I’ve loved me some gay-condemning fundies

A quick thought relative to yesterday’s Are anti-gay Christians my “brothers and sisters” in Christ?

The point is sometimes made that I lack insight into the mindset of a good person/Christian who also feels that homosexuality is a sin against God—that because I’ve never held that belief myself it’s not possible for me to truly understand the Christian who does. “There are many good loving [Christians] who really just don’t get it,” said one commenter to yesterday’s post. “But I’m trying to understand and therefore show some compassion for them in their journey. Perhaps this is a little easier for me than it is for someone like John Shore.”

I’ve been hearing that sort of thing a lot since doing my podcast episode I’m Hot in Overalls. (A comment to that episode, in fact, from my friend Kathy Baldock, says, “Lucky you, you did not have to get over any bias like I did. BUT, I have the benefit of understanding all that bias.” The well-meaning implication being, of course, that I don’t.)

I totally get why people might think that I lack understanding of the fundamentalist’s mindset. It doesn’t irk me that people think that, or anything like that. But it does make me want to clear something up.

My first experience as a Christian was at a church in San Diego so conservative on the issue of homosexuality that (as I wrote about in Our Church: “Sign this anti-gay statement, or leave”) its pastor declared my wife Cat and me heretics for nothing more egregious than wanting to have a conversation on the matter. Cat and I were deep members of that church for six solid years. We did a weekly Bible study with its elders. We knew those people, and dearly loved them. The pastor was a personal friend of mine. We dined together regularly. Cat and I spent holidays at his house with his wonderful family.

To this day I would trust that pastor with everything I own. He’s a great, deeply honorable man. I’m a much better person for having known and loved him.

Before moving to San Diego, Cat and I lived for nine years in Bakersfield, CA. You don’t get more fundy-rednecky than Bakersfield. We had dear friends there whom I know believe that homosexuality is a sin against God. I didn’t know then that they felt that way, because it virtually never came up. But looking back, there’s no question about their beliefs in that regard. I knew their churches; I know the kind of Christians they were/are.

And these aren’t just good people; these are phenomenal people. These are people I love and respect like I do very few people I’ve ever known. One of them used to be my wife’s boss, and we still think of him as one of the greatest people in the history of us. The guy is just pure, strong light. (Hi, John!) He’s done more good for more people than any 10,000 regular people will ever do for anyone. And though I believe that his thoughts on the matter have evolved, I think he may still hold homosexuality a sin. I know he did back when Cat and I were lucky enough to have him in our daily lives.

One of my two or three dearest friends in Bakersfield was the fundiest Christian I’ve ever known. No one is fundier than this guy. I loved him dearly. I’m 100% positive that he believes that homosexuality is an affront to God. And knowing that wouldn’t make me hug him any less if I saw him right now. (Bonus points for this guy: he used to hang out with me and this one unabashedly gay friend of mine all time. And he was never anything but awesomely great company.)

My best friend throughout high school was also the best man at my wedding. He is a devout Mormon. I know what he believes about homosexuality. If I’d known then, would I have had him as my best man? Honestly, I don’t know. I know I loved him. I know that if I had wanted to we would have talked about it, as we did everything that mattered to either of us. I know I did go after him, hard, about the (then) inherent racism in Mormonism, and was ultimately satisfied with his response. (That response boiled down to, “Yes, it’s wrong, and I expect it will change. But this is my faith, and right now this is its theology. What can I do?” Fair enough. When you love someone, you love all of them.)

It is not necessary to hold a belief yourself in order to understand and appreciate the mindset of someone who does. I get Christians who believe that being gay is a sin. As I’ve often said, I know they’re just trying to be loyal to the Bible they’re reading. I understand the uncomplicated truth that you can’t fault people for simply trying to do what they understand as best.

The belief that homosexuality is necessarily an affront to God is wrong. That can’t change. But people do change. And about this matter more and more people are changing every day. It’s my job to continue to press that envelope—to monitor that conversation, and in whatever way seems best adjust my tone within it. Sometimes I’m conciliatory; sometimes I come down hard; within any given post I mostly try to do both. But no matter how purely emphatic I might at any given moment choose to be, I’m always aware that my words are directed to that within each of us which knows the difference between right and wrong. And it’s the fact that deep down every one of us is able to make that distinction that keeps me ever hopeful and optimistic.

