An Open Apology From Christians to Gay People

regretLast 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!)

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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.

  • James

    How fervently I wish that this prayer did, indeed, speak for the whole of Christendom, John. I wish and pray it with all my might, that someday soon I won’t need to look for a list of “welcoming” churches, that I won’t need to defend almost daily the idea that I’m both Christian and Gay, that the idea of two men or two women getting married by a clergy-person won’t merit any more attention or surprise than any other set of people choosing to enter the estate of matrimony.

    I’ll keep praying this right alongside you, John. Someday, hopefully soon, God will bring it to pass because His love will not be thwarted for long.

  • James

    oh, and I was too misty-eyed after reading this today to notice if there were any grammatical errors.

  • Joy morene

    I have always thought the least understood gift that God gave us is the gift of human sexuality. Hopefully, we are beginning to try to understand. Thank you for your words.

  • Jerry

    Sadly, the story ends as many do:

    ..and then, I woke up.

    But it isn’t as it once was, and that is largely due to the bravery of so many, known and unknown, in all parts of the world. God bless you, John–you are indeed an angel of the Light.

  • Matt

    I can find nothing punctuation-wise after two careful read-throughs.

    Just wondering about this sentence: “Over and again we have asked ourselves how we could have been so wrong.” If you meant to add a second “over,” just pointing out that you missed it. If you didn’t meant to add it, leave it alone.

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

      Thanks, Matt. I appreciate your help, as always.

  • mk edwards

    Editing is not one of my natural gifts, so I don’t really notice (nor even care about) errors.

    What I do see is a beautifully written piece of courage and love. I would proudly sign my name at the bottom of this document. I Thank you for articulating what I have wanted to scream to the rooftops. Herein lies the requirement God intended: that we love one another. Beautiful, Beautiful piece. Thanks for sharing.

    Peace be with you.

    mk

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

      That’s nice of you to say; thanks mk.

      It’d be a good to make this a letter Christians COULD online-sign somehow, wouldn’t it? I have no idea how to go about doing something like that, but … it’s a good idea.

      • Karen
        • http://www.greggdeselms.com Gregg DesElms

          Sadly, The Petition Site to which Karen links no longer has my respect. I was already a little bit suspicious of it from reading some of the inane comments beneath virtually any article on the Care2 site which had anything to do with animals. But I have since REALLY learned, the hard way, that pretty much anyone and everyone can make-up any crap they want and claim it’s true there; and then can dupe thousands and thousands and thousands of people into believing it, and then blindly signing a petition about it.

          That’s what happened with the story you might remember from the past couple of months about “Dutch,” the alleged service dog, which authorities in Montrose, Colorado want to euthanize after he viciously attacked a woman. Putting the dog down is, once one knows all the facts, the right solution. Either that, or putting the dog into a professional rescue that deals with animals whose attacks make them unsuitable to live as a pet with humans, ever again.

          However, the Care2/PetitionSite petition made it sound like the woman mercilessly beat the dog first, for no apparent reason; and so, then, brought it on herself. It alleged that Dutch was a service dog, and that his owner was a vet with PTSD who needed him and his service…

          …and MANY other lies. Lies, lies, lies, lies… lies which thousands and thousands of readers believed, and so they signed the petition. It should be called the lemmings site. If they had only known the truth, they would have been appalled.

          Or maybe not. Turns-out that the kind of animal lovers who frequent the Care2 site are over-the-top zealots. I heard from many of them after I wrote an article about the whole Dutch situation and its lies over on the NBC Newsvine website.

          SEE: http://bit.ly/15h7CRn (my article about Dutch)

          Contrary to that of which they accused me, I love animals, too; have had both dogs and cats all my life that I loved as much as most humans. But I never forgot that they were animals, and not humans. Care2 nutjobs personify their animals and demand of society that it treats said animals the same as humans. It’s insane.

          So maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised by what I saw regarding Dutch; but I nevertheless was. And I was even starting to feel alone in my position…

          …that is until I watched the 18th episode of season 4 of the CBS Televsion series “The Good Wife,” entitled “Death of a Client,” which aired on March 24, 2013.

          http://www.cbs.com/shows/the_good_wife/ (show website)

          -and-

          http://on.wsj.com/Zav7K6 (episode recap on the Wall Street Journal)

          -and-

          http://bit.ly/ZavdBr (full episode video)

          A client of the law firm is murdered on the street, and there’s a video of the precise moment of the murder, and moments afterward, from a nearby surveillance camera. Police come and visit Alicia at a formal social/political event seeking information about the victim (her client) which could help police find his killer. She agrees to leave the party and come to the police station to help for at least a little while… especially when fears that she could be the killer’s next target arise.

          While there, Alicia overhears and observes which make her suspicious that police have ulterior motives on account of the fact that her now-dead client had a lawsuit aginst the police department. She wonders if maybe the killer could have even been the police officer involved in said suit, and named as its co-defendant.

          So Alicia asks the firm’s crack investigator, Kalinda (heartthrob of lesbians and straights, everywhere), to drop everything and become involved, which she does.

          For those watching the full episode video at the third of the above links, there’s a scene that starts at 37:01 which shows Kalinda at the police station reviewing the video of the murder on a computer. The detective who let her so do, because she knows him, comes-up behind her, makes a sarcastic remark, and then sits down at the desk’s sidechair. He launches into more of his repeated attempts at convincing Kalinda that the murderer couldn’t possibly be his fellow detective.

          She tells him to shut-up; that he had convinced her. Surprised, he wonders how he did that; and then she instructs him to look at the video. As she turns the screen toward him, she explains that her firm’s client had sued a lot of people, and so had a lot of enemies. She then points to an object in the video that fell out of the passenger-side door of the killer’s car. The detective asks what it is.

          She explains that the item is a “Fetch Far,” some kind of contraption that dog owners use to fling tennis balls during fetch sessions. One of the people her firm’s client had sued was a dog lover whose dog barked a lot.

          The detective, incredulous, asks Kalinda if she’s kidding; if she’s saying that the her firm’s client’s murder is about, of all things, a barking dog.

          Kalinda pauses, looking at him for a prolonged moment, and then says, “Have you ever MET a dog lover?”

          The scene then ends at 38:01.

          It made me stand-up and yell “YES!” at my TV. Only Michael Jordan and Mario Cuomo have ever made me do that. Er… well… and now, Kalinda (though people tell me that she made THEM do that a log time ago… maybe I’m just getting old).

          What the petition site allowed regarding Dutch the alleged service dog was unconscionable. There is obviously no vetting, whatsoever, of petitions on that site; and petition authors may allege any fabrications they want, with impunity. Even if one challenges it, which I did in the case of the Dutch petition, Care2 does nothing… not so much as a look.

          Find a better petition site… maybe the one MoveOn.org now offers. Even the White House petition site would have more credibility. Heck, a petition site made by an 8th grader, and used by his school would have more credibility.

          Or so it is my two cents worth…

          …which my ex-wife was always quick to point out tended to be about ALL it’s ever worth. (Actually, she’s a peach; and we get along fine, even two-and-a-half decades after the divorce. I simply like making ex-wife jokes.)

          Avoid the Care 2 Petition Site.

          Gregg L. DesElms

          Napa, California USA

          gregg at greggdeselms dot com

          • Allie

            Nowhere does the site claim to vet the petitions on it. Nor would I want it to; that way leads censorship and suppression. But point taken, caveat emptor. Not everything posted online is the truth. Especially if something exactly confirms your opinions, you should be twice as careful to be sure you’re not being taken in because it’s the sort of thing you want to believe is true.

  • Allie

    Split infinitive:

    Why were we moved to with such ferocious vigor supplant God’s healing light with our own wretched darkness?

    “moved with such ferocious vigor to supplant”

    John, this is actually difficult to proof, because it’s so absorbing to read! You did good writing down that dream.

  • http://www.greggdeselms.com Gregg DesElms

    As usual, John, I love your work. Nice letter.

    Sadly, while it does an excellent job of laying-out conservative Christianity’s atrocities toward the LGBT community, and gives liberal/progressive Christianity something about which to dream…

    …it goes far beyond wishful thinking, past “magical thinking,” as defined in the DSM-III, and starts to rub-up against bona fide psychosis, in terms of believing in its real possibility in the real world. Every time I have the misfortune of dealing with any of them, it just gets weirder and weirder and weirder. It’s so far beyond the mere problem of not being able to reason with them that I honestly barely know where to begin.

    I’m dealing, this very moment, with a Christian website owner who was proffering, yet again, the “clobber passages.” In his intro to it, he wrote:

    — BEGIN WHAT’s ON THE WEBSITE —

    In this I will address 5 specific objections supporters of homosexuality have.

    1. Homosexuality as a sin was only given to the Jews because it is in the Old Testament.

    2. Sodom and Gomorrah were not destroyed because of homosexuality, and a passage in Ezekiel proves it.

    3. Jesus never said anything about homosexuality.

    4. Being homosexual is a preference, and humans can’t control it.

    5. God will forgive me.

    — END WHAT’s ON THE WEBSITE —

    Did you spot it? It’s in item number 4. Re-read it:

    “4. Being homosexual is a PREFERENCE, and humans can’t control it.”

    The capitalization is mine, to call attention to the problem for those who still missed it.

    I wrote to him a very nice and respectful email, explaining that I didn’t wish to debate him about the merits of any of what was on his page (and, of course, said page contained all the common Right-winged, conservative Christian arguments that are every bit as predictable as he accuses our arguments of being).

