Before You Shake the Dust Off Your Feet

This essay is included in my book UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question.

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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. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/nwbuckeye Pat Hux via Facebook

    great answer, John. And as Dr. Phil likes to say to those considering divorce, you have to earn your way out – so that you know you did everything you could to save the marriage. I like that. Heck, I’ve lived that one!

  • Mindy

    Wow. How did you find a picture of a gay guy with a giant pumpkin?

    I mean, how perfect is that?

    ;-> (lest anyone think I’m always full of sensitive wisdom or anything, I just wanted to clear that right up).

    Seriously – I hope the Letter Writer hears you. He sounds like he’s FAR more Christian than his family has ever thought about being. And he still loves them with all his heart. LW, you are a good man. You know that, I hope. Just don’t ever forget it. The man you ultimately build a life with is a lucky, lucky dude.

    • Roger Smith

      Personally, I had figured the guy in the photo is straight, and he’s just very affirming of his pumpkin friend. If he showed some latent prejudice later around Halloween, I don’t want to know.

      But seriously also — Letter Writer, someone is waiting to spend his life with you who will be very blessed, indeed.

      • Peter

        I’m reminded of a joke with the punchline: “Is it midnight already?”

        But seriously yet again, I like the meeting idea and hope it works out for the Letter Writer. I have no idea what it would be like to go through that. The worst I have to deal with in my extended family is that they are almost all Faux Noise-watching Republicans–and I’m an NPR-listening Democrat.

    • http://www.dccpres.org Mary Lynn Tobin

      Wait – that’s not Wally???

  • http://frenchizal.blogspot.com Jenni

    To John: Thank you for your advice to The Guy Who Wrote You This. I’m dealing with similar fissures in my friendships right now (still not out to my family, because I’m not sure how brave I am about that), and your advice was helpful.

    To Guy Who Wrote to John: Thank you for asking the questions he answered.

  • 23 year old lesbian

    I love this. It’s almost exactly what I plan to do with my family. Thanks for the validation :)

  • Christie

    This post made me teary-eyed! I’m not sure I can explain why… maybe just the honesty and heart-filled prose of the entire post.

    Letter-writer, I have a friend who is somewhat in the same situation, except they have walked away without really trying to talk and teach and share their experiences with their family. From my perspective, both my friend and his family are sad at the division, but feel it cannot be helped.

    I think John’s advice is spot-on. Do as much as you can. These meeting sound like a great idea. Even if they don’t have the result you want now, 1) at least you put forth the effort and 2) your family will remember that you put forth the effort and might come around one day long after this has passed to ask questions or re-start the conversation because you were open to it. It may take more time for them to be as open to it, but you can leave that door open, even if right now they seem closed off to it. You could even write up, in detail, the things you want to say, so that you can leave them with your family should it not work out right now. They can reference it if they so desire.

    I pray that your family will show up and listen and open up to you and that either way you are at peace and can go confidently on your own path.

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

      Yeah, it’s the LETTER that’s so remarkable. It just … radiates goodness, basically. Thing floored me.

      • Wally Cleaver

        Not I, but the Spirit of the Living God in me, transforming me from the inside out. I’m reminded of your post “On the Christian’s Natural Sense of Superiority” in which you say that being close to God is something to be thankful for, not proud of. That, applied here.

        • http://dmg@bredwellfarms.com David Milton Greer

          AMEN, brother!!! you radiate an authentic sense of the Holy Spirit all the way through the intertubes to new ulm, texas. you are, indeed, richly blessed.

          if God is for us, who can be against us? never lose sight of that…also, i’m always compelled to remind myself in times of success and challenge to “count it ALL joy”.

  • Roger Smith

    Dear letter writer,

    I don’t think I could add tom hat John suggested here, because it’s about the safest, most gracious and conciliatory approach I think a person could take in that place. And I can’t add much from my own experience, because when I told my parents about myself, there was maybe a moment of quiet surprise, then forever after nothing but loving acceptance — and I know that is a profound blessing, literally with the presence of God in it, that many other people never experience, and for them I can scarcely do more than stand at the edge of that chasm they agonize in, and reach as far as I can to offer my own acceptance.

    But that’s not where I wanted to go with this, because I had another part to add. Owing to various circumstances from disease to accident to age, I’m now the sole surviving member of my immediate family — and with one or two exceptions, what other relatives I have scattered across the country have all dropped out of touch. After my father passed away ten years ago, at one point I was left with this chill stinging my heart, “You’re alone.” But just as quickly, in my mind’s eye (or really in the Spirit as the expression goes), it was as if I saw Jesus standing with his arm around my shoulders like an older brother, gesturing across a vast space filled with all my very dear friends from church, community, and elsewhere: “No, HERE are your fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters.” And it dumped a weight off my heart, because I realized that real family is indeed those who love you and are there for you, whether or not they’re related by blood.

    That changed my heart in fact, to love my friends — my family indeed — more than ever, and that has never left me. Wherever I’ve gone since, including pulling up roots and moving halfway across the country a few years ago, away from everyone I’d ever known, I find sometimes to my surprise that I have more friends, more family, around me than I had realized; I just hadn’t met any of them till now. Many are online at a group I’ve grown very close to called The Christian Left (on Facebook); many are in my local GLBT community, particularly the “bear” community, who really are a genuine band of brothers who are there for one another and for the wider community.

