“God, Why Did You Make Me This Way? Why Did You Give Me This Life?”

“Have you written/composed something thoughtful in response to those Phelps people?” I read in a stranger’s email to me last week. “They are what I picture when I think of religious people.”

I immediately responded: “Fred Phelps is an inbred media monger whose ‘church’ is no one but his idiot family. Confusing him with religious people is like confusing Mother Theresa with someone who sells children into prostitution. Remember: All the thoughtful, sane, rational, normal Christians are in church. It’s all the the crazy ones who are on TV.”

And I was surprised to receive in return this this heartbreaking email:

Dear John,

Thanks for your reply.

Some background: I was raised in a Southern Baptist household, in a small rural town in Pennsylvania. As a gay youth, I was ostracized from just about every social venue. And not just ostracized, but persecuted. I became the subject of ridicule, and of verbal and physical abuse, from the school yard to my home life—including from my immediate family.

There are many things a human can tolerate, but when your immediate family, your support system, pulls the rug out from under you, it is so much more than a feeling of being punched in the gut. You cannot imagine the overwhelming sense of loss and pain, and then inward hatred, that this creates. I recall as a child of thirteen crying hysterically, and asking god “Why did you make me this way? Why did you give me this life? Why would you create something only to see it tortured and destroyed?” This kind of pressure can only be tolerated by an individual for so long before something gives, either externally or internally.

I believe I could have handled the incessant harassment at school, as long as I had a supportive family who loved me. But when you are raised in the Southern Baptist tradition, there is no greater abomination than what I was: a homosexual. I will never forget my father’s words, “No son of mine is gay.” I recall my mother’s apathy, which was even more painful, her unwillingness to challenge this sentiment. I recall my brother’s assertion, “You should just kill yourself.” And my older sister seemingly clueless.

When this happens to someone so young, when they are being developed, it is so much more than mere bullying. It is an emotional, spiritual, all encompassing rape that leaves the victim with a perverse and distorted view of oneself and the world in general. All of this was done in the name of religion or what the Bible says. I was taken to a christian counselor, who was supposedly able to condition the abomination of homosexuality out of me. My parents took me to the Pastor of Open Door Church (what irony), who told me I could expect to burn eternally in a lake of fire, forever and ever.

You cannot imagine how this experience has shaped every aspect of my life, for better and for worse.

I realize it is not your place to argue or correct the many evils that come from those who profess to be Christians. I know it is not fair to ask all the thoughtful, sane, rational, normal Christians who are in church to step outside of their congregations and actually apply what they profess to believe in. I would never expect that, any more than I would expect sensible Muslims to step outside of their mosques and argue against the vitriol spewed from their extreme equivalent.

The point: I think what you are doing is important. I hope you continue your writing and exploration of these issues. Your “Smith Family Chronicles” [see here] created such feelings for me, a reliving of something exquisitely painful. While I have strong reservations about god, and Christianity (can you blame me?), there was some small quark inside me that somehow refused to be destroyed, some small seed that has been gathering evidence in all of my years on the planet. And although I may never meet you, or see your face, I am thankful that you exist. It is so important that there are voices of sanity and truth out there, voices that reach out to all those who are suffering. There is one thing I know, in my heart of hearts, that we humans are on this planet to learn from one another and love one another.

Thanks and I wish you continued success in your writing and creative endeavors.

Hi. Me again.

A little while ago someone wrote to ask me why I’m so interested in the gay issue. I replied that my primary interest isn’t in “the gay issue.” My primary interest is in the abuse of power.

Look how this guy was treated by his family. Look how he was treated at school. Look how he was treated by his church.

With what shameless ease does malevolent power adorn itself with the rosy mantle of piousness.

Christianity has institutionalized the most base, cruel kind of bigotry. It did it with slaves. It did it with women. It’s doing it with gays.

Will we ever run out of fools pleased to confuse the purity of their own hateful fear with the purity of Jesus’ love for all of God’s children?

Join me in praying to God that we do.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • DR

    “I realize it is not your place to argue or correct the many evils that come from those who profess to be Christians.”

    *********

    Dear wonderful young man,

    It is our place. There should be a million Johns, you should have heard the encouragement that John offers (as well as the correction) in every nook and cranny of the Christian world to combat the abuse of power and the terrible, driving fear that kept your parents held hostage to their ignorance and their cruelty. But you didn’t. I’m sorry we let you down.

    With love,

    DR

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Thanks for this, DR.

