    You seem to want to take non-religious, nominal, and cultural Christians and count them for your side. But if they are not part of organized Christianity, saying they are representative of Christianity makes no sense. That’s like saying the Catholic church is pro-gay because a (slight) majority of American Catholics ignore what the Vatican has to say about homosexuality. It doesn’t change the fact that the Catholic church itself is anti-gay.

  • Anna

    That’s another thing. If the majority of Christians were actually committed to supporting LGBT rights, they would not be attending bigoted churches. Yet most Christians in this country belong to churches that say homosexuality is sinful and refuse to conduct same-sex marriages or ordain gay clergy. Not only do they attend those churches, they are not demanding change from the leadership. What kind of support is that? Can you imagine if they were attending churches with racist ideology? No one would let them off the hook for that.

  • Zorntap

    There is no “the Christian church.” And when we’re judging groups of people, we judge PEOPLE, not institutions, not official doctrine, and we do so on the basis of direct observations of their collective behavior. And we don’t toss those observations aside in favor of number-crunching. Outfits like Pew Research routinely engage in fishing expeditions, processing poll results so that the numbers conform to the expectations of those who consume their data. The worst example I know of occurred a few years back, when a (I think it was Pew) poll revealed that the majority of believers oppose the use of torture on terrorist suspects. They crunched the data until it suggested the reverse, and they added insult to injury by COMBINING yea and nay responses–literally, by combining the responses of those who supported torture under rare circumstances (a category of “yea”) with people who say no to torture (“nay”), which amounts to grossly misrepresenting the sentiments of the respondents. By no version of logic can we combine yes and no responses, but they did. After all, the polling outfit had audience expectations to fulfill, and to heck with how it did so. I pointed out to others (at Huffington Post) that if one examined the pie chart provided by the polling outfit (and which was linked to by HuffPo!), one would see that a large majority of the faithful oppose torture. It was right there, in plain sight. No one did. Instead, they took the number-crunching results as gospel, not bothering to critically examine them, even to the simple point of LOOKING AT THE PIE CHART LINKED TO IN THE HUFFPO PIECE.

    Sorry for the all-caps, there, but it blows my mind when people accept manipulations of data that contradict direct evidence. Again, this is akin to making a case that the Earth is NOT covered by water, that we are NOT mainly a water planet (we are), when images from space show huge bodies of water covering most of our globe.

  • Zorntap

    Weak support? So, if I attend a church with an anti-gay pastor (and, I assure you, I do not!), my vote in favor of gay rights counts less than, um, someone else’s? Kindly explain the science behind that.

    As a Christian, I vote as a member of the electorate. I vote as ME. Of course, we have a media which insists that we vote as citizens of a particular state, as members of a certain age demographic, as people who own 1.0-3.2 motor vehicles, as people who watch or don’t watch HBO, etc. But in a one-person-one-vote demography, a vote is a vote is a vote. Same is true for the voter. Apologies to the great Gertrude Stein.

    You are politicizing things to a degree that, frankly, causes me to question your devotion to the discipline of rationality. So much of the criticism tossed at believers consists of guilt by association, guilt by membership, of blaming person A for the actions of person B. There’s such an emphasis on doctrine, on dogma. People are people. They have a right to be judged by what THEY say and do and how THEY act.

    I quite voluntarily worked for a company whose politics were quite Republican, who invested in horrible things, such as companies which export cigarettes to poor countries. I accepted a salary from them and participated in their 401K program. Does that essentially cancel out my record as a yellow-dog Dem?

    Judge people by what THEY do. As individuals. Which brings us to my main point: “Average, run of the mill Christians” ARE Christians. They are the majority thereof. They are the body. You can’t ignore “average, run of the mill” members of a given group when passing judgment on the group as a whole. Not remotely rational.

  • Zorntap

    Okay, we’re playing No True Scotsman here. Once we’ve established most Christians are gay-friendly (and polls indicate as much), we raise the bar to “Are they actively involved in LGBT causes?” However, the claim I’m challenging is the neo-atheist stereotype that being Christian=being anti-gay. It does not.

    Are Christians, as a group, working hard enough for LGBT rights? Absolutely not. Are most people, in general? Nope. But you’re modifying the original claim by way of keeping it alive. That’s exactly the fallacy illustrated in the “No true Scotsman” example.

    I made my point. I proved it. You revise the requirements. With apologies to Mr. Spock, most illogical, but exceedingly human!

  • The Other Weirdo

    What gives this guy the right to speak for all Christians everywhere? What is he, Pope or something? Even the Pope doesn’t speak for all Christians. And he wears a funny hat.

  • Anna

    Wow, that’s not what I said at all. I actually set the bar rather low. They do not have to be actively involved in LGBT causes. I merely stated that people who attend and support bigoted churches without demanding change from the leadership cannot reasonably, IMO, be called supporters. They are part of the problem, not the solution.

    The vast majority of denominations in this country do not support full and equal rights for LGBT people. Most Christians in this country belong to one of those denominations. There is no getting around that fact.

  • Anna

    You seem very invested in maintaining your belief that Christianity is not anti-gay, despite what seems to me quite extraordinary evidence to the contrary.

