Christian Parents of Gay Teens: You Don’t Have to Choose Between Your Love and Your Faith

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 (, 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.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I literally don’t know what to say. That’s messed up.

  • my heart aches for this young man, his friend and his parents…

  • Wow. I really feel sorry for that whole family – they must be hurting a lot right now. The son is probably completely confused as he tries to reconcile his faith and his orientation, which I know is almost more painful than just coming out, and his family is trying to “cure” him, and everyone’s doing this because they think it’s the best thing for him or the thing Jesus would want…


    And I can imagine how hard it is for him to leave his house with nothing. When I left Christian Fundamentalism behind, I had nothing, too. No job, no house, no furniture for the house I didn’t have, no car to park in front of my non-furnished non-house. It was scary.

    But it got better. Not instantly, not exponentially, but it did get better.

    Dear Kid Who This Whole Story is About:

    I don’t know if you’ll be able to read this, but if you can, you should take your friend up on her offer and stay with her. It’s not “mooching;” it’s getting a leg-up when you don’t have one of your own. That’s what Jesus wants us to do – to help others who can’t help themselves. Allow your friend and her family to do this for you while you find your way, and you can “pay it forward” by helping someone else when you’re stronger.

    And hang in there.

    Dear Parents of this Guy:

    Check out – the Gay Christian Network has lots of great resources for people who want to see how their faith can line up with their orientation, and there’s stuff for parents and friends of LGBT people, too. Don’t think God hates your son or wants him to be straight, because neither is true.

    And hang in there.


  • Bravo, John!! I’d also suggest a copy of “Prayers for Bobby” …the book AND the DVD!

  • I do have to wonder what these parents would do it were their daughter, and she had a secret boyfriend, and was quite sexually active with him? What if she got pregnant? Would they do the same thing to her as they are doing to their son? What if it still was a son, and he had a bevy of girls who he was seeing and bedding? Would they sequester him and remove all his means of communication? What if he decided to become a Buddhist or decided to follow the seven pillars of the Islamic faith? Would that “rule” imply the same result?

    I know I know. This young man chose to be gay just like I chose to be extremely left-handed. Obviously his parents are blind to that, but assuming they think its a choice (which I’m fairly sure they are) it is interesting to see how they pick and choose behavoir modification.

    Irregardless, their tactics will result in one sure thing, the loss of their son. One way or the other that son will walk away from his parents, because they have chosen not to look at him as a person of worth, value and amazing talent and potential. They have chosen not to look at the beautiful son they have raised, and instead have decided that he is flawed and they must fix it,no matter what, and no one needs to know about this “pox on their house.” They fail to see that what they are doing instead is nothing but destruction.

    I hope and pray that he finds the strength to walk away and know that a life of peace and acceptance living in a cardboard box, if needed, is far better then what he is existing in now.There are lots of people more then willing to give this guy a chance to learn, to grow and to be, and to be loved for who and what he is yesterday, today and tomorrow.

  • Seriously. Fuck this shit.

    Fundamentalists do this all the time, and they think they’re practicing love in doing it. If you try to explain, many will just say you’re deluded/of the devil/ not a True Christian. I’m so fucking mad right now, and I feel like this a lot and I don’t like it.

  • Pardon me, John, but I believe your compassion is showing……. and it is patently beautiful. Thank you for the gift of this. I wish only that the paperbound version was already in print so that it could be the centerpiece for our Thanksgiving gathering. If you’re going to have an awkward holiday celebration with family, you might as well do it over a stimulating conversation that will bring about some real good in the world.

    My deepest thanks to Mr. Shore for the graceful and gifted way he uses his pen to fight the lies that have too long passed for truth and his tireless work toward reducing the sum of human suffering. This is the work of the kingdom. Bless you.

  • and point them to my blog too–lots for parents to read and absorb. The link on the side for parents is useful.

  • Melody

    God. And I thought the mother in Prayers for Bobby was extreme. This breaks my heart and infuriates me to no end.

  • Blake, you’re right. You are so completely right. And your righteous indignation is surely justified. It is good and right to loathe injustice, to hate hate, to despise abuse. It is a holy rage that fills us. It is human. It is normal. It is powerful.

    And it will consume all that is good within us if we do not learn how to then let it go. We must let it go…. and surrender to knowing that they can’t teach what they don’t know. And they can’t learn it if we reflect their loathsomeness back at them. Dr. King knew this….Ghandi…..Mother Teresa…..Jesus. “Hate cannot drive out hate…..only love can do this.” This is the tough stuff that Jesus required of us: It’s easy to love your friends. Even the tax collectors do that. To love those even whom we may despise – that’s some serious ego-dethroning work.

    My experience shows me they really do not know how to love. It’s never been modeled for them. It isn’t taught to them. It is taught out of them. The God they serve is not all loving. It is a frightening unhappy place of control and fear and manipulation. Of requirements an never measuring up. How awful.

    Anne Lamott writes that “not forgiving is like drinking rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.”

    Sometimes, for me, it makes more sense to replace the word “forgive” with “understand.” They are used to people being mad at them. Telling them they suck. That they don’t get it and that they failed and that they will never be good enough. I wonder what would happen if they actually encountered someone who showed them compassion…..who loved them…..unconditionally…..even though they had done nothing to deserve it. I wonder what kind of miracle might happen in that space.

