Could the Christian Right be more wrong?

Here’s a letter I recently received:

Dear John,

I spent sixteen years as a fundamental evangelical Christian, trying to get God to fix me. I studied theology and Biblical counseling for three years in the hopes of discovering what I was doing wrong that was keeping God from answering my prayers to make me straight. I struggled with the guilt of same-sex attraction every day, and had no way of turning it off.

I was so despondent over my situation that I felt suicidal. I knew what was in store for me if I came out, but I was really at the point where I was either going to be a gay woman, or a dead woman. Thinking about my two beautiful children, I knew that they would prefer a gay mom. So I did what I had to do. I just had no idea how bad it would get before it started to get better.

I came out to my fundamental evangelical husband almost four years ago. Initially, he was loving and kind. However, the church knew something was wrong–and when he told them what it was, I never had another civil conversation with him. He came home from a meeting with the pastors, and announced that the church was starting “Biblical discipline proceedings” (construed from Matthew 18) against me, and that the elders of the church would be contacting me.

The elders came to meet with me at my dad’s house to confirm that I was a lesbian, although I had not been unfaithful to my husband, or had any lesbian relationships during our marriage. They called me an apostate: one who knows the truth, but who then chooses to turn away from God and reject Him.

I told them that I loved God, and did not reject Him. They believe in predestination, so I argued that if I was chosen by God, then being a lesbian wouldn’t keep me from heaven—and that if God didn’t choose me I was going to hell anyway, so I might as well be happy in this life. They told me that I was going to hell, and left. Before exiting, they asked my husband to be sure that our two children were in worship service on the Sunday a few weeks later when they were having the Lord’s Supper.

In that public worship service, they announced my “sin” to the congregation, and invited everyone to contact me to let me know how they felt about my sin. The congregation was told they were not allowed to speak to me about anything other than my sin.

I praise God that my children did not make it to that service, as my dad took my kids up to his cabin for the day (where my ex was not able to locate them). After the service I received angry letters telling me that I was hell-bound–including one from a twelve-year-old friend of my daughter. I got a visit from one woman who came by my house to speak to me about how I was grieving Jesus. She became emotional and lashed out, punching me in the face and bloodying my nose. I also praise God for sparing my daughter that sight.

My ex’s church helped him to hire a “Christian” lawyer to help him hide our assets. I had to borrow $2,000 from my father to hire my own lawyer. This man took my case, then never met with me until the day before my hearing. I didn’t even know that I was allowed to have witnesses. The judge of our case was appointed by the governor of Georgia, who happened to be a Sunday School teacher at the same mega-church my ex’s lawyer attended—where Johnny Hunt, then President of the Southern Baptist Convention, was pastor.

And it was an election year.

I didn’t have a prayer in my rural Georgia county.

I lost my home, rental properties, custody of my kids, my dog, and everything else I had ever worked for. The judge ordered me to leave with only my eight-year-old car and my clothes, until such time as the ex and I worked out an agreement.

For the next two years my ex continued to argue with me over everything, so that I would go broke just negotiating, and give up everything to him.

Before, I had been a home-schooling mom: I was a foster mom, hospice volunteer, church librarian, and I helped my ex with his house-flipping business. Now I had no home, no money, no education, no church, and no place to live.

All of the shunning and mistreatment of this “Biblical discipline” was intended to show me the Christian fellowship I was going to be missing out on. However, I was highly resolved not to go back to a life of lies and misery. My church had to “disfellowship” me off of their roster. In another public worship service, they prayed for the death of my sin, including my physical death. Yes, they asked God to kill me if it meant that I would not bring reproach upon the name of Jesus Christ. It was the lowest point of my life. Even my own mom and her evangelical family cut me out of the family. They refused to speak to me, and my mom said to me that she “hated” what I had become (a lesbian), and that I was a “despicable human being.” I went to live with my Grandma, the woman to whom I was closer than anyone else in the world. She had been sick; we soon found out she had leukemia, and was given six to eight weeks to live. She made it almost three months. When she died, I thought I was going to join her. My heart was almost totally broken.

A few months after my grandma died, during my first Christmas without her, my mom’s family had their usual Christmas gathering, to which I was not invited. They did, however, invite my ex to bring our children. My mom even took my ex and our children on a cruise. It was their way of punishing me for “choosing” my “lifestyle.” My ex enrolled our children in a Christian school, where I was not allowed to take any part in their education; if I attempted to, I was told, the children would be expelled from the school. When I went to their school activities I was shunned and usually left sitting alone, a wide circle of empty chairs around me, as if I had a contagious disease. It was humiliating to be in a room filled with people I had once loved and ministered to, who now wouldn’t sit in the same row of seats with me.

Knowing that I was now walking in truth for the first time in my life allowed me to hold my head high. At times, it was a bitter pill to swallow, but in the end, it showed me how it feels to be judged, and I thank God for that lesson. God never gives you more than you can handle, and what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger. My God has supplied all my needs according to His riches in glory. I have struggled like never before to make a new life for myself. I recently earned my associate degree in Marketing Management (with a 3.95 GPA, thank you very much), and am now at Southern Poly getting my BA in Professional Communications. I just finished an internship for my local ABC affiliate, working as a segment producer on a local TV-show about non-profits. My college, so far, has cost me nothing: I’ve won three scholarships. I get side work cleaning houses, working as a professional organizer, and freelance writing for Atlanta’s premiere LGBT bi-weekly newspaper, The Georgia Voice. (I even had a cover story with country singer Chely Wright last year!) I am madly in love with my wife, Melissa. We found a pastor who was willing to marry us; although we are not now legally wed, we wanted to make that commitment to each other, and to God.

I love Jesus. I love His teachings. I am passionate about reconnecting LGBT people with God, and I hope to be able to earn a living at being an activist, speaker, and motivator in this line. Either way, God has restored to me everything that was lost, and more. How can I be bitter or complain when I now have the life that I always dreamed of? — S.H., Atlanta, Georgia


This is one of the letters included in UNFAIR: Why the “Christian” View of Gays Doesn’t Work. (NookBook edition here. Print edition forthcoming.)