    So I know I cannot begin to walk the path you’ve been forced to, in the agonies with your own family; but I just wanted to add that your wider, true family is far greater, more numerous, and all around you than you may have realized. And you will keep finding there are more and more of us who are your family, all the way through your life. See — you’re hearing from some of us, namely John, and in these comments from many people, already. We’re here, all around you.

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

      Beautiful. Thank you for this, Roger.

    • Wally Cleaver

      There is astounding truth to this. Roger, as I read this comment, my heart was gripped and I was flooded with the realization that even if acceptance with my family never comes in this mortal life, God’s in the business of being bigger and more faithful than we expect or imagine, and there’s a bigger family out there waiting. Thank you.

    • kimberly

      this post from john and response from roger are clear and beautiful examples of why they are two christian men i have come to respect and, as much as i can from internet land, love for the compassion and real and deep faith i see more and more shared with everyone they come in contact with. bravo and thank you to both of you. there are those of us who read these stories day after day, and feel our hearts break, and wish we could put our arms around each and every person who has been so terribly hurt, or rejected, and wounded. for some of us, the most we can do is to say on blogs like this, and hope you see it, that we believe Jesus loves you, and that God loves you for the diverse, colorful, wonderful creations you were meant to be. that we pray earnestly for the love to reach you, to sustain you, and to help you on the journey we know by your own words are so heartbreakingly difficult. and for you to know that there are so many christians who know that God would never reject or condemn children made so lovingly, that each of us have been given the same grace, the same miracle, the same wonder of life, beauty, and joy of a world meant to live in community. you are most definitely not alone.

  • David Moore via Facebook

    Thanks John for your inspirational heartfelt answer to this incredibly brave and beautiful soul. The only thing I would add would be to recommend the movie “Tears for Bobby” to his parents and this young man. I showed it to my church’s lgbt group (United Church of Christ) and almost everyone left after the movie with tears in their eyes. Recommended for all lgbt Christians.

  • John C Hoddy via Facebook

    It’s interesting to see the contrast between the beautiful spirit of this young man and the un-Christlike spirit of the street preachers/screechers that Kathy Baldock encountered at Pride Charlotte.

  • Reed

    Nice answer. I think the letter writer is at the point when he’d be better off dumping them, but this last attempt is as heart-felt and decent an attempt as one could hope – and better than a simple “Wally’s not here, Mrs. Cleaver.”

  • Steve Hayner

    Magnificent, compassionate, Spirit-filled letters from both of you. The aroma of Christ is everywhere. Thank you.

  • Wally Cleaver

    Dear John,

    Thank you, most ardently. The idea of meetings, and investing myself in them so, is elegant and brilliant. I’d never in a million years have thought of it, so thank you. I intend to do just that, so if it crosses your mind, throw up a prayer for me and my family. I’m going to regularly pray for you and all you do – I just can’t get over how spectacular what you do is, and how much it means to people like me. I think it’s very important to pour into you and your work with what resources I have, and right now, prayer is about it. But at least there’s that!

    Thank you, brother, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.

    -Letter Writer

    PS – A gay, tractor-driving Wally Cleaver? I laughed out loud with a big, goofy smile. I love it!

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

      Your prayers mean a great deal to me, of course. Thank you. (And thanks for the kind words re my work.) If you end up carrying through with the talk plans, keep us up with how that goes. Bless you, friend.

    • DR

      Please let us know how it goes Nd know the Grwce, patience and mercy you’ve demonstrated toward your family is so impactdul and challenging (in a good way). Love is a complicated business and anger only makes it more complicated sometimes. I’m preying that the Holy Spirit will be present in these meetings with you and your family in a supernatural way.

    • http://dmg@bredwellfarms.com David Milton Greer

      from one gay, tractor-driving man to another (my husband and i are “horse farmers”)…

      i know it sounds trite, but…”it gets better”. never in a million years did i think my parents (who shunned me for religious reasons for quite some time) would ever get past their sense of loss, betrayal, anger and grief…25 years later, my husband is now their “preferred inlaw”…it was my husband who called to give them the news (after we had been living “in sin” for almost 17 years) that we were getting married. my beloved 76 year old mother told my husband, “well, it’s about time you made ‘honest men’ of one another”.

      the biggest blessing in my life has been the renewal of those relationships, “wally cleaver”. if that hadn’t happened, they wouldn’t be sharing in the joy i’m currently experiencing (at age FIFTY) of going through a licensed ministry program. two years from now, God willing, i fully expect my parents to be in the second pew with my Jewish husband as i preach my first sermon.

      if you want to correspond with me via e-mail, i’m sure that John Shore could figure out a way to make that happen.

      God bless you and remember to always handle the situation with as much love, grace and dignity as possible. you are in my prayers.

  • http://ihopetomorrowisbetter.blogspot.com/ Molly Bandit

    I don’t know what to add, except I want to give a giant hug to the letter writer.