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • http://www.facebook.com/spierlee Nancy Spier-Lee via Facebook

    Nope … just curious and thoughful … asking questions and thinking does not equal agreement with foolishness.

  • Jeannie

    I do think it’s easier to understand the mindset if someone has been there. I was raised in a very conservative Christian background. Homosexuality was not a sin in and of itself, but homosexual sex was a sin. In fact, sex of any kind except for old fashioned sex between a married man and woman was always a sin, always. In fact, many of the Christians I knew felt married sex between people who had divorced and remarried was probably a sin too. Unless you have a sense of that mindset, and it is native to you, you probably can’t understand how extremely difficult change in this area is for some.

    • Lymis

      The part that I don’t understand is the vehemence.

      I’ve had plenty of people justify their homophobia by saying that homosexuality is a sin, just like any other sexual sin – but I don’t see constitutional amendments barring adulterers from having their marriages recognized or outlawing remarriage after divorce.

      There are no right-wing campaigns to boycott companies that have known adulterers or people who have had premarital sex as spokespeople. Ellen Degeneres is a threat to the foundations of our society, but Newt Gingrich was allowed to run for President.

      I have less trouble understanding that people think being gay is sinful than in understanding why it is so much bigger a sin than any other.

      • Drew

        As always, Lymis – spot on.

      • Diana A.

        Precisely because it is a “sin” that anti-gay people don’t see themselves as capable of committing. Or at least, that’s what I think. And because homosexuals are still a minority. Thus, it’s easier to discriminate against homosexuals than it is to discriminate against adulterers and divorced people.

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

          Yeah, the fact that it was a “sin” they could NEVER see themselves committing, but that there conveniently is this whole OTHER group who can’t not should have tipped them off that something else is going on here.

        • http://www.cindymurphythinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Cindy

          True for some, but for others I suspect precisely because it is a “sin” that they feel drawn to and it scares the shit out of them. A recent study did actually show that very homophobic people do have a higher rate of arousal by gay porn than those that are not homophobic. Besides, how else do you explain people who are convinced that seeing a couple of guys kiss on Glee is going to turn children gay in droves. No completely straight person would ever come to that conclusion…

          • Diana A.

            Perhaps so. I admit that the whole thing is kind of beyond my ability to comprehend.

            I realized that Christians were supposed to regard homosexuality as a sin around the same time that I found out that Christian wives were supposed to submit to their husbands–something I regarded as an instant deal-breaker due to my older sister’s feminist influence. Those two issues along with the Hell issue and my lovely experience with a fundamentalist Christian cult scared me away from Christianity for a good ten years.

            My belief in God has always been grounded in the stories of Jesus (the Gospels), supported by the book of Acts and the stories in the OT/Hebrew scriptures. All I knew of Paul was what was written of him in the book of Acts and all I knew of “The Law” was the Ten Commandments. According to my understanding of the Gospels and Acts, we were no longer bound by “The Law.” The New Law came from Jesus, and consisted mainly of love and avoiding hypocrisy, including the hypocrisy of judging the (real and imaginary) sins of others while continuing to be a sinner oneself. So when I started learning about the teachings of Paul and the book of Leviticus, my attitude was “count me out. If that’s how God is (and I pray that he isn’t that way, because if he is, I’m screwed,) then I want nothing to do with him.

            So, that’s where I stand. FWIW.

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

            Yeah, Paul wanted women to submit to their husbands the way he wanted slaves to obey even harsh masters. It was kinda like ” Well, yes, you ARE equal, so I can see why you think this arrangement doesn’t make sense, but that’s how things are and we have bigger problems, so suck it up and deal with it.” Charming, really. The fact that he was a single, elite male shouldn’t have any effect on it, of course.

            But even Paul probably would have preferred a world where all could simply be equal. Think how absolutely impossible that must have seemed in his world. The disturbing part is those who have the potential for that world right in front of them and want to use Paul’s capitulation to his culture as a reason to go backwards…

          • Diana A.