    • Diana A.

      Yes, thank you.

    • Mindy

      DR, never stop saying this. You are a powerful voice, and many, many of us are listening. John – thank you for sharing this heartbreaking letter. Lest we become complacent, we need to be reminded of the pain that is still out there.

      I sat at a dinner last night with a small group of moms, all adoptive moms, all of varying faiths, and all fiercely devoted to our kids. One has a daughter (her biological daughter, actually) whom she imagines is gay, altho’ is still very young. We had this great conversation about it, why she feels that way, how this child presents that is different from “tomboy” behavior but not the same as transgendered, and so forth. Most of the conversation, though, was about how wonderful this child is and all the ways her parents are working to make sure that she knows she is loved, however she chooses to express herself or who she is, and how to find and build communities that are accepting and loving.

      The only time in this child’s life that the mother felt alienated was with a group of Christian moms, not evangelicals, whose response was, “OH, don’t say that!! She’s too young, she’s just pretending, don’t even think that about your daughter!” This mom was not labeling her daughter, but working hard to open herself to the “what ifs” of life, being prepared to support and defend her daughter, etc. And these moms insisted she put her head right back in the sand and ignore it. :::::sigh:::::

    • Matthew Tweedell

      Yet, be it is our place to do so, DR, where’s our power to do so? Of course, I could preach to the choir, to those willingly turning to hear, and while it’s not as if the choir doesn’t benefit from the sermon too, unless it inspires some sort of action, it would be in vain. So what is the action we should take? Door-to-door evangelism of Southern Baptists? Sounds fun—but ineffective. How then to—as the letter-writer put it—”actually apply what [we] profess to believe in” in this case? Argue it with any- and every-one I might suspect of harboring this antichrist in their heart? Such would likely destroy more than it builds up. For instance, if I spend all of my time with my father arguing more moderate positions vis-a-vis his conservatism, it’ll spoil our relationship, and potentially not only mine and his but that of him and my mother, who is rather more liberal than he but doesn’t push it since he’s ultimately going to believe what he wills. Yet the potential benefit is really rather little: he doesn’t stand on the street corner advocating his points of view, and I’ve never observed any hint of bigotry in his relations with others nor heard him condescend someone on account of (real or suspected) sexuality or use terms referencing homosexuality as terms of condescension. Nevertheless, he happens to be of the opinion that what marriage was always meant to mean is a particular contractual relation in which the parties bring unique genders to the table.

      I will, of course, let the light shine wherever the lamp is carried. But how to shine the light through closed doors, into the homes of families such as the letter-writer’s, into his church community—on which my peace is unlikely to rest, leaving me to shake the dust of my feet on the way out—or into his former schoolyard, locker room, or wherever—where I’m not present and, even if I were, have no authority and no power besides that exercised by my (far from imposing) physicality?

      • DR

        Yet, be it is our place to do so, DR, where’s our power to do so? >>>

        I’m not really sure how to answer this question but the first thing we need to believe is that we’re powerless. Our Church has been held hostage to this kind of Fundamentalist thinking for a few decades now, and now that it’s politicized it feels like it has a much louder voice. That’s the illusion and I think it makes people feel powerless. You just have to be willing to be ripped to shreds by people who are aggressively defending their way of life and their way of believing, they are maintaining their very identify around theology like this and I think reasonable people who mean well tend to wilt in the face of their hostility. But it’s time to get angry back – it’s time to be able to withstand that, our own discomfort and take some responsibility because for whatever reason, we’ve allowed these people to do this. There are some actions that Christians would never allow one another to get away with but we let the gay issue slide because we’ve allowed ourselves to get confused, so we’re quiet.

        Those of you on the fence don’t have to feel completely OK about homosexuality to aggressively defend children like this.

        • DR

          *that we’re NOT powerless, rather.

        • Matthew Tweedell

          First, as you should know, I don’t sit on fences: to sit on fences is a pain in the ass. When it comes to material facts, yes, there are indeed uncertainties; when it comes to moral judgment, yes, there are gray areas; but when it comes to what to proclaim, where to stand on principles, I am unequivocal; when it comes to thoughts, words, and deeds, a lack of them would be as bad as the worst of them, while the bread of life is a properly balanced diet of those three ingredients mixed in love and baked in truth.