  • Lana

    I am praying for you that you are able to find peace and acceptance in your earthly family. My sister is a lesbian in a committed relationship. This is not something that many of our family would have ever thought of accepting in the past. However, both she and her partner are accepted and loved within the family. I wanted to share this with you so that you know there is hope. People can grow in their understanding and acceptance. I am sure your family loves you whether or not they accept you. If they choose not to that is their loss as they are too blinded by their own fears and prejudices to accept the reality of you. If this is the case know that their difficulty is their own. It doesn’t necessarily mean lack of love for you ( though that is hard to understand) it instead means a lack of trust in God and themselves to be able to expand to accept that we are called to love everyone not just those who are like or agree with us. I will keep you in my prayers. God be with you and yours.

    • Dirk

      I disagre, Lana.

      Love is unconditional.

      They set conditions.

      Therefore, they do not love him.

      • cat rennolds

        Yes, they do. They’re just human, so they’re doing it badly.

        • Diana A.

          Exactly. Some people are just bad at love. In fact, many people are bad at love.

  • Susan

    Dear Wally,

    I would be so blessed to have you in my family. Twenty years ago I wouldn’t have said that. I would have been like your extended family, close-minded, judgmental and self-righteous. I bought into the whole “being gay is a sin” message, and looked forward to grad school in a small town that I just “knew” didn’t have gay people in it.

    Let us take a small break for a good belly laugh.

    What did God do? Put me in a master’s program that had a number of gays, and I ended up working with a lesbian who was understandably skittish about working with a straight, self-proclaimed evangelical Christian. We became close friends, and it was good for both of us. Through our friendship – and the master’s program, where I learned to think critically – I was able to shed my bigoted ways. I am now a very vocal supporter of the LGBT community and do my best to reach other Christians who are stuck where I once was.

    Your bio-family needs to be educated, and they need to be loved. You are an amazing man to be willing to do both. I will continue to pray for you and them, that God will sustain you and replace their hearts of stone with hearts of flesh.

    God loves you, and so do I.

  • Dirk

    I think this is great advice, John.

    When his family persists in defining love through hatred, he can then turn his backs on them and get on with his life without remorse.

    I long ago accepted that when my parents die, my ties to the immediate blood side of my family are completely gone.

    • DR

      Hopefully Wally will have a far better outcome than you and a lot of others have had, Dirk. I’m praying that’s the case.

      • Dirk

        DR,

        I hope so, but conservative Christians are, by definition, hatred pure.

        Jeremiah nails it “…or a panther change its spots…?”

        No. Sadly, no.

        • cat rennolds

          See Susan’s comment, below. See anything DR ever said. some leopards are leopards. some “leopards” are just cougars who’ve been rolling in the mud.

          • Lauren

            Loved this. Just had to say.

        • DR

          I know that defining conservative Christians as pure hatred for you (and lots of very good, reasonable people), is where things stop and begin and there’s no gray area. I’m seeing a testimony on this very entry where someone who did believe that being gay was sinful, wrong, etc. changed. Totally and completely changed. There aren’t enough of those stories which is so depressing but the PollyAnna in me wants to believe. I want to lean on the power of Christ is transformative and redemptive, right down to the bone and then right through to the other side. I want to believe that Power comes in moments through people that wouldn’t step foot in a Christian church today, I think He is present in them almost more sometimes than he is the Church .

          • Dirk

            Well, DR, sure.

            There are tornadoes which turn in the other way.

            Goodness, this solar system has a retrograde motion planet.

            I have seen a tossed coin which never before or since did once come up heads 9 times out of 10.

            None of those events approach the likelihood of a conservative Christian rubbing those spots of hatred off. Nor do those three gay men in Salt Lake City who have been so brutally attacked these last weeks have time for the Church of the Latter Day Saints to decide to stop encouraging our beatings.

            Things are very bad and they are getting worse for gays, lesbians and bisexuals in many parts of the US. Sure, we are winning some minor battles. The war, however, is still very much a hot war. I’ll believer there’s been a true change of heart when the beatings, rapes, murders and torture have reached the level that the 90 to 10 rati0 of gays (and we are the ones least exposed to physical violence) who have been genuinely threatened or actually attacked flips to 10 to 90. When the near 100% of the transgender who report that they know they must avoid many situations which for the rest of us are everyday or be physically attacked are laughed at for being paranoid, not realistic in their threat assessment.

            When a lesbian woman can be herself anywhere, anytime without fear of ‘corrective rape’.

            When those 40% (and that’s just what conservative Christians admit to) of the homeless children who are kicked out onto the streets for their non-cis gendered or non-heterosexual natures are back in their homes being their own true selves, I will accept that conservative Christians are not hatred pure.

            When the Supreme Court rules us fully human, yes, I will gladly change my mind.

            Until then, this is a war.

          • DR

            Dirk , like all of us what you believe about other people is yours to own. We all believe what we believe, see what we see and we choose to hold the perceptions that serve our story and us. I don’t really care what you believe about conservative Christians, nor am I challenging it. You tell your story and other people will offer theirs in response. Both can co-exist.

            My point was underscoring the miraculous, transformative power of the Holy Spirit. People have to be open to it, *that* is the challenge. For people who already believe they are “right” about gay men and women? And that “right” is fueled by Scripture? Being open to the Holy Spirit correcting them via a work in the mind and heart is almost impossible. But that’s where I believe in the power of Christ even more, I have to. But change is glacial and so much damage done in-between the gaps. Cynicism seems a reasonable response as a result.