    The terrible truth is that the parents are the ones who are held captive.

    Who will set them free?

  • charles

    John- I am very proud to be able to read your response to the situation.

    It is a horrible situation you described, but the response you gave is really the best way forward.

    Bravo. and God Bless you and yours….

  • Nicole

    Your perspective is beautiful, Christy.

  • “The God they serve is not all loving. It is a frightening unhappy place of control and fear and manipulation. Of requirements an never measuring up. How awful.”

    That sounds just like the church environment in which I was raised. (Which was a Southern Baptist Church in Southeastern Oklahoma). It still haunts me to this day, and I am still working to erase the dark marks left by the years I was exposed to that environment, that mentality, that community. It is damaging. Not irreparable, but damaging nonetheless.

  • Welcome to the recovering Fundamentalist section of John Shore’s page, Rhys – where all are welcome. We’ve saved room for you. You can sit by us.

  • “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.”

    How utterly sad! I can only hope that there was an inflection of insincerity in the young man’s voice that might clue in his boyfriend as to what was going on, maybe even send out a “Help me!” signal.

    And isn’t that the parents forcing a sin? Namely, the giving of false testimony?

    Weird thing – I’m tempted to use this as inspiration, as this sounds almost like some characters in my head for a fiction short story idea I’ve had for-freaking-ever that I’ve never been brave enough to write / don’t know if I’m qualified to write.

  • I want to cry, to scream, to yell, to jump in my car and make it fly to wherever this young man lives and beat the door down. But JOhn is spot on – he’s going to have to rescue himself from his family. I pray that he does so sooner than later.

    I often feel despairing of our world. My husband has been reading some texts on how humnanity has treated women and children throughout our history, and it is enlightening to see how restriction and abuse and indoctrination have created a majority of people who are hurt and wounded and who seem unable to break the cycle of abuse. We are oh, so slowly turning around, but it seems human nature to fear what we can’t understand or control, and I think far too many people fail to try to learn about what they don’t understand – they just try to chase it away. And they get misled by those who are hungry for power and control, people who are also indoctrinated in a horribly abusive way, people who are fulfilling some need to sway others to their twisted way of thinking.

    When does it end? How many gay kids have to be abused/run away/commit suicide before people start getting the message?


  • Haha, thanks Christy. 🙂 Love it.

    I’m really struggling with my faith these days. I never realized how affected I was by the experience I had in that church, until recently I realized that I just cringe when I hear people talk about Jesus and say things like “have a blessed day,” or “God is so merciful!” or anything overtly religious. I’ve always wanted to have a “personal relationship” with God, like others do, but never have felt it. I’ve prayed, gone to church, participated in my faith communities, and more importantly (in my opinion) have tried to do the right thing – help others, love others, and be kind. But when I pray, I don’t hear “God’s voice.” I hear nothing.

    I’ve felt a presence – I’ve felt that there is something bigger than myself. I look at the beauty in the world and I know it’s not accidental. The beauty that exists in the world did not randomly happen because some stars collided millions and billions of years ago. I believe it was purposefully created.

    So why do I not feel a personal relationship with God? Why do I not hear his voice? Why can I not know what he is saying to me? Why do I cringe when I hear people talking about Jesus or saying cliche, religious things and telling me to “have a blessed day”? Just because it sounds cliche to me doesn’t mean that it’s disingenuous. I don’t know what’s in a person’s heart when they say something like that. In fact, I’m likely to believe that they mean it sincerely and believe it passionately. But it just turns me off… so much.

    I want to believe. I want to seek. I do seek, in fact, but I just never feel that I find. I know that “where you seek, God will meet you there,” etc etc… but I just haven’t found that yet.

    Surely, though, if there is a God, and he loves us all, and wants to have a relationship with us, and he gives us a way to him, he would have given that to me, too, right? Am I just missing something.

    Any insight would be appreciated.


  • Soulmentor

    I was surprised when I read that your “Pigs” is only an e-book. I just ordered it from Amazon two days ago thinking I was ordering a regular book. My fault for not paying attention I guess, but now I have to deal with Amazon somehow cause I don’t have a Kindle. Arrrggghhhh!!!

    As for that young man trapped with his parents….comes awfully close to kidnapping except for the fact that he is of legal age and apparently choosing to stay. It’s emotional kidnapping but there’s nothing illegal about that and tho my first reaction it so think there should be, I know that would lead to some equally horrendous abuses. It’s agonizing to watch, but yeah, no one can resolve this matter FOR him. He has to do it himself. Hopefully, he will find a way to get the information that will help free him.

  • Lymis

    You can download an application that lets you read the e-book on your computer. There are links in the article on this site announcing the release of the book.

  • Lymis

    To the friend:

    When you hear from him again, tell him he can stay with your family for a week, as a favor to you, and that they won’t consider it mooching at all. Then, once he’s there, they can open a dialogue about extending the stay, how he can do it without mooching, and so on.

    His parents essentially told him that he’s worthless and unloveable and that he’s not allowed to love anyone else either, and that he isn’t allowed to have a future. So of course, “stay with us indefinitely” is going to sound like a huge imposition, and if his own family can’t love him, how could yours?

