Four letters: Tell me again, evangelicals, how God approves of what’s done to gay people in His name

I thought I’d share with you these four letters recently written me. You’ll see that beneath each letter I’ve (too inadequately) responded to it.

If you are a straight Christian who believes that you are doing God’s work by continuing to condemn same-sex relationships, please read these letters. Please read the fifty-odd letters from gay Christians that I published in UNFAIR. Please at least remember the letters below the next time your brain tries to tell you the insipid lie that what gay relationships are mostly about is sex.

And please pray to God for Him to reveal to you the truth that He feels just as okay with people being gay as he does with you being straight. Being straight doesn’t make you better. All it means is that you belong to the majority. And that gives you power. And using your power to even slightly malign, denigrate, condemn, and help deny equal rights to a minority population doesn’t make you a hero to God. It makes you a deplorable sinner.

Please, friend, turn away from whatever toxic anti-gay hatred and anger you feel. Such feelings are not at all Biblical. They do not come from God. They come from nowhere but the most base aspects of human nature.

If you believe in God, then you believe that you will one day stand in judgement before God. Do not give Him reason to at that moment frown down upon you. It’s vital to everyone now—and it certainly will be to you, come that time—that you get this issue right.

Dear John,

As a fairly frequent reader of your blog, I know you address this issue quite often. I guess I just need to get this out there … My partner (of three years) and I just became certified to adopt. We’re anxiously waiting for the call from the county agency that says they have a little boy for us.

Then there is nothing like the rejection of one’s family to ruin this joyous time for us.

Although I came out ten years ago, my parents continue to struggle with my “lifestyle.” My partner’s parents are super supportive of us, and we have so many friends and extended family who support us. But it doesn’t replace the handful of people whom I want so desperately to love and accept us. Those I love the most have thrown a lot of hurtful words at me, words that left deep scars that haven’t healed entirely over the years.

But I think today was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I suppose I am looking for some guidance in my next move. I feel that I can’t subject myself to my family’s hurtful words anymore. They’ve made it clear that they don’t support our decision to adopt. They feel that we are living immorally and bringing a child into that is wrong. At what point do I say enough is enough? I told my mom today that I felt that she was communicating to me that she would not treat our son as she does her other three grandchildren, and that my wife and I wouldn’t come around with our child if that was going to be the case. She she said she understood why I felt that way.

I’m ready to cut ties with my parents. All my mother wants is for me to go back to denying who I am, so that “we can have our family back.” I feel like we should be working towards saving our relationship—but she’s made it clear that she and my father will not change their feelings. (I also know that my sister-in-law is waiting in the wings to ambush me with the same sort of rhetoric the moment she gets a chance, and I won’t subject myself to that.)

Do I cut my ties? When is enough, enough? Thank you for your time.

I don’t know when enough is enough, but it sounds to me like you personally have had more than enough. Your parents have chosen manifestly errant and hate-based dogma over the love of their own child (and now grandchild). That’s insane. What do you do with insane people, but pray for them, and try to manage their crazy in a way that doesn’t become too deleterious to your own life? You’ve told your mom how you feel. Make sure she knows that you love her, that you’re devastated by her rejection of you, and that you pray she one day accepts you and your wife for the loving, normal people you are. And then get the heck out of Dodge, and don’t spend too much time waiting for your phone to ring. You’ve got a life. She’s chosen hers.

Hello John,

I just found your site today. I just wanted to say thank you for all the love you express. I am a recent ex-evangelical, ex-”missionary” Christian (I go to a Quaker meeting now). I’m married with two kids, and just now coming to understand that the same-sex attraction I’ve struggled with all my life might not be something that is wrong with me, or that is ever going to get “fixed.” My greatest loss/struggle is to still believe that God loves me. I believe deep in my heart that he does, but sometimes all the voices against that are so loud that I need to hear it from someone else. I really needed to hear it this morning, so thank you for your site. What I’m learning is that God’s love is much deeper than I ever knew as a “Christian.”

God’s love is, as you say, much deeper than I think any human is designed to process, Christian or not. But yes, of course, I hear and deeply appreciate what you’re saying. I will pray for you, and also, and perhaps especially, for your wife and children. Hopefully your kids aren’t too young to be able to appreciate the value and necessity of what it sounds like you and your wife might end up having to go through. Best to you, friend.

Dear John,

I just want to say thanks, because I’ve been in a really dark place in my life for a while now and you’ve given me a bit of hope. I’m a guy, just barely out of my teens. I went to college for two years, ran out of money, and then enlisted about a year ago. I’m currently living at least a thousand miles away from my folks. My relationship with my parents has slowly degraded over time since I left home, to a point where I simply try to avoid talking with them at all. You see, I’m not straight (big surprise, right?). I only started realizing this after getting away from home for the first time, and it took me a pretty long while to work it out. But the more I figured out myself, the less I found myself agreeing with my parents and the church I was raised in on the subject of sexuality and how it fits with Christianity. My faith was crumbling as well; the worldview I’d absorbed my whole life was falling apart in one large mass. Your writing and ideas have helped me redefine my faith and see how I fit into God’s plan. It’s like a light at the end of the tunnel. I just hope that light doesn’t turn out the be the train of my parents refusing to accept me when I finally pull together the courage to come out to them … Still, you’ve given me hope. Thank you so very, very much. God bless you and your work.

