Yesterday I received the letter below. It’s such a perfect example of how, in a million different ways throughout our society right now, the relationship between Christianity and gay people is working itself out. When the history of gay rights is written, everyday, grassroots stories such as this won’t be recorded anywhere. But it’s exactly this kind of rivulet that feeds the rivers that brings the water that forces the sea change.
So I just thought we’d take a moment to witness this one, refreshing, nourishing little rivulet on its way to the larger river.
I cannot tell you how incredibly happy I am to have found your page(s). I am 23 years old. I grew up in the Southern Baptist church; my father was a music minister and my mother was a church pianist. I was an only child.
The year I graduated from high school, my mom left my dad.
I was really close to both of my parents. They invested a lot of time and money to give me the best, most well rounded education they could. I was at the top of my class; I graduated high school a year early, and was prepared to be very successful in college and a career.
Their separation was a really dark time for me. When they divorced, I hit rock bottom. I failed out of college. I dealt with anger, confusion and hurt that I never imagined. I grew apart from my mother.
During this time I reached out for every possible thread of spirituality I thought I possessed. I would pray for God to heal my pain. I prayed for my parents to get back together. I prayed to have the strength to get up in the morning and not feel like my life was over. It seemed like God just wasn’t there. I kept reading the Bible. I kept going to church. But nothing I had learned all those years in Church was anything to prepare me for the problems I faced in the real world. Finally, I gave up on religion. I gave up on God.
My dad remarried two years after he and my mom divorced. My step-mom is a beautiful soul. I love her and my step-siblings very dearly. It was truly a match made in heaven.
Three years after my parents’ divorce, my mother and I were still on pretty rough terms. We talked and visited occasionally, but ours was nothing like you’d think the relationship between a mother and her only daughter would be.
On my mom’s 48th birthday, she “came out of the closet” to me. I was shocked. Floored. It turned out that the “friend” she’d had for months before she left my dad had actually become more than that in the last few years. They were in a committed relationship.
I went home after this revelation and did a lot of thinking. I had already abandoned the doctrines of my upbringing, so had no trouble truly and deeply in my heart of hearts knowing there was nothing morally wrong with homosexuality. I realized that for my mother to come to this place where she was finally able to admit to herself and to the world that she was gay was a really big deal, because as much as I had been steeped in Baptist ideology, she had been virtually triple-distilled in it over the course of her life. She had been going through years of self-doubt and trying to turn herself into something she was not. I couldn’t imagine what that would be like. She had been literally driving herself crazy running away from the truth.
Through all of this, my mother and I have grown much closer. We now talk all the time and visit each other whenever possible. She still lives in a small town in the Bible-belt, and life for her isn’t always easy. She is shunned by most of the people who knew her as my dad’s wife. People don’t smile or say hello when they see her around town. This woman, who gave so much of her time and love and service to her church and her community, is like a stranger to them now. And while this is hard on her, she is happier and more fulfilled in her life than she has ever been before.
She is still a Christian. She believes that the teachings of Christ are the best words by which to live one’s life. She tithes every paycheck—but instead of a local church she now gives to charities, including battered women’s shelters and the Salvation Army.
Taking this journey with my mom has brought me closer to the mind and heart of God than I could ever have been in a church pew listening to a pastor preach about hell fire. God is not a hateful, vengeful, cruel being. He is love, and kindness, and generosity. And real people of God are those things too. My mother, who is truly a servant at heart and will help anyone in need without a moment’s hesitation, is probably the truest Christian I know. And she is gay.
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for sharing the message that I have found to be undoubtedly real, one that is the love of God for all people of every race, religion, and orientation. It’s people like you, John, who are every day fighting the negative perspective of what it is to be a Christian, who will ultimately bring about the change we want to see in the world. [Sign], Emma Turner
Thanks for those final words, Emma; I appreciate it. On behalf of all the folks who read and comment on this blog, please give your mom our love.