    And, whether or not he takes you up on it, make sure he has access to information about contacting the Trevor Project – they have access to resources for people in just this situation, or at least can point him to someone else who can help.

    As another possible suggestion, if your parents or friends can chip in to buy a pay-as-you-go cell phone, you might be able to slip it to him so he isn’t completely cut off, if there’s any chance of seeing him.

  • Carrie

    Rhys, I know just what you mean. Although I’m not gay, I have a gay and also a transgendered family member, and the way they’ve been treated by so-called “Christian” members of the family has disgusted me to no end. In fact, the way many “Christians” behave has often left me feeling that people who call themselves Christian = phony, to some degree. So when I hear those kinds of sayings you’re referring to, I feel like throwing up in my mouth a little. Seriously. I feel like gagging.

    So many people put on their fancy clothes and drive these big expensive cars to church and put on a big show of how “Christian” and wonderful they are. And my mother is fond of the saying “Church isn’t a haven for saints, it’s a hospital for sinners.” GAG. (She and my father are two of the people on the opposite sides of this issue from me.) I like the term I’ve heard on a few sites of “Xtian” since these phony Christians have taken Christ out of Christianity.

    Now rationally, I know that I can’t and shouldn’t label all “Christians” as phony. But truthfully and with all seriousness, until I found this blog (thank you, John Shore!!!), I was getting embarrassed to call myself a Christian because of what I felt it stood for – phony self-righteousness from people who thought they were better than everyone else, in spite of what they said. Their actions proved this.

    These family members of mine refuse to read or look at the GLBT issue from any other perspective but the one they’ve been taught, for some reason, while they can and do choose to embrace the concept of evolution and are more progressive on a couple of other issues. NOT this one. And when I’ve (or anyone else has) tried to rationalize the subject with them, they shut us down, not reading e-mails or letters (like covering their ears and saying “la la la, I can’t hear you!” and that they won’t “debate the Bible”, although they’ll do “Bible studies” with people who AGREE with them on this subject. They throw out the “God made Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve”, “Love the Sinner, Hate the Sin” argument.

    And then they say that we should “agree to disagree” – in other words, pretend that there isn’t a big problem / huge divide in our family because of this issue. But there is a HUGE history of denial in our family as well. In fact, this whole issue has torn the extended and immediate family apart. I’m estranged from my parents (by my choice) in part because of this issue, and also in part because of the neglect/abuse I encountered as a child, which I think actually sensitized me to the abandonment issues a lot of GLBT people go through with their own families. And when I thought about things, really took the time to soul-search and read and think about things, I came to the same conclusion as many other progressive people have, that these conditions are biological, that God made them that way on purpose, and that a LOVING God would NEVER make someone just to torture and condemn them. And since God is love, then we should accept the model of a loving and accepting God, who wants us to learn to LOVE and accept one another, not hate others for who they are!!! And I felt at peace with this.

    As an aside, I finally did get an acknowledgment and an apology for the neglect a few months ago – the abuse will probably never be acknowledged. It was only by being silent that I got them to even consider this instead of continuing on in their self-absorbed, self-righteous world. Yes, I’m still angry, and yes, pulling back from them probably seems harsh, but it’s been the only way I’ve found that I can protect myself from the extreme toxicity of this relationship.

    Anyway, my point is that maybe, Rhys, you’ve had experiences like I have that have created a block in the system . . . I know I have much to work on. I know I need to work on being forgiving and patient and loving towards these kinds of people and on not being prejudiced against people who say they are “Christian” and then go on to say these kinds of things (like “Have a blessed day”, etc.). But maybe that just isn’t the way you and I experience Christianity because of our backgrounds? I don’t know. Maybe someone else can shed some light on this, too.

    I continue to read and am finding my way back to my spiritual side and to get closer to God again because of this blog, and Canyonwalker Connections with Kathy Baldock (sp? – hope I didn’t get it wrong), too. In any case, Rhys, you aren’t alone in feeling the way you do. Maybe I’m just too angry or too compelled with trying to get people to see this perspective and stop the marginalization and neglectful maltreatment of the GLBT community. And I guess that isn’t really my job – that’s God’s job. And I’m working on letting that go . . . but it’s very hard to do since I grew up relying on myself more than anyone else.

    Any other thoughts out there?

  • Diana A.

    “Why do I cringe when I hear people talking about Jesus or saying cliche, religious things and telling me to ‘have a blessed day’? Just because it sounds cliche to me doesn’t mean that it’s disingenuous. I don’t know what’s in a person’s heart when they say something like that. In fact, I’m likely to believe that they mean it sincerely and believe it passionately. But it just turns me off… so much.”

    I think this may be a major symptom of the damage caused to you by your fundamentalist upbringing.

    I was a part of a fundamentalist Christian cult for approximately 5 months when I was nineteen. In the end, I recognized it for what it was and I got out (partially because I had remained aloof from committing to it 100%, partially because I had retained my relations with people outside the cult.) Still, even with the relatively brief exposure, I became very untrusting of Christianity for about ten years after that experience–and still find myself ill at ease with people who use too much “church jargon.”