    I told him that ignoring the inherent loadedness of the phrase “supporters of homosexuality,” my point in writing to him was to simply point out that he must have gotten mixed-up or something regarding item 4; that it was, in fact, opponents of homosexuality (equally loaded, I know; but I’m just trying to follow suit) who consider it a preference. I explained that those on the LGBT side of the debate always, always, always say — and they’re correct in so doing — that it’s an orientation, not a preference.

    Moreover, I added, his item 4, as worded, would pretty much REQUIRE the word “orientation” instead of the word “preference” since only and orientation, of the two choices, is truly beyond someone’s control; and that it’s a preference which is, by definition, something inherently controllable.

    You won’t believe his response:

    — BEGIN WEBSITE OWNER’s RESPONSE —

    Gregg,

    Thanks for writing. I considered that when drafting the article, and after talking to many current homosexuals, of which I have acquaintances who are, and former homosexuals who are now straight or celibate, I believe it is the popularized, politically correct, and touted opinion that the LGBT community feels this way. In fact, may have never thought that, but came in to the idea from the surgance of people saying that’s how they were born. Though the number of LGBTs and former LGBTs that I talked to is a small sample of the group, almost every one said they knew what they were doing was wrong in God’s eyes, and that they made the choice. Many made the choice due to being hurt by members of the opposite sex, some had been molested when younger, and others just wanted to try it out and decided they liked it. But they overwhelmingly did not agree that they were born that way. What we see is the medias take on things and large support crowds that re-iterate what they’ve heard or been told. When you talk with them one on one, without groups telling them what to say (for current LGBTs), the story is quite different. Incidentally, every former LGBT that has chosen to come out of homosexuality or to abstain, has said it was without a doubt a choice they made to be that way, and a choice they made to no longer be that way. Given these facts, I chose to keep the language of the article the way it is. Take care!

    In His Grace,

    [name redacted]

    — END WEBSITE OWNER’s RESPONSE —

    Oy. Where to begin. [sigh]

    Obviously, the guy’s into the whole weird world of “ex-gay therapy” (aka, “reparative therapy”) which has been so thoroughly debunked that… well… again, I just don’t know where to begin. And, yes, don’t worry, I ran through the history of it all; and the whole Robert Spitzer story, and his becoming first the hero of the LGBT community by spearheading its removal from the DSM-III in the ’70s, and then his betrayal of it with his 2001 paper, presented at the APA that year, whic h argued that it’s possible for some highly motivated individuals to successfully change their sexual orientation from homosexual to heterosexual; and how that helped to launch the whole “ex-gay” silliness.

    And then I even hit him with how Dr. Spitzer, as he has begun to sense his reaching the end of his days, has completely retracted it all; and has even apologized, profusely and in a most heartfelt manner, to the entire LGBT community over it.

    SEE: http://bit.ly/105jQGr (article at Ex-gay Watch)

    SEE: http://nyti.ms/105jX4E (article in the NY Times)

    And I could go on and on about the incontrovertible stuff with which I hit him — all very politely and respectfully, mind you — including, of course, all the harm done by reparative therapy.

    Of course, the PRIMARY thing with which I hit him was the simple misstatement of fact that he was making with his use of “preference” rather than “orientation;” and, worse, how little sense it made, just generally. I used, of course, the old “you may have your own opinion, but you may not have your own facts” argument, and all implied by it. I pointed-out that one doesn’t intentionally misquote one’s opponent by making him seem to say what will ultimately support one’s own argument; that the only way to argue the point with integrity is to first fairly represent one’s opponent’s position, and accurately quote him; and only THEN tear it all apart. One NEVER does it — at least not ethically — by first seeding one’s opponent’s quotes with one’s own positions, and then going from there! I ventured that even the FOX NEWS CHANNEL knows better than that!

    The Media Matters website, though, might beg to differ: http://bit.ly/105kGTB

    He simply cannot be gotten to… with any of it. He cannot be made to understand. Forget for a moment that I can’t so much as get him to open his mind to any of the whole ex-gay thing. His problem is even MORE basic: He quite literally seems not to be able to understand the whole business of only accurately quoting one’s opponent, and the whole integrity of THAT. He literally can’t get it. Or, of course, more accurately, won’t.

    It’s surprising, actually, because though the conclusions to which his exegesis comes are wrong in all the predictable ways the matters nearest and dearest to liberal/progressive Christians, his overall exegetical skills, just generally, are not all that bad. And he well presents his points. Of course he’s nevertheless a Bible-thumping, Biblically-literal, Biblically inerrant/infallible, Law-over-Gospel, Bible-as-weaponry conservative Christian who has co-opted and appropriated — nay, absconded with — the word “Christianity” and has given it a bad name of the sort which John’s letter so deftly describes…

    …but, still, he’s obviously intelligent; but also intransigent. And so, then, believing that it’s possible to ever get his likes — EVER — to even CONSIDER apologizing for the atrocities they’ve wrought is, seriously, so outrageous as to be almost psychotic.

    It’s simply never going to happen. Ever. And, of course, that’s part of your point, John… I get that. And even if it COULD happen, at some point in the future, it’ll nevertheless never be in any or OUR lifetimes… or our children’s, or their childrens, etc.

    Life’s just too short. We must do what we must do to live-out our faith, with or without them, in the best and most honorable way of integrity that we can. I, for one, am both happy, and unapologetic, about the notion of doing it without.

    Gregg L. DesElms

    Napa, California USA

    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

    • Matt

      No, things are never going to be perfect. John’s letter may never be recited tearfully and verbatim from every pulpit one day, with every former fundie’s heart completely changed.

      But we have already moved forward, enormously in my own estimation. For one thing, the 5th edition of the DSM is being released next month. And not only is being gay not included, neither is being transgender, for the very first time in history. And I will bet you my tiny life’s savings that it wasn’t a committee of LGBT people who decided that, but a bunch of straight people. Things are shifting.

    • anakin mcfly

      “Incidentally, every former LGBT that has chosen to come out of homosexuality or to abstain, has said it was without a doubt a choice they made to be that way, and a choice they made to no longer be that way”

      That’s actually true in many cases, though. For the few people for whom ex-gay therapy worked, many were either bisexual and thus considered it a preference/choice, or were never gay to begin with. I’m reminded of an account from an ‘ex-gay’ man who talked about his past inability to find a girlfriend and deciding to see what it would be like to get a boyfriend instead because he was just that horny and lonely, only to find it repulsive and wrong. And then he went for ex-gay therapy, and they found him a good Christian woman, and he’s straight now! Which is… totally not what an actual gay guy would experience. (This account might be slightly inaccurate. I read it a long time ago. Similarly, I’ve heard cases of women who had been raped by men and the trauma prevented them from being able to form healthy relationships with men or experience genuine attraction; so instead they turned to other women, for the companionship at least, and agreeing to sex if their partners wanted, despite no actual sexual attraction. In their cases, going for ex-gay therapy helped them heal some of those paychological wounds and be able to slowly start relationships with men, whereupon they deemed it successful.

      So – those cases do happen, and are probably the only cases where such therapy does work. And by that logic, those successes would be the very ones who would affirm that their own homosexual behaviour was a choice, or the result of trauma. The huge problem is when they then assume that it would work for gay people whose orientations came about naturally and for whom the trauma is created in denying that.

      • vj

        That’s what I found most powerful about the stories in John’s book, UNFAIR… In contrast to the types of cases you mention, which is almost all I had previously heard/known/thought, they are stories of people who felt themselves ‘different’ from a very young age, who were *not* survivors of abuse and/or absent/failed relationships with members of the opposite sex, and who have only ever had feelings of attraction to persons of their own gender (with no apparent ‘external’ cause/source of such feelings that could possibly have led them ‘astray’). While it may be true that *some* LGBT people were apparently ‘made’ by abuse/environment, it certainly bears remembering that this is NOT a universal (nor even necessarily majority) experience…

  • robert

    Hi John…

    It is a nice letter and a nice dream….

    Unfortunately, I doubt that it will be realized in my lifetime… or ever. I see the issue is related to power, profits and control. The various priesthoods that dominate in the church systems … be them christian, catholic, jewish, islamic, mormon… all (or most) have a lot to loose if they shift from more dogmatic, literal views of their sacred texts.

    1. Their flocks would have room to question them.

    2. Their flocks would wonder why they are tithing.

    3. Their flocks might expect them to get real jobs.

    4. Their flocks might recognize that spirituality is an internal process not dependent on the words of a priest, minister, rabbi, etc.

    5. Their power base would be eroded.

    6. And god forbid… they would have to get real jobs.

    As long as these people are dependent on the $$$$ flowing in from their flocks… then they will continue to use fear tactics. They need them for one (or more) reasons – to create a sense of specialness (us = good and special, vs. them = bad and evil). Almost every major religion (and sports team) uses a form of this tactic. It creates group cohesion. It creates a special “bond” in the group. It fuels sagging egos by allowing the flock to borrow strength from the group. It is a powerful, barbaric tool.

    Churches in the united states are very anti-intellectual and for me, anti-common sense. The only requirements to join are to renounce information gathered by your senses, believe in myths and fairy tales written thousands of years ago and bath in the collective “specialness”. They are based on faith… which means “belief that is not based on proof”. This allows for people to completely ignore evidence, actually this requires people to ignore evidence. The more they ignore the evidence… the more faith they have. This is the real reason that logic and “proofs” don’t work…. the system is built to reject “proof”.

    I am not anti-christian. I am not anti-god. I am a theist. I believe that something, larger than myself is happening… things I can not understand, comprehend or even imagine. I can no more comprehend the mind of GOD than I can comprehend the mind of a tuna fish. The bible as a guide for moral behaviors in a tribal society… as a guide for a spiritual, personal experience… are fine. Believing that the Bible, Torah, Koran as the definitive “word” of GOD for me is foolish, narrow minded and a little too crazy.