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Pat

    Wow – still yet….. Hey, listen to John – no pressure, there, John….. much…. but he has very good counsel. I will say this – as much as you are grieving and hurting and reeling from this, you girls will see the truth at some point. Stay in the grace of God as best you can. And let others into your pain who can hold you up and love you.

  • Robin Vestal via Facebook

    What a horrible thing to experience! Sigh. We have a long way to go to know what love means.

  • Very inspiring.

  • John C Hoddy via Facebook

    Horrifying to hear about people who claim the name of Christ but are blinded by hatred. God bless this beautiful lady.

  • Absolutely revolting.

  • The truth is that homosexuality is still a sin, yet the way this church and husband responded was anything but Biblical. God responds to sin with grace. This church did not show grace.

  • Benjamin Sullivan via Facebook

    Wow, this entire church needs to re-read their Bibles if they think it is ok to pray for anyone’s death. I will pray that they will see the error of their ways and the true sin/evil of their hatred and malice towards on of God’s children.

  • What a brave and resilient woman…amazing story.

  • Karen Langford

    My heart goes out to S.H. I would go so far to say that “her” church was not a Christian church, but a cult of hate. I’m so sorry she had to go through what she went through. I hope she knows that there are a LOT of people who love and support her just as she is. I’m straight and a what I call a “believer in all things that are good” and I totally love and support my gay friends and all gays. Seems like every generation has a group that they target for hate and bigotry. At one time, it was the American Indians. Jews. Japanese. African Americans. Women. Now it’s gays, Mexicans, and Muslims. You’d think we would learn from our past. So, S.H. Hang in there. I totally believe that everything happens for a reason and that everything is in Divine Order, though we may not see it at the time. Spirit is prepping you for something great and wonderful. Believe in yourself and know that you are a magnificent, wonderful, beautiful, miraculous child of the Universe and that you are powerful beyond measure.

  • Well, here’s a case in point of the question I was going to ask. John, how would you respond to someone who says this very thing that Chris has just said?

    Aside from saying that homosexuality is NOT a sin and that I hope they’ll buy and read John’s book, I’d like to hear what others have to say.

    Oh, and Chris: homosexuality is not a sin. I hope you’ll buy and read John’s book.

  • Mindy

    No, Chris, that is not the truth. :::::::deep, exhausted sigh of exasperation at the perpetuation of the ignorant myth::::::::::: Get John’s book. Please. Read it. Read the last chapter, especially. You will see that all that you have been taught on this subject is WRONG.

    What Paul criticizes in the Bible is behavior akin to the alleged actions of the Penn State coach. Which has nothing to do with being gay, and everything to do with being a predator, with non-consensual behavior. John explains it, thoroughly and clearly, in the book. I implore you to read it.

  • If you think that’s the “truth”, I might gently suggest you do a bit deeper study on the meaning of the Hebrew word “abomination”. If then, you still believe that to be the “truth”, I earnestly hope and pray that you never eat shellfish, wear polyester, or touch a football. Or watch it, I suppose, since that would be supporting “an abomination”.

    Be blessed.

  • These stories bring tears to my eyes and to my soul. I just have a hard time understanding how some who claim to follow Jesus use His name to justify hatred, exclusiveness, and violence. But take heart! We re the future!

    Rev. Don Hildenbrand

    Progressive Christian Alliance

  • Mindy Brown Carney via Facebook

    @Chris Coopenbarger – PLEASE read John’s book. I responded to you on his blog, but you reallyreallyREALLY need to read it.

  • Amy Mitchell via Facebook

    That is…sick. Just sick. The church that did those things, not the woman who wrote the letter.

  • Val P.

    Yes, I was told I was an apostate as a teenager because I did not choose to spend all my time at church with my “christian” friends, and instead chose to belong to the marching band at my high school, which they deemed was of the devil. They told me I was as bad as any sinner who ever lived. As bad as Hitler. I had never known such hatred – and to experience it at church! I felt violated.

    I truly admire S.H., she is a very strong and resourceful person. To not harbor hatred for the evil these “christians” did to her shows how close she truly is to the Lord.

  • mike moore

    The truth is my hometown Episcopal Church has a beloved gay Reverend, living in a long-term relationship.

    The truth is that if you believe homosexuality is in a sin, you shouldn’t have homo-sex …. but don’t put judgement on me or anyone else.

  • Lymis

    Being gay is not a sin. It is simply a fact, like being tall, or white, or left-handed.

    Yes, God responds to sin with grace. But God also responds to life with love. Being different is not being evil.

    Rhys, I can’t speak for anyone else, but my answer is that I don’t have to justify myself. I don’t need a book to tell me my experience of God, and over a lifetime, God has made it very, very clear that I am loved.

    I am a child of God, created to be eternally a part of God’s love and God’s plan. When every copy of every book, including the Bible, is dust and forgotten, every gay person who ever lived will still be a part of God’s love and God’s plan.

    For love is of God, and EVERYONE who loves is born of God and knows God. And anyone who does not know love, does not know God. And anyone who meets me and spends time with my husband and I and does not see love, doesn’t know love.

    My answer to these people is to wonder how they can sleep at night without waking in terror of two of the most frightening sections of the Bible – the Lord’s Prayer, where we ask God to judge and forgive us EXACTLY by the standards we apply to those around us, not by any objective rules, and the parable of the sheep and goats, where our salvation hinges entirely on our treatment of those we consider to be least worthy of love.

    You want to stand before God at the last judgement and have Him say, “The rules and the Book are all very well, but now let’s talk about how you treated the least of your brothers” and have to justify the “your very existence, your experience of love, and your deepest feelings are all sin, deserving of nothing but condemnation” that you applied to us?

  • Lymis,

    Thank you so, so much for your beautiful and eloquent words. Reading them was truly a blessing.