  • Lauren

    I’m sad i haven’t had time to read comments on this blog the way i normally do, but i’ve just relocated to another corner of the country, and am still settling in a bit.

    Anyway, this part—

    “You asked them to love you. Moreover, you showed them how little it would take for them to stop seeing you as a inveterate sinner—so that they are free to love you as they should. All it takes is them being open to perfectly valid reinterpretations of a few lines from Paul, and you go from being the problem they think you are, to the blessing you’ve always been.”

    —strikes me as the real heart of the matter. I’ve been very lucky, in a strange sort of what; in my own family, it’s my Christianity that’s the sticking point, rather than my sexual orientation! But anyway, this is what i think it comes down to: This is a family that doesn’t realize how /little/ change it would really take, how very close they already are. I like to think that part of what’s holding them back from completely loving and accepting this letter-writer is the idea that to do so would amount to a complete and fundamental re-writing of their faith. But it isn’t; it’s really such a small thing, and i think if they can do it they’ll be amazed at how much fuss there was before.

    John, i think you’ve given fantastic advice here, and i hope your letter-writer will be able to follow it. I’ll be praying for him and his family to come together in the spirit of love—i suppose i should say the Spirit of Love.

  • David

    There is another option. We, Christians, on both sides of this issue, can start to practice what we SAY we believe in – tolerance and love of people we disagree with. I am always amazed how Christians who think homosexuality is a sin, have trouble loving gay people, AND how gay Christians refuse to be loved by people who disagree with them. The word ‘tolerance’ gets thrown around alot, but it seems clear to me that what both sides want is not tolerance at all, but agreement. Anything less is intolerable?

    • DR

      David I could not agree more with exception of one thing. This is way more than just “disagreeing”. That “disagreeing seems to be experienced as a full on “rejection”. I think as Christians, we want to be able to characterize our position of homosexuality being against God as a “disagreement” when we’ve heard from gay men and women it is much more than a disagreement. It’s a rejection of who they are, one that is very personal and cannot be compartmentalized. I guess it’s up to us as to whether or not we’re willing to accept what they tell us our position creates in their minds and hearts vs. how we want to define that ourselves.

    • Dirk

      Well, David, I tell you what. You conservative Christians stop raping, beating, murdering, torturing us first. You stop throwing our children out into the street (even the Sojourners admit 40% of homeless American youth are LGBT).

      You stop tearing our marriages apart.

      You stop taking our children away from us.

      You stop denying our spouses and children a place by our bedsides when we are dying.

      You stop sending our youth to be subjected to electro-shock torture.

      Then we can talk about accepting your oh-so-Christian love.

    • Lee Luck

      If they can’t love you they aren’t truly christian

      • Lee Luck

        I have a question for all my evangelical christian friends out there. If a sin is a sin and I believe that is what the bible says then why is homosexual sex worse than any sex in an unmarried pair. Evangelical Missionaries are going into Uganda and getting their government to pass a strict law against homosexuality punishable by death. Why? How is this christian? are the evangelical’s a bunch of liars or what?

        • Soulmentor

          The fact that you even think to ask that last question means that you already know the answer. Tho it is perhaps not true of them all, some being truly ignorant, most are not, and they lie to themselves most of all.

    • http://dmg@bredwellfarms.com David Milton Greer

      David…

      Pardon me for noticing…but the scripture doesn’t say…CHRIST DIDN’T SAY, “tolerate” your neighbor as i have “tolerated” you.

      we are to love one another unconditionally. period. it sounds a great deal like the old NON-scriptural “love the sinner, hate the sin”…please think on this…”for we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”…that said, God is incapable of making “mistakes” and when he created me and the millions of other GLBTQ people throughout time immemorial, he wasn’t making mistakes.

      our true authentic God-created selves aren’t any more sinful than our heterosexual brother and sister’s authentic God-created selves. it is what we do with our bodies that is the problem (and physical intimacy, regardless of slot a+tab b or tab b+tab b or slot a+slot a isn’t the problem…it’s whether or not we are forcing ourselves on someone, subjugating someone, committing adultery on a spouse, etc., that is the problem).

      in this case, “agreeing to disagree” means accepting the hetero-normative position. sorry, but that dog won’t hunt…at least not with this Christian, who just so happens to be gay.

  • Jim

    Jesus loved John the most. He held John to his breast and told him so.

    Jonathan and David.

    Ruth and Naomi.

    Love one another?

    Why is it that some Christians use their religion to close their minds? Talk about sowing community problems.

    I would get the Heterosexual Questionairre and read it to them.

    Then I would get sassy sister and tell them enough is enough. Because really, since when are heterosexuals the role models for all that is righteous and pure? Get real.

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

      Oh. My. God.

      Well, sure, you’re right and all.

      But how rude of you to notice.

      • Diana A.

        LOL!

      • Dirk

        That’s all right, John.

        Being a follower of Christ instead of a Christian, I have the freedom to point out that a God who preferred the company of lepers, tax-collectors and whores no doubt likes you, too.

        When I ‘came out’ to my parents (a bit like announcing that water is wet), my mom said:

        But you can’t be – gays are neat and tidy and have fashion sense.