    Again thank you for the letter… you are a very good and kind person… and I love this blog… it give some hope to me that maybe a version of your dream is possible. Would be nice for it to happen before human induced climate change destroys civilization as we know it.

    • DR

      You can’t say that churches in the US are anti-intellectual and anti-common sense while at the same time, saying you have no issues with Christianity. John has clearly demonstrated (as have many here) that they have both intellectual acumen and a faith in Jesus. The two are not mutually exclusive.

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

        Thank you (as always) DR.

        And Robert: Holy cow, dude. Pessimistic much?

        • robert

          Hi DR… I have no issue with Christianity per say… grew up catholic… think that the moral values are sound when it comes to the poor and loving they neighbor… I have always loved what “Jesus” said… I have worked with homeless teens and families for over 20 years which I have always seen as following his lessons…. (and in truth… I think I have done more to realize jesus’s teaching in my life than most christians have. And I am proud of it.)

          I do have a lot of issues with church institutions… I believe the old saying “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. This has been proven time and again in many churches… and yet we continue to hold church officials in esteem. Why?

          For me the worst thing that happened to Christianity was when Constantine made it into a “state” religion. The words of Jesus that I have in my heart and have based my life on (remember working with homeless for 20+ years)… have very little to do with the pomp and pretensions of America’s Neo-Popes… Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Eddie Long, Ed Young, Erwin McManus, Franklin Grahman.. ( http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/19/best-paid-pastors_n_1214043.html )

          These men are the face of Christianity in the United States… They have manipulated the words of Jesus for their profit and turned it into a big business. It sickens me… but something about “religion” that creates/allows these kind of men to climb to the top. The question to be asked is… what is it about religion that creates the conditions for these kind of men to thrive? Until that is plumbed, discussed, acknowledged, challenged, thwarted… christianity will continue to be produce these kind of men.

          John as for being pessimistic… yes a little… but I also believe that you have to name the problem first to be able to address it. For years, I have felt like Cassandra… I knew that the neo-cons were trying to undo all the provisions of the new deal (FDR 1940s)… and return us back to the 1890s… And with the help of Clinton… (anyone remember NAFTA) they have essentially done exactly that… and will completely succeed after they hollow out Social Security and Medicare… but that is another story…

          The problem with christianity today… is not homophobia. The problem is… $$$$, ego and power. Gay people are just being used as an $$$$ tool for the religious right. The same way african americans, muslims, jews, asians have been (and are still being) used. Lots of churches are nothing more than cash cows for their ministers… Mosaic LA is a perfect example. People will say that this can not be helped because institutions are run by men and men are imperfect… maybe I am an idealist, maybe I am naive, maybe I am silly… but that is just not good enough for me… so, I will continue to hold my understanding of Jesus in my heart and in my actions… but leave the rest of it as just so much nonsense.

          As for the problems the mankind is facing in the next 100 yrs, they are substantial… climate change is real… the facts are mounting… people are being to notice it effect their lives… and at the same time, I am seeing a “dumbing” of america. Critical thinking skills seem to be short supply. Science is under attack. Evolution is still being questioned, (which baffles me). Part of the anti-sceince thing comes directly from christian churches (Galileo… Darwin… Evolution?)… I have never seen a conflict between religion and science. For me, Science describes the “how” of creation; Religion describes the “why” of creation. But I am not a religious leader with a vested interest in proclaiming the orthodoxity of the bible. This is where the problem lays… not with the people… but with the leaderships attempting to maintain their power. It would be nice to plunk my head in the sand… but my grandmother always said… when you shove your head in the sand… you leave your ass waving in the air. So, I will continue to be Cassandra… I am a little to old to be putting on rose colored glasses.

          • robert

            Sorry about the length… I tend to over do almost everything…

          • Matt

            Robert, have you heard of Compassion Fatigue? I don’t want to diagnose you (I’m obviously not qualified to).

            But those of us in the caring professions can sometimes need to step back and take some time to care for ourselves, too. It sounds like you deal with some very frustrating, very unfair situations in your professional life, and that can really make people feel hopeless if they do this for a long time. You do not have to solve all of the problems that you see.

            Again, I don’t want to put words in your mouth, diagnose you, or tell you how you are feeling. I am only saying what I have observed.

          • robert

            Thanks Matt… I don’t think of it as compassion fatigue… more thoughtful, liberal fatigue… and my main source of frustration does not come from my work… but from FOX News, Tea Party Republicans, the religious right, neo-conservative think tanks, the undermining of the middle class, the manipulations of wall street and people like the Koch brothers. I feel powerless… because this country has been in a right wing drift for decades… there is no more liberalism in this country… there is the right… and the center (Obama is a centrist)… and most people are even aware of it.

          • DR

            Robert, thanks for that. I don’t find anything I disagree with at all (not that my opinion matters). Everything you said is really important.

          • robert

            Thanks DR… but I do tend to be a little long winded… just give me a soap box… and your opinion matters… everyone’s opinion matters.

          • Hannah Grace

            This is a great comment and I respect you a lot.

            Sometimes Jeremiah has a point.

    • Tim Northrup

      Then, what of the Episcopal Church, the UCC, the ELCA? What of all those individual congregations within broader, more conservative groupings that have decided to openly defy those who tell them otherwise? To some extent, they see decline, but only to a certain point. The Episcopal church, UCC and ELCA surely have had their splits and divisions internally, and some numbers loss, due to their taking stands on these issues. But those who remain are more committed to the good works of the church than the others are. and yes, their leaders are still paid (though not like an Osteen, Warren, or Jakes.)

      My other thought is yes, that is the case with power. Which is why the Protestant reformation was so important. Lower-level leaders can be held to account (and need a structure that prevents them from taking absolute power) and yet the priesthood of all believers makes everyone more accountable to all. And someday, even in the most hierarchical systems, the Pope is going to have to deal with the reconciling congregations who flaunt his rules on gay relationships. And (at least in the long run) the side who wins will be the one who actually cares, not the one with the money.

  • Roger Bartlett

    I enjoyed your open letter. I would like to make a small suggestion. Where you write about turning into fevered bucking animals, perhaps you might consider that you have just described gay men and women as fevered bucking animals. Now I like the description of fevered and bucking because sex can be like that but why animals? I don’t think we are any less human because reproductively we are sexual beings. I don’t think every gay person thinks of themselves this was either.

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

      I’m going to guess that somewhere between Seriously Doing It and actual … culmination you, Roger, go animal. Everyone does. That’s the scary/crazy/transfixing part. Anyone who says that during sex that doesn’t happen to them is lying—or totally not doing it right.

      • Hannah Grace

        Still, I think that in an apology to LGBT people, something describing gay sex as animalistic is in poor taste just because of the context of how Christians have talked about gay sex, and how dehumanizing it has been. Please, when being respectful, treat us as sacred and then please take it seriously if, when you don’t, we’re offended.

        • Hannah Grace

          I get that the divide between animal/sacred is messed up and that sex is sacred even when it’s passionate and animal, but you can’t just erase all the centuries of Christian prudery around sex and the horrible connotations it has built up in our culture because you want them to be gone.

    • Artor

      Personally, I think wild animal bucking is a great thing in bed. Calling someone “You animal!” is completely different if done clothed with a sneer, instead of naked with crazy bed hair.

    • Lymis

      Actually, Roger, John described straight people as fevered bucking animals. and more or less implied that for most straight people, sexuality is a separate reality, independent of the rest of their lives (or at least, of their spirituality) and somewhat threateningly lying in wait to ambush them at any moment – he says that gay people are prophetically integrating sexuality in with the totality of the rest of our personal experiences in ways that straight people fear to do.

      I won’t speak for straight people, but in my experience, in a very real way, John is correct about gay people. In my experience, gay people who are out and proud and who have embraced who we are are, perhaps paradoxically and perhaps not, for the most part both unlikely to see our sexuality as some independent animalistic urges that are isolated from the rest of our lives, and at the same time, for the most part perfectly happy to see and experience them as integrated animalistic urges that are part of the fabric of who we are and how we relate to others.

      It’s a sweeping generalization, and certainly not true of all straight people or of all gay people, but as metaphorical images and rhetorical licenses go, it’s not the gay people who come off looking bad in this one.

  • Michael Bussee

    Great article. One small thing — the title. Let’s not forget that countless people are both gay AND Christian. (Including at least half of the choir on any given Sunday morning. :)

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

      It’s (always) good to hear from you, Michael. (Hey, you’re smart. Have a title you’d prefer?)

      • Lymis

        Since it is going to be in a book as the title of the piece, what about simply, “An Open Apology”?

        • Andy

          Second

  • Amy BUttery

    GREAT Chapter. Two small grammatical suggestions.

    1. Change “Why were we moved to with such ferocious vigor supplant God’s healing light with our own wretched darkness?” to “Why were we moved to supplant with such ferocious vigor God’s healing light with our own wretched darkness?” (the two prepositions to and with on top of each other is weird to me)

    2. “And so we have always, if grimly, shunned our sexuality, and clung fast to God.” –remove the last comma. The grammatical heart of the sentence is “we shunned our sexuality and clung fast to God.” The two verbs share a subject, so no comma should break them up (unless needed to avoid confusion, which is not the case here.)

    THANKS for this. My other reaction is that it seems to imply that all gay Christians are somehow really nearly perfect in their faith. I think it’s more likely that they are like all Christians–flawed, learning, etc.

  • Brian

    My generic response to the collective “you” that is apologizing to the collective “me:”

    You say this:

    “We will reconcile ourselves to you.”