God bless you, young man. I get a lot of letters from people struggling with how/when/if to tell their parents they’re gay. Trust me: the fact that you can write this letter means that you are going to be more than okay. You’re clearly an extremely good guy. Good things are certain to happen for you. I hope your parents are smart enough to want to lovingly be there with you when they do.

Hi John,

I came across your blog through a link on another website. You have been such a blessing in my life. I think you are a wonderful man with such a kind spirit. I wish every single Christian was like you.

I write to you in my greatest despair. I am having a hard time picking up the pieces and moving forward with my life. I would like nothing more than to lock myself in a dark room forever. I was born and raised a Catholic, and about fifteen years ago came out as a lesbian. At the time I felt I had to make a choice between my faith and my sexuality, so I walked away from God. For fifteen years I have been struggling with my sexuality, having a war in my heart and head over who I am.

Fast-forward to just over a year ago. I had then left my ex-girlfriend, who is an atheist, and started finding myself walking towards God again. Since then I have welcomed God back into my life, and am no longer struggling with my sexuality: I now know who I am, and accept it. I realized I could not resolve my sexuality without Him!!! How foolish of me to think that I could do this on my own.

A year ago I met a woman who is Christian—and who at the time I thought was comfortable with her sexuality. She approached me, and together we began exploring our relationship—which, for her, was something new. We had the best time together; we completely gave ourselves to each other, with no holding back. I completely trusted her, and was falling more and more in love with her. She was so open in public with her affection with me. We had a connection and love of the sort most people dream about. I never thought she would leave me. I was that confident in our relationship.

Her parents did not know about our relationship—but when they learned of it, six months into it, they confronted her. She admitted to them that she and I were together. At first they seemed supportive, and said if this is what God intended then they would support her.

Well, a week later they came to her, and said they had received word from God that our relationship was a sin and that she would not end up in Heaven if she continued our sinful relationship. She fought them at first, and stood by our relationship, even though it right away began to put a strain on her relationship with both me and her parents. They would have three-hour discussions with her about how the life she was leading was so wrong. I still never thought she would give up on, though.

A month after her parents found out about is, she decided to break up with me. Her reasoning was that she wasn’t sure if ours was the “lifestyle” she wanted to continue living. She said she thought it was best to break up with me so that she could figure out what she wants in her life without me going through a roller coaster ride with her.

Fast-forward six months after our breakup. Her parents are still fighting her because we continue to be friends. They don’t want me in her life at all; so their three-hour discussions continue. So she and I have been going through a roller-coaster ride anyway.

She and I slept together two months ago. She told me then that she loved me, and that in a perfect world she would be with me. She admitted to me that I was her first true love, and that we shared a connection that she has never experienced with a man.

She also says that God has told her that she is supposed to marry a man and have children, and she thinks that my lifestyle is a sin. She thinks that our relationship was of fleshly desires. She wants to be obedient to God and to serve him, and this is how she believes he wants her life to be.

John, I am completely heartbroken and devastated, because the woman I thought I was going to spend my life with now believes that her life should be spent with a man. How do I move forward from here? Am I stupid for trying to maintain a friendship with her? I’m not sure what answer I’m looking for but I just feel so empty and gutted. God bless.

Arrrrggghhhh. Man, this hurts. There’s nothing you can do but what you have: stay open to your friend, let her know you love and respect her, and that you’ll always be there for her. Then go home, have yourself a nice cry or ten—and then sit on your couch, stare at a clock (or, better, watch some DVDs), and wait for time to go by. What else can you do? Time is now your best friend in the world; it’s the medium that will heal you. And what do any of us do with time, but … well, keep not dying while it slowly but surely works its magic upon us? This won’t kill you. This is what love is; this is what love does. It’s the most beautiful, most horrible thing in the world. Right now you’re (0bviously) experiencing love’s power to devastate. But that see-saw will tip the other way. Might take a month; might take a year. But it will. Love sometimes hides itself, but it never runs too far away. All our love to you during this difficult time. God loves you, and is aching right along with you. Thank you for writing; please do feel free to write again.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter. If you shop at Amazon, help support John by entering the site through this link right here--Amazon will then send John 3-4% of the cost of anything you buy before exiting the site again.

 

  • Jonathan

    Thank you so much for this. I needed this today.

  • Barbara Rice

    And despite these heartfelt, painful testimonies from real people struggling with the faith that is so inherently what makes them what they are… there will be the trolls screaming, “It’s a choice! You CHOSE to be that way!”

    Who would choose this pain, this struggle, this division? Who would say, “Yeah, I think I’ll piss off everyone I know, lose my job, be exiled from my church, bring misery and hatred onto myself, and break my family apart?”

    John, please keep doing what you’re doing – providing hope and a safe space for those victims of fear, hatred, and ignorance.

    • http://small-letters.com Mindy M.

      You are sadly so right. I’ve been told that pain is exactly what I should expect from turning away from God. Here’s a real excerpt from a letter I got: “You chose what made you happy in spite of knowing the Lord’s word. The rejection and excruciating pain is exactly what is promised when you live against the word of God.” Ugh!!