        Now, she was teasing, but there was a sting in that tail. My super-duper right-wing, ultra-conservative Christian brother is all of those things.

        American exceptionalism, coupled with heteronormative expectations has taken this country down a very dark path.

  • Caitlin ‘Cake’ Gateaux via Facebook

    Yes, he most certainly has my prayers,

  • Danielle

    Oh, sweet anonymous grower of giant pumpkins… I have to agree with John that it sounds like you have a heart of gold, and it is touching how patient and loving you’re being with your family even as they reject you. I hope the family meetings bring some “lightbulb” moments in which your family members’ hearts open and soften. My mom was really uncomfortable when I came out to her, and she had trouble accepting it, tried to tell me I was just confused, etc. I think the real winner quote from her from back in those days (about 13 years ago) was something along the lines of, “I don’t want you with any bull dykes”. (Bull dykes? LOL, Mom.) But fast forward to today, and I am engaged to the most loving woman with a heart of gold, and my mother just adores her, as does the rest of my family. I think it was scarier to them when the idea of me being gay was an abstraction – they (and by “they” I especially mean my mom) I think had heads full of stereotypes about gayness that were scary to them, but then when the reality of a wonderful, loving, funny human being walked through the door with me, it became not scary at all. I sincerely and genuinely hope your family can open their hearts and accept you for who you are, and eventually your partner, too, when you find him. In the meantime… sending love from Ohio and all my best wishes. xo

  • Elisabeth

    Hi Letter Writer,

    I’m an Evangelical leftist. Somewhere my Bible says being gay and/or dressing in women’s clothes is a sin.

    I have son too. He claims he’s bi. He accepted Christ at a young age.

    For all I know, he may grow up to be a trannie someday. I hope he loves me as much as you love your family. And I know I will always love him more than life itself. (I’m ashamed to admit I love him more than I love Jesus sometimes.)

    Elisabeth

    • http://lisainbc.blogpost.com Lisa Salazar

      ELizabeth, I hope your son never hears you call him a “trannie.” I don’t know where you are from and what idiom you are accustomed to, but as a transgender person, seeing that term used causes the hairs on the back of my neck to rise. That particular term is especially demeaning to transgender persons. Just thought you should know.

    • http://frenchizal.blogspot.com Jenni

      Thank you, Elizabeth, for being a parent who loves her son just as he is, instead of hoping he’ll become something “more acceptable.” Responses like yours give me hope.

  • Jeanne

    Thank you all, Letter Writer and John, for your spirit-filled writing. I love your answer John.

    I would add one bit. I’m a Quaker, and we have a practice of listening deeply. Even if the Letter Writer’s family can’t listen deeply, the Letter Writer might be able to. But if he doesn’t think he can, may he consider having a “neutral” party there to just listen? That person would be like the Letter Writer in their love of everyone there, but also have an acceptance for both the Letter Writer’s sexuality and the family’s obstinant positions. Maybe that person doesn’t exist that the Letter Writer knows about, but if he’s open, I can connect him with local Quakers who are likely able to be that person in that situation.

  • Soulmentor

    Thoughtful, generous response John….again…..as usual, but as other readers have pointed out, there’s more to that man’s estrangement from his family than simple disagreement. It’s not like disagreeing about the propriety of going around naked inside your own house, for example. People can agree to disagree about a great deal of life and remain close, but there are some things that do not deserve to be tolerated, and this gay issue is one of them because it is based upon religious lies and willful ignorance, no to mention the harm is causes. Granted, they may feel the same way from the other direction, but the difference is that THEY ARE GENUINELY WRONG about it because they refuse, not ignorantly, but willfully refuse to consider that “the church” has been misinterpreting and wrong about it all along because that would challenge their “faith” on an issue in which they have invested so much of their “faith”. Evangelical type “christians” have made a HUGE mistake to invest so much of their faith in this issue because it’s going away and is gonna go all away and what happens to their “faith” when it does? You know, “if we can’t believe THIS anymore, what CAN we believe”?! I’m convinced that is what they fear most on this issue.

    When I had a partner for 8 years, my family would welcome me at family events, but not him. Well, he was my family and I let them know that if they couldn’t accept him then they wouldn’t have me either because my main love, MY family was him and I would spend those special times with him and they accept that or not as with any hetero relationship. They apparently were comfortable with that and for all those years, they did family things, including the traditional religious holidays without me. Their rank hypocrisy in that they would have accepted a living-with hetero lady friend never occurred to them, of course. During that time, however, my bonds to the family, already close to non-existent from growing up hiding from them, weakened to the point of my simply no longer caring. (My earlier divorce, the only one in the family, didn’t help any of that either!!!) Today, only my sons remain close to me. I might not recognize some of my nieces and nephews if I passed them on the street. I did go to my parent’s funerals at least but none of the extended family weddings. My mother died thinking I’m going to hell and my father several years later probably the same. I’ll never know. We didn’t talk. His old-fashioned German upbringing prevented any closeness.

    My point is that their willful ignorance is intolerable (except my parents generation maybe. I’m 67) But there is IS NO EXCUSE for my 3 siblings and I’ve told them as much, given all the new Biblical interpretation and biological/genetic and psychological knowledge out there. I’ve offered books on the subject from my personal library longer than my arm span but they choose not to learn.