          There’s a polar bear’s chance in the Sahara that I’d “let it slide” if someone were, in my presence, to show hostility towards gays. And where theology is involved, my capacity and motivation to respond is only amplified. And where the name or body of Christ is hijacked in support of such belief, I am fully obliged to serve in my Lord’s defense. It doesn’t worry me to be “ripped to shreds”: I don’t mind for the mentality of the mindless to go against me.

          However, though it might even be exhilarating when approached with the right mind frame, I question the effectiveness of provocation in a primary tactical role here. As you know, I can be quite provoking of people, to the point that you yourself have questioned the efficacy of my being so. However, my overall approach is a little of everything, in moderation, hopefully according to the season, if I’m well enough on my game well to gauge the atmospheric conditions. For instance, with somewhat open-minded individuals, a strongly-put challenge can be just the thing to boost their train of thought onto a course going outside the proverbial box, while other times humor is called for, to point out certain paradoxes and ironies that otherwise might not be perceived.

          It seems to me, though, that this is a case in which neither humor nor acute conflict nor escalation of divisions could be incredibly helpful. Certainly a bit of righteous anger within the Church wouldn’t hurt to correct the spirit currently predominating (hence the benefit of preaching to the choir). But indeed I myself and you yourself are powerless (neither with power to change such attitudes nor to have “allowed these people to do this”), but you and I in tandem, united by a common spirit, are not—if, that is, that Spirit is the One that is ALL-powerful. And we can see that He is already at work changing hearts and minds. And I stand ready to be of service to Him in whatever way He might direct. But I’ve yet to receive the directive to walk into a Southern Baptist church and proclaim the true good news, the real Gospel of Jesus Christ. But—Who knows? I doubt it, but it’s possible—perhaps when I recalibrate the mixture of my thoughts, words, and deeds, I’ll find that a surprise message was baked into the bread, by an angel who calls herself DR.

          • DR

            I wasn’t speaking to you personally, Matthew., sorry if you thought I was! I was making a general point, I guess.

            And I’m not really sure if there are “tactics” to be applied, that can be a bit manipulative in my experience. I think if one has been called to this particular battle and receive that calling, the conversations and venues find you and you act according to what your heart is telling you. For me, it’s not my job to convince anybody of anything, people choose to listen to what serves them. But my job is to provide testimony of the children that are being hurt and call those who are hurting them into accountability for that, regardless of their intention. Very good people are hurting children (like this one() with their theology and they need to understand that. I might be angry, I might be sarcastic, I might not be. I try to speak in love but sometimes I don’t. If people want to reject the truth that’s there as a result of me not saying it kindly I guess they can do that. It does make me wonder how aggressively they are pursuing the truth, but that’s their problem.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            An excellent way to put it, DR: aggressively pursuing the truth!

            And when that’s what people do, they generally come to a point like this, where all I can say is that I completely agree with you.

            oh… and thanks for your reply.

      • Diana A.

        Whether we choose to speak up or remain silent in a given situation, we must always make sure that our motives are pure. That is, when I choose to remain silent, am I doing so because speaking up will just cause more damage to the people involved, or am I doing so because I’m afraid they’ll turn on me? If I choose to speak up, am I doing so because I genuinely believe I can say something that will change the other person’s perspective or because I’m trying to prove my own superiority to that person–superior intellect, superior morals, superior Christian love, etc.? Also, sometimes I am tempted to give tit for tat. That is also a consideration.

        Each person must make these decisions on his/her own and on a case-by-case basis. It sounds to me as if you have good reason to remain silent when it comes to your father. And, I’m certain that if something comes up that makes you feel the need to speak up to him, you will.

        In the overall sense, I think DR is right that for too long we as Christians have been content to allow hatred (especialy toward gay people) to grow unchallenged in our churches and that it’s time for us to speak up for and in Christian love. In fact, we are long overdue.

        • DR

          Love this. Yes.

  • http://williamgcook.wordpress.com William

    I agree with DR. Every single one of us who proclaim to follow the son of God should act just as John does and fiercely oppose and seek to bring an end to the horrible things that happened to you, and unfortunately happen to more people than we like to think (and this spreads to more issues than just the gay one. Being openly liberal in an evangelical university brings a similar, though lesser, response. Know that God loves you. I really hope that things change for the better.

    Much love,

    William

  • vj

    “Why did you make me this way? Why did you give me this life? Why would you create something only to see it tortured and destroyed?”