    • Lymis

      I know what you are saying, but I honestly wish that “who would choose this?” would fade into obscurity.

      Please see it from our side. It sounds like you’re saying that you agree that being gay is awful, but since we aren’t to blame for it, we need to be given a big hug and a pat on the head so we aren’t any more miserable than we’re already forced to be, ’cause, you know, we’re gay, and that’s crappy enough to have to deal with.

      We need to keep the focus on the fact that the reason for all that pain ISN’T because we’re gay – it’s because of the homophobia of those who aren’t okay with it.

      If you gave me a magic wand and said, pick one, being straight in the world as it is, or being gay in a world without homophobia, I would choose being gay in a heartbeat. I love being gay. I love my husband. I love my life. It’s the assholes who make it harder than it needs to be that are the problem, not my orientation.

      And honestly, at this point in my life, if you showed up with the same wand and said I had to take the world as it is, but I could choose to be straight if I wanted, I’d still pick being gay. There were certainly times in my life, like when I was a shamed and lonely teen, when that wouldn’t have been true, but it is today.

      Would you accept it as the go-to defense of any other oppressed group?

      “Why would anyone choose to be black? It’s not their fault.”

      “Obviously, anyone with a choice would be a man, so we need to treat women fairly because they’re not to blame, the poor dears.”

      I truly, deeply, incredibly thank and appreciate all of our straight allies, and I wouldn’t do anything to make you feel bad, but sometimes, the message needs to be reexamined a bit.

      • Marie McWilliams

        Lymis–I think what most people mean by “who would choose this” is “who would choose to be treated this way; who would choose the pain in a world that is homophobic?” I don’t think most people mean it to reflect that being gay is the problem. I hope I’m making clear what I’m trying to say.

        • Barbara Rice

          Lymis, I did not mean it in the way you wrote about. I understand what you’re saying, but I meant it as Marie McWilliams said, being surrounded by homophobics and bigotry and misinformation. No one would choose to live like that.

          Sorry if I was unclear.

          • Lymis

            I know what you meant, and I deeply appreciate that you meant it that way. The vast majority of the people who say it, or variations on it truly intend for it to be a positive message and a message of support. And most of them really think that it is.

            But it really isn’t if you listen to it carefully. It’s a message of pity.

            Since that isn’t the message you intend to send, you might want to use words that better express your actual intention. Pity is far better than hatred, and there was a time when that was the best that gay people could hope for. I don’t think that’s what our allies have as the goal now, and it may be time to retire this idea in favor of a better, more actually inclusive and loving one.

          • Barbara Rice

            Lymis, I’ve thought about this, and I am not coming up with other words. I’m not sure that I agree with you about the “pity” part; I’m not seeing it myself, and especially since my best gay boyfriend (as I call him; he calls me his ex-work mistress) used the “who would choose this” phrase recently in a discussion. I’m not trying to beat a dead horse here, but the “choosing” part is not going to be abandoned by fundies anytime soon.

            What words would you use to answer the “choose” issue?

          • DR

            The legal discrimination, institutional homophobia and abuse that gay men women have to endure seems to be what makes life difficult. Being gay in and of itself? I imagine that to be a lovely thing, much like being straight is a lovely thing For example as a woman, I may not like enduring sexism but I love being a woman!

          • http://Www.unnameablecuriosity.wordpress.com Christine

            As others have said here, “so what if it was a choice?”

            It not being a choice does have some theological power with the fundies, but only in the sense that some of them would then have to face that a loving God wouldn’t uniquely create a subset of people whose best qualities were instead bent for sin. They would need to accept that what they are doing is bigotry.

            But even if it was a choice, what they are doing is still bigotry, because the “choice” would be one between consenting adults, and often a choice for love, caring, responsibility and family. Interracial marriage is a choice, but those who did and do oppose it due to its “unnaturalness” were bigots. And people did choose that love even in the face of terrible persecution and descrimination.

            But I think the main reason this message needs updating is because not all gay people everywhere still face (large amounts of) prejudice. A new generation in some cornera of the world will always have been happy to be gay and will face relatively little decrimination compared to the love and happiness they will find with their partners.

            Because when you say “of course gay isn’t a choice because who would choose this?” the “this” is necessarily being gay, not the prejudice often associated with it. When I hear that message “who would chose this?”, I know what is intended, but my gut reaction is “hey, what’s that supposed to mean? I would. I love my life. Who are you to say otherwise!” and I have to remind myself “no, they’re talking about the people really facing strong persecution, like those on the brink of suicide”. Except you aren’t. It’s presented as *gay* can’t be a choice bcause no one would choose that. And, well, it just plain itn’t true. We know it isn’t a choice because of science, not because gay people are miserable.

            And if it were a choice, some would choose it, would be happy to have chosen it, and should have the right to choose it.

          • Lymis

            Christine’s answer is great, and the most important thing to keep in.

            But the answer to the choice thing is still the simple fact that it isn’t a choice.

            The best answer to “but it’s a choice” is not “Well, who in their right mind would choose it” but rather, “No, it’s not.”

            Gay people don’t experience it as a choice, and if our voices matter at all in a discussion about our own experience of being gay, that’s what has to be the first consideration.