            Exactly!

      • Tim

        Agreed, Lymis.

        I think it comes down to the fundamental nature of difference–they are different than I am as a gay man. They may be just as likely to get down on themselves for sin (and many of them do, regularly), but the difference is they (the fundies) can’t understand what it is like to be gay. They might understand what if feels like to want to cheat on their spouse, to steal (either out of greed or need), or even to feel like killing someone. However, this is so far out of their experience the thought doesn’t click for them of exactly what they are asking, and so a ban makes more sense to them.

        • Jeannie

          Exactly, Tim.

      • http://www.cindymurphythinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Cindy

        When I came out to my parents and shortly thereafter told them I was getting together with my now wife, one of my father’s early reactions was to tell me that I could never bring any woman I was with into their home. I was quick to point out to him how clear it was that he wasn’t just reacting to something he felt to be sinful since he practically begged my brother to come visit with his then ex-wife that he was back living with unmarried which my father also made clear that he considered sinful. He sort of admitted that what I said was logical at the time but stuck to his guns. Some time later when he came to realize how wrong he was acting and apologized to both my wife and I for the way he treated us and to me for how unloving he had been when he always told my brothers and I as kids that there was nothing we could do to make him love us any less, he reminded me of those words. I think they stuck at the time but took a while to really sink in. It is so obvious though that there is more to it than a simple belief that gay sex is sinful since no other “sin” is ever treated the way “gay sin” is.

        • Jill

          Cindy and Lymis, exactly. To me, this is why this ‘other side of the story’ must continue to be forthrightly honest and consistent. The fact that it is a generalized given in current society that there’s no sin like gay sin is precisely why this discussion continues, and needs to continue.

          I won’t bore you with my nearly 20 year old journey healing from fundy indoctrination, but you can believe that my dogmatic mindset saw ‘straight, reasonably acceptable sin’, and then saw ‘gay sin (oh how dreadful)’. That’s why people could stand around in my congregation talking in hushed tones about their divorces, but my best friend and first crush absolutely could not tell me he was gay.

          I can’t deny that bigotry and injustice still sickens me because it’s the mainstream version of the story. It’s the law of the land.

          So until the tides turn, I need to keep hearing John and these bloggers talk over and over about what’s reality because maybe the louder this gets, the more people like me get a damn clue and start being part of the solution.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chuck.anziulewicz Chuck Anziulewicz via Facebook

    You must have the patience of Job. http://anziulewicz.livejournal.com/364059.html

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

      I read “HER” response in the link. It leaves me speechless and shaking my head. There is no way to argue or discuss intelligently or any way at all with a person with such a total lack of mental capacity. It’s amazing that such people with so limited comprehension can SURVIVE at all without thinking, but they apparently manage by living on a more animalistic, instinctual level.

      Eh, I want to say so much more but a response to HER is just a too utterly tiresome waste if time and energy. She obviously wouldn’t/couldn’t comprehend any thoughtful effort.

    • Elizabeth

      Job is my favorite. A more accurate translation would be the “suffering of Job.” He’s a righteous man caught between God and one of his cronies, Satan, whose function was to test believers. For 42 chapters, he does nothing but question. The neighbors come to shut him up. He keeps going. The mark of a good man is to rant until God answers. Job is not about patience; it’s about faith.

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

        Best musical treatment of Job I know of: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j4ZgXPn4BkQ. Exquisite.

        • Diana A.

          Having just listened (and watched), I agree.

        • Elizabeth

          I love it when you talk music. I’m finally old enough to appreciate her later work.

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

            I know you’re an avid music-head. That’s why that song came to mind when I saw your mention of Job.

        • Elizabeth

          That is in no way sarcastic. I try to keep that on my own page.

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

          I couldn’t follow it cause I couldn’t understand half the words. I quit after about 15 seconds. I have no patience with songs and music where I can’t understand the words. What use is it if there’s no vocal clarity and you have to strain to catch even some of it. And no, it’s NOT my hearing.