    I was just listening to someone today explaining R.T. Kendall’s concept of the ‘unanswered prayer’ – when God doesn’t give us/do what we want/ask, because He has a better ultimate plan for the situation/person. The Biblical example given was that of the crippled man begging daily outside the temple (Acts 3) – Jesus must have passed him many times when going to the temple, and yet He didn’t heal him. Instead, after the Resurrection, Peter and John healed him in Jesus’ name, which created an opportunity for them to preach the Gospel to the resulting crowds.

    John, your correspondent’s story is utterly heartbreaking, but perhaps all the accumulated pain and suffering caused by bigoted ‘believers’ is now finally reaching critical mass; perhaps the work you do in challenging such abuses of power is part of a greater move of God in exposing the hypocrisy that seems to be endemic in so many church environments.

    My ladies’ Bible-study group is currently working through Tim Keller’s ‘The Prodigal God’, which made me look much more closely at the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son. He represents the Pharisees of the day, and surely the bigots of today, who stand in judgment over the social outcasts, instead of recognising their own need for the Father’s love and acceptance. So, basically, the same as what you do with ‘I’m OK’…..

    Keep it up! :-)

  • melissa

    This is the third time I have read this since you posted it. I don’t have anything to say, I just cry. God is moving this train, and I am on board. Thanks, John. It is through this blog and through networking with these wonderful people that I have gained confidence in my very conservative world both socially and in my employment.

    I have been toying with the idea of changing my job (www.glcc.org) because I am so uncomfortable there with what they are teaching. David Wells is speaking this week. If you want a simple (sarcasm) example of his stuff, pick up a copy of “The Courage to be Protestant.” for some light reading pleasure. My heart is just so heavy. I am alone and feel very alienated at work. This morning, after reading this again, I feel that perhaps I am there because I AM alone, that is isn’t some sort of mistake, but because it is intentional. I just have to conjure up the confidence to speak up in truth and love, and not be afraid. Truth be known, I am afraid. I am really afraid.

    So, please pray for me, y’all. One small voice is about to start being heard. This walk with Jesus has never been easy, but it sure is fulfilling. I consider it pure joy.

    • Mindy

      Melissa – you are in my thoughts and prayers. I read this man’s’ letter and cried, too, wondering how many others suffer the way he has, but do so in silence – or gave in to the pain and are no longer walking among us because it was simply too great to bear.

      What you are facing is enormous – but so, so important. To be “called,” if you will, to be the lone voice of love and TRUE Christianity in a sea of pious bigotry has to be terrifying, but I, for one, admire you enormously for your willingness to even consider speaking up. Find your strength in what you KNOW is real Christian love. Speak the truth when you are ready, with grace and compassion, and know that you are not alone, in the bigger community of loving folk, Christian or otherwise, even if it feels so in those moments.

      The thinking you will inspire, the seeds of compassion you will sow – each of those will be worth the fear, a hundred-fold.

      • melissa

        thank you so much, Mindy. Your words are very encouraging. I really am not known for my quiet demeanor, but I am also not that courageous either. I do feel called to remain and be true to what I believe the Gospel says. I am daring to be a Christian, not a protestant, as the title says..perhaps I will start there.

      • Duck

        You want to know how many suffer in silence? Look to the numbers of kids on the street, more than 40% are on the street because their parents either threw them out for being gay, or the kids left in fear of their parents reaction to coming out of the closet. My guess is most if not all of those kids coming from “loving” christian homes. For the majority of LGBT folks (in my experience at least) this, the Phelpses, and the heads of major christian sects that call LGBT folks “intrinsically disordered” while blaming shuffling pedophiles from church to church on homosexuality is THE face of christianity. You want to save the reputation of christianity (for me at least it is too late) for future generations? Work vocally and OBVIOUSLY (not just in your kids’ friends lives) to counter the message put out by certified hate groups like Focus on the Family, Family Research Council and the American Family Association.

    • DR

      I adore you. It’s very easy for me being as vocal as I am in a sea of liberal christians who agree with me and only having to deal with the occasional conservative christian who believes otherwise (which is exhausting). That you’d be willing to take this on in your workplace is not for the faint of heart, you are a stronger woman than I am. Stay protected in your heart. Much, much love to you.