    As for not hearing the voice of God, I don’t know what to tell you. This is a problem I’ve never had (at least not for more than about five minutes.) Sometimes, though, I think that those of us who have been raised in some kind of faith find ourselves trying too hard to communicate with/please/serve God. Maybe the solution then is to just back off. Let God do some of the work.

    Does anybody else have any insight to offer Rhys?

  • Aw, Rhys, I hear you. I have to be a mom for a few hours right now, but I’ll be back later.

  • gretchen

    Beautifully read!! I hope that the parents start educating themselves. Education is important.

  • Kate

    Hi Rhys, I’ve never posted here before (though I have read this blog often), but I’d like to respond to your searching for a relationship with God. A very wise old woman has told me, several times, that the search for God is the finding of God. We would not feel the desire to search for God if God had not already found us and called us. As she said, “God makes God’s prayer in us”. So Diana’s advice to sit back and let God come to you seems good to me. Trust that God is around you, beside you, within you, and relax. Make some time and space to sit quietly and listen to the conversations that are already in your head. You will be able to discern which is your voice and which is your conversation partner 🙂 Remember that God is the still, small voice that we are often to busy to hear, and that busy-ness includes the constant seeking for God. Go well, my brother.

  • EmilyS

    I have a Polish gay friend who was near suicidal back in the 1990’s. (Poland – particularly with the strong influence of the Catholic Church – is not exactly affirming of gays.) And he is the nicest, sweetest, most wonderful person, probably on this planet, so his western friends pooled together their resources (whatever cash they could spare) and their phonebooks (friends with couches in gay friendly cities) and treated him to a tour of gay friendly places in Western Europe. He got to see what life can be as a happy, healthy gay person. It saved his life. Perhaps someone can collect phone numbers of gay or gay friendly Christians with ready guest rooms or couches who can take this guy in — until he can get on his own feet — maybe more than just one family so it feels like a tour and not mooching. It’d be lovely if his parents could read the wisdom of John and take it to heart, but until such a time (likely far in the future), he needs support – financial and spiritual – to get himself out of such a toxic environment.

  • Suz

    Thank you, John. Your work will save lives, and so much more. I share your compassion, but I’m a wimp; I don’t think I could intentionally immerse myself in so much pain. You leave me in awe.

  • LSS

    read the stuff that happened to the Phelps kids when they tried to get out…

    i think some of it happened after they were 18 but when you are under a certain amount of brainwashing, the real life rules aren’t as important as the family ones.

  • That’s so painful, that young man and his parents’ intolerance/ignorance. I am in the process of establishing a small park in the Kansas City area which is a “hate-free zone.” It’s not fully developed so I wish to wait until I’m ready to dedicate it before being more specific about where it is. I just got the property this year and it’s still kind of rough and needs some trees and flowers, a sign etc. But it’s intended to be a safe place, symbolically and literally, a peaceful place, for LGBT youth and adults who need to think, meditate, get some space, ask for help, or just know that there’s someone nearby who cares unconditionally. I hope I can someday make a difference for someone, young or old, who feels rejected, and just needs someone to say “you’re wanted, you’re appreciated, you’re family here.” God bless all who are hurting bc of family strife or bullying, everywhere.

  • LSS

    i’ve also had this problem of never feeling what i thought people were supposed to feel about religion. but being neurologically odd, i don’t feel a lot of things the standard way, so maybe it’s that. my other idea was that i was predestined not to be a christian and had just been one by mistake. (yeah, recovering calvinist here)

  • LSS

    a lot of people would disown or re-program their kid in any of those cases you mentioned. don’t even think they wouldn’t.

  • Laura

    John, thank you! My daughter wrote this letter, we found your site when we saw her friend so broken hearted months ago. We live in aver small, very christain southern town, and after the first incident I had hoped to help the mother and son by using many of your insights. This young gay Christian is devout in his faith, yet on his oun came to terms and accepted himself and trusted that God loved him for who he is. I hoped that I could convey a positive message to his mother, both my daughter and myself were met with a brick wall. I dare not speak of her son being gay, I mean, never had a chance.

    I kept high hopes for my daughter and her dear friend, with thoughts of college is his ticket to freedom. I was floored when they drove to his college and packed him up, took him home. Who screws up thier kids future like that? How is that justified.

    I wish “pigs” where in paperback, I would send it. This kid should never be locked away, and I will do all I can. I keep faith in him to not harm himself, because he has strong faith Christ. He has an endless smile, kind words for everyone, he’s just on of those people that the rest of us want to be around.

    Thank you again John, you’ve given my daughter renewed hope.

  • Laura

    Sorry about the typos! On an iPod, in a hurry.

  • Larry Munoz via Facebook

    there are 1000’s of kids who have been disposed of by their families all across this country…all for being gay. NOT A HEALTHY LIFE FOR MOST OF THEM, but they are free from the hate offered up from their own blood line. Additionally there would be more, but those kids committed suicide. Some will say they are the lucky ones.

  • Wes

    There are a few support centers for LGBTQ youth who’ve been kicked out of their homes and have nothing. They often provide shelter and help to get the youth self-sufficient. One such organization is in Orlando.