    I HAD TO, TO SURVIVE, AND I HAVE NO PATIENCE WITH THOSE WHO WON’T. I have told them I don’t give a damn what they believe as long as they don’t vote in ways that make my, and others’ lives more difficult, which they do anyway. (Voted for Bush….both times. Two issue voters, abortion and gays, of course.) One would think that after the first term with its bankrupting wars and constitutional corruption they would have learned something but they just crawl deeper behind their “armor of faith”. They, after all, know God’s will. Well, I have told them that, on this issue, I am the family expert. And yes, I am quite aware of the response that pushes them into but I really just don’t care anymore. My family story is a regrettable tragedy but not of my making.

    While I understand your advice and his loving effort, that gay man you advised does not need to know more about his family. If, after 10 years of effort, he doesn’t know them and know their answer, he’s living in a world of wishful thinking. He need not despise or hate them. He need not totally divorce himself from them if he doesn’t wish to, He may live in a future DADT way with them (which he would find ultimately intolerable) but he may as well understand that “the instruction of fools is folly” and “there are none so blind as those who WILL NOT see.” (Which, of course, my family likely applies to me. Sigh!)

    He should shake the dust from is feet and find his own contentment, not try to live for theirs any longer, because as long as he is seeking theirs, he won’t have his own. And yes, it will be a very hard decision to make.

  • Eva

    I’m so glad that there are people like ALL of you in the world. It gives me hope, and faith.

    I’ve got nothing of worth to add to this thread, but I just wanted to be part of it!

    Eva

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

      And so you are! Cool.

  • http://www.facebook.com/love.sanchez Love Sanchez-Suarez via Facebook

    it’s lucky he had the same sense of humor as you because i was afraid he would not appreciate the Sweeney Todd style of gardening. mixed metaphors are cool, right?

  • http://www.facebook.com/maryterry17 Mary Knox via Facebook

    This young man & your advice are testaments to the commandment “to love thy neighbor as thyself”. Well done! I would like to hear the result of his meetings with his family.

  • AnnBear

    I’ve read the post and all the comments and, in spite of the funny pumpkin and Cleaver family references, I can only think about elephants. Two of them, actually.

    The first elephant is the one that the blind men are describing; legs like a tree, etc. From my experience as both a mental health counselor and a Christian, it is an apt description. To explain, I must tell a story. One New Year’s Eve, I asked God to let me see people as He sees them. It was one of those be careful what you ask for deals. I began to see many things, love, hate, fear and pain among other things. It both strengthened me and broke my heart. At the time, I was working with severely emotionally disturbed youth who had been abused emotionally, physically or sexually. I worked for an agency that provided in home services and worked with the entire family. My heart broke for the child and the abusers and underneath all the pain, fear and hurt, I found love. This taught me a great deal about forgiveness. And, through His love, I became a more effective counselor. When I became a supervisor, I was able to pass this knowledge on to my coworkers.

    The metaphorical elephant, how I love that animal, helped me to teach that everyone has hurt, pain, fear and love. To help someone, we must openly look at all the issues with forgiveness, love and kindness. In this case, I see the elephant as the fear the whole family has, the pain they all experience and the love they have for one another. The pain of having a gay son that they have been taught to believe is against God. The pain of the son for having to live with the knowledge of his parent’s beliefs. The fear for the future. Parents fearing hell and damnation for the son. The son fearing he will lose his beloved family. The love they are able to give to each other, in spite of the situation.

    Now, to the second elephant. This is the elephant in the room that no one talks about. And again, this relates to the very real emotions this family has. One comment talked about unconditional love and the parent’s inability to do this. Remember, people love to the very best of their ability with the knowledge, past experiences and beliefs they hold AT THAT TIME. (I don’t like to use all caps, but wanted to emphasize this point.) And time can be linear or now, now, now. In Greek it is Chronos or Kairos. For people, it is most often linear chronos. This can help us learn patience as we wait for them to learn and grow. God’s time is Kairos, the ever present now, now, now, now, now . . . God sees our past present and future in now-time. And God will give love to all. God’s rain (or as I like to think, reign) falls on the just and the unjust.

    John is spot on with his recommendation. This helps Wally to acknowledge the elephant in detail to his family. My recommendation is to also ask at that first meeting for the family to write down the same things so that an open dialog can happen at the next meeting. They need their half hour, too. And, if the family doesn’t fully accept, they will also have done the most they can to the best of their ability at this time.

    And finally, never fully close the door. With love, keep the door ajar because you never know what may happen in the future. And, elephants do need to go outside from time to time. ; )

    • Dirk

      I never, ever swear on this blog.

      Right now, I am sorely tempted to make an exception.

      We gays, lesbian and the transgender are being tortured, raped, murdered, beaten. Our children stripped from us.

      Our spouses turned away from our death beds.

      I have no patience, no tolerance for those who attack us and hurt us.

      None.

      Nor is there any reason to.

      Your approach of loving the monsters, the human excrement who do this to us would, if we were discussing something which you consider to be politically correct, be considered an attack upon the victims.

      I reject your approach totally.