      DR

  • http://pastorgaychristian.wordpress.com Pastor Gay Christian

    John, this post hits too close to home for me. I became a Christian at age 18, after already knowing I was gay. I quickly learned that it was not ok for me to be gay and I suppressed who I was. I felt called to ministry but struggled reconciling my faith and what was going on inside with my sexual attractions. I got involved with “ex-gay” ministry when I was in my 20′s, thought I would be “cured”, and got married to a woman. I became a pastor, raised a family, but struggled in silence. Today, now in my 40′s, I am finally reconciling my faith, ministry, and sexuality. I am coming to terms with the damage that has been done to my personal psyche as well as my marriage because of the pressure I felt to overcome being gay. This year, my wife and I will most likely divorce. I am looking for a ministry in a denomination that will accept me as a gay pastor. I feel like I have caused so much damage to my family but realize that I was following what I was told “in good faith”. Unfortunately, the promise of change was wrong and now at midlife, I find myself in quite a mess. Thankfully, God is gracious and I know I will emerge on the other side with some sort of ministry, my family, and a new life as a gay man. It has been quite a journey. I pray that the message you are sharing here will save others from all I have gone through!

    • melissa

      Pastor, You are very courageous. I would go to your church in a heartbeat, and I know of many others that would as well. We need you in my very conservative area of this world…central Wisconsin. That is just one vote of confidence for you…and I am sure there are more.

      • http://pastorgaychristian.wordpress.com Pastor Gay Christian

        Thank you…I appreciate that!

  • RoeDylanda

    Love to this young man. I hope he is surrounded by people who can see the light of God in him. I sure can!

  • http://www.shadsie.deviantart.com Shadsie

    I sometimes wonder why God made with an off-kilter brain, since living with that is hard. I figure it’s probably for artistic purposes and because ze needs people to “rail against the noramlization of society” once in a while. I had problems being picked on and ostracized at school. My family was pretty good though, supportive – most of the time. Sometimes they were dismayed and extremely dissapointed that I was not normal – a shame to them for having some of the issues that I did. This was all pretty much because of my “overage of emotion.” Normal people deal with things cooly and calmly. I cry and panic, or scream and punch walls. I do actually have something wrong with me, though – I found out a few years ago that I’m bipolar, so at least I am *aware* of the root of my problems and can deal with it most of the time. Medication helps, but is not a cure. At the same time, due to creative benefits, I’m not sure I’d want a cure.

    I try to let people know that it’s not a moral failing. But, yeah, sometimes I wonder “Why, God?”

    Trying to relate a little, offerinng a hug, I guess. It’s not the same as being gay, though. In our society, that’s an even harder thing to be. I used to be Southern Baptist and was given to the attitudes thereof because I really wanted to “do right by God” and “believe right,” and… I said some things in the past that *were not helping* and though you did not know me, were indirectly hurtful to you, I’m sure.

    I had a whole other thing in mind about how the Phelps family reminds me of pit bulls, but I’ll have to come back later. The problem with wanting to respond to anything in the morning is the “I’m gonna be late for work!” thing. Later.

  • Robin

    I hate this. It absolutely breaks my heart to know that kids grow up in such ignorant unloving homes in the name of the god who sent his son to die for them. The fact that God hasn’t fried us all a hundred times by now shows how very gracious He is…

  • http://briansp.com Brian

    My heart breaks when I read stories like this, and I agree with John’s assertion that the issue isn’t just “the gay issue”, but an underlying pathology in the church about the uses (and misuses) of power and the idea of the church as an institution of control instead of liberation.

    As someone one put it, “Maybe we’re talking about a different God, then”.

    And I’m glad that folks are finding John’s writings and finding them to be comforting, inspiring, uplifting. But John’s voice isn’t the only one in the wilderness of progressive Christian thought. I worry sometimes about our tendency to create idols everywhere.

    • Don Rappe

      Forgiveness is the power of the church. It is its only power. The demonic powers are not powers of the Church. They are the power of what Jesus called “the evil one.”

  • A’isha

    I hope the young man who sent you that is reading all of these fabulous comments. Amazing comments that mean so much to me personally. I want to let him know that God made him that way because God loves him! I think God will be using this man’s story along with others’ stories to bring truth and light to the world. How many Christians really believe being gay is a sin? And how many LGBT people think it’s crazy to be a Christian? Christians are judging based on what they’ve been taught and LGBT are judging Christianity based on those who wear that label. It’s all skewed and we all need to see the truth, the real truth, of who Jesus is. He didn’t come to condemn us but to save us, so how can Christians condemn people so freely?