  • Oh, wow. How good to hear from you, Laura. (And tell your daughter I said hi!) I appreciated her writing me; though of course I, like she, was pained to be able to do so little. I didn’t know you guys lived in the south. Keep us up on what happens to the boy, yes? Thank you. (“Wings” will be out in paperback in about a month.)

  • Well, that’s kind of you to say, Suz; thank you. And now that you mention it, I think I WILL stop looking at my emails! (Nah. Honestly, I’m honored that people write me as they do. But I certainly appreciate your sentiment.)

  • I LOVE this, Emily. What a great thing. Thank you. Wow. Just … lovely. You guys were such good friends to your friend.

  • Lymis: Outstanding.

  • Bobbi

    Hi Rhys, I was reading what you wrote and with the exception of the Oklahoma part it could of been something I wrote. I too am a recovering Southern Baptist who after walking away from that denomnination started to wonder why God never seemed to speak to me. I found out why, at least for me, and thought I’d share what I discovered in hopes that perhaps it might be of some help to you.

    I reached a point where I begin to label myself as Agnostic, because I felt that if God did exist, this same God really did not care enough to worry about me. That was why all the years that I prayed for help I was ignored. I am also what our society lables as transgender. So I often had my SB dogma and theology rear its ugly head and tell me that the reason I did not hear God speaking was because I was living in sin and was not forgiven and out of fellowship with God.

    I remained in this spiritual limbo for 20+ years. By this point I had educated myself on the Bible and on christianity (And on almost every other religion I had run across) looking for answers and wanting desperately for God to speak to me and let me know that everything was all right.

    After all those years I begin to attend a Unitarian Universalist congrgation. When we lost our lease we rented space from a United Church of Christ. They would meet on Sunday morning and we would meet in the afternoon. I decided one Sunday to visit the UCC service in the morning. During their service they Pass the Peace of Christ and I was surprised as people welcomed me and offered me the usual platitudes but these folks seemed to really mean it when they said peace of Christ to you! Later as I listened to the sermon it was if it was directed right at me. When they did communion that day the pastor commented that this was the Lords table not theirs and just as Jesus would not turn anyone away neither would they.

    It was in that moment that I had an epiphany. The problem that I had was not that God wasn’t speaking to me. The problem was that even though I had realized the same things that so many folks here in “John Shore Home for Recovering Fundamentalists” did I still had 20 years of SB preaching invading my thoughts and heart. Even though I said I did not buy their line any longer it was still engrained in me and was a barrier that kept me from truly believing in Jesus’ message of love. I was raised to believe that I was evil that God was a God of vengence to be obeyed. Not a God of love that I could have a relationship with.

    I had to let that old belief system go. To remind myself on a daily basis that God is love.

    When I began that process, and started thanking God for being there. When I allowed God to start to heal the years of damage that were there and stopped crying why me, and why aren’t you listening. I heard this quiet voice that said “I’ve aleways been here, and I’ve always been speaking. You just had not learned to listen.

    Now I make it a point to let go of all the fear of God. To remember that Jesus is a loving savior not a demanding dictator. I set time aside each day and start with the thought God help me to heal and help me to shut my mouth and listen to what you have to say. It was not easy at first letting go of a lifetime of indeoctrination, but the more I do the more I hear God and feel God’s perfect love.

    I by no means as eloquent as many people that post here and I hope my ramblings made sense. And more importantly I pray that you will start to hear God speak to you again. I know God’s still speaking.

  • Christine

    Never posted here before but needed to (actually this is my very first time to this site and wasn’t planning to post at all)

    Kate – you brought tears to my eyes when I read “We would not feel the desire to search for God if God had not already found us and called us” Thank you for this.

    Rhys – I too have cringed at the idea of religious comments. I think more so because I do not want to be thought of as being associated with the idea of one sided thinking and hate. I remember being 13-15 in church and knowing of all the hypocritical stuff going on – the say one thing then do quite the opposite. Everyone in the church was that way, myself included. I quit going.

    However, recently, I have found on Facebook The Christian Left – it is a Progressive movement in faith and speaks more to me than any church can. I actually see myself as being a part of faith again without the idea of cringing.

    Good luck with your search, you will find it.

  • Allie

    If she can get in touch with him at all, she needs to remind him that he is 18, and that keeping him prisoner is illegal. I’ve worked with abused teenagers for years and it’s shocking how hard a leap that is for most young people. You are 18, you cannot be compelled to do anything you don’t want to do. Your mom cannot force you to make a phone call; you made the decision yourself that your parents’ approval was more important than your integrity. Yes, that sounds harsh, but harshness is needed sometimes to help people to escape abuse.

    The real world is a big place. In it you can get loans to go to college without your parents’ permission. In it you can get a job and an apartment without your parents’ permission. Many many young people have done this without being kicked out; it’s not that hard and not that scary. It hurts to give up the hope that your parents will love you as parents should, but you have to understand that NOTHING YOU CAN DO will make your parents act like decent people. They have to do that on their own. It sucks because you were born from these people and if they suck God won’t issue you another set of parents who don’t suck. But a lot of things suck. Some people have terminal cancer. You have bad parents. Accept it and move forward.