  • I would like to read Wings, but I don’t know if I could stand 29 more stories like this. It ends well, but dear God what a road. I’d be really curious if this group (I refuse to call them a church) has a habit of this behavior for other matters, or just in these circumstances. I somehow doubt that when a couple goes to one of their staff counselors for marriage problems that it gets aired to the whole congregation. I’m sure there’s at least a handful of previously divorced people sitting in those pews that didn’t get the riot act. I’m positive the majority have eaten shrimp once or twice in their lives and that the rest of the fellowship isn’t barred from talking to them about anything but their gastronomical heresies. I’m positively mystified that anyone who has read any of Jesus’ statements could actually think this is Christlike behavior.

  • DR

    Chris, you’re certainly welcome to have whatever opinion you want about what the Bible says about homosexuality. Many if not most reasonable christians believe otherwise and we’re saying so. We’re also making sure that you know when you *express* your opinion (and it’s just an opinion), you are responsible for the permissive environment that allows people like this to act with such evil. And the blood of those kids and adults who not only think about suicide but do it is on your hands – it is *your* interpretation of the Bible that is driving many into despair and your decision to proudly express it is a choice to prioritize you needing to be “right” about homosexuality vs. their emotional and physical well being. I and others are holding you accountable to the consequences of that choice to express what it is that you believe.

  • Silas M.

    Chris, for the longest time I also thought that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin. Now days, I’m not sure at all. There are many books out there bringing new light to the verses we usually use to condemn homosexuality. Maybe it would do well for you to read a few of them to get a different and refreshing view on the subject. Give yourself a chance to see the other side. Take care.

  • Oh… SO well-said, DR. Wow. That was incredible. Really.

  • Trust me: each story in “Wings” is absolutely unique.

  • Mary Ellen Mayo via Facebook

    Coppenbarger: we don’t come on your pages and call you out, please don’t do it to us. I do not like trolling, which is what you seem to be doing. People like you following people like me to our places of refuge and refusing to leave us alone is contributing to the high rates of depression and suicide. You don’t show grace either by following us here and telling us further how unacceptable we are to you and your co-religionists. It’s called “concern-trolling, and you need to stop it. NOW.

  • my greatest heartache for this brave woman is the forced separation from her childre. i pray that they do not fall prey to the evil and hate their “church” and “christian school” is spewing and can come to learn what a strong woman their mother is. and that this being accomplished, they forgive their father for the weakness and hate he permitted others to instill within him.

  • Mary Ellen

    Mr. Coppenbarger, I have blocked you on Facebook. I do not like it when people who have spent years wounding me follow me to what is supposed to be a place of refuge and love for me and people like me, and dump salt by the pound into my still open wounds and those of others like me. Don’t assume that people like me will burn in your hell; Jesus spoke approvingly of the Good Samaritan and not the “good religious people”(and save your comments about “it’s not a religion, it’s a relationship” for somebody else) of his day. Samaritans were “doctrinally and lifestyle-wise unacceptable to the “good religious people” in Jesus’ culture. But who ended up being a good neighbor to the man taken by robbers? When it was reluctantly admitted that it was the one that took compassion on him, and the man in question was the societal/religious outcast, Jesus told them to do the same. As far as we know, the man never got his doctrinal/lifestyle ducks in a neat, perfect row. But Jesus spoke well of him and he’s an example today, 2000 years later….I’m not yet at the place where I can treat you gently, and I really admire and respect those who can. But for God’s sake, can’t we have some peace and loving treatment from these gentle folk here without you barging in and saying we are sin? Don’t you have your own websites for that? Why do you come here and intrude where the others are trying to show love and respect? Does it make you feel better about yourself, or more holy?

  • Pam Suggs

    Having gone to a fundamentalist church for a number of years I can honestly see this happening, although it never happened in the church I attended to that extent. However, it was obvious when the Pastor was preaching his sermon on Sundays it was being directed at certain people, (supposedly subliminal, however he wasn’t smart enough to make it that way) and everyone in the congregation knew. If anyone got on his bad side there would be a sermon attacking them. The reason I know is because eventually I was the target after challenging the church on Grace, which of course is the Gospel and Jesus Christ. Amazing the damages that “church” can do to people in the name of Jesus Christ. Much love to you my friend, and much understanding…..

  • This story was AMAZING… Wow.

  • Mindy

    Mary Ellen, I’m so sorry. I try hard not to make the first comment I make to someone an ugly one – although I do fail at that now and again. I tried to patient (through gritted teeth) with this guy. Had I known, however, that he is a serial jackass, that he has wounded you for YEARS, I’d have spoken far more . . . colorfully.

  • I sure thought so.

  • Thanks, Pam, so much, for sharing this. Check out my little story in this same vein –of being called a heretic by your pastor: (which is included in “Wings”):

  • DR

    Good for you Mary Ellen. Cut the toxic off at the root and deal with it in a public place (this kind of theology thrives in more private places where it’s not under “spiritual attack” – the euphemism used for “a call into accountability for the expression of your opinion”.

  • DR

    It was. I had to put the book down after 3 of these stories. What people go through is so horrible it makes me sick to my stomach and so terribly sad that we’re still here.

  • You know that old saw “Hate the sin, love the sinner”?

    This is not what that looks like.

    The hatred being poured out at this woman is saddening and infuriating. That it’s being done in God’s name is disgusting.

  • Amen to that, Ken.

  • I found most of the stories, in the end, extremely uplifting. They were just … ennobling, I found.

  • William

    That was one heart-wrenching experience. I’m trying to think of another group of people that would act this dispicably to a fellow human being. As ignorant goobers they acted amazingly bad. As a church of supposed christians I don’t even know what to say.

    The irony is they believe themselves to be followers of Christ Jesus, when by their ugly hearts and horrendous actions they are murderers of Jesus. I really wonder how they could be so blissfully unaware of the disparity between His teaching and their actions. These people more resemble Osama bin Laden than Jesus of Nazareth. They couldn’t possibly be more offensive to God if they had been the ones to pound the nails into Jesus.

    Why is it that the ones who proclaim the loudest their belief in heaven are the ones who are the most intent in making this life on Earth a living hell for others?