    Currently I’m struggling with similar things with slowly coming out to my friends and those around me. I’m also a very vocal liberal and people from church are starting to see this. Sunday brought many strange looks, several people ignoring me, and one person even said she needed to talk to me about some of the things I post on facebook. I don’t know what God has in store for me, but I know I couldn’t continue living silently, as if lying to myself and the world. It’s my prayer that when more of us do come out as gay Christians then eyes will be opened to the fact that it isn’t an oxymoron. In a year, I truly hope that I can still attend my church without feeling judged all the time. Unfortunately right now it’s looking more like I won’t have a church to attend locally and how sad would that be.

    • melissa

      A’isha, Your post broke my heart. Not all of it, but the last part. Having just gotten “shunned” by my local church due to my liberal views, I thought I was going to die. It was a nightmare come true, yet I knew it was a chance when I started letting myself be heard on some issues. I was formally asked to step out of a leadership position, all the while they used Matthew 18 to back themselves. Now I guess that I am like a tax collector to them.

      You know what, though…I have some great news for you. It did not squelch me, much to my surprise, it made me bolder. It created this “I am woman hear me roar” attitude and a great deal of self confidence in who I was and how I felt about myself emerged. I became truer to myself and stopped living the lie. A’isha, I am not gay, I just don’t believe that being gay is a sin. So, my only “sin” that they accused me of is having a belief that differed from theirs. (Really? You are going to remove me from community because of a viewpoint? ) So if this does, in fact, happen to you, please do know that you can, and probably will, come out of that whole scenario a much stronger and bolder person in who you are. How cool is that? Not that I want you to go through the pain of being rejected, as least you will be free to love your heart. I would be proud to be your friend in your church, and I hope so much that you have people step forward and back you. Forge on, Aisha. We are all in your corner.

  • Robyn

    To the young man who wrote the original letter,

    Oh, my brother! Never give up! I know: easy to say, hard to do. Despite all of the “it gets better” rhetoric, sometimes it seems as if it never does. As an example, when I came out to my family a little over two years ago, they’ve all but disowned me. And they are people who profess to be filled with the love of Christ!

    I wonder how many who profess to be Christians truly understand just what that means? Or what Jesus meant when he said,

    “35‘For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ 37“Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38‘And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39‘When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40“The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

    41“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; 42for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; 43I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ 44“Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ 45“Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ 46“These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:35-46)

    It’s crucial, isn’t it? ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

    Stay strong, dear sweet brother!

    Your sister,

    Robyn

  • DR

    I can’t help but wonder where all the people are who defend their right to believe homosexuality is a sin against God and want to defend that here when it’s conceptual. Where do you go when letters like these pop up? Why don’t you chime in? Your theology is the window that parents like these crawl into and use to justify their behaviors. It’s not anyone else’s window but yours. You’re responsible for the consequences that you don’t intend. You may not be *culpable* personally, you may not kick your kids out of your house but as you defend your beliefs that homosexuality is not of God and that it’s just fine to “love the sin, not the sinner”, you’re also responsible for taking parents like this on and stopping them. Don’t you get that? Take responsibility for the messes you’re making, even though you don’t intend to do so.

    • http://rawfaithrealworld.wordpress.com/ Linda B.

      DR I do believe that the church hasn’t even begun to really deal with the deeper issues involved in loving and caring for the gay children who are growing up in the midst of it and being wounded by what they hear and experience there. The good news is that there are a growing number of us who are becoming more and more proactive to reach out to those kids and to be a real advocate for them with their parents. Years ago I decided that I was going to do everything I could to make sure my gay friends and students and my friend’s gay kids knew that they always had a safe place with me and that I would do everything I could to help them deal with their parents and the church. I think there will always be some level of theological debate. I just know for me, Christ’s madate is clear. I’m to really love the people that are a part of my world. It breaks my heart to see my young friends wounded in the name of Christ. I can’t solve the bigger problem, but I can reach out to the parents and beg them to reconsider and really love their children.

  • cat rennolds

    the worry that I have is this: If I had known you lot, I might never have left the Christian church. As it is, I still love the message and the Christ, and I believe he was who he said he was. But he also said that the tree will be known by its fruit, and until the Christian church stops destroying in His name, He’s going to be spitting that fruit out of His mouth one day.

    That is, if the rest of the thoughtful, sane, loving Christians don’t start having the kind of courage you all have, and prune this tree while there’s hope for it.

    • Don Rappe

      I think your comment highlights the difficulty of using the word Christian as an adjective..

  • JauntyJohn

    “With what shameless ease does malevolent power adorn itself with the rosy mantle of piousness.”

    A great truth, expressed beautifully.