    Respectfully, no thank you. I no longer want any part of you. Your treatment of me was so horrendous I no longer trust you, or anything you have to say, nor do I believe you when you say you are sorry. The damage you have done is so great no amount of reparation can cancel out the pain and the losses you have made me bear. It isn’t possible for you to apologize enough.

    Why will I not forgive you? Because you have not changed – and I know this because all I need do is simply look to how you treat other brands of Christian. Or Not-Christians. You see, your homophobia is only the symptom of your greater disease that you willfully blind yourselves to: your need to be “right” trumps all other social rules and considerations, trumps even your closest personal bonds and relationships. Your need to be be “right” is more important to you than ME. You have made that abundantly clear in uncountable acts of betrayal, denial, abandonment, aggression, neglect. Your need to convince the whole rest of the world of your “rightness” – your evangelical missionary zeal – is the fuel for the great machine of harm you unleash on any and all who don’t conform to your “right” ideals.

    And THAT is your most egregiously unforgivable sin.

    • Nicole

      You’re right.

    • Tim Northrup

      Brian,

      Two thoughts about the tone of your response. First, I know how hurt you are. I, who have been bounced out of church after church by those who are more concerned with their power or their orthodoxy or their “truth” than with me or any other individual person. Second, it is obvious that this pain animates you in a way that it has never occurred to me to let it drive me. If I read this right, for you the pain is all consuming on this issue. Perhaps my life has just been too messed up for me to understand this. If I were animated by this level of pain every time it has been inflicted on me the world or myself would be a burning heap of ashes right now.

      But let’s get to the meat of your point, shall we? First, you brush the entire Church with the brush of the most craven of the religious right with your rhetoric. Even in those churches I have been hounded from, there have been those who were truly pained because they loved me but felt I was wrong and those who have a home and a broader theological alignment with that more conservative/evangelical/pentecostal line that they can’t find at a more accepting church. For many of the latter, I’m not sure how they make their choice between what they feel feeds their souls and what they know heals one like mine. I don’t envy them that choice.

      Second, you are consumed with the fact that they have to be right. Pardon my incredulity, but isn’t that kind of the point? What is right–morally, theologically, philosophically, scientifically, biblically? that is kind of the end all and be all of any great question of meaning and purpose. So, on its face, any objection to someone insisting that they are right needs to fall on deaf ears. If they truly have searched their hearts, read the word, done the work, and come out on the other side, I don’t know what I can do. Fundamental differences, but we all cling to what we know to be right when it is available and what feels right when it isn’t.

      Third, your lack of forgiveness isn’t hurting the “us” that is Christians. Not in any real way in real time, anyway. Your hatred and anger hurts you far too much for words, however. You forget that those of us who are offering to make compensation already believe it has all been compensated for. We are clean, forgiven, guiltless. We try to do well by you and make amends, beyond the extent to which we are personally guilty in most cases, because that is the right thing to do and because we come to know your pain. It is you who needs our help as much as we need/needed yours. None of us gets through life without the help of people who are so very different from us.

      Now I assume this isn’t your full, direct response. Fine enough. But as a generic response to a generic apology, this is my reading as a Gay christian. A gay christian far to the right of most of the Christians I know on a theological scale. I come to some of the same conclusions John here does for vastly different reasons on any number of issues. and I read this and wonder who specifically did you wrong, because for your response to be that heated requires a lot of pain. and the only lasting answer to that pain I have found is Jesus.

      • Nicole

        I don’t know. Brian’s response to John’s post is so honest, real and straightforward–there’s really no need or way to defend against it. It’s his truth and his experience and us saying “hey, you’re only hurting yourself” sounds kind of old and tired in the face of such a visceral, true, clear reaction. For me, his response made me think (that’s why my reply was so short) of how I push my “rightness” on others even as my beliefs evolve and change to be more inclusive. I begin to demand that others be more inclusive…because I’m right. Right?

        And, really, that’s something Jesus never did. He never demanded that people change or declare him right. He simply died for them.

        • Tim Northrup

          And yet, from the beginning, there are Peter, John, the other apostles, Paul, Timothy, Philip, Luke, Mark, and the list goes on (and includes some women) debating what is right, writing letters and gospels to each other on the subject, and in general starting to codify. The debate over who was right started immediately and is inescapable. To the extent Jesus avoided it (money changers, anyone?) it was more due to his divinity than his humanity.

          I understand Brian’s response, which is why I have to protest it. I feel it, so I have to object, both to the emotions (which need airing and then healing) and to the substance (which needs reasoning out and then refuting).

          • Nicole

            ” The debate over who was right started immediately and is inescapable.”

            Well, that kind of sucks then. We’re doomed to continue to push for division between us, rather than unity? I don’t care what the apostles debated, we’re not supposed to be like the apostles. We’re supposed to be like Jesus. He threw over the money changes’ tables in righteous anger, but did he come back every day to keep throwing them over–to make sure everyone abided by his rightness and honored his father’s house?

            I can’t protest Brian’s response. It’s too honest and real and, frankly, has a purity about it. He’s thrown over my table. I sit here as stunned as a money changer. There’s no refuting his post for me. I needed to hear it.

          • Brian

            Thanks for hearing me, Nicole.

          • Nicole

            *hug*

          • DR

            There’s a time and a place for the latter. In my experience, it’s not coupled with when one is airing one’s feelings though Brian certainly has the last word on whether or not this was helpful. To give one’s current state when grieving a lot of unfiltered acknowledgement without trying to change it/fix it is something our society has a difficult time with. This anger and hopelessness is indicative of a stage in the grieving process and we in North America can’t ever quite seem to contain the messiness of that for one another like other cultures can do. It’s critical we allow it and then ask when the person is ready for more information to challenge/refute, Tim – doing so proactively can sometimes push people much further away and much deeper into their grief then moving through it.

          • DR

            Are we not to aspire to and model the behavior rooted in Jesus’s divinity? If we were to only model the behavior rooted in His humanity, that’s not the fullness of what He gave us.

          • Tim Northrup

            To your first point, DR, if I were Brian’s psychologist and were trained to really figure out where he was, if indeed he is grieving something here and not just mad-as-hell-not-taking-it-any-more I would have different advice. I tried to be measured in response to both the anger and pain, though how well that worked, we’ll see.

            As to if we are supposed to aspire to model Christ’s divinity–sure. But at some level, being a realist, people come from different places, have different experiences and different agendas, etc. Division, to Nicole’s point, isn’t necessarily bad for its own sake. To some real extent it is theological back and forth which keeps a faith real. It is what that division results in–and it shouldn’t result in outright exclusion of people like Brian or myself. but to get there, as we have with Slavery and to some extent the role of women, is a process worked out in the heat of theological debate as much as any other form.

          • Lymis

            Tim, honestly, which response do you think is more Christ-like: “Yes, you’re right, you’ve been hurt and I’m here for you” or “You really need to get over it and forgive me”?

            There is a truth in the fact that forgiveness can be healing for the one who forgives, but there’s also a truth that is not the place of the one who wants to be forgiven to insist on it.

          • Nicole

            Point on.

          • Tim Northrup

            I think statement A is the point of John’s piece, and statement B (a bit oversimplified) is mine. One opens with point A, but eventually, with the circumstance, the response changes to B.

            And there is a certain measure here that may only come from having been in the same spot, but I think at some point you have to become more blunt. If it were an individual perpetrator, I guess B probably never is appropriate (is passive aggressive), but whereas we have a collective, many of whom have never sinned against this individual, I guess my thought changes. One can be comforting and firm.

          • DR

            I think as a church we are all responsible for this! We all are, this is when we can’t move from individual to collective. There were years when as a Christian, I believed being gay and being a Christian were mutually exclusive. Then I moved to “love the sinner, hate the sin”. It was only when I was faced with the impact of my decision to believe and why I believed it, I moved into where I am now but I was often silent with those that I’d worship with who maintained a homophobia. I’m responsible for my silence. But in the end, we don’t get to separate ourselves from “the Body”. We are the Body when it is beautiful and loving and we are the Body when it embraces evil and hostility in the name of Christ. We are the face of Jesus and people need us to take responsibility for what the Body does. We don’t get to pick and choose what parts of the Body we represent.

          • Lymis

            Tim, at this current point in time, everyone who identifies as Christian and with the current Christian community IS, in very real ways, “an individual perpetrator.”

            There is no Christian who, as part of the collective, has not sinned against LGBT people, because the collective itself is sinning against LGBT people in their name.

            If you want to understand Jesus’s views of people who stand by and don’t take action when someone is hurting, because they feel justified by their own personal religious convictions and don’t consider themselves to be a part of the problem, reread both the parable of the Good Samaritan and the parable of the Sheep and the Goats.

            I’ll take your word for it that in general, you aren’t actively contributing to making things worse, but if “Seriously dude, get over yourself and stop blaming the rest of us for your problems” counts in your mind as working to make it better, you might really want to consider rethinking that.

            “And Jesus said unto them, ‘For I was gay, and deeply wounded and marginalized by the Church and by people claiming to speak as Christians, angry, in pain, and you said to me, “Hey, buddy, tone! You’ve really got to get over yourself and you owe the rest of us an apology for being harsh to us. Feeling bad is no excuse for being rude, dude.” ‘ ”

            Really, that’s what you’re going with?

          • DR

            Thank you.

          • DR

            With all due respect, it doesn’t take a psychiatrist to hear, read and feel the pain behind these words. Anger is just a symptom of loss. My initial reaction is that you are well intended but perhaps, aren’t respecting where he is and giving that room. That you moved the conversation to where you *want* him to be instead of just letting the guy connect with us where he is. Listening to someone and offering to be a place where his anger and grief can be contained – listened to, respected, held – is essential. It just is, we can’t rush one another along in our respective processes, even if we think it’s a bad place to be. We ultimately choose to progress when our current ways of feeling and thinking aren’t serving us any longer. Thanks for listening, I’ll be honest in saying your response really bothered me so I needed to be candid.