  • Bobbi

    I will keep this young man in my prayers. I so hope that he escapes this toxic situation before he reaches that point of “I am worthless and have no other choice but to end it.” It sickens and saddens me to think what this young man is going through, while his parents traumatize him and abuse him. I want to throw up when I think of how their pastor is probably encouraging this abuse and telling them what wonderful parents and good christians they are, To make such sacrifices to save their son’s soul.

  • Linda

    Rhys honey,

    You are definitely not alone here. I went to a fundamentalist Bible college and to this day everytime I hear someone say “Praise God” or “If you just walk with the Lord, He will carry your trouble for you.” something inside of me cringes in a big way. It’s something known as Christianese and it’s generally used in fundemental circles without thinking about what it really means but it sure makes you sound like you are very holy. I have a few friends that I KNOW mean it when they say it, but not many. For the others, it’s just part of the vocabulary.

    Having a relationship with God is tricky. I believe people see God in whatever way they need Him to be. For example, it’s been my experience that those who carry a lot of guilt, see him as the wrathful God of the Old Testament who punishes those who need to be punished. Others see him as a grandfather/father figure, etc. I’ve never been able to pull off the close relationship with God but Jesus is a different story. For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted a big brother (I’m the oldest so that wasn’t going to happen) so for me Jesus fills that role (He wears a white oxford, jeans, white sneakers and sits under a huge tree on a hill next to a river.) There is a reason Mary is so important in the Catholic Church. However, doctorinally (sp?) iffy as it is, she fill an important need for a lot of people.

    I understand what you mean about not being able to hear God. At school people were hearing God every 15 seconds and if was frustrating that I wasn’t. I knew it had to be my fault (it couldn’t be God’s, now, could it?) I must have had some unknown sin or I wasn’t not trying hard enough or I’d offended God in some other way. Turns out, that’s all crap.

    God doesn’t yell at people. He is in the “still small voice” and we have to be calm and centered to hear Him. Prayer doesn’t mean you have to be on your knees with your hands folded, either. Prayer is communication with God/Jesus. Singing, talking, writing, whatever works for you. I tend to think out loud so I talk to him all the time, just like He’s in the room with me (I’ll admit, it makes you look a little nuts sometimes.) Other times, I walk up the hill and we talk.

    Relationships don’t happen overnight, you have to get to know each other. My suggestion, and this is ONLY my suggestion, would be to think about what kind of relationship you want/need in your life and imagine God or Jesus in that role. Visualize every physical aspect of Him. The more detailed you are, the more real He will be to you. Tell Him all about yourself. (I’ve always had a hard time with this one. It seemed redundent and insulting to God’s intelligence – I mean, He knows everything, why am I telling him something he already knows? But I’ve decided it’s really more for us than Him.) Forget every negative thing you’ve ever been taught about God and begin again. Start with the Gospels. Talk to God/Jesus about what you’ve read, ask questions, try to think about it as if you were there, not like it’s a story. And more than anything, don’t get frustrated if it’s not happening like you planned or as fast as you wanted. And DO NOT let others tell you what it’s “supposed to be like.” This is YOUR relationship with God/Jesus, not theirs. There is no timetable or “right” way to do things. Just keep communicating… 🙂

  • Your honesty and openness is lovely, Bobbi. Thank you for sharing your very personal story. I too found a home in the UCC that speaks to me on a deeply personal level. I made a pit stop with the Presbyterians on my way left from the far right where I spent most of my life in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist church and school. I’ve never been in a congregation so welcoming and warm and open and engaged and curious and compassionate and authentically real and intellectual as the one in the UCC where we are now. It is pleasantly refreshing, restoring my faith in church. Our minister goes out of his way to say they write their own Sunday School curriculum to make sure they don’t teach any bad theology that will screw kids up requiring them to one day need therapy to unlearn it later on. So – the unlearning….

    Rhys, I agree with Bobbi on the unlearning. I didn’t know how to like myself. Which meant I really didn’t know how to like other people or allow them to like me. I was living unaware, afraid of making mistakes, knowing I wasn’t good enough, never measuring up, always falling short, unworthy – but always striving for perfection in myself and expecting it from others. (It’s a shitty way to go). I had a very limited idea of what unconditional love was and no idea of what that was like from God. My fear of being less than and my not-good-enough-ness got in the way of allowing myself to be open to really being loved. This all began to shatter after I had my first child and experienced love like I never had before about which I wrote the other day here:

    That was the breakthrough moment on a path to finding real joy and having real connection with God, myself, and others. I became passionately curious. I read voraciously. Along that path I encountered a wise, beautiful friend who gave me the best life-changing advice I’ve ever received. She said: “the journey is it…and remember too that none of us will ever get it all right…our humanness means we’re imperfect no matter how hard we try to be the perfect servant, and so then letting go of “we’re not enough” is important. We are enough…the Lord takes us just as we are. With a humble and loving heart it’s a joy to be led where we need to be…I try to listen for his voice and if not sure, wait. I know from personal experience that it’s sometimes very hard as being a problem solver and independant by nature compounds the struggle, but I do feel that I’m getting better at letting go…and it’s such a relief! Perfection will never be achieved, and it’s not important…openness and letting go is. The more I practice, and just try just to relax and enjoy the journey, the more joy I find. Your heart is in the right place and God is already using you for good, my dear friend. Just let go and enjoy who you are now. God is already taking care of you. He wants you to experience this…He isn’t waiting until you are a perfect servant to love you…he loves you now… ”