    When you use your gift with words in Service as you do, you’re like the guy who transports the organ donor’s heart to the transplant patient: Important, lifesaving work.

    As always, thank you for your blog and your honesty.

    Forgive me for putting the focus on you in this way, John.

    Such a charged email and wrenching story, discussion of these issues is beyond important, and while you make that discussion possible here, it’s the issues on the table — persecution, abuse, religious doctrine, apathy, family, homophobia, prayer… that are what we must keep thinking about, talking about, building bridges through… but sometimes it is a powerful thought expressed with well crafted words that is the first brick in those bridges, and that sentence was one such to me.

    Thank you for giving me a lot of hope about some things — some people, some religions — that I had almost completely written off.

    • vj

      “With what shameless ease does malevolent power adorn itself with the rosy mantle of piousness.”

      Wow – I was so overwhelmed with the tragedy of the letter-writer’s story that I completely didn’t register the wonderfulness of this sentence – had to go back to the original post to verify that it was even there… Now it just gives me goosebumps! Thanks, JauntyJohn, for pointing it out.

  • Skip Johnston

    For about 25 years, between college and the time my kids grew up, I volunteered as an adult youth worker at my church. It was a middle-class, mainline Protestant church so we weren’t passionately for or against much of anything. But we did love Jesus, read the Bible and mostly just wanted to make a safe place where teenagers could hang out. Dealing with the issues around adolescent sexuality took a lot of our time. Whether is was the horror of abuse, the tragedy of teenage pregnancy, the conflicts of homosexuality (personal or that of a parent or friend), or just the mind-boggling day-to-day struggles of growing up, our hearts, minds and spirits were constantly engaged. Being wishy-washy Christians, we didn’t have a ready arsenal of sharpened dogma to throw at any given situation. We just loved being around kids. Those dealing with “gay issues” pretty much fit the overall pattern. Here’s my point: loving “these” kids is really easy when you get out of God’s way. If you can empty your head of what you “know” God commands, take a breath, and look at what God is already doing, these kids become a blessing, not a problem.

    • Suz

      Beautiful.

    • Don Rappe

      Thank God for wishy washy Christians.

  • http://www.shadsie.deviantart.com Shadsie

    Since I’m back, I’ll finish….

    I said that the Phelps family reminds me of pit bulls. Here is why:

    As a kid, I grew up with a pit bull dog – and she was actually quite a nice family pet. They aren’t always the vicious things the media hypes them up to be. If raised right, they can be wonderful dogs. Pound for pound, poodles are probably more “naturally vicious,” just smaller. The dogs that people everywhere immediately think about when someone mentions “pit bull,” however, are the nasty ones that want to tear your face off – i.e. the ones used in dog fighting. These poor animals are trained to this and abused from puppy-hood. Their piss-poor owners scramble their brains so that “vicious” is all they know. Pounds put them down as a mercy.

    Some years ago, I read an expose’ someone did on the Phelps family – the guy really did his research, asking around Kansas, doing interviews with the family itself and seeking out the “apostate” adult children. I forget where I found this, but it’s “The Most Hated Family in America,” I think, for anyone wanting to try to look it up. It was a hearbreaking read – just a lurid tale of abuse. The children grew up in a household of fear, which included physical abuse… Phelp’s abused his wife… and of course set himself up as the grand mouthpiece for God. To displease Daddy meant going to a place worse than Daddy’s own home for eternity! Telling people about the abuse would send you to Hell, too!

    It makes me think that Phelps’ family are more or less like abused pit bulls, trained and abused until their brains got scrambled.

    Of course, we can’t put them down, them being humans…. but maybe we can hope that some of the adults in the clan still have a creamy nougat center of humanity buried beneath all that fear.

    If not, well, they should be glad they don’t live in my brain, because I’m writing stories right now set in a fantasy-world of my creation where people who spit upon graves and actively dishonor the dead are likely to be torn apart by angry zombies.

    • Don Rappe

      Since I came to deep south Texas I have learned to love pit bulls.Or pete bools as we might call them. They are so friendly and show such a lot of love. You are dead right about how training them to fight is an abuse. They do have strong jaws and know how to kill another animal if they think they need to. Very much like humans, I think. I have now a strong mental image of one of the Phelps’ demonstrations being visited by a pack of angry zombies.