          • Lymis

            I’ll add that it doesn’t even count as “rushing someone along their process” of getting over a past injury when that injury isn’t even past. The bullying that the Church is committing against gay people is alive and well and ongoing.

            It’s one thing to encourage someone to move past their anger at a bully who hurt them in the past. It’s something else entirely to stand by while the person is still being assaulted and complain about their tone.

          • DR

            Yes.

      • Hannah Grace

        Sometimes the best way to deal with pain isn’t to reject it and systematically argue against it, but to embrace with compassion, understanding and grace. Maybe you should try the latter, instead of saying “we are guiltless and you need our help”. Adding some self-righteousness to a reply bereft of compassion doesn’t accomplish your intended goal of making Christianity look better.

        • Tim Northrup

          Self-righteousness? Hannah, the context here matters. Now, on most issues I’m much more a down-the-line evangelical than most here, but I have always understood the whole point of redemption on the cosmic scale to mean that we are already forgiven. Thus, as I state, we are already forgiven. We have been made clean by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. and I could go on. I was trying to take the voice of the collective here–we seek your forgiveness not because we need it but because you need to give it and because we are hurt that we hurt you and want to make it right. Did I somehow not make that clear?

          • Lymis

            I think that’s a grotesque misuse of the word “forgiven” in this context, Tim.

            Because it sound like you are saying to someone who has expressed genuine, real-life, valid, and real pain, “Well, get over it, because I’ve already been forgiven, so your forgiveness doesn’t matter to me in the slightest. I’m only pointing it out so that you can get over yourself and drop the matter.”

            Seriously, “we seek your forgiveness not because we need it but because you need to give it and because we are hurt that we hurt you and want to make it right” ?

            In other words, “We don’t actually need you to forgive us, but as a favor to us, help us feel better about ourselves because, really, we’re the one’s who are hurting here, because our bad feelings about hurting you are far more important than any hurt you might be feeling.”

            I sincerely hope that you are just staggeringly bad at expressing what you really mean, because this is atrocious.

          • Jill

            Yeah, I couldn’t sort that through myself, and I also hope there’s a better meaning in there than how it sounds. Wow.

          • Brian

            Lymis, thank you, I think you do get at the heart of what I was trying to express… and that you have correctly understood what my (until now unwritten) reaction to Mr. Northrup’s post would be.

            In my experience there is an underlying arrogance in most of Christianity (not just the radically extreme right-wing) that asserts Christianity, and Christianity alone, is THE truth. And that *my* only route to happiness is via Christianity. And that it behooves a Christian to make of me a “mission project” until I come back to Jesus.

            Sigh. That toothpaste is out of the tube; it’s not going back in. Christianity was killing me (as a gay man coming out in the early 80s it was making me suicidally depressed). Finally walking away from my lifetime of faith had two consequences – the first was that I felt like a tremendous burden was lifted off my shoulders. You know, that “I’ve been freed” feeling you’re supposed to get when you’re “saved?” The second was that for a long time I felt like walking Swiss cheese. My faith, until then, was the soul and center of my being- and I had to reinvent myself almost entirely from scratch.

            With. No. Support. At. All. from my former faith community – which completely, totally, immediately and irrevocably abandoned me. Including my own parents.

            So the emotions I’m expressing here are BOTH grief over the pain, the lost relationships, the abandonment AND the “I’m mad as hell and not taking it anymore” variety. I **have** been in and out of therapy over the last three decades and always the same theme: coping with the PTSD-ish nature of what happened to me when I came out.

            It doesn’t help that the headlines I read over the fight for LGBT civil rights makes me re-live all that awfulness, or that my mentally ill sibling (without knowing she is doing it) parrots all the horrible things that were said to me all those years ago, or that on a really bad day I can’t drive past a church without foaming at the mouth.

            You know what songs are permanently engraved in my mind from my childhood? Hymns. Words that I can’t forget, ear-worms that come to me unbidden, with texts that are absolutely poisonous to me because of the nastiness they came to be associated with. I could happily live the rest of my life without ever hearing “Silent Night,” “Just As I Am” or “Amazing Grace” ever again.

            John was right to say “seeking not your forgiveness (for we would not dare),” because it is not within my power to grant it. I am damaged goods; and this particular damage was done to me by the Church, by people who I thought loved me… but proved to me that they loved being “right” more. It was more important to them to tell me I was going to hell and to disassociate themselves from me than to try to understand what I was trying to tell them or who I am or what I was feeling or to reassure me that I wasn’t some kind of monster headed for hell…

            John also says: “but only the slightest chance of proving to you that we have changed.”

            I do not see systemic evidence of change. There aren’t enough John Shores or Wendy Gritters or John Shelby Spongs or Eugene Robinsons for Christianity as a whole to gain my trust or respect.

            I also am profoundly grateful that John is writing essays like this – and at the same time I very much want Christians to be deeply uncomfortable over the harm that has been done. For FAR TOO LONG Christianity’s “loving response” to me as a gay man has felt like facing tanks in Tiananmen Square. For far too long my voice, and voices like mine, were dismissed out of hand – if not for orientation, then for questioning the “rightness” of how we were taught to loathe ourselves.

            The apology is necessary. It is also just as necessary, in my opinion, for Christianity to face up to, sit with, and OWN the harm, the anger, the hurt, the grief, and DEAL with it. I’ve carried it long enough.

            It’s your turn now.

            (and no, I really don’t want or need to hear again what you think Jesus will do for me. Been there, done that, walked away from it consciously, deliberately, purposefully; not going back.)

          • Tim Northrup

            I guess I have to respect that final point. And maybe I am horrible at making my point. Over time, there are more and more people like John and this community. That is helpful and wonderful. I think maybe where I went awry is the thought that this piece of John’s is meant to be visionary–to the extent it is made real and true then whatever comes after. I guess I read it as John’s prayer for the future. It was in that context that I read your response.

            These are the kind of times where I find I am humbled by just how little I understand even those most like me. Thrown out of house and home, abandoned how many times, it was there, as I tried to leave my faith, that I was drawn back to it. So either there is just something simply very different about you and I, good sir, or our pain was somehow different in a way that drove me into the church (even if I must be ousted infinite times) and you out. You have my best. I’ll address some of Lymis’ concerns above and bow out of this one.

          • DR

            We’re all learning! That’s what we’re all here for, to help one another. But I’m also here to stand in responsibility for what the Church has done to this lovely man who never got the chance to have a relationship with a loving God because we as a church somehow told him that his humanity doesn’t somehow fit into our equation. Frankly, I think rage and anger is a normal, healthy response for someone who actually believes that Christians should be demonstrating the fruits of a divine intervention in our lives. That we actually reject, shame and condemn people in the name of this divine gift of “faith”? It’s repulsive and evil and people have every right to despise us and tell us how hurt they are. And I want to absorb it. I want to hear them and bear it and take it. I’m not a martyr but it’s time we showed up and just listened and ask how we can make amends.

          • Brian

            Hi DR – thanks. The showing up and listening parts are critically important to me.

            There is another truth that needs to be spoken: my atheist, gay, vehemently bitter ex-born-again self is as much a product of the church as is also the owner of this blog, or Tim Northrup, or you. You speak to Tim about the parts of the Body (of Christ) – in my experience that vocabulary was used to specifically delineate who was – and wasn’t – “family.”

            In the past I was “family” (part of the Body) as long as no one knew about my orientation. When I started asking questions (and not just about my orientation, but about the basic claims of Christianity when I began to wonder what ELSE it could have gotten just as horrifically wrong) it was made clear that I was “family” only so long as I arrived at the “correct” answers.

            I get it about the restfulness of being among like-minded people – but how is it that, having spent a lifetime knowing, interacting with, bonding with, living with a community that suddenly being honest about a self-understanding completely undoes EVERYTHING? And this from people who claim their God commands them to love without condition?

            It bothers me that the phrase “the body of Christ” is taken by many Christians only to mean other (and sometimes highly specified) Christians – and not the whole human race. From my atheist perspective “the body of Christ” is much too parochial a term; it was one of the knives used to cut me off from my roots. Sometimes I just want to yell at the (non-specified generic) church – “YOU made me this way! Damn you – I’m still YOURS!”

            In your other post below directed to me you said “If there are amends – something we could do or say to ease your pain and give you a measure of peace – I’d do that, Brian. I’m straight and have so much more privilege as a result of that in our Church. You tell me what you need from me and I’ll do it.”

            I hardly know what to say. I don’t hear that very often.

            The first and most obvious to me is political. Advocate for my civil rights. Loudly. Louder than the wingnuts who are trying to take them away. Let THEM know that they do NOT speak for you.

            Some of what I want/need you are already doing. An enormous factor that drives my anger is **not being heard.** And not in that nod-smile-but-nothing-you-say-will-ever-affect-me-because-I-know-I’m-right sort of way. I mean in the “let him who has ears to hear, hear” sort of way. I think you are hearing me.

            Another huge factor is not preaching. For fully half of my life I went to church every Sunday I was healthy enough to go and to various Bible study and social groups during the week. I am WELL acquainted with what Christians think the Bible says and what its central message is. Another magical repetition of the same is not going to miraculously turn me back into a believer. Your critique to Tim about not moving the conversation to where he thinks it should be is dead on. And, to his credit, I think he gets that now. Thank you for not preaching to me.

            Beyond that? My list might include:

            Don’t ever pray “at” me. If you have something to say to me, tell me directly, don’t make me eavesdrop on a conversation you are having with a God I don’t believe in.