          On another subject: In college I participated on stage in a play called “J.B.” by Archibald MacLiesh. It’s essentially the story of Job in more updated setting and language, one of my most rewarding college experiences. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J.B._%28play%29 I recommend it to anyone interested in the subject AND theater arts.

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

            Yikes, man. Sorry you couldn’t understand the lyrics … !

  • http://Www.cindymurphythinkingoutloud.blogspot.com Cindy

    Excellent post John. Really helps me understand you a little better and see a side of you that I hadn’t previously noticed in my short time following this blog. I was under the impression that you were not only never a fundie yourself but that you had always steered clear of the fundies and had very little to do with them. I must mull this over and think about how my false impression may have coloured other things I have read here.

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

      Thanks, Cindy; I appreciate that.

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

    hey, I read the podcast comments also! I just haven’t signed up to comment… :p

  • Melody

    Thanks for this, John. I was a little hesitant to say what I thought yesterday for fear of being misconstrued. After reading this, I completely agree. My own parents, and all but two other members of my extended family (to my knowledge) are conservative and believe homosexuality to be unnatural and sinful to act upon. As frustrating as this is, I still love them deeply, and if we’re talking about yesterday’s post, I do consider them brothers and sisters in Christ. Ditto what Cindy said.

  • http://unpublishedforareason.blogspot.com Hannah M

    Thank you for this post. I am always disconcerted when I read something that feels like it’s saying, “People who do/believe/say/think such-and-such can’t possibly be lovable, kind, well-intentioned people.” More often than not, these statements bring to mind dozens of people I know who prove the generalizations wrong.

  • Don Rappe

    I was brought up and grade school educated by “Missouri Synod” Lutherans. They will not tolerate being called “fundamentalists” because they do not profess the teaching of the “rapture”. Other than that, not much distinction. We also loved a liturgical church service. And we like educated ministers who can at least pretend to read Hebrew and Koinia Greek. The older generation studied, thought and preached in God’s good German into which Dr. Martin Luther had translated the sacred writings of the old and new testaments. After WWI English and God’s own king James version became an acceptable alternative and after WWII English became standard.

    The strength of the church was in its strong piety. We didn’t think God fooled around and, in serious matters, we didn’t either. We never accepted Jim Crow and opened up before civil rights were popular. Piety is good, but it can lead to legalism and there is the problem. The letter of the law gets in front of its spirit. Those of us from this background need to think often and deeply about the words “The letter kills, but the spirit gives life.” For myself, this teaching failed me because if its acceptance of the Inerrancy heresy. When I learned to think critically, this heresy gave my lesser nature the excuse it was looking for to reject the faith.

  • Allie

    I also have homophobic friends who are otherwise beautiful people. In fact I remember being shocked as a teenager the first time I discussed homosexuality with my grandmother, who was an actress, and she said she didn’t approve. My reaction was something like, HOW? Every single friend you have is gay, haven’t you noticed?

    • Elizabeth

      Right? Especially in the arts, it seems like a no-brainer.

  • Todd Rogers

    And there you have it, folks!

    The fact that we cannot (should not) fault Christians for their mistaken belief that homosexuality is a sin/affront to God must be just fine…for them!

    But to those of us that lack the eloquence to bring up the salient points that you bring up in your posts, John, and in your wonderful book, “Unfair: Why the “Christian” View Of Gays Doesn’t Work” when you mention the Clobber passages, it is still frustrating and hurtful when you have to experience those that supposedly “love” you (as Christians are won’t to do, warts and all) value judging you and making you feel small and ashamed for no other reason than a difference of opinion.

    My now late mother (who passed away from lung cancer April 25th, 2012) gave me the most wonderful gift a mother raised in an Irish Catholic family can give her first born and only son.

    Rather than conform to tradition for its own sake, my mother gave me the ability to choose my own path in my discovery of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, which meant also giving me the chance to follow Christ on my terms, in a way that I owned completely.

    See, my mother never had a worry that I wouldn’t find God, or that I would choose not to follow Him and accept the salvation that was so freely given. By not having me Christened and Confirmed on my 1st birthday, my mother assured a divorce from my father, and when I chose the American Baptist religion as my faith base, I reaped the whirlwind from my grandfather and my father’s family, but they accepted it because I at least found God and decided to answer a call to service at the young age of 8.