    Has anyone else noticed this? Or am I imagining it?

  • Sharon


    He drew a circle that shut me out —

    Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

    But Love and I had the wit to win:

    We drew a circle that took him in.

    ~ Edwin Markam

    Love always wins, and Jesus’ love outshines them all. Thank you S.H., for sharing your story. It will touch many others who’ve been where you’ve been.

  • scott collier

    Having been raised in the Southern Baptist Church I am painfully aware of the undercurrent of bigotry and fear that seems to have permiated this organization . I remember all too clear the films villifying assorted other religions and people of alternative lifestyles . This experience quite likely contributed to my ” lost decade ” of drugs and self desrtructiveness . The humiliation and social/spiritual terrorizing you recieved is nothing short of sickening . The fact you perseveered and built a new , more truthful life without losing your love of Christ is remarkable !! While your experience has given you newfound faith and resolve , it is just heartbreaking that such tradgedies are so commonplace in a community claiming to be followers of Christ . My sincerest best wishes and grattitude for sharing . Scott

  • Andie

    She says she has the life she always dreamed of, but did she get custody of her kids back? Does she see them? I’m worried about them!

  • You know that old saw “Hate the sin, love the sinner”?

    This is not what that looks like.


    Sadly for many,that is exactly what it looks like. At least form the point of view of the ones “loving the sinner”. They believe they are doing the right thing. They believe that a holy book tells them to do so. They believe they can force people to bend their wills to fit into a particular set of parameters. They believe such actions are righteous and just.

    They do not see what it really does. They do not see the pain and suffering such mindsets cause, the destruction to families and relationships, the pushing away from God that is caused or the fact that such actions are anything but representations of love.

    If it weren’t so common, we’d have no need for the messages of John Shore or this brave woman, or the stories of many others who’ve been ostracized merely for daring to be themselves.

  • Monica Neiderman via Facebook

    The best revenge is a life well lived. It’s horrific what they’ve done to her children. Hopefully they will walk the true path of Christ with their mother someday. Kids are not stupid. They will see the love of God doesn’t exit in the church their father takes them.

  • I’m afraid for her former church. The most HEINOUS crime under the eyes of God- is to sow dischord among believers. Half the people talkin’ bout heaven ain’t goin’!

  • I’m glad you are happy now and am sorry for how your fellow “Christians” treated you. They don’t know the meaning of loving God, or else they would love His (or Her) creation, which includes homosexual people. Even if homosexuality was a sin (which I don’t think it is), Jesus said, “He who hath no sin, throw the first stone.”

  • Scary and so wrong. I feel badly for the kids. I hope she can get reconciled with them somehow and that they can manage to see through all the lies they’re still being fed. 🙁

  • Thomas Mills via Facebook

    More than half to be honest…..

  • Lymis

    Not to minimize the horrors of the writer’s story, but my husband almost went through much the same thing. When he came out, he was married with kids, and his church was poised to do exactly the same thing to him and to them. Luckily, an associate pastor at his church got involved and helped him expedite a transfer to a gay friendly denomination and congregation (one which apparently accepts a lot of similar “refugees”).

    Since he was “officially” no longer a member of their church, they felt no need to do the official shunning, so his “sin” was never read from the pulpit in front of his soon-to-be ex and kids, and his former “brothers and sisters” were never sicc’ed on him with the torches and pitchforks. Of course, unofficially, they made sure to spread the word.

  • Kat


    Wow, what stunning words. Really, truly beautiful. Amen.

  • denver

    I don’t even have words. God bless you.

  • Joshua

    This situation is deplorable and sad: to banish someone because of their different lifestyle (whether it actually be a sin or not). If it truly is a sin, should not the law of love even more increase? Honestly, I never settled on its being a sin or not, but I cannot condone the sin of the white-washed pharisees who believe they are doing right by ostracizing and demonstrating so-called “tough love.” They self-righteously judge others without consideration of their own sin of pride in what they consider standard morality, greed in having their way in all situations, having to validate their own religion by tearing others down, and violating the law of love and mercy. My parents taught me to treat people as people whether I agreed with them or not. I’m not trying to convince others to abandon their belief that homosexuality is a sin or not, but I am concerned about considering ourselves higher than we ought to. Living at peace with all people as far as it depends on you.

  • The story is heartbreaking but the ending is uplifting and shows the marvel of Christian love, to enable her to overcome bitterness. Thanks for sharing.

  • S.H.

    I am the S.H. in the story and I don’t want anyone to worry about my 2 precious children. They were 14 and 16 when I came out and from the moment that I told them, they said, “We love you , Mom. This doesn’t change anything.” They did live with their dad initially, as the court ordered.

    The oldest went to college (on scholarship!) and the younger is almost 18 now and she petitioned the court to be able to live with me at the beginning of 2011. My lawyer made arrangements with her school for her to be able to stay and graduate this year as long as the legal language in court papers described her father as a joint custodial parent.

    Another interesting side note: my ex husband no longer goes to this (Southern Baptist) church (cult) because when all was said and done, he didn’t feel like they had really been there for him and that he had no real friends there.

  • S.H.

    And THANK YOU for all of the kind and encouraging comments. I am beyond grateful for the love coming from you all.

  • S.H.

    Thank you for your blessing.

  • S.H.

    They know what happened to me was NOT what Jesus would do and they hold no bitterness towards God because they understand it was not God that did this. Everyone is doing great and my relationship with my children could not be better. Oldest is in college and youngest is almost 18 and living with me now. Thanks for your concern.

  • S.H.

    Please don’t worry, Andie. They were 14 and 16 when this happened. The oldest one went to college and LOVES it. The younger is almost 18 and has been living with me for the past year. She is doing so well – very happy and trying to decide which college that she wants to go to that won’t require her to leave Mama’s house. Everything is great with all 3 of us. Thank you for your concern.

  • S.H.

    Good news: the kids are all right. Oldest is in college and has a great head on his shoulders. Youngest (almost 18) now lives with me and she is doing so well. Neither of them blame God and they understand that what happened to me is what can happen when people stop thinking for themselves and let others do the thinking for them. They are on a good path. Thanks so much for your concern.