            For that matter, don’t tell me you are praying for me. I don’t want to know. It just feeds the “you think so little of me that I’m going to hell without your intercession” monster. (Irrational, I know, but I still don’t want to know.)

            I am not your mission field. I don’t want to hear your testimony, or how good God has been to you, or the miraculous answer to your prayer. I’m happy for you, if you are happy; for myself, I’ve heard enough of those unreal stories to be extremely cynical about what they actually represent.

            Don’t try to build a sense of solidarity with me by claiming that “we are all sinners.” Huge red flags go up when I hear that phrase… and you **will** be kept at a distance.

            Do? If I am in your life, then just BE with me. Period. There is no God, there’s just you and me and this moment. Okay fine – so you believe. Great. But I’m not living for an afterlife and I would greatly appreciate not being pressured about it. That still leaves just you and me and this moment.

            It is enough.

          • Nicole

            There’s a good thought to meditate on. Thank you for all of this, Brian. I like your brain and your kindness and openness. You’re on a great path.

          • DR

            It’s such a perversion, how these terms like “the Body” are used in such relentlessly cruel ways. It’s vile. I appreciate the insight and the candor, it’s definitely a trigger word for people who’ve been through what you endured.

            My opinion doesn’t matter but in my mind, people like you who want nothing to do with what we’ve offered and walk away from all of it (and us) seems indicative of a sharp mind and a heart that refused to be abused. Leaving christianity sounds like it was a live-saving decision, a lot of gay kids don’t survive us. That you did and others do has everything to do with who you are and the strength that’s within you. To me, you’ve already made this blog a better place and this advice is something I’m glad to know that I put in place already but imagine the hundreds of people who will read this and wake up to what they’re doing. That’s big. Thank you.

          • DR

            I’ve read this list several times and it’s so powerful that I’ve had to take a pass at it several times to absorb it all. There’s so much here for us to absorb. The power of the human mind, heart and spirit that’s survived such trauma at such a visceral, core level – to have your identity as part of “the Body” ripped away because you started using your mind to think critically (which is how the mind works, for goodness sake). It makes me cry, how much we damage people. Our intent in the end, just does not fucking matter, people. It just doesn’t. Our impact is what we need to be accountable to, regardless of our intent or our upbringing or whatever else has allowed our church to do this to people.

          • Lymis

            Brian, I don’t have words. I know how much it takes for me to write out my anger and frustration when I do so. I won’t presume to know what it takes for you to tell your story here, even with a mostly open and accepting group.

            Thank you for being willing to share that here. All too often, we don’t share the pain Christians cause us with anyChristians, and many of them never have a chance to understand how deeply hurt we are by them.

            I don’t trust any straight person who identifies as Christian until proven otherwise. I don’t like that. I wish it wasn’t true. I hate that a chrome fish and a swastika evoke pretty much the same feelings in me when I see them.

            The vehemently anti-gay christians try to paint a picture where LGBT people simply go casually prancing off away from the church because it’s just not fun any more, and because perverted orgies seem more interesting. And we, as the exiles, have to be far more invested in our own health and wellbeing, and in seeking the positives in our lives rather then dwelling on the negatives.

            So most straight people who aren’t intimate friends with a closeted gay person who is in the midst of a painful coming out never hear our stories. It actually amazes and humbles me how many of them who don’t know the depth of our pain are still working so hard for our rights and equality- and even then, they only hear from those of us who are willing at all to stick around to begin with – they probably have absolutely no conception of the pain among many of those who don’t.

            So, as someone who hears you from the depth of my being, thank you. Yours is a voice that desperately needs to be heard.

          • Jill

            I would just like to echo what Lymis, DR, Nicole have said much more eloquently than I can.

            You’ve got my attention. Your message needs to be heard, and I’m so desperately glad you’ve said it. If I sting from hearing it, it’s because it’s necessary, and it means that I need to step up more than I have before.

            I don’t speak from Christianity’s side, because it’s still got a lot to prove to me. But I do like the rebel yell coming from Christian groups like this one. It does mean change is coming, for me anyway.

            I, for one, am not looking for Christianity to forgive humans for being exactly as God created humans to be. If something religious helps me find more ways to heal, then I’m on board. If it hinders me like it did before, I at least understand now that it’s not the place for me.

            Brian, you and I are healing different wounds, but I truly hope that you have found your healing and the peace for your life, in whatever form is right for you. I don’t know what else to say, maybe other than I wish this was not something you had to endure. Truly thank you for being so honest.

          • DR

            I was so moved by your first comment that I didn’t know what to say. For me, the regret I have for your experience won’t ever fully abate. I wish there was a way of an apology fixing any of your history but I know there’s not. If there are amends – something we could do or say to ease your pain and give you a measure of peace – I’d do that, Brian. I’m straight and have so much more privilege as a result of that in our Church. You tell me what you need from me and I’ll do it. In the mean time, thank you for being here and opening your heart with us. I hope we honor it.

          • DR

            The one other thing I think of as I reflect on this is how CRITICAL it is for all of us who are straight and Christian to start fighting the battle for LGBT rights ourselves so people like Brian can just go live their lives knowing we’re cleaning up our own mess and managing the Christians who speak on our behalf. I wonder if the best gift we could give to you Brian, is to fight this fight for you and your rights so well (let’s face it, you’re fight is against Christians), that you’d never have to really deal with another Christian again. You could just live your life with your friends and your self-chosen family and community of support in peace and know that we’re protecting you – in a way – from us. The thing that seems really common is the total exhaustion those of you who have survived us to contend with us. We should be doing it for you, after all it’s not even your mess you’re cleaning up. It’s ours.

          • Brian

            This. This would be the acceptable apology.

          • DR

            Well you have my commitment, I mean that from my heart. Gay men and women are my human family – you are part of the beloved – you deserve to be fought for and protected. I’m all in.

          • Lymis

            “The thing that seems really common is the total exhaustion those of you who have survived us to contend with us.”

            This. So very, very, very, this.

          • DR

            I’m so amazed that you continue to engage here because of this, Lymis. I’ll confess to wondering how you do it even though we’re all so clearly the better for it. It’s got to take such an emotional and even physical hit to engage in such hostile unconsciousness and have to educate and explain and explain and educate day after day after post after post after comment after comment, and that’s just here. All the while, you and your husband are getting emotionally attacked in a grocery store. That kind of character you demonstrate to keep showing up is something I’ve relied upon in my life outside of this blog. You’re a role model for grace and how strength rises in suffering and it’s been a huge influence.

          • Tim Northrup

            I think your two readings of what I attempted to say are mutually exclusive. Let me try again, with less grammatical baggage. I find that even I get confused by my language sometimes (and i won’t go into why).

            1) We (Christains) have hurt Brian and people like him (including myself)

            2) We are in a temporal sense required to apologize and make amends by both our own moral compasses and what we believe our God wants.

            3) We have hurt ourselves in the process of hurting people like him

            4) We are seeking/have sought God’s forgiveness for our actions and thus, spiritually speaking, believe ourselves forgiven.

            5) Because of 4, the forgiveness of people like Robert no longer has any tangible impact on us.

            6) However, we still seek to make amends with people like Robert because it is the right thing to do, Jesus would have done it, etc.

            7) If people like Robert continue to be angry or fearful, the relationship remains broken, justly or not.

            8) This is what in the end grieves us, and therefore why if we are to prove ourselves worthy Brian must at least entertain forgiving us.

            9) It is my (Tim and not a few others here and elsewhere) responsibility as members of both the harmed group and the group doing the harm to advocate for this mutual forgiveness.

            Hence, I ask for your forgiveness not for me for it does me no good (though it may mean the world to me). I ask for you for your forgiveness so that you yourself can stop hurting. I have experienced no spiritual, personal, relational injury to myself where the pain stopped before I forgave–in all the cases, at least for me, the pain didn’t really begin to abate before I did. It may have become hidden, but there it festered. Here again, maybe I am just an odd duck (see my final response directly to Brian below).

          • Nicole

            I understand your point of view, Tim. I don’t agree with it and I don’t think it is helpful for Brian, but I can see that you have a good heart. Just stay open. And I’m glad you’re healing and growing. Thanks for sharing. *hug*

    • Hannah Grace

      I’m not sure what is going on here. One Christian can’t apologize for the collective. I try to apologize for all the sins of Christians all the time, but it turns out, I can only apologize for me and try to do my best. The church isn’t going to get better. When we stop being homophobic, we’ll find something else sinful to do. Do you know why? Because we are all sinners, just like everyone else. And any group of sinful people trying to navigate right and wrong are going to fuck it up.

      Yes, we need prophetic voices saying “please stop doing this evil thing”, but prophetic voices should be telling their community to stop doing evil, and then naturally the harmed people will forgive them. No self-respecting LGBT person is going to trust the Church until it stops being homophobic, and we are no longer in a situation where straight people can ever feel they deserve a lot of praise just for being the exception and not being bigots.

      But how can we have that kind of community? We want the Church to stop being sinful and start being holy, so that people know God is in it. But we are all sinful and we all screw up, and despite my best efforts, no one would describe me as someone so loving that people just know God is in my life. What then? What can anyone do? All there is left is grace, mercy and grace, and God’s love that will scoop us all up and heal all this suffering.

      I’m glad you are trying to bring that about, John, but it’s not up to LGBT people to forgive until the Church actually changes beyond a few exceptions

      • anakin mcfly

        ” and we are no longer in a situation where straight people can ever feel they deserve a lot of praise just for being the exception and not being bigots.”

        Not true. Where I live, they still do. They’re standing up against a great majority.