  • http://blueberrypancakesfordinner.wordpress.com/ Erika

    Dear Letter Writer,

    you are loved. you are made PERFECT in the image of G*D. just the way you are. i hope and pray that you find true love. both here on earth and in your heart with the Divine who or what ever that looks to you.

    i hate that you were treated that way, and i for one, believe so does Jesus.

    i know that i will see you in heaven, i will be the girl with the short hair, big butt and dirty mouth.

    erika

  • Jeannie

    To the letter writer: You are loved the way you are. I am so sorry that you have been given so many reasons to doubt this. I pray I live long enough to see the cruel bigotry of the Christian church be a thing of the past.

  • Susan H

    Dear Letter Writer,

    These are hard times to simply be socially liberal, much less gay and young, with a future that seems uncertain. I can’t imagine what you’re having to endure. I’m sorry for the pain you’ve gone through and for the damage done to you in the name of religion, but if you look through John’s articles and read comments, you will see that you are not alone, that you are not unlovable by God or others, that you’ve been fed lies, that you have a lot of people on your side.

    This sounds corny, but I watched a program that was about whether someone could be gay AND Christian. The organization Exodus, previously a ministry to help rid people of their homosexuality, has changed its focus. It’s now about trying to “tame” the homosexual tendencies (not suggesting this for you, I have a point coming…) At the end of the program, the man who is the president of Exodus said very forthrightly he believes those Christians who are called to harness their homosexuality AND openly /active gay Christians will both “see heaven” – that God doesn’t care about anything but the heart and its intent.

    That may not offer you much comfort, but it is a big departure, and if you look around, discriminatory barriers are coming down around this country. Not as fast as we’d like, but there are some significant changes occurring and they will continue to take place.

    There is much hope for you in the future, not only in healing and accepting God’s love for you, but to have a richer, fuller life.

    More importantly, you can have hope for today. God loves you and your heart. There are people in this community, in “real” communities that can love you for who you are, and show you God’s love until you can accept it yourself.

    You do not have to change. You do not have to listen to the lies you’ve been fed for years, and should in fact shun them when they arise in your mind.

    I’ve no right to suggest anything, but, you maybe should consider therapy, because your wound is deep, and perhaps a pro-gay church/gathering of Christians. You will also always find support here.

    May you soon accept the love and inner peace that God has for you this very moment.

  • von Boomslang

    “Will we ever run out of fools pleased to confuse the purity of their own hateful fear with the purity of Jesus’ love for all of God’s children?

    Join me in praying to God that we do.”

    I may not believe in your God, but I believe in people. Thank you, good sir, and may your God bless you.

  • John Wood

    I sit here with tears in my eyes because that story could have been written by me. To have your own mother tell you that she will consider you dead if you “choose” to make that decision to be gay. I have been praying lately for God to reveal to me the true meaning of being his follower. I don’t even like the name “Christian” anymore because of what it implies. What an answer to prayer this has been.

  • http://none Dennis Gilbert

    Well done, as usual! I hope that all of us understand how grace can transform lives. When we love the “unlovable”, when we pray for them, reach out to them, let them know that God is a loving God, we build the Body of Christ.

    Thanks, John!

  • Roger

    “No body expects the Spanish Inquisition” was a great tag line for a series of Monty Python skits done back in the 70′s and 80′s. While the real Inquisition was eventually abandoned by the vatican, it still lives on in the fabric of the American church. While “pastors” Phelps and Jones are extreme examples; the real danger of the inquisition is much more discreet and it exists in every church in this country. If you’ve not seen it in operating in your church, you’re not paying close enough attention.

  • http://sacredbe.blogspot.com/ rain

    i know this is an older post but this letter made me cry.

    wishing peace and overwhelming love to its author. i wish i could just hug you.

  • Garry Singletary

    I can so identify with the author’s pain. I too was raised Southern Baptist. As a teenager, and after many arguments, I was allowed to join a United Methodist church. At that same church’s altar rail I prayed from deep within my soul to God and asked Him to “take away the gay”. One of the few times in my life I actually hard His response to a prayer was this time, I heard, “But I made you my child” so very clearly. Eventually as an adult I “came out” to my parents, almost immediately the quotes from St.Paul and Leviticus began. Some 30 years later it continues. Now I am living with AIDS and have been reminded by my mother that “Had I made different choices life my health would not be so bad.

    Were it not for the love and affirmation I get from my family of choice, the Methodist church I belong to, I don’t know that I would still be in love with either Christ or God. There are many truly Christian congregations, I can only pray that all of our Gay brothers and sisters would search one out so that they might truly know who Christ was and is. Love. Peace, Garry


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