      Christians who do not support us are haters and monsters.

      • AnnBear

        I support you.

        Christ did not provide us with a list of exceptions to love your neighbor. The people I worked with, both the abusers and the abused, had lived lifetimes of pain and fear. They deserve God’s grace as much as anyone.

        • Dirk

          Yeah, well, actually – what they deserve is to thrown into jail and kept there for a long, long time.

          These hateful monsters, these vile filthy pieces of human excrement abrogate my human and civil rights.

          That is the support we gays, lesbians and the transsexual need.

          Anything else is enabling our murderers, torturers, rapists and those who beat us up.

          • AnnBear

            I have experience with my human and civil rights being denied. I was raped by a stranger, raped by the man who is my ex-husband, assaulted in broad daylight in front of a crowd who did not help. None of these men were charged. I went undiagnosed for serious medical diseases because I am mentally ill and everything is deemed to be “in my head.” I have been under a police guard during a voluntary admission to the hospital. And I could go on about fundy, evangelical Christians who believed that I could never be saved because of my education, among other things.

            I realized that I could not live my life in anger without damaging myself, my child and my relationships. With God’s help, I was able to learn to forgive. That doesn’t mean that I stop advocating for social justice, but it does mean that I can now do all that with peace in my heart.

          • Diana A.

            I am impressed with your willingness to make the choice to let go of the anger. May God give you the strength to continue.

          • AnnBear

            Thank you, Diana. It was not easy and took a long time for me to let go. I could not have done it without His help and there are days that I still ask why. The peace that I have about it all is definitely God’s doing.

          • Dirk

            There is a tremendous difference between just rolling over and letting the conservative Christians rape you, beat you, torture you and kill you and not ‘processing anger issues’.

            I truly regret the bad things which have happened to you.

            I also am furious and not willing to take even one single, solitary more insult from a conservative Christian towards my status as a human being.

            It is legal to discriminate against us in this country.

            Should the child raping conservative Christians win the 2012 elections, we will see an exact repeat of Nazi Germany, here, in the USA towards gays, lesbians and the transgender.

            The time for sweet talking and pooh-poohing the danger is well past.

          • AnnBear

            Well, we will just have to agree to disagree.

          • Dirk

            That’s because nobody is threatening to murder your parents because of your sexual orientation.

            This is the real world.

          • AnnBear

            No, it is not. It is because I respect you and your opinion.

          • AnnBear

            I wanted to add something. I have not walked your path, nor have you walked mine. And while that is true, it does not stop either of us from trying to make things better for ourselves and others with God’s help. We have more in common than we probably know. And from that standpoint, we can encourage each other to work with what we each been given. For you, anger gives you energy to fight the good fight. For me, peace gives me the energy to fight the good fight.

  • Patrick Mahoney

    Great conversation. One I tried to have at times with friends and family while coming out. Some folks in the church continued to care for me, but because they had no idea how to do that in a close knit church community, were happier when I left. Others just ignored me. Thankfully my family had deeper connections and a larger investment in our relationships. Over time our differences and concerns were discussed, questioned asked and sometimes answered. I was very impatient with them and often defensive, and needed to be reminded from time to time that their process was not mine. We all struggled around this. Sometimes I was not very gracious either. LOL But we loved each other and eventually came to a place where we could all support one another. But each of us, myself included, had to learn to practice honesty, openmindedness and some degree of willingness and acceptance. This process did not occure with the wider church fellowship. But regardless of how others respond to us, we must take responsibility for our selves and our welfare. I am powerless over others, even family. Sacrificing my health and happiness on the alter of others peoples fear and ignorance can be pretty abusive. I yielded up my expectations and moved on. What’s that passage about the eagle stirring the nest? Well, I learned to fly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/love.sanchez Love Sanchez-Suarez via Facebook

    yeah i hope what he learns (and they learn) is that they are capable of loving him completely.

  • http://www.gaychristian.net BillC

    Wally,

    You’ve been given such excellent advice by John. I’ve visited John’s site the last month and am always encouraged by his take on various subjects. Following his advice will give you some definitive information lest you linger in wishful thinking.

    Two resources I would point your way that helped and continue to help me. One is the classic “Letter to Louise” (www.godmademegay.com) written by an elderly Baptist minister who, when asked by a parishioner about her gay brother, realized he had not given the matter any serious thought. He did and his conclusions are not what you might have expected. It’s longish but for people from a conservative background might be useful.

    The second is the Gay Christian Network (www.gaychristian.net). It’s a great resource for information, emotional support and encouragement as well as providing an online and growing real-time community of believers for LGBT Christians and allies. It helped me immensely as I gingerly crept from the closet eight years ago. Don’t wait until middle age to live your life openly, honestly and faithfully.

    You’ve my prayers for wisdom, understanding and insight as you talk with them and that they can learn to listen with compassion instead of ideology.

    You’re going to be a great husband to a fortunate man one day!

  • jodi

    Absolutely amazing letter! It made my heart smile.

    As a straight friend I am here to say that I changed my views and so can your family. It may take time but it is possible.

    Thank you for your courage and faith!

    • Hanna

      That’s really encouraging and sweet. Thanks for the hope.

  • http://www.BrianWendt.com Brian W

    Wonderful letter and great response John..