  • Your courage inspires me. I am so glad you have gotten out of that abusive situation and that you and your kids are doing well in spite of it all!

  • Mirek Lobasz

    For me, this is further evidence that the Spirit is stronger than any church. God bless you and the owrk you are doing to help others caught in this web of hate.

  • IA

    Reading this breaks my heart. You are a true testament to how powerful the love of God is! Amazing. God Bless you!!

  • Lily Fraser via Facebook

    This is so TYPICAL of Fundies! Another reason never to set foot in their den of ignorance. My first husband was gay, and married me in hopes that being with a “good christian woman” would set him “straight” of course it didn’t work and made both our lives miserable. He passed away some years ago, my heart goes out to him and every person, Gay or Straight who has to deal with the hatred and ignorance of such churches…now I tell people, RUN! AS FAST AS YOU CAN FROM THESE BIGOTS!!

  • Baltezaar

    S.H., thank you for sharing your story. It was heartbreaking, outrageous, and infuriating. What amazes me most is your ability to disentangle the hate and bigotry from actual faith; I so admire that you held onto spirituality in the midst of treatment that (understandably) convinces many of the utter unreality of God. Your letter was – is – a conduit for grace and healing. Continue living your life proudly and with love.

  • Mari D

    Reading this story was physically painful for me. Having grown up in a fringe fundamentalist group, I was always taught that homosexuality is a sin by people outside my immediate family. When I was about twelve, my mother took me aside and told me that if I was a lesbian or bisexual or whatever, that Christ had every use in the world for me, and that nothing would ever change her relationship with me. This was shortly before one of my elder sisters came out (though I think everyone knew she was gay beforehand). Being a member of the millenial generation, I think I had a great deal less trouble than others resolving their Christian faith/upbringing with homosexuality, or coming to the conclusion that there’s nothing ‘wrong’ with being gay. I just can’t believe that a man who would allow this sort of thing to happen to anyone, let alone a woman who has proven herself for years to be a devoted wife and mother, and passionate educator of their children. I pray that your book will have a strongly positive effect on quelling such virulent and hateful, un-Christian, not to mention inhuman, reactionary results when people decide to stop lying to themselves and loved ones. Unbelievable.

  • Think it’s about forgiveness

  • Erin D.

    Thank you for the update on your children. I was so worried you hadn’t been able to contact them. I am trembling after reading your story. God gave you such incredible strength. Bless you for sharing your story.

  • I sometimes think that people who are *too* concerned with *just getting to Heaven* miss what’s right in front of them – the good things and opportunity for love here on Earth.

    I don’t mean that everyone who *believes* in Heaven is missing out. I believe and kind of… need to (as weak as that might make me), but I don’t make “just getting to Heaven” my primary goal in life anymore. I figure if you’re interested in “just getting there” you might “just” get there, without much love to carry with you – something like that.

    I think there was a post on here about life being like an art muesum and wondering what’s behind the Staff Only door all the time makes you miss the Monets. I think with a lot of people, it makes them willing to trample other patrons just to get past that Staff Only door.

  • erika

    i believe with my whole heart and mind and spirit. that the people who did this to that poor woman and her children and even misleading her EX will be judged. harshly. this is the reason that i will always er on the side of love. when i stand before the Lord if the worst thing he can say i did is love and affirm and embrace. then right on!

  • erika


    i am so glad to hear that you are free and well and living in truth and joy. praise g*d..

  • Diana A.

    Yup. And I believe heaven and hell are the same place and one’s attitude determines which it is.

  • Tyler Simonds

    I have many words, but none of which could do any justice to how much respect I have for your bravery in the face of such crushing prejudice. Indeed, God bless you. This has inspired me to go to greater lengths to speak against those that persecute our brothers and sisters in this society, and stand for those persecuted. Again, a thousand times, God bless you.

  • I find it appalling that Christians would treat someone they love so harshly, I can’t fathom it. I haved always wondered with the hyper-extreme fundie crowd why homosexuality stirs up such hateful treatment. What if she was an internet porn addict, would it be the same reaction? How about a closet alcoholic? Strung out on prescription drugs? How about (hetro) adultery? How about a change of doctrine about hell, the end-times, eternal security, the KJV Bible and age of the universe, then what? Would her husband and chrch leadership react the same under those circumstances? My heart grieves for her, I’m so sorry

  • EXACTLY, Brian. Good job.

  • Mary Ellen

    thank you, Mindy and DR….(((HUGS)))

  • Eunice

    It’s truly a miracle that your faith only got stronger through this terrible ordeal, and you have my admiration for that!

  • Is there any time when praying for someone’s death is *not* wrong? What I mean is that context is everything.

    I’ve prayed for someone’s death before. It was for my beloved grandmother after she was taken to the hospital for the last time. The doctors found her innards riddled with cancer and anything they could do for her would just be buying a little more time, but not much. Visits to the hospital showed that she didn’t want to be here anymore. It was wrecking my family – I couldn’t stand the thought of her spending months in pain and my mother spending months in pain watching her disintegrate, so I had a deep prayer session asking God just to take her.

    I can’t remember if it was a day later or two days later I heard that she’d died late in the night, probably in sleep. I remember going to work that day (I worked for a zoo at the time) and did not cry at all. I had a normal day at work. I’d spent all my tears earlier praying for her to go. When I heard she’d died, I was relieved because it meant she wasn’t in pain anymore. I didn’t cry at the funeral, either – I seem to remember trying to calm my mother down. I’m not sure I’ve ever cried at a funeral (I seem to get out my grief right when the news comes) – I’ve always felt awkward about that.

    That’s an entirely different context, however, than praying for a “sinner” to die because she doesn’t toe the church line. I can weirdly understand that, too – but more like the patterns and threads in thinking that lead up to such a horrible thing – It’s like worldbuilding for my writing when I want to make a fictional culture that does deplorable things have some kind of crazy logic to their doing deplorable things.