    Who knew “He loves you now” could be so powerful. And so I let go of trying so hard and as Kate said so beautifully – all questions are God drawing us closer. Every question is a prayer….a running conversation. All of it is learning….to ask, to seek, to wrestle with and mull and ponder and pay attention to what is rather than what we think it is supposed to be. And in the still and the quiet sometimes we see. Looking and paying attention we see. We draw the connections. “Sometimes,” Anne Lamott writes, “heaven is just a new pair of glasses.” (Or sometimes the connections smack us up alongside the head.) And I reached a point where the serendipity and synchronicity could no longer be explained away or ignored… and it kept happening the more I paid attention to it. So, I asked a clergy friend about it and she said: write it down and pay attention, and it will happen more. And it did.

    And this is how the Sacred finds us. For John it was a closet; for Anne Lamott it was a little black cat following her home; for Barbara Brown Taylor it was Leaving Church and finding Alters in the World; for Karen Armstrong it was leaving the nunnery and researching The History of God; for Elizabeth Gilbert it was on a rooftop on a yoga retreat in India. For me it was letting go of what I thought I knew and unlearning what got in the way of letting myself love and be loved. But, as Diana said, in all of those it was in a still quiet place while contemplating the questions that plague us and paying attention, this is when the A-has seem to hit like God grabbing our attention.

    If you like psychology Jung thought we all had the capacity to be mystics – to know and experience God. I think he’s right. And if you like Sufi poetry – Rumi gets it. And if you lean Buddhist….the Buddha got it too. Be still and know that I Am.

    PS: I checked out your site. I love your work and your creative perspective. All good things to you, Rhys.

  • This is beautiful, Kate. You have to love wise old women.

  • vj

    “And isn’t that the parents forcing a sin? Namely, the giving of false testimony? ”

    Dearest Shadsie – brilliant observation, again! Wow, if only these parents could be confronted with this truth… if the only way to achieve your goal is to use evil methods, then maybe it’s not a goal you should be trying to achieve?

  • vj

    I suspect you are right about this family’s pastor – and yet, in my Bible it says that God’s kindness leads us to repentance, so what possible Biblical justification (since they most likely are basing their current ‘intervention’ on what they think the Bible says) is there for acting in a way that is the total opposite of how God treats us? I just don’t understand the [supposed] logic!!!!! And, as Shadsie pointed out in an earlier comment, their forced phone-call to the boyfriend was a violation of the COMMANDMENT to not give false testimony, and their whole approach seems to be based on manipulation, which is, according to the Bible, akin to witchcraft (trying to control another person) – aaarrggghhhhh!!!!!!! 🙁

  • Dirgham Tamas

    Someone really needs to serve as a lifeline to the outside world for this young man.

    I say this because I was in a relationship with a controlling and abusive boyfriend once when I was studying abroad. He exercised most of his control over me by cutting me off from the outside world, and progressively killing my self-worth so that I did not believe I was capable of doing anything on my own, without him. I could not use the Internet without him looking over my shoulder, so I could not tell anyone else how bad things were even if I had wanted to. He made me believe that I was so worthless I could not even cook, use the public transportation, or find my way around the city without him. I had no other friends. And he did this *fast.* Within a couple of weeks, I was completely under his control. It only ended when he dumped me because I was no longer interesting to him. Looking back on myself then, it’s like an out-of-body experience, watching someone with a completely different personality, some passive and suggestible zombie, occupy my body. I got over it, and I’m fine now, but it was a pretty miserable place to be.

    A lot of the actions of the parents correspond to what my ex-boyfriend did to control me. Cutting me off from the outside world? Trying to make me feel horrible about various aspects of myself? And you mentioned that there is probably emotional and verbal abuse.

    Someone needs to serve as a lifeline for him, for him to grab onto when he feels he can get out, and to keep showing him that there is an outside world out there, and it’s not like this. I don’t know where the best place to start would be, but various people have given suggestions of various gay and lesbian organizations you could turn to. If you want a really clear and thorough analysis of controlling behavior, I would recommend “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker. Also, please keep a written record of everything you see or hear as it happens, in case any legal action ever comes out of this.

    Sorry to be so scary here, but I see a lot of myself in this situation, and I lost my sense of self and will to fight really fast.

  • Dirgham Tamas

    Could you print the whole thing out at a print shop somewhere and mail it to her that way? It would be faster than waiting a month.

  • Diana A.

    I’ve only read part of it, but what I’ve read is appalling.

  • jodi

    My dear precious all powerful loving God….I ask you, with tears in my eyes, to please be with this family. How my heart breaks as I know this breaks yours as well. I pray for safety, I pray for knowledge, I pray for hope, I just pray, pray, pray…….

    Thank you Lord for knowing our heart’s cries…..

  • mike moore

    Dear Laura and daughter,

    Many years ago this same kind of thing happened to “Josh” (not real name) a young friend of friend. Josh was 19 but believed he had no option other than to stay with parents and to live according to their dictates.