            Add to that the fact that every unbiased professional group in the US has unequivocally stated that it isn’t a choice, and more recently, that attempts to “help” someone change their orientation do real and clear harm.

            That much of what people think looks like choice comes from two main different sources.

            First, the pressures on LGB people to hide their orientation and live lives that look straight, so that when we finally come out and tell the truth, it looks to outsiders like we’ve changed our orientation, when what is true on the inside is that we are telling a truth that was there all along.

            And second, bisexual people have no more choice in their orientation than anyone else, but their unchosen orientation is to be attracted to at least some members of both sexes. Because of that, just like anyone else, they can choose the specific people with whom to have relationships, and because of that, if they choose, they can focus on members of one specific gender. Bisexuals don’t choose their orientation, but they can choose whether to be in same-sex or opposite-sex relationships. That can falsely look like they’ve chosen to change their orientation.

            None of which invalidates Christine’s even more important point – whether or not it is a choice in the first place, and whether or not anyone actually has the choice, it is a choice that we would have every right to make.

            And the real choice, the one the real people actually face daily, the choice that homophobes and bigots work tirelessly and all too often successfully to take away, is the choice of whether we will tell our truth, and the choice of whether we can live our lives and love our loves openly, honestly, and healthily, in the face of the fear and hatred that we did nothing to create, and have done nothing to deserve.

            So, instead of “Why would anyone choose it,” if you have to ask a choice-based question, how about, “What right do you have to say that it’s a choice?”

          • Linnea

            My answer to those who insist it is a choice is: “So, when did you *choose* to be straight?”

            I’ve yet to hear an answer to that question…

          • Anakin McFly

            What are your thoughts on the ‘queer by choice’ movement? (I think they have a website). They claim to have intentionally and successfully changed their orientation from straight to gay (or bi), be it for political reasons (e.g. a radical feminist who said she found incompatibility between her attraction to men and her feminist beliefs, and who says she’s now 100% lesbian as a result of that choice, without any attraction whatsoever to men now.) They say they find the ‘not a choice’ rhetoric to be offensive and disempowering in its implication that they are just helplessly enslaved to biology and have no room for free will in deciding who to be attracted to. They actually devote a section of their site to debunking the scientific evidence for biological causes of sexual orientation.

            Fundies like to bring them up every now and then as ‘proof’.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bill.steffenhagen?sk=wall Soulmentor

    I read those letters with the realization that I’ve experienced every circumstance in those letters. I want to help. I don’t know how. I have knowledge and insights and LOVE to offer. I’m thinking of starting a blog but don’t know how to begin and I do need some small income to supplement my meager Social Security.

    I don’t mean to detract from John’s blog. He is doing wonderful work, but no one can do it all and each of us has different insights to offer. With probably a Master’s Degree on the subject in my head from self-study (the books on my shelves are more than twice my arm span) and having experienced a lifetime of the struggles and pains I see here and elsewhere, I don’t need to be sitting here reading and not DOING, not giving what I can give. I’m settled with who I am in my heart and with God, whatever that is (Jesus illustrated what that is. God is Love?). I have the time now and I need to HELP!! Somehow. (Not that I will ever stop reading what John has to say. I would consider that a great loss)

    How do I start a blog to help, that also provides an equivalent of a part time job? I’ve learned how to live modestly and don’t need much. I want to do something good with the time I still have. I made a difference in my area with my years of area newspaper column and opinion activist writing, but that is past now. I need a new direction. I welcome ideas to me at mrstefflax@yahoo.com.

    Meantime, God bless you John and everyone who does not fear to let real LOVE determine how we relate to others.

    Bill

    • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

      You could do Blogger or WordPress, but I’d only recommend those if you didn’t mind doing everything for free. I have a blog with Google/Blogger, originally created to post original fiction writing on in the hope of getting feedback/critique from people and as a possible attractor to literary agents. I’ve had it for a year and only have five watchers who almost never comment. I was hoping to make a little money off the ads, but nixed the adware when I found political ads popping up – as in, I was checking the look of something on the main page of my blog one day and saw some right-wing ad that squicked me out and said “NO.”

      So, I guess my advice is to be careful, I guess? There are plenty of blogging sites that will not charge you for use of their service, but if you opt to try to make money from hosting ads, you will have no control over them, unfortunately.

  • Allie

    To the writer of the last letter:

    Has your friend thought about how the man she is supposed to be with feels about “God wanting her to be with a man”? Doesn’t this hypothetical man deserve a wife who is sexually attracted to him and able to be a full partner in his married life? Is she planning to lie to her intended husband about who she is and how she feels, or does she expect that he will be fine with marrying a lesbian? Because it seems to me that it is very much NOT GOD’S WILL to lie to your husband and fake feelings that you don’t have.

    Blessings to all the letter writers, you’re in my thoughts and I hope the best for you.

    • dan(Chicago)

      You nailed it. She is likely being told that these feelings will come to her over time, and in the meantime, fake it. She’s going to put some man through the ringer befoe they eventually divorce.

    • Verdadero

      You know what, I absolutely love her but at this point it’s not my problem anymore how she chooses to live her life. I only pray that she is happy with the choices she makes and can be authentic to the person she chooses to love and marry.