      • DR

        Gosh, I feel so differently. I think Christians represent the Body of Christ via the Incarnation of Christ and as a result, apologizing for what the whole has done is essential and very powerful. My dear friend, a priest, once said in front of an entire church, “As a priest I take responsibility for how we’ve hurt so many of you in the sexual abuse scandal. We must acknowledge how awful it is and I’d like to invite anyone impacted by it to please speak with me so I can try to make amends on behalf of my brother priests and those that hid them.” The entire church just breathed it in, that act of apology and responsibility was almost palpable in the healing wave that washed over the congregation.

    • Dwayne G. Mason

      I find Brian’s response legitimate, justified, and authentic.

      As much as I like your letter, John, it’s clear from the introduction that it is a dream. And it is eloquent and beautiful, but it’s fantasy.

      “That bright new day, so long in coming, has finally dawned.” Well, no it hasn’t. It hasn’t for the “Christians of the World,” not even a majority. But it has for a thoughtful and humble few Christians truly seeking to follow Jesus rather than following the Bible, their dogma, tradition, their misguided ministers, and their deeply ingrained personal prejudices.

      As for the thoughtful and humble few, we (“All Gay Persons”) accept your heartfelt apology. We acknowledge the courage it took for you to examine your hearts, to seek God’s will, to study Jesus’ intent, to walk a mile in our shoes, and to repent. With tears of joy and beaming smiles we extend our hands to lift you from your knees and embrace you in love and acceptance. We reconcile to you, we thank you, and we joyously celebrate our unity with you!

      We ask you to have patience and understanding with our brothers and sisters whose wounds are too deep, too fresh to accept or even hear your apology. We ask you to have compassion and empathy for those of us who behave as you expect us to, the way you have treated us — as outcasts, as rejects, as demons, as vile, unredeemable, damned sons of darkness. We ask you to understand that often, as children and young people, we have absorbed your hate deep into our being. That we have believed your condemnation was deserved and have carelessly used and abused our brothers, and especially others of our own useless and discarded class.

      We ask you to join us in the fight for equality and justice for us and for all marginalized people including the transgendered, the poor, the disabled, those of other faiths, and those without faith. We ask you do all that is in your power to change the hearts of those who continue to shame and hate, and to change the church itself, so that this letter may truly become an open apology from ALL Christians.

      • vj

        “We ask you to understand that often, as children and young people, we have absorbed your hate deep into our being. That we have believed your condemnation was deserved and have carelessly used and abused our brothers, and especially others of our own useless and discarded class.”

        This is so heartbreaking – partly because you have expressed it so eloquently, but mostly because it seems to so often be true. When I really started to examine the ‘church’ [historical/traditional orthodoxy view] view of homosexuality, it was the viciousness of the ‘clobbering’, ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ interpretation that actually made me re-think what I had been taught – it just didn’t seem right that Jesus would want His followers to treat anybody with just undisguised hatred. My Bible tells me that God is love and it is God’s KINDNESS that leads us to repentance – the hatred that emanates from some ‘Christian’ circles made me wonder: if their ‘tactics’ are so wrong, maybe their premise is too…

    • otter

      I COMPLETELY get where you are coming from! This country’s descent into Christin theocracy is terrifying. This from a recent Huffington post….

      “The new survey finds that 34 percent of adults would favor establishing Christianity as the official state religion in their own state, while 47 percent would oppose doing so. Thirty-two percent said that they would favor a constitutional amendment making Christianity the official religion of the United States, with 52 percent saying they were opposed.

      Imagine a gay person’s horror at this. We wonder “Will it be the kind and gentle brand of Christianty or the snake-waiving, holy-rolling hell-fire kind? ”

      NO question in our minds. If poeple want to IMPOSE their faith on the rest of us it will be a lot more like the sencond kind.

      • Jill

        otter, I share in your horror, if in my own way. My interest in religion again will never mean that I’m interested in losing what balanced, thoughtful, even-handed approach this country is supposed to take on matters of church and state concerns. This may become another vital social justice issue people will need to mobilize over and fight. I’m glad my pastor is clear on his support of keeping religion out of public affairs, and there are organizations dedicated to this.

        It goes without saying that it doesn’t matter if it’s the fluffy-bunny kind of Christianity, if it’s installed as a state religion, we no longer have a democracy and I’ve gotta pack up and move to Vancouver.

        I’d like to say that survey you quoted is just a blip on the radar screen, but I’m a pragmatist more than optimist… sigh

    • Lymis

      I don’t see John’s post and Brian’s response as being in any way at odds.

      A lot of Christians seem to want to minimize the seriousness of their homophobia, and a lot of them seem to want to believe that all it takes is one person saying “we aren’t all like that” or one person apologizing really, really sincerely, and it will all be better. Since Christians are such nice people, gay people will come rushing back to apologize for feeling hurt, everyone will hug and sing Kumbaya, and we can move on to something else.

      It doesn’t work that way. People need to understand that the harm done to vast numbers of LGBT people is irrecoverable on an individual basis. That there are people with whom you simply cannot rebuild a trust that has been so badly, and usually consciously and deliberately shattered, not once, but systematically and egregiously.

      Even if the bully puts down the baseball bat, sometimes there is absolutely nothing that can subsequently establish a trust that would allow the victim to want to hang out with the bully, no matter how much the bully may or may not have changed.

      And that’s a valid viewpoint. And in many cases, it’s a purely commonsense and practical one.

      But I don’t see that as in any way at odds with what John wrote. The Christian community as a community does need to apologize and does need to change, and does need to do what it can to make amends. The sermon in John’s dream really did need to be one-sided, because at this point, for it to mean anything at all, it cannot be measured by whether the LGBT people on the receiving end accept the apology or not.

      There is a particular kind of Christian who honestly believes that Christianity is the source of all morality, and that while few of them would go so far as to claim that Christians can do no wrong, they see it as a temporary aberration and a misunderstanding.

      Those people need to open their eyes and understand that there are a LOT of people who don’t see it that way, and who have very solid, practical, and reasonable reasons to feel so.

      I know that John knows that, and that in a lot of ways, that’s precisely what he’s working to do. It’s not going to a “a year” or “five years” from the time of such an apology to a genuine reconciliation. It’s going to be generations if it even happens at all, and Christianity doesn’t destroy itself in its unwillingness to make these kinds of changes. But that’s not only not a reason not to make the attempt, it’s an important reason why it has to happen sooner rather than later.

      Some of us are lost to you forever, through your own actions specifically done in the name of Christianity. Some of us are holding on by our fingertips. Some are in the trenches, fighting for the change. And some of us are in the pews, hearing the hate, and going home and killing themselves because of it.

      Until people realize that, any apology will ring hollow. But once people like John do know that, not apologizing become unthinkable.

      • Nicole

        Well said, Lymis. *hug*

  • http://www.thegreatfulmom.wordpress.com Keshia W

    I personally think his description is spot on and I would absolutley NOT change that phrase. It is provocative and uncomfortable which is exactly the point. Christians need to look at themselves and the truth of this–the fact that they are scared of raw sexuality, period, and so they need to build all of these rules and regulations around it so they can feel more in control.

    • http://www.thegreatfulmom.wordpress.com Keshia W

      Um, not sure what happened there. . .that was supposed to be a response to the whole “fevered, bucking animals” debate. . .

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

        Gotcha. Thanks, Keshia.

    • anakin mcfly

      But what’s there *not* to be scared of? It’s precisely raw, uncontrolled sexuality that leads to such horrors as rape and paedophlia, as well as personally-harmful things like sex addiction and that guy who died after orgasming 42 times from excessive masturbation.

      I know I’m terrified of raw sexuality, especially given the very unhealthy sexual thoughts that sometimes go through my head and what I might thus be capable of – hurting others and/or myself – if not for those very rules and regulations I place upon myself, and I see no reason not to be.

      • http://www.thegreatfulmom.wordpress.com Keshia W

        That’s fine. BE scared. I know I’m also scared of some of the things I would do if I lost all logic and decided to become a hedonist, but the rules I impose on MYSELF to keep myself in check, are not rules I am comfortable imposing on someone else (as long as they’re two adults and no one is hurting anyone else). We are all probably afraid of our sexuality to some degree, but that doesn’t mean that we get to use that as an excuse for why other people can’t do what they want with their own private parts, or live in love with their partner, or have a recognized union.

        Though I have to say, I think the reason I am so uncomfortable telling people I’m bisexual is because it has to word sex in it. I know, what am I, twelve? But really. I think having “sex” thrown into the middle of these terms just makes people think about what you do or don’t do in bed. . .which doesn’t help matters since that’s not all that it’s about.

      • Rio

        The things you are frightened of can be tamed by the cultivation–within yourself and in others–of empathy.

      • Lymis

        “I know I’m terrified of raw sexuality, especially given the very unhealthy sexual thoughts that sometimes go through my head”

        Raw sexuality can be terrifying. Lived sexuality in the context of a loving relationship with a human being you see as an equal isn’t raw any more (though, honestly, it’s best when it has a nice, juicy rare center.)

        Constraining it until you have a context in which to experience it lovingly is certainly appropriate. I encourage you not to lock that in stone as a permanent condition.

  • Jeremy

    I appreciate this open apology. The only problem is, most Christians would not agree with the statements made in this apology and that is the problem. I think it’s great that someone has the courage to write this. However, it does not represent the opinion of most Christians, which is why many in the LGBT community have left the church and want nothing to do with it. I am a Christian and spent my entire life serving in the church and hiding in the “closet” so I could be an active part of my church. However, I have since left the church and cannot envision returning any time soon because I do not want to return to the “closet” in order to not be judged within that community. I am now involved in many initiatives to help provide supports and services to LGBTQ youth in my community and it is very rewarding to know that I am helping create a community where they can feel loved and accepted.