    But I digress….

    The church that I so lovingly referred to as “WCBC” in Daly City, CA, was a place of love, of unity in Christ and the teachings of the Bible not as the strict Christian Rulebook which every passage should be taken literally, but a living body of text that leaves itself open for interpretation by its reader, allowing for a deeper, more intimate understanding of God’s Love, and His Plan for the human race….oh..sorry…I fell asleep and was dreaming again….

    The church that I so lovingly referred to as “WCBC” in Daly, City, CA, was a place full of “Sunday Christians”, who raised their hands to Heaven in Praises to God The Father and absorbed as if by mind meld, the weekly sermons our good Reverend Northrop would so painstakingly deliver (I can fault many in my church for the hurtful things said about me, but NEVER Rev. Northrop).

    Our church was beholden to the American Baptist Churches of the West. That organization acted as our Guide to Baptist Doctrines, and served as the repository of the Pastorships’ retirement and sabbatical funds that allowed our Diaconate to “visit” other churches within the ABCW family within the 7 western United States, sharing different doctrines and establishing “sister church” relationships.

    In 1996, The American Baptist Churches Of The West, in its magnanimous omnipotence, REQUIRED all member churches within the State of California to vote to DISFELLOWSHIP 7 churches simply because they refused to remove intentionally included gay-affirming statements in each church’s Mission Statements, calling for the creation of gay ministries that welcomed diversity.

    This came at a time when all ABCW churches were asked (ordered) to submit mission statements that clearly defined what its member churches were all about. It was the first time in the 25 year history of our Church’s relationship with the ABCW that such blatant congregation profiling was conducted.

    Rev. Northrop was the only pastor (and the only representative of the Diaconate) to all but openly condemn the disfellowship proceedings publicly. But he was outgunned, out maneuvered and outvoted by the fundie Evangelical Board of Deacons, and though the congregation voted narrowly to deliver a NO vote to disfellowship, the Board of Deacons squeezed Rev. Northrop into having to attend the vote on behalf of our congregation and deliver a YES vote instead.

    The political maneuvering was because of fear of retaliation from ABCW, and the fact that a NO vote might, in a sea of YES votes, be seen as our church being another gay affirming church which might cause US to be disfellowshipped and the Diaconate would have none of that!!!!!

    Too many retired pastors on the board received monetary stipends from ABCW’s Pastoral Pension Fund and so there was fear those stipends would cease.

    So. by dishonorable actions from Church Leadership as a whole, we ended up having a hand in effectively excommunicating 7 churches from membership in the ABCW, which meant withdrawl of doctrinal support, guidance and monetary support to keep the church’s active in times of low tithing.

    I, as the then only gay member of that 120 member body, felt sucker punched, betrayed, and almost left the church over that vote, but those that knew I was gay and just didn’t care took me aside and said to me that I was not wrong to take the church’s forced position negatively, but that sometimes people are just plain wrong and we have to love them and pray for them that God will act upon their hearts and help them eventually see the error of their ways.

    I ultimately DID leave WCBC, but not because I wanted to. I had to.

    The “Forces of Darkness” amongst those most powerful members of our body, with the notable exclusion of Rev. Northrop at all times in all cases, had managed such a stranglehold on the gay issue that every year, usually around June as it is Gay Pride month all over the world, that on Gay Pride Sunday, instead of delving into the wisdom and teachings of the next chapter in our annual “Fifty Day Spiritual Adventure” (a booklet based training that followed an actual curriculum), everything was stopped cold and every prayer, every sermon topic was about the gays and their “so-called lifestyle?” like the very concept were alien to him.

    In closing, I LONG for the day when gays are 100% equal in the eyes of the law, in marriage, and in religious preference (or lack thereof by choice not exclusion).

    Thank you for all you do, John. I am one of your faithful readers and an ardent supporter. I would love to host you and your lovely wife at my home for dinner or fellowshipping on your next trip to Sacramento.