  • Mindy

    John, you are such a gift. My daughter was telling me today that one of her close friends, a dear young man who is openly gay, is looking at a particular college. She told me the name of it and although I’d not heard of it, the name suggested it is Christian in origin and my immediate reaction was, “Oh dear, honey – is it a religious school?” Because all that meant to me was that he would be setting himself up for hurt. She assured me that it was a liberal school with Christian roots, and that its appeal to her friend was a major in “Peace and Justice Studies.” I know his mom will research it and make sure it is not harboring a plan to “straighten” him out (pun intended) before letting him apply, but I felt terribly sad that a fear of bullying was the first thing that popped into my head about a Christian institution.

  • Kathleen

    For the author of the last letter: you can love your friend but you may need to love her from afar for a time being. Give your broken heart a break and take care of you.

    • Verdadero

      Thank you Kathleen! I wish I had your advice 4 months ago when I wrote this letter, although most likely I would not have listened at that time. During that time I struggled with trying to move on, then falling back, and then it became painful to see or talk to her, I would cry for hours afterwards (as John suggested LOL!). I finally decided a month ago that enough was enough and I needed to stop putting her first and so I told her I was taking an indefinite hiatus from our friendship. It has been a month and I am still struggling but I can say with confidence that I am slowly starting to feel better.

  • SheaSheaSharee

    I find a deep sense of knowing exactly how many of these writers or rather all of these writers feel. Although I am not struggling with being gay, I do struggle with having religious parents who have forsaken me and all but placed me out of their lives because of their strict and stupid belief that they are right. It amazed me as I sat and read this entry how much I felt in common with these writers and the reality that there are so many Christians who feel that they are right when in reality they are so wrong, hateful, and cruel. I do not understand how so many Christians, especially Christian parents, are so willingly to sacrifice a relationship with their children and feed them with such hatred over differences of opinions; especially over a religious point of view that points out above all to love one another no matter what as well as to practice forgiveness. I guess I will never understand but I will be praying for these writers and all others suffering and I ask for prayer for me as well. Thank you John for sharing these stories because even though we might not all be suffering from the same exact situations there is still comfort and solace in understanding one another’s pain.

  • Matt

    Geez, the last letter was so incredibly heartbreaking! :(

    To the friend of the last letter writer–I wish I could run after you screaming, “Wait! Don’t! You don’t have to go that way!” I was exactly like you just a few years ago. I thought my life had to go a certain way. I had to pretend to be a girl (since I was born one), I had to marry a man, I had to have 2.5 kids. I actually for a while deluded myself into thinking that that was actually what I wanted. But the wondering, the awkwardness and pain of trying to cram myself into a box never ever went away.

    I didn’t even recognize myself in the mirror; it was like looking at a photograph or painting of a very beautiful woman, on the arm of some guy.

    But you only get one life! I realized this when I met my girlfriend and fell so in love I could hardly stand it. I realized it when I put on men’s clothes and bound my breasts for the first time.

    I realized it when I woke up, and loved my life. When I looked in the mirror, and saw myself. Did it take time for others in my life to adjust, like my parents? Absolutely, and they still don’t know the half of it. But living my life according to their standards just wasn’t worth it. I couldn’t go back even if I wanted to, and I certainly don’t!

    Being yourself isn’t selfish or sinful! You are just fine the way you are, right this second! You have a beautiful partner to hold onto–let her!

    I just can’t let anyone have regrets over something like this :(

    • Verdadero

      Well now she has fully submerged herself into a Church that believes you can choose your sexuality. She now also wants me to marry a man, so I am no longer living in sin because she cares about me and my soul. I no longer recognize her.

  • DR

    Damn, these make me cry. It never ends.

    I’m just pissed, there’s so little room for tolerance for me at this point, these letters break my heart over and over again and they enrage me. I’m so sick of the tone police making sure we’re nice and kind to the people who are doing this, making every excuse in the world for it. I want to apologize to all of you on behalf of how we’ve allowed this continue. I’d do anything to change it.

    I think of the verse where Jesus said at times, we need to leave our parents, our family, etc. to follow Him. It’s easier said than done, these ties we have to our family our genetic. We NEED them to help us understand who we are, they are our first mirror.

    Cut ties. Cut ties with all of them. Cut ties with ANYONE who would suggest you are lesser than. You will all make beautiful parents, loving partners. You are *already* that, anyone who has suffered so much oppression, misunderstanding and evil in the name of God who can write such loving, thoughtful, earnest, provocative letters like this simply prove that suffering for many of us is a purifying agent. The gold in you is shining.

    Cut ties and then fight like hell. Fight for YOUR faith. YOUR relationship with God. No one gets the last word on that except for the Father – nobody. It is your birthright to experience the love of God through Christ. There is no circumstance, no desire, no way of being that somehow removes your birthright. Don’t let anyone take it away. Receive it.

    • otter

      DR, I applaud your viewpoint. This hateful stream of doctrine that is causing so much suffering deserves the most uncompromising opposition.

    • Jill

      I love your fierce compassion DR, and how I’m inspired by it. You help us (me) continually make the clear distinction between what it means to behave as Jesus would and behaving as if Christianity makes a person into a doormat.