    Perhaps I’m way off base to use such an illustration but the whole homosexuality vs. conservative Christian conflict looks to me to be similar to the Protestant / Catholic difference. I mean can’t a Catholic and a Protestant live in harmony without a “no win” debate/ conflict resulting? Must a Protestant require a Catholic to change before they can have a proper relationship with each other and visa-versa? There are just certain beliefs and doctrines that each adhere and neither will change, it is that simple. They have their beliefs / doctrines based on the Bible and that is the way it has been for 500 hundred years. A Lutheran will never be a Catholic, it doesn’t mean Lutheran’s hate Catholics. What is important is we demonstrate the love of Christ.

    • Diana A.

      Yes, but it took a long time to get there and there was much blood shed in the meantime.

    • Dirk

      I don’t think you are off-base, at all.

      In fact, the Western European system of civil union being the ‘legal, state recognized’ marriage and the marriage ceremony in the Catholic or protestant (or whatever, or none) church being the ‘religious’ marriage, was one of the solutions which both sides could live with.

      For the Catholics, the civil union didn’t have anything to do with the church so they were irrelevant, but they were also free to discount marriage in other branches of the Christian faith, not to mention other belief systems, so that was acceptable.

      For the rest of the European world, the civil union either took care of the ‘real’ marriage or was irrelevant to the rest, so it was cool, too.

      It is unfortunate that the USA is till so mired in hatred. Listening to the North Carolina debate this week has shown just how far conservative Christians are willing to go to codify their hatred of us gays, lesbians and the transgender.

    • DR

      Brian as a Catholic, I’ve encountered dozens of protestants who believe I’m going to hell for being catholic. There is no ability to have any kind of relationship or intimacy or “understanding” when one of those beliefs is that I am going to hell as a result of a decision that person has made and has called it “doctrine”. That’s what we’re dealing with here, you’ve seen hundreds of testimony at this point that gay christians have been told they are going to hell, not because they are a sinner but because They. Are. Gay. That if they do not repent for “being gay” or for “living the homosexual lifestyle” they are going to hell. You asking them to just kind of tolerate that – to get along with that – is profoundly unreasonable. It’s not a theological difference you asking gay men and women to tolerate. It’s a condemnation to hell that is false. You asking them to tolerate that is like asking them to keep running into a brick wall in the name of Christ.

  • Hanna

    Hey John,

    I’ve been wrestling so much with so many issues having to do with the faith. I don’t know if I will ever stop wrestling with them. Maybe faith grows through wrestling, and God’s mercy is enough for all my lack of understanding. Maybe I can have peace during the process of wrestling, knowing the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, rather than feeling I will only have peace if I have all the answers….something which I don’t think will ever happen. “For we know in part” I want to thank you for having this page and all the help it’s given me. I also really appreciate that this guy is out there and could write something as beautiful as this letter, which somehow gave me peace and restored my faith in the church…something I really needed. Peace & love

  • Faith

    So much confusion.

    Having tried desperately to make sense of things that I now give up, I can see the pain of both “stands,” but understand no reconciliation of them that leaves out the other elephant in the room — that something requiring such handstands to make sense of may simply be erroneous at its very base. Most often the most simple explanation is the correct one.

    Loving (‘my neighbor as myself’) and at the same time trying to embrace Christianity is evidently seen by your loving family quite clearly, but within the erroneous framework of belief that morality comes from outside humanity (ie belief in God). Loving ourselves includes all of our many faults and sins, and if we see homosexuality as just one more on that huge list it can be claimed that we show no more hate due to its inclusion than we do in repenting for all our other sins – pride, greed, overindulgence, etc. The only honest way to bypass this is to admit that the list needs to come from ourselves and not from a so called external morality given by a God. (If it truly IS external/given by a God, then it should be no surprise if some of it – ie banning homosexuality – seems wrong to our human idea of morality.)

    Is it the fear of loss of some sort of afterlife that keeps people hanging on to theories and dogmas that make so little sense they require huge acrobatics to even hang on to in some mangled format? What is it?

  • David

    Dear gay Christian,

    Please don’t use your family as fertilizer – but that’s some pumpkin you got there. Use Miracle Grow (get it? and for you non-horticulturists out there, yes, its a real product) is easier and totally sin-free.

    I’m here as a non-Christian gay man who is your brother. I read about John’s work at another website and was moved by his words. Do everything you can to find common ground with your family. Keep your faith. Unfortunately some families, Christen or otherwise, seem to be incapable of accepting their gay children and you may have to move on in your life to find a “family of choice.” Never believe for one second that you will not find people who love you unconditionally, and a man who will love you for who you are. The last was a hard lesson for me to learn, but it is true and I speak from experience.

    Actually I’m your *older* gay brother, and when I came out at age 26 I was lucky to find a wonderful man who I have spent the last 35 years loving. Much to my amazement not only did I find a partner, but my family and his family have always been supportive, loving and embracing. I know that does not happen for every gay person, but you sound like the kind of guy who comes from a loving family (who need some prodding), and I’m betting you will attract a loving partner from a loving family.

  • http://www.ejaculationprecocesolutions.com Maura Causey

    This is one awesome post.Much thanks again.


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