    Having read responses on here, I’m so glad the kids are okay and that good relationships are being maintained after this whole ordeal.

  • Andie

    Oh, I’m so glad! I am very happy now!

    Thank you for being so brave.

    Best wishes!

  • DR

    This is exactly what I wonder as well.

  • DR

    Reading this brings tears of relief to my eyes.

    You. Are. Amazing.

    This is such an encouragement to my own faith. Those girls are so lucky to have you as their mama. Knowing that you are in love, the girls are ok and in a weird way, that your husband isn’t around that kind of filth anymore made me deeply exhale. Thank you for being such an example of faith, perseverance in suffering and how the strength of Christ will rise in us when we allow it. You’re fantastic.

  • DR

    yes yes. I’ve read them all several times (it’s so great John).

  • Bobbi

    Shadsie- I think the problem with a lot of these folks is not that they are trying so hard to get to heaven. The problem lies in the fact that they are trying to get away from hell. Looking at my fundamentalist upbringing in hindsight I realize that I never had a relationship with the Lord. What I did when I walked the aisle at 8 was try to get a get out of hell free card. Everything I did was motivated by if you do *this* or *that* than you were not sincere in your profefession of faith and you will go to hell. I never experienced a loving God and a caring Jesus until I walked away from the fundie church of my youth. What they know and beleive is if they do not do as they are told they risk going to hell. The way they treated this woman keeps them out of hell. They are taught that if they showed her love (which they never learn how to do) and compassion they risk going to hell too. They are motivated not out of concern for someone’s well being and soul but out of fear of being condemned to hell themselves.

  • LSS

    i was creepily shunned by a fundamentalist church once after i tried to hint to this guy i was friends with (who happened to be several years younger than me but never a minor) that i would like to date him and marry him … but he thought i just wanted to have sex with him and he told his parents and the whole church about it. good thing it was a small church. i guess i wasn’t the kind of person he could even imagine marrying, so he didn’t get the hint the way i meant it. that and i suck at hints.

    and i *was* already suspect due to not being pre-mil but also not really seeing the point in worrying about the end times.

    but i don’t think they prayed for me to DIE. they just prayed for me to not be a slut, anymore… i was still a virgin at 32 when i married someone infinitely nicer, so i guess *that* worked LOL

  • LSS

    oh i am glad they are ok!!

    i hope your ex learns his lesson and repents about how he treated you. i am beginning to think people *can* actually change… but you never know who will.

  • LSS

    more examples don’t minimize each other. that just shows how much of a problem it still is in more places.

  • LSS

    what *would* be a good example of “hate the sin, love the sinner” ?

    just out of curiosity.

  • LSS

    someone told me once that it was ok to pray imprecatory psalms at or wish the death of fellow christians that were being horrible, because when they died they would go to heaven and not be sinful anymore and so they would not be bothering us. so, win-win.

    i think they were joking, but the logic of it was interesting.

  • Bobbi

    I remeber many years ago my favorite uncle died of a massive heart attack at 39. He had been an alcoholic and drug addict, the black sheep of the family. When he died he had been on the wagon for a number of months and seemed like he was starting to get his life together.

    At his funeral I heard a number of people make the comment that God took him then because God knew that he would not be able to keep being good. The worse thing was that some of the people that said that were family.

    I was in my teens at the time and remember thinking that was a horrible thing to say. Was that supposed to make us feel better about him being dead?

  • Diana A.

    I think it’s wrong to wish harm on another, but praying for your grandmother to die so that she wouldn’t suffer anymore was not wishing harm on her.

    I tend not to cry a lot when someone dies. I used to try to drum up more emotion than I felt when someone died because I felt that it was weird of me to not be devastated by the death. I’ve cried more over one of my cats dying than when a human died–but then to some extent, I’m closer to my cats than I am to a lot of people. Anyway, different people handle death differently–though I admit that I felt awkward at my mother’s funeral when I was the only one of my siblings not crying. Maybe I was too numb.

  • Diana A.

    Yes, Bobbi. I’m inclined to agree.

  • Tough one, because every time I’ve ever heard that phrase, it has been quickly followed or preceded by words or judgement and condemnation.


    The only way I think it is remotely possible is to remember that we ain’t hardly perfect. The mindset of “I am potentially five seconds away at all times from doing or saying something that could be harmful to me or another” puts the focus more on our own limitations.

    There is this odd little parable about a 2×4 and a piece of sawdust, one of my favorites. The lesson answers that question easily. Work on your own limited view brought on by that lump of Georgia pine because there is no way you can help wash out that speck of sawdust from that guy’s eye until you do. You also risk whopping the poor guy repeatedly around the head and shoulders with that protruding hunk of lumber in the attempt. Get rid of it first.

  • Diana A.

    “There is this odd little parable about a 2×4 and a piece of sawdust, one of my favorites. The lesson answers that question easily. Work on your own limited view brought on by that lump of Georgia pine because there is no way you can help wash out that speck of sawdust from that guy’s eye until you do. You also risk whopping the poor guy repeatedly around the head and shoulders with that protruding hunk of lumber in the attempt. Get rid of it first.”

    This is it, exactly.

  • Lymis

    I agree they’re wrong, but there’s an answer to your question.

    It’s because they feel we are not only sinners, but unrepentant sinners – who are making the excuse that the sin is not chosen and therefore can’t be repented, and that we darn well insist on continuing to do so.

    In a way, they see it not unlike an adulterer bringing his mistress to church and expecting everyone to welcome them both.

    I’m not defending it – I see it as a convenient way to provide theological cover for homophobia – but seen in that light, it is consistent.

    How and why homosexuality became the number 1 sin is a different question. There are plenty of unrepentant adulterers and gluttons around, but you don’t see national organizations raking in millions to rewrite state constitutions to deny them equal rights. Politely telling them they are no longer welcome in the church, possibly, but the anti-gay hysteria in inexcusable by any standard.

  • Lymis

    Wonderful! Hang in there.

    And I can’t say I’m surprised about your ex. My husband’s ex has been treated pretty poorly as well, and has changed congregations. (Still in the same denomination, but that’s a separate issue.)