  • Tim

    Don’t you just love the three hour discussions? Ick. Never had them with my parents, Mmy mom is bi and I didn’t know growing up with Dad and my Dad, well, hearing I was gay means that I haven’t heard from him in 8 years. But there are those people in my life with whom I have had the most agreement on everything else, whom don’t doubt my meaning, my relationship with God, or my (by the evangelical/pentecostal term) gifting. And yet we have to have these discussions every so often and they insist that God can’t possibly condone my being gay. news flash, if I have been different in a way that I now recognize as being gay for as long as I can remember there was no choice involved.

    I guess for all these people I would just have to say–love yourself first. Jesus tells us to love God with everything and each other as ourselves. Both require that we hear how much He loves us and come to love ourselves enough to put that into action. Can be tough when most of what you hear is hate, but boy has it made the difference.

  • Lymis

    John, thank you. Your answers to the letters are wonderful, and if there’s anything inadequate about them, it’s because circumstances and reality make actually fixing these things impossible in an answer to a letter.

    But the value of being a witness, of supporting someone in their pain and struggle, and in holding them when there really aren’t answers is enormous. Your answers may lack solutions, but they don’t lack love.

  • skip johnston

    To the first letter writer (not to slight in any way the other deeply moving letters): My wife and I have 6 kids between us and 11 grandchildren. I read somewhere a long time ago that something like 80% of American families are dysfunctional. To my mind, that would then be the definition of “functional”. Given that, we are a highly functional family. We have lots of room for more kids and grandkids. We’d love to include you.

    • mike moore

      Skip, you’re a good man with an open heart. The world is a better place with you in it.

    • http://small-letters.com Mindy M.

      need a *love* button for comments on this blog! <3

    • Leslie Marbach

      Agree with Mindy M. here…we need a love button! Skip, you rock!

  • Jana Harrison Currier via Facebook

    This is why I care so much about equality. They ALL matter!

  • http://small-letters.com Mindy M.

    My heart goes out to all four of you… I have empathy for pieces of each of your stories… I am moved to share one piece of my own story to the last writer (or perhaps it is to all of you):

    My partner and I met in a church community and went to our friends and to the leadership (and to our friends in leadership) immediately when we realized we had fallen in love. What followed was a grueling six months where we all agreed to pray and be open to discernment… and at the end of that six months we realized that they simply hoped to buy some time in order to change our minds. We experienced a horrific wedge between us every time we’d meet with a pastor or with yet another friend who was filled with questions about how we could reconcile this scripture passage or that church teaching with our relationship… We refused to have our relationship in secret (we both had drunk that toxic poison in longpast experience), but we also recognized that we needed to invest at least as much time and energy into our relationship as we were giving to managing other people’s feelings. And so we set our boundaries and limited those conversations and the time we spent in that community.

    I wondered if there was a role I was being called to play, one of presenting a real face and a real heart on the gay issue. I have witnessed people at various stages on their “evolution” (as Obama called it) towards affirmation, and I know that knowing a gay person really can have the power to change a heart. I only wish I knew how and when that change can happen. When faced with a person whose theology is really entrenched in the “abomination” belief (a rose by any other name…), it’s hard to really believe that they can change. But I’ve seen it happen. And so I have done some agonizing here and there over the fact that I wasn’t able to stay in that community, because perhaps if I had, hearts may have changed.

    But if we had stayed, we’re both pretty sure that that wedge would have lived, grown in power, drained us, and quite possibly ended us. There’s only so much one can take when faced with shunning (and let’s face it, “you’re going to hell” is the ultimate shunning!) from family and friends — from one’s community — to try to enforce their “truth” on your life!

    Reading the last letter especially broke my heart, because it’s the story of a wedge that did indeed do just that. At least as of today it seems to have done just that. I cannot help but hope, dear letter writer, that your beloved will be able to break away, free. Not just for you, but also for her, so that she can be free to be who she is, rather than have to deny a part of her very being in order to be accepted…

    I no longer identify as a Christian. But I’m very grateful for this online community, shepherded by you, John. Your voice and your passion, not to mention the other fierce love and vulnerable pain that is so often shared here, have been tremendously healing for me. I hope all four letter writers will receive the same.

    • Verdadero

      Thank you Mindy for sharing your story, it means a lot. I pray that she finds peace and genuine happiness.

      • http://small-letters.com Mindy M.

        You are so welcome, and thank you in return. If you wish peace and happiness for her, you are finding it for you… amazing how that works. So glad to know you are doing ok… :)

  • mike moore

    Dear first letter writer:

    I believe that when you are seriously asking yourself, “when is enough, enough?” then you’ve already answered your own question. Enough. Cut ties.

    Tell your family you will no longer allow their toxicity to harm your family. Tell them you will not allow them to infect and harm your new child – via verbal and non-verbal messages – with the idea that your family and home life is somehow immoral and not a “real” family.

    Tell them this isn’t a debate about values. Tell them this is not a negotiation about what is or is not “sin.” And when they give you the “but we love you” line, steel your back, stiffen your lip, and clearly say, “obviously, by your judgmental words and actions, you do not.” And then hang up the phone or walk out the door.