    Josh’s friends gathered a small group (12-15) of us together, some people who knew Josh well, and some of us whom he had only met in passing. We made simple signs and assembled, with permission, on a neighbor’s lawn across the street for two days. At night, we lit candles. The signs said:







    My favorite was, “JOSH, I’LL LOAN YOU MONEY (but you have to pay it back someday)”

    Twice the police tried, unsuccessfully, to break it up due to neighbor complaints, but we had not been making noise and had recorded all on video. One of our group, by design, was a young attorney armed with local ordinances.

    Josh never showed his face, and, sadly, we ended up leaving the signs planted on the neighbor’s lawn.

    4 or 5 nights later, Josh wound up on a friend’s doorstep with only his backpack and an iPod. Once he realized he would not be facing the world alone, he had simply waited for the right time to leave. We all pitched in for a few months, and over 10 years later, I hear he’s graduated from college, has a great boyfriend, and loves his life.

    This kind of activism may not work in your small southern town, but at least consider putting a big banner on your car and parking in front of his house, letting your “Josh” know he’s not alone.

    good luck to all of you.

  • Joyce

    This is so sad. I know first hand what this does to a family but pushing your child away is not the answer.

  • Poor kids! Possibly some will say they are the lucky ones, but it would be luckier for us if they were still alive. Although I’m not gay (because it’s probably determined by biology), I definitely don’t want them committing suicide. With few exceptions, gay folks are very nice and decent people, and nobody but jerks want them jumping off the face of the Earth. Bullies will use any excuse to bully people, like some passage written by a crazy guy and put into religious text. It isn’t that I don’t believe in God (I do, actually, from a scientific perspective); it’s just one can’t follow everything said in Leviticus (or in Genesis, for that matter). If one did, they’d end up in jail. Surely society has evolved enough that if an action lands one in jail for twenty years, it’s probably wrong. Now, there are some unjust laws (like ones that subjugate sections of the populace), but they’ll get fixed eventually. Then there will be more unjust laws to fix, because perfection isn’t in the nature of this universe.

  • LSS


  • LSS

    i wonder what i would have done if some people had told me things like this when i was 18. i don’t know that it would have worked right away, after all the brainwashing was in more subtle and less dramatic areas, and i didn’t have that much motivation to have a life of my own.

    but if somebody had told me those kind of things that early, i doubt it would have taken me until age 35+ to get out from under my parents’ manipulation.

  • Mike, this is all kinds of awesome. Thank you for standing up for what’s right and for showing Josh that he was not alone. 🙂

  • Donald Rappe

    I don’t know for sure if I qualify, but, I just like sitting over here with you guys. Really inspiring today. I know that when God speaks to me he doesn’t shout. There was that one time when I was almost 70 and he raised his voice a little and addressed me verbally: “Don, you old fart …” I don’t remember the rest verbatim, but, I’ve got the idea now and will never forget that honorific title he gave me.

    Some days I like to sit with the Catholics too. Some of us Lutherans can be pretty wishy washy that way. Still I was brought up with the heresy of “inerrancy” and like to sit here with you.

  • Donald Rappe


  • Alan

    So well put Carrie. I’m a ( elderly ) practising Christian and really get beside myself by the sanctimonious utterances of some of my fellow parishioners. I will always try to live a Christian based life but have incredible difficulty in attending bible study classes due to my friend’s, including our minister’s, interpretation of a book written almost 2,000 years ago.

  • Diana A.

    We like having you here!

  • Diana A.

    This is wonderful!

  • Yes, we do. It’s a roomy pew. There’s plenty of space.

  • NS

    Wow. Talk about a powerful message. it isimportant to tell ‘Josh’es everywhere htat they are loved. Thank you for doing it!

  • Aingyl

    I just….. WTH?!?!? My heart is breaking for that poor kid. I don’t understand how any parents could possibly justify that kind of treatment of their children.

    Bring the Bible into it? Ok. Fine. Well, I don’t remember the exact passage, but I DO remember that there’s a section in the Bible that says we’re not to force our beliefs on others, and I think this situation would be described as ‘force’.

    How is holding your own adult child prisoner in your house and subjecting them to who knows what kind of abuse, all because he’s gay and you’re determined to change that, supposed to be in any way Christian, loving behavior? Someone, please explain this to me, because while my personal faith is a bit shaky right now, I still know what the Christianity I was brought up with is about and this is NOT it.

  • Laura

    All of your prayers and suggestions have helped. John, I’m first in line for the

    Paperback! It will be on thier door step. The one thing here, that I just don’t understand is that these parents TRUELY believe thier son is just making bad choices. The good part is he has stood up for his rights as a person.He may soon be spending time with us until the spring semester at college begins. His parents may find OK to ruin his future, but I can’t sit back and do nothing. I may never change thier mind, well….I may never even get the chance to talk with them. I will, however, do what it takes to see our young friend grow into a wonderful, well adjusted man. That, I’m sure can happen, when you have people around that respect you for who are. He will find that in our home. Thanks, friends of J.S. For the encouranging words to my daughter. She won’t regret standing up for what’s right and excepting people for who they are.

  • Soulmentor

    Thanks, I’m in the process of reading it. Very moving. Good on you, John.