I’m a 22-year-old gay Christian, and my father doesn’t approve of the choice I made to accept my sexuality rather than pray it away. I respect his opinion and have not treated him differently because of his views, but he’s started to treat me differently. His actions are not honorable (or loving) in the slightest. It tears me up because I’ve wanted a relationship with him for years. He claims to have raised me, but it was my step-father who admirably raised me as his own son. Now, I don’t know if I want a relationship with my father. In fact, I don’t want to be like him when I get older. The Mosaic law required the Israelites to honor their parents and not curse them. Jesus himself said to love our neighbors as ourselves. I want to love my father, but I don’t want to interact with him. Is honoring parents still relevant today? How do you love someone you don’t want to spend time with anymore? Is it even possible to love a parent unconditionally and not have a relationship with them?
So let me re-run this letter below, inserting my comments to it as I go (along with page breaks not in the original to make the whole thing more readable).
I’m a 22-year-old gay Christian, and my father doesn’t approve of the choice I made to accept my sexuality [It's so weird when someone says or otherwise makes clear that they don't "approve" of a person knowing, acknowledging, or accepting that they're gay. It's like saying, "I don't approve of people getting wet when they go out into the rain," or, "I don't approve of today being Thursday." Approval just isn't ... a relative concept.] rather than pray it away. [Ah. So now we've moved from dense to dangerous. I hate it when that happens. Can I just say right now I'm terribly sorry you got the dad you did? Bad luck for you.]
I respect his opinion [Why? If I said I thought white people should own black people, or that nothing's hotter than a six-year-old in a bikini, would you respect that opinion? We don't have to respect opinions that are harmful and wrong. And that it's possible or even desirable to pray anyone's gay away is an opinion about as harmfully wrong as it can be] and have not treated him differently because of his views [good for you; that is honorable, and makes you a winner], but he’s started to treat me differently. [ugh.]
His actions are not honorable (or loving) in the slightest [again, so sorry to hear about this], and it tears me up because I’ve wanted a relationship with him for years. [You will want a good relationship with your dad every day for the rest of your life. That's a given. Don't even try to make that go away. It's a part of your DNA. You just have to accept it as something okay, natural—and fully independent from what actually happens to your relationship with your father. Nobody in a wheelchair doesn't miss the days they had working legs, but that doesn't mean they can't be happy living in a wheelchair.]
He claims to have raised me, but it was my step-father who admirably raised me as his own son. [So now I pretty much basically entirely hate your dad. It's Beyond Douchey to try and take credit for raising a kid someone else did. Holy cow, man: how big a dinkwad is your dad?]
Now, I don’t know if I want a relationship with my father. [Well, of course, you have a relationship with him, and always will. But I know what you mean: you don't know how you want to proceed with that relationship. My quick advice in that regard is to back away from him as kindly and utterly as possible. Be nice; be polite; try to keep him from being as crazy as you can; and stay away. Tip-toe around him the same way you would a patch of quicksand] In fact, I don’t want to be like him when I get older. [I think it's safe to say that's a wise choice—and that you're also in virtually no danger of that happening.]
The Mosaic law required the Israelites to honor their parents and not curse them. Jesus himself said to love our neighbors as ourselves. I want to love my father [again: you do love your father—in the primal, immediate, eternal, inviolate way every human being loves their parents and siblings, and you will always love him in that way], but I don’t want to interact with him. [Whole different category of concern. You can love your father to death and still be perfectly aware that hanging out with him isn't doable for you. Part of being alive is loving people who don't love you back. You just have to, for and within yourself, emotionally manage those relationships. And the way to handle such a relationship is to: (A) accept that it exists exactly as it is, and (B) accept that you cannot, in any way, ever, change the other person.
You cannot change the innate, organic love you have for some people, and you cannot change their relationship to that love. If my father doesn't love me—or doesn't seem to love me in any way that's good for me, which amounts to the same thing—that doesn't mean I don't love him anymore. It just means that he's a doink who's willfully turning away from himself the most precious thing anyone could ever offer him. How sad for him! But if he sticks with that waste of time, then I have to accept within myself that my love for him might very well go forever unrequited. And I can in fact be okay with that, as long as I know that I've done my best to make that relationship work. If I've let my father know that I love him, and that I harbor absolutely no ill-will towards him, and that if he ever starts treating me normally—if he can ever respect me enough to accept or even pretend to accept who I am, that I'll really be there for that relationship, which I want—then I am done. I've done my job. Then I can sleep at night, knowing that I have honored that relationship: that it was he who shut it down, not me. What else can I do?]
Is honoring parents still relevant today? [of course it is. we must always be honorable toward anyone, our parents included.]. How do you love someone you don’t want to spend time with anymore? [see above] Is it even possible to love a parent unconditionally and not have a relationship with them? [it's often impossible not to; see above].
One more thing: a lot of times parents at first react in a less than admirable way to their kids coming out. But most often they then come around. They usually just freak at first. That “first” can last a year or two, which is painfully lame. But just know what I’m guessing you already do, which is that it’s not at all uncommon for parents who initially freak to later not only accept but embrace their child’s full identity. And a lot of times that negative first reaction is fueled primarily by fear: they don’t want their kids to be gay because they fear being gay will hurt their kids, and be bad for them. But later, when they see that their kids are just fine being gay, they relax and return to sanity. Which is always great.
The relationship you have with your dad now might not at all be the one you end up with. As I say, all along the way be respectful, be honorable, make it clear that you’re there if he ever wants to really show up for the relationship, and start living your life as … well, as someone who is more mature than their father for one.
Love to you, buddy. Let us know how it goes.
Yours in knowing Christianity isn’t nearly as crazy as too many desire it to be,
P.S. You might also find worth your reading my Unhappy? Reject Your Loser Parents.