    Be prepared for your own heart ache and tears, and then go on with your life.

    But don’t lock the door against reconciliation(s).

    My parents were just like yours, and I decided that if they wanted to call themselves Christians, they had to start acting like it. This seems all the more true for you given that your child will also become a victim of your family’s view of you and your family. It’s their “lifestyle” that needs an adjustment, not yours.

    When I was met with what you’re facing now, I cut ties. I told my family to let me know when/if they ever changed their minds. I cut off all communication. It was hard not to call. It was hard not to extend an olive branch. Over the next months, it hurt every time I hung up on guilt-trip calls or returned their guilt-trip letters.

    However, when I got the call asking for honest reconciliation, I responded in kind. I was more shielded and less trusting of them, and I was right to be that way. Even so, 3 years later, I was surprised and hurt to be told my partner of 18 months would not be welcome at their home for Christmas. I again cut ties.

    Two Christmases later, I got the tearful “look how you’ve wrecked our family, we’ll always be your family, how can you do this to us?” phone call from my Mom. I informed her that it was their actions, not ours, that had “wrecked” her family.

    I also explained that I now had a new family with whom we spent Christmases. My family was now my partner and our friends who truly loved us, just the way we are. I told her to call when my partner and I would be welcome in their home and into a guest bedroom, together, just like my brother and sister-in-law. And then I poitely said, “goodbye,” and hung up on her.

    (In regards to your sister-in-law, be ready to say – as I had to do with my self-described “devout Christian” brother – that when you want an opinion or advice, you’ll ask for it. Until then, STFU.)

    By spring of that year, we had already been asked to join the family for that year’s Christmas. It was awkward at first, but everyone played nice, and we all moved past it. We’ve since enjoyed many many family occasions.

    Leap forward almost 20 years later. My partner of 20+ years and I decide to legally marry in MA. My Mom was OK with it, my brother kept his big yap shut, but my Dad flipped-out. Yet again, after almost 30 years of dealing with this, I had to cut ties with him.

    Thankfully, after a few months of this, my Mom stepped in and slapped him up-side the head, reminding him that she had been divorced before they married … that most of his Christian friends, many many members of their church, and most members of our family, have now been through a divorce … and that amongst our family and friends, my husband and I have the happiest and strongest marriage of the bunch.

    You may have heard the expression, “living well is best revenge.” Well, I don’t like the word ‘revenge’ in this context, but there a basic truth there.

    You have two families. The one you were born with, and the one you are making with your partner and a new child. If you are like so many of us, you have friends who are more like family, and a better family at that, than your blood kin.

    I believe our true families fall into the latter category, and when your parents and sibling(s) find themselves on the outside, longingly looking in on the big love that is within your real family – your partner, your child, your friends – they will seek to be a part of YOUR family. And if they don’t, you’re well shod of them.

    • http://www.facebook.com/bill.steffenhagen?sk=wall Soulmentor

      My family was like yours. My mother died thinking I’m going to hell. I almost didn’t go to her funeral. I trust by now she knows better. My father died several years later and I have no idea what he felt about anything because we never talked in any substantive way. I kept thinking I should be the mature one and break the impasse, but time passed and by my late 40′s (I’m 68) it occurred to me that I no longer cared. My younger siblings, two bros and one sis, are conservative religious types and while they are cordial in the rare times we find ourselves thrown together, they are disapproving of my life. It’s all so unnecessarily tragic but they are living versions of the adage, “There are none so blind as those who WILL NOT see.”

      In the 90′s I had a partner I deeply loved for 8 years. During all that time I never attended family events because he was not welcome. I let them know that HE was my primary family then and if he wasn’t welcome they would have to do without me. Apparently that was satisfactory to them because they never came around. (To this day, none of them have visited me in my home since my divorce more than 20 years ago). Essentially, as my family, they no longer exist and I would literally not recognize some of my nieces or nephews (and certainly THEIR children) if I passed them on the street)

      Partly in response to my family’s lack of support I believe, my partner, who could never fully resolve his “Catholic guilt”, left me after those 8 years. It was devastating. I was totally alone thru it all.

      Well, not quite. One nite after bar, sitting on a bench beside a river I looked up thru my tears and pleaded, “Just you and me now.”

      There has been one 3 year love since then but he is 30 years younger than me and we had so little in common I encouraged him to move on. He did but we remain faithful friends. I also have two grown sons, one with a family. Those three men are my family now.

      Traditional “christianity” has so much to answer for……………

      • http://small-letters.com Mindy M.

        “I trust by now she knows better…”

        That made me smile. I send you a virtual hug, Soulmentor.

        I avoid quoting scripture mostly (opens the door for proof-texting, among other reasons), but one that often comes to mind is “by their fruits…”

        If by “traditional christianity” you mean that which judges, then I say much of the fruit of “traditional christianity” is stinking rotten.

      • mike moore

        while our common ground is the ether of John Shore, I definitely consider you part of this loving family, even if it is somewhat ether-eal.

        • Cat Rennolds

          ethe…REAL:)

          • mike moore

            even better!

          • Marie McWilliams

            Good one, Cat!