    Very Sincerely,

    Todd. M. Rogers

    • Lymis

      “The fact that we cannot (should not) fault Christians for their mistaken belief that homosexuality is a sin/affront to God must be just fine…for them!”

      Ummm. No.

      Yes, we can fault them for continuing to believe it after they have the opportunity to deal with the truth.

      Understanding where a mistaken belief comes from and realizing that someone had it handed to them in a way that make is reasonable for them never to have questioned it is very different from excusing a deliberate choice not to love when the option is presented.

      There was a time when people really didn’t have ready access to the truth about gay people’s lives, and all they had available was unrebutted half-truths, lies, misunderstandings, and bigotry. That day is over.

      You have to be living under a rock not to know that there are people who firmly believe that being gay isn’t a sin, and is healthy and as open to the presence of God as being straight. Continuing to hold unexamined anti-gay views in the face of that knowledge is a choice. And one people can (and should) be faulted for.

      That’s different from being gracious, having empathy, and understanding how hard the shift will be for many people. But no, they no longer get a pass.

    • Granite

      [Fundy troll trash-talk deleted.]

      • DR

        Says the Christian who worships with an average of 56% of Christian couples who get divorced And remarried multiple times, shattering their kids in the process, conveniently ignoring the Scripture “God hates divorce.”

        • Melody

          You owned him, DR!

  • otter

    I once worked for a company where the entire leadership was a coven of fundies………one of whom told me ” Of course you are a sinner going to hell, but I still like you”. Still wish I had told her where to go…..

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

      But then when you got to hell, she’d have been there with you. Why do that to yourself? ;)

  • Brian

    This ongoing debate seems to be a cornerstone to a much broader movement now underway, that of religious “Liberty.” And what those individuals and churches seem to be shouting about the loudest is the attack on what they see as “their right” to judge and condemn anyone they see as a sinner or the like. What is most sad about that is that these folks are the very same people who constantly ask “What Would Jesus Do?” It is an entirely speculative question based on the personal beliefs of the individual. How can anyone defend prejudice and bigotry of any kind based on how they, personally, would like to see Jesus condemn and punish people they want to see condemned.

    The more appropriate question is “What Did Jesus Do?” How did he treat sinners? Did he not say, “The sick need a physician.” No one can deny that we are all sinners and will remain so until the day we die. Jesus also cautioned the people of his day and those who would succeed them not to judge.

    I find more so today that I am all about looking in the mirror to remove the plank from my own eye before I try to tell anyone else about the speck I think I see in theirs. Most especially when it is based on what “I think” the Bible means!

    • Lymis

      I agree with you. But I think it goes deeper than that.

      People talk about it as though it is just about the right to make their own evaluations and moral judgements, and that telling them that they are wrong is infringing on their religious liberty.

      It’s not new in history, but there has been a very real and concerted recent effort that is very new to American society to make everything that is immoral illegal and to make everything that is moral mandatory. The charge to criminalize immorality has been very much led by the Religious Right. And they have successfully blurred the line – condemnation must be paired with imposing that belief on the people they condemn.

      It isn’t enough to disapprove – they see it as morally weak to disapprove and not take action. And that action has to be not only to witness, guide, testify, teach and inspire, it has to take the form of taking away other people’s ability to choose for themselves.

      So, a belief in keeping Sunday holy doesn’t involve staying home, going to church, and praying. It involves passing laws to keep stores closed and prevent alcohol sales to anyone. A belief that Jesus is Lord means mandating Christian prayer in public schools while preventing public prayer of other faiths. It means tax breaks for Christian churches while trying to prevent the building of mosques.

      And a belief that it is God’s plan for people to be heterosexual involves rewriting the Constitutions of individual states to legally impose sanctions on anyone who disagrees, and to fight tooth and nail to prevent any program that infringes on the right to hate, bully, and harass anyone who thinks otherwise.

      I don’t think we have to go anywhere near as far as discussion how Jesus would treat someone to address the issue. We have to separate out my right to believe what I believe from the idea that I can force it on others.