  • mike moore

    you’re amazing SH, and I’m so happy your children know it.

  • Thank you for sharing your powerful story with John so he could share it with all of us. It is heart-wrenching and enraging yet, ultimately, inspiring to see again and again how the truth sets us free and love wins. All good things to you.

  • Mari D

    Sorry about the double-post, but I couldn’t help but think of the passage in Matt 7, where Jesus states that not everyone who has professed to be a Christian will enter the kingdom of God.

    21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

    22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?

    23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

    From what I understand, violating the Great Commandment falls under this blanket.

  • Anne

    The GBLT community is an often maligned group. Many have suffered the loneliness and frustration of being different, and the so-called righteous judging us for who we are. If we are all created in God’s image, then why do “christians” persecute us? Judge not, lest ye be judged. If certain “holier than thou” church goers don’t forgive others their faults, they will find no forgiveness either. None of us are perfect, so none of us can judge. That’s an inherently dangerous line to cross. Just know that God will always love you and you don’t need to be forgiven for being yourself.

  • HJ

    Thank you for the update on your children! That was my biggest concern. I was picturing them potentially stuck in that same church going through what you went through some day. So glad things worked out with them, hooray!

    And thank you for sharing your story. You are so brave to do so. Peace to you.

  • Donald Rappe

    Seeing how S.H. came through all that was stacked against her does reinforce my understanding of the omnipotence of God. Certainly there is also a picture of the horrible ugliness of evil in this story. Her husband received her self acknowledgement in a kind and loving way until he went to his “church”. There, disguised as “goodness”, was the father of all lies. So let us pray with Jesus: “Save us from the evil one.” Let us never put ourselves into his hands by fearfully closing our eyes and denying the creation as it reveals itself to us. The reality is the power of God can bear us up.And this Power shows itself to us as love!

  • Diana A.

    Yes indeed!

  • Richard Lubbers

    This is a sad but victorious story. It was painful to read. My wife was married for 20 years to one of those fundies. Then he left her in search of a young Ukranian bride. Tammy assures me this type of treatment is rampant in fundy Baptist churches. It breaks my heart to think that people who profess a love for God can be so cruel to members of their own families.

    But while it is painful to read these types of stories (thank you John for publishing Wings On A Pig) , it is encouraging to see the church as a whole is making a drastic turn towards love. Because of the great commandment, Christians are waking up, speaking out, and changing the way we define “sin”. I attribute that to the Holy Spirit moving people’s hearts to determine their attitudes.

    I like the term “emergent church”. I like it that we seem to be pulling out of the dark ages of evangelical Christianity. God is on a roll! Let’s continue to be a part of what God is doing in our world. After all, that’s what Jesus did (I do the things I see the Father doing).

    God is in the process of drawing all things into Jesus. All things. Judgmental people will stand before him one day. I believe they will be saved. There might not be much left, but they will have an opportunity to grow into the full revelation of God in Jesus Christ. The God of love will see to that. Until then, the voices of Christians who accept everyone will come to drown out the voice of hate. That will be a wonderful chorus!

  • Allie

    The part about her husband struck me as well. It’s tragic that this church acted as a force for evil in this man’s life.

  • Beautiful, Richard. Thank you for this. Of note: I can second your wife’s assurances. “Until then, the voices of Christians who accept everyone will come to drown out the voice of hate.” Indeed, what a day that will be. [And, yes, this is a veiled reference to an old hymn.]

  • LInda

    WOW!!! You are one strong woman… I hope you get your kids back and the dog – the rest of ’em can go to hell.

  • Peet

    I try to keep the profanity light, but…holy shit.

  • LisaH

    All my love to you and your children. It’s SUCH a relief to know these children were old enough to understand what was happening and make their own determination as to what they would accept vs. what the church and father told them. I don’t say this to discount their experience, which was surely heart wrenching, but to know your home schooling taught them to think for themselves says a lot.

    Thank you for serving your children and helping them appreciate the world in all its textures and colors. I live in a suburb of Atlanta. Chances are we live in the same county. I could probably even name the church. It’s difficult when those we love see the world through such a narrow lens. I wish you and your children only the best.

    Hugs from Marietta.

  • Leslie aka A’isha

    You know, I read this when you first posted it, and I was appalled. I felt tremendous compassion for the letter writer. But now, wow, it’s entirely personal.

    I never in my life thought the church that I love, led by my adoptive parents whom I love, would exclude me in a similar way. No, they didn’t kick me out per se, but they sure left me with no choice but to leave. Once I became publicly vocal about gay rights (letter to the editor re: same sex marriage) I was told I could no longer serve in any visible ministry at church. Their reasoning was that if I was visible in ministries they could be perceived as approving of the “homosexual lifestyle.” So apparently they think Jesus wouldn’t want me cooking meals for the poor and homeless in our community or delivering food to the same people because I’m a lesbian and stand up for my rights.

    Now, I’m sad to announce, the food delivery part of our ministry is no more. Apparently no one else in this huge church is willing to step up and do what I had been doing. So instead of taking the food directly to people who need it every single week, they’ll have to come to the church and can only get it twice a month. Sad. Horribly sad. And all because people choose to remain bigoted instead of loving. That’s their choice. I don’t like the lifestyle they’ve chosen because it sure doesn’t seem Christ-like to me.

  • Terri Echols

    our mother prayed for the death of my brother, her son, after she learned he was gay. when she told me that i threw her armchair. and told her i was no longer her daughter, that she was evil and she made me sick.

    that was twenty years ago. i’m just now considering maybe going back to a church. i still say she’s evil.

  • Christian Connor

    I hear an echoing chorus of DOH!!! It appears to me that this type of critical thinking ability has escaped many on the far religious right. It never ceases to amaze me that people will do what they do in “the name of God”. War, hate, deception the list goes on. It also flabbergasts me that the same people who cheer for killing the Taliban in the name of “religious and cultural” freedom want to then turn around and tell the rest of us that we should die if we don’t subscribe to their “correct” view of God/religion. I guess killing and hate is ok as long as you are doing it in the name of the right God.

