Late this past Thursday night I got in this email:
I have the most amazing friend I can ever ask for. He is an 18-year-old, gay Christian. He first came out to me in early June. Later that month his parents found out he was sneaking around with a guy, so they took him out of the world. He was not allowed to speak with anyone for several weeks. When he was returned to his life it was with the promise to everyone that he is not gay.
Recently he left for college, where he got a new boyfriend, whom he began to leave every weekend to visit. About a month ago he stopped texting me. Three days later I got a call from another of his friends telling me that his parents took him out of college. John, they took away his future. They also took away all communications to the outside world. Last night, there was an incident where his parents FORCED him to call his boyfriend, and after that fiasco he runs out of his house with his jacket and an unidentified shiny object. Luckily, he did no harm to himself. Now I’m terrified for him. I don’t know what to do. I’m so worried about him, but if I even attempt to call his house or anything, I’ll hit a brick wall because his parents have never liked me. Please please please explain to me how to help my best friend.
To which I responded:
He doesn’t have a cell phone or anything? You literally cannot contact him?
Came the answer:
Literally, he has nothing. It’s ALL gone.
Obviously, he needs to get out of that house. Do you think they’re physically harming him?
I know he needs out. He won’t do it. And I don’t think they’d physically hurt him, but I know there is probably emotional and verbal abuse. It hurts so bad knowing I can’t help.
Well, I suppose the bottom line is that if he’s of age (as he is), and he’s not being physically abused, then essentially he’s making a choice to stay there, right? He could leave, yes?
Yes, he could, but he’d have nothing. His family would disown him. Although he knows that my family will take him in. He will not choose that because he doesn’t like feeling like a “moocher.” So yes leaving is an option, but I know they won’t let him out by himself, as he possibly went out to commit suicide last night. If he tried to leave they’d just corral him back so they can keep him under their controlling watch.
Well, if you can’t contact him, what can you do? The bottom line is, he’s going to have to deal with this himself. And he will. At some point, under some conditions, he’ll leave home. And he’ll go out into the world, and live, and experience, and be, and grow. And he’ll struggle with the legacy of his parents. And then, hopefully, one day, he’ll grow wise–or at least wiser–and begin, finally and really, to leave his parents behind. It’ll take time. He’s young. He’s got time. What’s going on now is awful. It’s horrible. And he’ll break away from it. And then his life will begin its slow healing process.
They’re so crazy. The worst of it is his mom knows she’s wrong to do this. She quit her job so that she could “keep an eye on him, just in case.” Personally I believe it’s so she will have more time to pray her son’s gay away. I know he will eventually get sick of their glares and insults, but I’m so fucking scared that the damage will be irreparable. I just wish I could express to him how much his friends love him and to keep strong. Also I want to thank you so much for answering this email and talking with me. It makes me hopeful that there are normal Christians with brains in their heads who know that gays are just like everyone and deserve the happiness that straight people do.
Me [at 1:15 a.m.]:
I’m off to bed, friend. Keep me up on this.
The next night the young woman wrote me to say:
I mentioned his parents forced him to call his boyfriend. I just learned of the contents of that phone call. They made him say that he never loved him, and that he had meant nothing to him.
So that happened.
The Internet being what it is, and all, I suppose it’s just possible that the parents of the now (and still, apparently, as of this writing) sequestered young man will read this.
Dear Parents of the Young Gay Man Written About Above:
Hi! You don’t know me. My name’s John Shore. I’d guess I’m ten years older than you. Like that matters, I know. But that’s probably about right, if your boy is eighteen.Anyway, what you and your boy are now going through sounds so painful. I’m sure you’ll work it all out. But for now, I know, it must feel so awful. It was painful to read about, for sure.
I know you love your son, and are only trying to do what’s right by him.
You don’t want him to go to hell. Of course you don’t.
You’re stuck, I know. You’ve got a son who is gay, and a religion (which I share with you, by the way: I’m nothing if not Christian) that tells you that being gay—or at least that in any way acting upon being gay—is a direct, one-way ticket to hell.
And since you love your son, what else can you do but remove him from the world, pull him into your home, and do your best to un-gay him?
By now it’s surely at least occurred to you that you can no more stop your son from being gay than you can stop the ocean from being wet. Your boy is gay. That’s not going to change. That’s just who and what he is. You trying to pray your son’s gay away would be like my parents trying to pray my straight away. Talk about a one-way ticket to nowhere.
So, again: you’re stuck. Your son is not going to stop being gay; and your love for him means that you can never be okay with that.
There is exactly one way out of this terrible impasse. And that is if you are misunderstanding Christianity. If, on the point of homosexuality, you have actually and truly got your/our religion 100% wrong.
Wouldn’t it be great, if that was the case? Because then you could be okay with your son being gay.
You have no choice but to turn to our religion, and see if you can’t find there a way to discover that God and Christ care no more about your son being gay than they do about you being straight. That the Bible doesn’t, in fact, say that being gay is a sin. That that’s not what Paul wrote.
That for much, much too long now the church has been entirely wrong about homosexuality. That that’s what’s tearing apart your household, that that’s what’s destroying your relationship with your son; that that’s why so many gay teens in your son’s exact position commit suicide.
It’s not you. It’s not your son. It’s not the Bible. It’s not anything but a man-made tradition founded upon the most base kind of fear and anger.
The very day following the above exchange, I published a book titled UNFAIR: Why the “Christian” View of Gays Doesn’t Work. Right now it’s only available as an e-book. If you don’t have a Kindle or Nook, you can read the book on any computer simply by first downloading this free Kindle e-reader app.
Read UNFAIR. If it doesn’t (gently, carefully, thoughtfully) move you to understand that your son being gay is no more incompatible with Christianity than plants are incompatible with soil, I’ll refund you twice the price of the book. Just email me (email@example.com), and it’ll be done.
Wings consists of three things: letters from gay and lesbian Christians, in which they tell their own deeply affecting stories of struggling to keep to their breast the cross which everyone—usually including their loving parents—have, in one way or another, tried (and all too often succeeded) to wrest from them; my own writings on the matter of gays and Christianity; and a concluding piece, “Taking God at His Word: The Bible and Homosexuality” which a reviewer of Wings wrote is “quite simply, one of the clearest, most brilliant, most faithful and biblically sound arguments for Christian affirmation of queer people you will ever read.”
It’s in this final chapter, I promise, that you’ll see why you do not have to do what God wouldn’t ask anyone to, which is decide between your heart and your faith.
You can keep God. You can keep the Bible. And you can keep your son.
It’s okay that your son is gay. There’s nothing in the Bible that says otherwise.
Take a chance that I can prove I’m right about that. It’s ten dollars. And, again: If you don’t like Wings, I’ll give you your money back, twice. Parents whom I guarantee are as pro-Christ and anti-gay as you have read parts of this book, and completely changed their mind about gays, lesbians, and Christianity. They came out feeling more Christian, not less.
You’ve got a real problem. As it happens, I have a real answer. And that’s good news for you, for me, and for your son, who is now so eagerly and desperately awaiting your understanding.