      For example, the idea that it is a violation of someone’s religious liberty to expect them to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple. If your religion prevents you from filling out forms, checking ID’s, entering data into a computer, and interacting with the public, then yes, it would be infringing on your religious liberty to force you to issue marriage licenses – to anyone. But nobody is forcing you to enter a same-sex marriage yourself, so your religious liberty isn’t infringed by expecting you to fill out applications for same-sex couples.

      Any more than it would infringe on the religious liberty of an Orthodox Jew to issue a restaurant license to someone opening a pork barbecue restaurant. She can disapprove all she wants, and choose not to eat there herself, but it isn’t a violation of her religious liberty to expect her to do her job and fill out the forms.

      • otter

        Brilliant post. Worthy of a column in every newspaper in the US. Lymis, I would love to meet you….

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

          I would too. I’ve been reading you, Lymis, for some time and I find you to be one of the most eloquently cogent writers on this blog…..right up there with John!!! Different style of course, but equally effective.

      • DR

        Yes. Yes. Yes.

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

          Ah yes, and you too, DR.

          • Jill

            These posts are why I keep coming around– I show up for the event, and I stay for the after-party.

  • Matt

    I think of it like this.

    Realizing I was both bisexual and transgender were two separate moments in my life, but each profoundly shifted how I related to and saw myself, my life, my body, and the world. It took some major getting used to, these changes. I don’t think I could have gotten through it, had I not had these very innate feelings of rightness, realness, and happiness to hold on to.

    So I go to these Christians, and I try to imagine these kinds of challenges to their worldview without having the positive developments I’ve gotten. And then I can have some compassion for why they may get angry, may lash out, may stubbornly cling to beliefs that clearly don’t work. I did, at first.

    The major difference, of course, is that the only person I belittled, hurt, and doubted was myself. Bad enough, but they are in a position to really do some damage to me. I’m sorry to say it, but even the most pure-shining-light fundamentalist is going to have to earn my trust, and earn it again every time we meet.

    It’s why I chose to tell you part of my and partners’ story, John. You may not be fundamentalist, but you still earned my trust, and continue to earn it. And you have solidified it even more with this post, showing that you actually care about all human beings, not just those who agree with you.

    • Matt

      By the way, John, trusting you also means trusting your judgement about people. I would have loved to meet the people you describe. They sound absolutely wonderful :).

  • DR

    What I struggle with in this dialogue are Christians who insist on keeping this conflict rooted within a simple “disagreement of ideas”. To me, the desire to keep the engagement limited to “Hey we just disagree on this theology but that doesn’t mean we don’t love one another, we’ll just have to respectfully agree to disagree” is the actual *impact* these so-called theological concepts are having on the GLBT community.

    I realize on an intellectual that there are differing interpretations of Scripture, different weights put on certain Scriptures like Leviticus, etc. I get that. But to just *keep* the dialogue there means we don’t ever have to talk about the emotional, spiritual and psychological damage this theology is doing to this community. The conversation never has to go there. And that is totally counter-intuitive to what the Word of God is. What it does and what it is supposed to do. It’s using Scripture, dialogue and discussion to keep yourself distant from the flesh and blood, heart and mind IMPACT to people who are gay. To kids who are gay.

    My brothers and sisters in Christ are people who above all, care about the impact of their theology and are willing to talk about it. I’m actually fine with “I know the way I believe hurts gay men and women. I know it makes them feel alienated. I acknowledge that my theology about gayness = condemned by God has contributed to a permissive atmosphere of violence and abuse. I realize it’s a lose-lose situation when I tell a gay person that none of us can have sex until we’re married but I refuse to allow them to get married. I realize I’m putting them in an impossible, lose-lose situation. But I don’t know what to do, I was taught that this was wrong and it doesn’t really make sense to me why it exists.”

    THAT would be amazing. That would be a good start. So I guess I’m different from all of you, not everyone who is a Christian is my “brother and sister”. I might be wrong about that, I probably am. But I’m being honest – I lose trust in someone who believes being gay is sinful, who won’t allow people to be married. That sucks for them and for me. But stop insisting that I am hurting you by holding you accountable to the impact of your beliefs. Stop insinuating that I’m being “mean” to you when I simply point you in the direction of the suicide rates of gay kids. Have the courage to enter into the family of God that God actually created. That would be an excellent start.