    • Lymis

      My family wasn’t nearly so bad, but there were bumpy spots along the way, including one really toxic Christmas. My husband’s family pretty much cut him off completely, except for his daughters and an on-again-off-again thing with one of his sisters.

      But my family has completely embraced him. In fact, with a couple of them, having an actual face and wonderful person to put to the “idea” of my being gay seems to have helped.

      But yes, if the family you started with is toxic, create your own family of choice to replace them in your heart.

  • Kara

    I’ve come to the heart-wrenching conclusion that they just don’t give a damn what happens to us. Either that, or they are willfully ignorant of the connection between their beliefs/actions and our suffering. I’ve had a relative tell me in the very same email that he was so sorry for the hurt I’d had to face because I’m gay, and then say that he was morally obligated to campaign in favor of an anti-gay amendment because otherwise gay relationships would be “accepted as normal.”

    My faith in evangelical Christians as a group is at an all time low. Perhaps it’s harsh, but they typically have to prove to me on an individual basis that they’re even capable of exercising any kind of basic humanity. Far too often, I find that the souls God gave them for moral reasoning have been buried and suffocated under dogma.

    • Lymis

      Changing their mind would require admitting they were wrong.

      And so much effort has been put into linking homophobia to a belief in the Bible that for a lot of people, changing their mind wouldn’t be like putting homosexuality into a category like eating shellfish, it would be a repudiation of the Bible itself, and with it their whole worldview. It’s why they fight evolution so hard, and why the Church condemned Galileo back in the day.

      But I agree with you – tell me you’re a Christian, and you just made me put my guard up. That still makes me angry. I don’t want to feel that way.

      • Cat Rennolds

        we need to cut and paste that middle paragraph and just keep repeating it. most anti-gay Christians don’t realize themselves why they feel so strongly about it.

      • Marie

        It’s sad that you’ve been trained by people’s responses to have your guard up; you know that you risk too much otherwise. I hope that soon your world begins to fill with people who love you and value you for just being *you*.

      • Jill

        I have the same reaction to a declaration of someone’s Christianity, and I also don’t want my own wounded expectations to be my knee-jerk reaction for the rest of my life. I’m too old and grown too weary of waiting for what I most loathe. And yes that makes me mad too, and sad. :(

        I’m working on the answer now, if it exists. I’m choosing a scholarly approach as is my style to investigate religion generally, and uncover my own experiences with them. Over my life I’ve apparently tried on about 8 different religions, and while much peace and enlightenment has come from the search– it has still been much like wearing a coat two sizes too small. You can’t manage it for long.

        So for me now, as of this writing, my ‘religion’ is about connecting with every possible form and version of love and compassion I can create and find in my little corner of the world. I’d rather not know if it has a title or label because those always seem to divide. And we’ll see where that takes me.

        But I know all the loving-kindness I can muster still won’t allow me to tolerate the intolerance of the self-righteous. Jesus wasn’t a big fan of those types in his day either as I recall reading somewhere….

        • Marie McWilliams

          Peace be upon your journey!

    • Marie

      Dear, dear Kara, you are in good company. Wasn’t it Ghandi who said that the worst advertisement for Christianity was Christians? I pray that you can find those who *are* capable of what each person deserves: basic humanity, basic courtesy, basic respect.

    • Steve

      Sociopathy and fundamentalist religion go hand in hand

  • Verdadero

    Thank you so much John for publishing my letter. I am the last letter writer and somewhat of a devoted reader. I started reading my letter thinking wow this woman has the same story as me, only to realize half way in that it was MY letter. An update to my story, fast forward to fourth months later and it has been a month since I decided to put our friendship on an indefinite hiatus; I simply was not moving on and was in great pain. I am slowly doing better but I have my days. I am now crossing off more things on my bucket list, trying to find my own happiness. As for her, she has found a church that believes sexuality is a choice and that she is cured even though she admits to still struggling. She has told me that God has put her into my life so that I can stop living a sinful life, marry a man, and have children as intended. She says that she cares about my well-being and soul. She also told me that our relationship was of evil because it felt too good. Yet in the same breath tells me that she doesn’t regret our relationship. I would take that as a backhanded compliment. I always try to find humour in my life and I’m glad that I am finally putting myself first instead of her. God Bless you John, you are the true definition of a Christian!

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

      Verdadero: Thanks for checking in with us! Sounds to me like your ex is making it a lot easier for you to move on past her.

  • InaCat

    …the ironic thing, for me?

    is that my own holidays were so bright, and the relationships I grew up around were so rich partly because the hidebound and narrow minded seem intent on casting out the best and brightest in their midst.

    My heart goes out to the people who did not have my parents, who thought it their god-given duty to provide a safe haven for ever species of oddball they came across…it didn’t matter what closet you were escaping from, at my house, it really didn’t matter.

    but you can HAVE one of those homes where the noble of character and the open of heart are welcome….and the laughter and light that spill from your doors will hearten the timid, and frighten away those with darkness in their hearts.

    Wise old cat whose writings I love (Spider Robinson) put the truth of the matter very simply… ‘Pain shared is lessened, Joy shared is increased’

    and all of you? are walking with Christ, whose way was never easy, and often lonely, because even those closest to him needed to be taught to be better men.

    • Jill

      gorgeous comment, InaCat


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