  • vj

    Oh A’isha, after all you have been through this year – this is just terrible! Especially since all you want to do is ‘feed the least of these my brothers’ 🙁 And the fact that not one other person in your whole church is willing to join you and/or take over this wonderful service is a shocking indictment on them!

    Is there any way you could continue providing the meals on your own – maybe start a non-profit that the church leadership would be willing to support? (I’m guessing that up to now they have been paying for all the food). It would obviously be wonderful if they could just allow you to continue as you always have, but perhaps there’s a compromise that you could live with that would see those in need still benefiting? Or maybe there’s another church in your community that would welcome you with open arms (which would certainly be the best for you)?

    Either way, that it has even come to this is just so heartbreaking.

  • S.H.,

    I want to apologize for the years I was heavily involved in fundamentalism and how much of that time was spent pouring hate into the LGBTQ community. I thank God for showing me the beauty of grace, love, and acceptance, but I am ashamed of the path that I led during my first twenty years.

    Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for remding me that there are still amazing people in the world. Thank you for being brave, and being true to yourself and God. You are loved and valued. Blessings on you.

  • There are many churches that are not like that. Look into a United Church of Christ. You may find a home there… Good Luck!

  • John Shore, you’re my HERO!

  • Heather

    This article made me so angry! The hypocracy of the rightwing fundamentalists makes me sick. I know what it is like to be in their cross-hairs: I am a Muslim American. I actually feel like we (Muslims and the gay community) have quite a bit in common, ironically.

    We are two groups of people who just want to be left alone, to live our lives in peace, free to live according to our beliefs – which affect no one but ourselves. We are the same as everyone else, but those on the right paint us as devils, or at least devil-worshippers (i.e. Franklin Graham). They don’t see we are human beings, who just want to be accepted. Neither group is a threat to this country, neither group wants to impose our lifestyle on the rest of society, and neither group wants to harm anyone.

    One thing I get out of my religion is that God hates arrogance, and it takes the utmost arrogance to think you understand how the mind of God works, and how he will judge. I don’t know whether homosexuality is a sin or not, but I am just thankful it is not my place to judge! Everyone is accountable to Him on the day of judgment for their actions in this life – no one will be held responsible for the actions of someone else. Those on the right will be taken to task for their arrogance and hate.

    Oh, and just to clear things up for those who might not know, Muslims BELIEVE in, and LOVE Jesus as well. Allah is simply the arabic word for God, and we worship the same God of the Christians and Jews. We believe in all the same prophets – Abraham, Moses, Noah, Lot, Jacob, etc etc. The main difference is that we believe Jesus was a great prophet, and not God in the flesh. But he is highly respected and equal with all the other prophets, including the last one, Mohammad. Though we don’t believe in the crucifixion, we believe Jesus was taken to heaven, and that he will return at the end times to fight and defeat the antichrist, after which the day of judgment will occur. Muslims and Christians have much more in common than we have differences. Unfortunately you will find ignorance, hate and arrogance on both sides – but we need to either educate or just ignore those on the fringe.

    SH – I have great respect for you. You were shunned by your people, but never lost your faith in God. May He bless you and guide you to his straight path, and may you be among those He favors and rewards.

  • Matts


    Asalamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh. God bless.

    I wish I could say that it’s shocking and surprising, but it’s not.

    Who put God’s judgement in our hands? Who is to determine who is truly the sinner? The answer – not one person who lies on or in this earth has that power. Period.

  • Sox

    Brian-there is something worse, in the eyes of Fundies, than being gay. It’s being a Christian and believing in Reincarnation. Nothing sets them off more than that, probably because the whole concept of reincarnation implies spiritual personal responsibility. They are great at shoving personal responsibility down everyone else’s throats but the idea that “I’m sorry” for the horrific deeds they do just won’t cut it infuriates them.

  • I just wanted to throw my 2 cents on this one, because for many years I did not know whether or not homosexuality was a sin, and if it was a sin, how should I respond to it? Of course, simply living in sin should not be a crime — then everyone who divorces or lies about their bowling score would be in jail! But, what about church membership? Well, we let sinners into church – that’s all of us! But church leadership is to be held to a higher standard, so what then? I stalled out with no answer there, probably for about a decade. Well, I finally reread Acts and Paul told me that ideally I should focus on God, and live a life of celibacy, but if I find celibacy to difficult, I should get married to avoid living a life of sin and debauchery instead. How can Paul be talking only to heterosexuals there? How can anyone claim that gay marriage is wrong or sinful, when Paul tells us that the entire purpose of marriage given to us by God is sex without sinning? And so now I can embrace all of God’s children, without my past doubts and prejudices.

  • S.H.

    Melissa, you do not owe me an apology. I, myself, participated in an anti-gay petition when I felt like not signing my name would expose me as a lesbian. My signature, along with thousands of others, helped introduce a DOMA law in Florida where I lived at the time. It haunts me that I did such a thing but the best way to show remorse is to stop doing wrong and start doing right. Sounds like we are both on a better path. Thanks for the note 🙂

  • M. Catherine


    I have only had the pleasure of reading this now.

    This article, and your letter, was a beautiful representation of why I am scared to go to my own Presbyterian church, and why I am fearful of the people who run it.

    God hasn’t really been center-stage in my life, and I don’t think he will be until I can feel comfortable with myself. I am stuck in a place where the definition of love is man + woman. If I were to come out with my secret, I would be relieved. But I may not have a church home anymore. My heart is heavy, and if a plausible excuse for needing advice would be my situation in comparison to yours, could you please help me.

    I wish to love God and Jesus with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength, but not with the baggage weighing a ton on my heart.

    I’m a 13 year old pansexual girl, with a passion for helping people. I’ve had a girlfriend for seven months, but we broke up in July. With your advice, I think I could move on from this bigotry, and everything that bars me from my true love in God’s name.

    May God bless us, and may you find your happiness.

    With Sincerity,

    M. Catherine