Last night I dreamed that I was standing in the sanctuary of an immense empty cathedral. Broad beams of jewel-colored light cut through the air high above me, coming to illuminate a majestic pulpit that seemed halfway to heaven. Torn between curiosity and trepidation, I made my way up the many stairs leading to the great platform. Before taking the final step onto it I paused; elevated above the pews is no place for me. Where the pastor would set the text of his sermon I saw a sheaf of papers that seemed to draw me forward. When I reached them I read, neatly printed by hand, these words:
To All Gay Persons:
We write you from down upon our knees, our hearts so filled with contrition they are like stones whose weight we cannot bear.
For a grievously long time we have treated gay people in a way that we now understand brings nothing but shame upon the God we purport to emulate. With bilious fury have we systematically maligned, denigrated, condemned, cursed, shamed, and bullied you literally to death.
For no reason beyond animal ignorance we have tried to obliterate you: to rob you of your identity, crush your self-worth, destroy your hopes, turn you against yourselves. We have harnessed our almost unimaginable power to bring to you the singular, unceasing message that God finds you reprehensible.
Shamefully, we have turned the way you love into the way we hate.
And for that we now know that it is we, and not you, who deserve hell.
Over and again we have asked ourselves how we could have been so wrong. How, in the name of a loving God, could we have perpetrated, encouraged, and spread the reprehensible evil we did? We now look at the Bible’s six or seven fleeting mentions of homosexuality, and are astounded that we ever dared claim them as evidence that God cannot abide the gay and lesbian people whom He so lovingly created and sustains.
How could we have ever done such a thing? What, in the name of God, were we thinking?
Why were we moved to with such ferocious vigor supplant God’s healing light with our own wretched darkness?
Our repentance demanded of us that we tirelessly ask ourselves that question—and keep on asking it, until we arrived at its answer.
And so we did.
The reason that we have so hated you is because we have so feared you. We feared you because we fear our own sexuality. We fear our own sexuality because its power seems to us far beyond what we are capable of controlling: so utterly, quickly, and inevitably does our sexual lust transform us from pious, composed believers into fevered, bucking animals.
Like all people (we now see, praise God), there are two natural phenomena that, in the overwhelming magnitude of their power, finally render us insensible of ourselves: the awesome presence of the divine infinite, and sex. We have always believed those two to be in competition, to be mutually exclusive. Traditionally our conviction has been that where God is, sex cannot be. And so we have always, if grimly, shunned our sexuality, and clung fast to God.
And there you are, out and proud.
There you are, embracing that within you which we can barely acknowledge in ourselves.
There you are, consciously, purposefully, and wisely integrating your sexuality into the whole of your identity.
There you are, with an audacity we now find inspiring and humbling, daring to believe that you, just as you are, are worthy of the most supreme love.
You joyously claimed the rainbow; while we, mired in our stubbornness, insisted on seeing only blacks and whites.
But now! Now has the terrible veil been mercifully lifted from our eyes! And therefore do we come before you today—repentant, ashamed, mortified to behold our transgressions against you—seeking not your forgiveness (for we would not dare), but only the slightest chance of proving to you that we have changed.
God can, after all, change hearts. And he has most certainly changed ours.
It might take a year for you to consider us your true brothers and sisters. It might take five years, or ten. It might take generations. But however long it takes, we promise you one thing: as of this day, the Christian church has renounced—and will forever, and with utmost vigor, continue to renounce—that wicked, vile, and manifestly false theology which holds you as anything but our equals and our friends.
With God as our witness, we will reconcile ourselves to you. That bright new day, so long in coming, has finally dawned.
With all that we are and hope to become,
Christians of the World
I will be including this essay in the upcoming revised edition of my book UNFAIR. As you may know, I’m asking readers to help me proofread such essays. If you would, please leave any mistake you find in the text above—spelling, punctuation, syntax, anything at all—as a comment below. (Once I’ve incorporated your suggested changes into the text itself I may delete your comment, by way of keeping a clean pathway for those wishing to comment on the post itself. Thanks for understanding. And thanks so much for your help!)