    <blockquoteThere is no "the Christian church." And when we're judging groups of people, we judge PEOPLE, not institutions, not official doctrine, and we do so on the basis of direct observations of their collective behavior.
    Direct observations of their collective behavior? Did you, by any chance, happen to be in California during the Prop 8 battle? I was, and I witnessed their collective behavior firsthand. To me it is absolutely ludicrious to pretend that the vast majority of organized religion does not come down against homosexuality. That’s what polls consistently show, that religiosity is correlated with homophobia.
    “The Christian church” necessarily includes denominations. The official position of the vast majority of those denominations is anti-gay. You don’t need a poll to tell you what they believe and what they promote. People belong to those bigoted denominations and support those denominations with their time and money. I’m not understanding how you are ignoring that fact or why you seem to be counting those people as LGBT supporters.

  • Zorntap

    So now my claim is “Christianity is not anti-gay”? In my initial comment, I pointed out that, with 76 percent of Americans self-i.d.’ing as Christian, and 53 percent of Americans says yes to gay marriage, the stereotype of Christians (people of faith, not the faith itself) as anti-gay is demonstrably false.

    Simple math. If you want to argue about Christianity itself (in its many forms, which range from conservative to moderate to progressive), that’s another topic. If you want to play the guilt by association game, wherein even an outspoken progressive Catholic like E.J. Dionne is not to be taken seriously as a progressive voice because he continues to associate with a corrupt institution, then again I have to question your devotion to progressive principles.

    I have direct evidence, in the form of polls, that Christians (not Christianity, not Pastor Vernon Hail of Kill Liberals Falls, MS, not the Church of Vote Republican, not SNL’s head writers) are in fact friendly toward gays. Therefore, the burden of proof should be on YOU, not me. Namely, explain how–if 76 percent of Americans are down on gays–that a 53% pro-marriage stance would be possible. Demonstrate that you understand the function of proof.

  • Zorntap

    Sorry for the bad grammar. Corrections: “53 percent of Americans *saying* yes to gay marriage.” And, no “that” in the next to last sentence.

  • Zorntap

    Then you’re rejecting the poll results which purport to show rapidly growing public support for gay causes. Or else, you’re attaching little significance to the fact that 76 percent of said public is Christian.

    Your call, not mine.

  • Anna

    Well, we’re just going around in circles. You’re counting for your side millions of people who are non-religious, people who never pray, people who don’t belong to a church, people who may not even believe any of the tenets of that church. Yes, these people are cultural and nominal Christians, but I think it misrepresents things in the extreme to say that they are Christians in any meaningful sense. I had boyfriends in college who told me they were Presbyterian and Catholic because that was what their parents were. They did not practice the religions in question. You would count them as part of your 76%, I suppose.

  • Anna

    Okay, fine, if you’re counting anyone and everyone who was raised in a Christian family and says they are Christian when asked by a pollster, then I concede your point.

    In fact, I would say that the vast majority of loosely-affiliated, nominal, and cultural Christians are pro-gay rights. However, I would dispute the claim that the majority of people who are actually involved in organized Christianity and practice the religion support gay marriage. Polls clearly show that support for LGBT issues goes down the more religious someone is.

  • Valancy Jane

    I get what you’re saying, Anna. He does seem astonishingly intent on “proving” that most Christians are pro-gay-rights. That’s nice in its way. I’m glad that he himself is that intense about it. But the simple reality is that denominations’ leadership, who set the tone for their churches’ involvement and behavior, are profoundly against gay rights, and those who attend church the most and are most active in their organizations tend to skew way far to the right to deny gay people their rights. Saying that the Christian religion is overwhelmingly pro-gay is about as bizarre as saying that it’s overwhelmingly pro-choice or pro-women’s rights. It just isn’t. The least involved Christians might be, and there are definitely a lot of them–we could probably all agree that percentage-wise, there are probably way more weakly-involved Christians than more involved ones–but the most influential Christians, their leaders, certainly are not.

    I share your wariness regarding Christians who are themselves pro-gay-rights but persist in giving their time, energy, and money to the many despicable churches actively working to deny rights and freedoms to gay people. I perceive that this is changing–that more and more Christians are leaving such churches, largely over such social issues–but it’s likely to be a slow haul to decency.

  • Valancy Jane

    It’s hard to say. He definitely blogs a lot about it, which is nice, and from the look of things, he genuinely affirms gay people’s rights, not just the weaselly way Christians often do (saying they love gays, but voting against their rights and trying to force them into celibacy or “reparative” therapy). And I think he’s even written some books about it.

    I don’t really like big group apologies like these either; they’re not really very meaningful. And as someone on his blog noted, it doesn’t make all the owies go away and get all better. At this point I can’t blame gay people for not wanting a single thing to do with Christians no matter how much they apologize. No matter how much this guy apologizes, he certainly doesn’t speak for all Christians, many of whom consider him very far from being a true Christian. A true apology comes from someone who has committed a serious wrong, to someone he can identify and look right at while he apologizes. I’m not sure this guy’s done anything specific himself, and the people who have are highly unlikely to consider his apology as speaking for them.

  • Nick

    I’m straight and if God wants only for us to love each other and be happy, then why should gay people not be able to love each other and be happy? The Bible was written by people 2000 years ago in an unforgiving society, so unforgiving that Jesus had to come here himself to bring peace to us. It says that if you were to get divorced or if your marriage was not arranged by your parents, you should be stoned. Is that our level of intelligence?
    Sexuality is not 3 solid choices, no one is one, the other, or right in the middle, when we’re in the long run all humans, all people in the long run, why shouldn’t we all be able to love each other?