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

      No one had to “agree to disagree”. Disagreement is a simple fact that doesn’t require our permission. It just is. Nor do you have to be satisfied with or accept anyone’s particular view – generally, I would, expect like you say, when it has a serious negative impact on the world. And this does, so let’s all go ahead and not accept it.

      But I don’t think any of that precludes agreeing to have a relationship with someone with whom you disagree.

      Not that anyone’s required to. This is a doosy, a BIG problem. And maybe you just want to step back from those people. Maybe some don’t see honest or open of trustworthy enough. But soometimes, it is worth it, and it is positive, and agreeing to be agreeable despite disagreement while NOT accepting the disagreement to just disapear has its merits.

    • Allie

      I like what you said here. What most fundies seem to be saying is that they want to call gay people sinners without having to hear any argument because it’s a religious opinion and all religious opinions, no matter how crazy or harmful, must be respected. Then they turn around and say that they want their opinions, and only theirs, enshrined in law.

      • Christine

        It is just amazing how free speech lets them say whatever they wish but somehow doesn’t cover thinking THEIR opinions are rubbish.

  • Bowen

    Ahh, gotta love the shout-out to Bakersfield. I’m still waiting on a positive one…

  • Nathan

    John,

    I’m glad you clarified your previous post ( Are anti-gay Christians my “brothers and sisters” in Christ?). I was beginning to think that you could be accused of hypocracy. (and I still think you are bordering on it – but perhaps we all border on it)

    I will just point out that two of the endorsements of your writing (on the “About” tab above) come from authors who have publicly stated their opinions about the sinfulness of homosexuality. (Eric Metaxas and Stephen Arterburn) I believe that a 3rd (Tony Jones) also falls into this category, but I am not certain. It’s one thing to alienate the conservative Christian audience from your blog, but it seems like another thing to alienate yourself from the very people that you state have publicly endorsed you! If you hope to influence the mainstream church to take your views seriously, it probably isn’t a good strategy to question whether or not they are even your “brothers and sisters in Christ”! (unless you think that mainstream Christianity is so far out in left-field that it should be considered heretical or a cult!)

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

      Thanks, but I’m okay with what I’ve written (and what others have written about me). If I wasn’t, I … well, wouldn’t write/show it.

      • Melody

        Ditto, John. If conservatives don’t like your honesty, that’s their problem. They don’t have to read it if they don’t want to be held accountable, which seems to be Nathan’s attitude here.

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

          thanks, mel!

        • Granite

          [Fundy troll trash-talk deleted.]

          • Melody

            What the hell are you talking about? Beat it, troll.

          • Granite

            [Christian fundy troll trash-talk deleted.]

    • Christine

      Did you just imply that John should let himself be bought by endorsements? As in, if someone endorses him, he’ll just look the other way on anything they do wrong, giving them silent veto power over his views? Geez, I bet John would at least get a lot more endorsements (those trolls are everywhere and it would make it a lot easier for them). I, for one, am glad John’s posts aren’t dictated by the views of any one of those who appreciate him.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/comingoutchristian/ Kimberly

    Yup, fantastic followup post. I too have loved me some gay hatin fundies – my mamma was one. The folks from her church who came to her bed every day while she was dying are a whole crew of others. There were beautiful and simple people who loved on her, touched her body with tenderness when few others would and showered her with kindness as she prepared to leave this world. I am forever grateful to have witnessed such unabashed love – even between near strangers. If they had known all of who I am (mamma didn’t tell and I sorta pass) then they would have recoiled from the cascade of hugs I myself received. In my life I have experienced such warmth and genuine Christian love from folks who would just maybe go all Jerry Falwell on my fanny otherwise. I love them for who they are and forgive them for their shortcomings.

    On the other hand, those people who claim the name Christian and only go about their “faith” like heat-seeking missiles looking for another way to explode the lives of LGBT people, well that just a’int a path the J mad laid out for us, so yeah, I am getting dangerously close to being claiming who are the wheat and who are the weeds. But in the end, its not my place to say eh? Big G get’s that job :)


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