    • DR

      Over 50% of Christians recently polled (Gallop study) said they have absolutely no issue with and will be voting for the legalization of gay marriage. A huge percentage of that population between between 18-35. So I don’t agree that most Christians are representing the bigotry that’s got such a foothold in a few of the older generations, in a decade or so (hopefully sooner than that), this will all be a faint, sordid memory on how our Church was once again using the Bible to hold back a huge human and civil rights issue.

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

        THANK YOU!

        • Jeremy

          I hope so, but I don’t know that I believe that Gallop poll. It must have been taken right outside a church in San Francisco in the Castro. I know a lot of Christians, as I am one myself, and I honestly do not know a single one who would vote for gay marriage. In addition, what people say in a poll and what they actually do when they step into the voting booth are two different things. I hope gay marriage will be legal for all Americans someday, but I’m not holding my breath because it may not happen in my lifetime. Funny how other countries, like France, who just legalized gay marriage (as a country), has the leadership to make this a right for all gays, but the U.S. has decided to leave it up to the states. That should tell you something about our government!!!

          • DR

            It was a national poll. Pinky swear! Though yeah, different parts of the country are certainly leading the charge.

          • Lymis

            The last set of polls I saw showed a more than 50% support for marriage equality among all groups except white evangelical Protestants. I know it showed an overall support of greater than 50%. I don’t recall whether there was a breakdown of “all Christians” or not. And yes, the under 30 crowd was up in the 80% range.

            I’m looking for a cite.

          • DR

            Yep, that’s what I have in my mind. I’ll look as well.

          • DR

            Well, I’m cool with being a Republic, I get it. But we need a Federal act for sure, don’t disagree!

          • http://www.justjohnboy.com JustJohn

            I believe that support has hit a plateau until the case is made more crystal clearly: at issue is a *civil* law, not a religious debate.

            I’d re-brand the so-called “gay marriage” and “marriage equality” as “civil marriage equality” to remove the implication of changing anyone’s peculiar faith practices and beliefs.

            Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, no? And, governmental consideration is one of those things. Holding our civilian population hostage to one specific religion’s specific interpretation of a book of specific superstitions is anathema to civil justice and civil liberty. People can resonate with that.

            AMPA was a change agent for me. As a servicemember, all I needed to see was my fellow troops legally married yet their families denounced by the government itself. That being We The People denouncing families of servicemembers who are legally married.

          • Lymis

            The case has always been crystal clear that the issue is with civil law. Some people seem to choose to deliberately misunderstand that, and some people who very obviously know better choose to consciously misrepresent that fact for their own personal reasons.

            I’ll agree that there needs to be work to undo this misrepresentation and educate those who don’t understand how legal marriage actually works.

            I resent it when people imply that there has ever been any attempt to legally force religious groups to perform marriages they don’t approve of – or that this is not already firmly settled law – Catholics don’t have to perform marriages of divorced people, and no denomination is required to perform marriages for people who are not members of their religion, and never have. Nothing about marriage equality changes that – and now, with 10 states allowing it, we have proof that nobody is trying to force it there, either.

            I also resent it when people use the valid distinction between religious marriage and civil marriage to imply that same-sex marriage is inherently a civil matter, universally condemned by all faith communities, because it isn’t. Many denominations and faith communities have been holding religiously valid but legally unrecognized Holy Union ceremonies and blessings for decades.

            I can’t tell from your post whether you are personally doing either of these things, but I also see very little indication that you aren’t.

            I resist your idea to call it “civil marriage equality” because marriage equality also implies the right to religious recognition by those faith communities that support it. That’s why the frequently heard call of “create federal civil unions for gay couples, and leave marriage to the churches” rings so hollow – because that’s preventing religious marriage equality. It implies that there is religious unanimity that simply doesn’t exist now, even with regards only opposite sex marriage.

            Pandering to bigotry is not the answer. Education is.

            The Catholic Church is free to refuse to remarry divorced people. The answer is not to come up with a term like “Civil remarriage” and force all churches to make that distinction because some do, or to make the Catholic Church feel that it has universal agreement with its policies, or to make Presbyterians who remarry feel like second class citizens because the Catholics wouldn’t have married them anyway.

            Whether you or anyone else likes it or not, some churches really do consider the same-sex couples they marry to really, truly be married, and married in just the same way as the straight couples whose marriages they bless.

            Our civil and religious language needs to reflect that.

  • http://www.justjohnboy.com JustJohn

    Mister Shore:

    I read this thing several days ago. I have been struggling to understand why I felt two simultaneous yet opposing forces: uncontrollable tears and blind anger.

    Yes, I have figured it out.

    I am angry that it is IMPOSSIBLE for me to believe that this is anywhere near:

    1. Genuine

    2. Acceptable to “Christians” (it took much for me to type that word)

    3. Anywhere near enough.

    But I am left with questions:

    1. SO WHAT?! What operational/tactical actions does this imply? Does it mean that you-xtians will no longer work to forbid GOVERNMENTAL (i.e. Civil) benefits based upon your own flawed (grrr… false) reading of a holy book that is considered total fiction to the majority of the world? There are dozens-to-one admonitions against divorce and high interest, yet you-xtians gleefully allow government to allow such.

    2. SO WHAT?! What overt demonstration of the integrity of your words is there? Are you taking every reasonable chance to proselytize on this crime against humanity?

    3. SO WHAT?! What the bleep am I supposed to do with this?! Really.

    Lastly, I point: Google for yourself and check me on this. There was a time when people with left-handed orientation were persecuted as evil. And, to this day, there is subtle condemnation pervasive in rituals, words, meanings, allusions, references to something correct being “right” etc. Lefties do feel it. That a left-handed priest cannot use his natural hand to give the magic wafer is an insult to that priest. The mandate is the right hand because the left is unclean and/or lesser.

    Really think about it. Left-handedness and right-handedness. Neither can be explained by nature or nurture fully. But just because right-handedness is the natural majority does NOT mean left-handedness is wrong, unnatural, immoral, etc. Seriously, forget the “rutting” nature of sex. Look at the similarities as an engineer would – it is nearly identical. Then think of other “orientations” that are no longer considered unnatural just because they are natural minorites…

    JustJohn

    P.S. Where are the letters to all the non-xtian religions? The blacks that 50 years ago were “bible ordained” to be separated and lesser? The jews? Women? … Get the point? The most demonstratively EVIL people by their actions have been… you guessed it.

    • http://www.justjohnboy.com JustJohn

      by the way. i’m not left handed. not even a little. but i’ve known a few, and they haven’t possessed anyone’s soul to my knowledge.

    • DR

      JustJohn, I don’t think you’ll find anyone here who disagrees with your outrage or is surprised by your suspicion. Christians have completely lost trust and respect with a lot of people and that’s a reputation we’ve earned. Trust is earned and at times, it can’t ever be earned back. Someone might decide at a certain point that trust is given back to us because that decision serves them and creates some peace. But it’s not something I as a straight Christian would ever expect or even ask for – we’ve lost your trust and there’s no reason for you to rationally believe us. We continue, as a Church, to be unable to shut down those who hurt you and your community as we speak. Speaking for myself. you get the last word on what “repair” and “amends” looks like for you and for many reasonable people, an apology wouldn’t even come close.

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

      Um … you must be new here. Which is cool: welcome! But wow, do you ever clearly know nothing of my work.

      Dude: this is just a blog post. It’s a simple recounting of a dream I had. It’s not pretending to be anything else.

      • http://www.justjohnboy.com JustJohn

        John (et al) I understand that.

        Yes I have no idea what you are past this post.

        You asked for feedback. My realization of WHY I had the odd reaction prompted me to share the nugget.

        The continued distrust of x-tians by [many and including] LGBTQDxyzabc is rooted in that nugget: the words we hear sound like awesome Hallmark Moments, yet the actions (operational tactics) we see are the exact opposite. It leaves folks like me frustrated and angry, as it is “yet another” version of “love the sinner, hate the sin” in operational terms. In this case, as you aptly put it, “homo-*-sexuality” is part of Identity. Therefore, it is impossible to execute that platitude and still be a christlike. (Neverminding the false theology of said “sin” for the moment.)

        I hope you can understand that I spent the time (irreplaceable) to give you this perspective in order for you to be able to incorporate this understanding into your own whatever-it-is-you-do as a human being.

        My assertion about left-handedness is genuine. If you can escape the shackles of the inflammatory nature of “omg it is sex” you should be able to see that the two traits are nearly identical.

        For what it’s worthless, I personally never left Christ. I only left the cults the bear false witness against Jesus and God. The worst thing that ever happened to the great teachings of the great teacher was the Roman Clique granted the power of the State to use Men With Guns To Enforce Religion (not faith).

        Open challenge to the faithful christlikes: Eliminate by your own vote all government coersion of others to follow your superstitions. Then life as Christ did. I dare you.

        • DR

          I’d encourage you to do a bit more reading to know who your audience is on the blog, John, I think you’ll find that you’re preaching to the choir. :)

          • http://www.justjohnboy.com JustJohn

            I hope I am. If it is an “open” apology, the audience is “general” and not just those in a particular group. That is the basis for my feedback.

            I do plan to learn more about this context, yes. Feedback is not an attack, it is feedback for addressing the visceral reactions of those not at this particular font of koolaid.

          • DR

            I don’t think anyone has an issue with your feedback, John (this has been said a few times). It’s all really important and this is the exact place where you can come, be completely honest and not be dismissed. I am encouraging you to really dig into the site as well as John’s other readings because you’ll perhaps, as other gay men and women do, find it to be a tremendous source of hope and encouragement for you in this specific space. That’s it. no agenda to challenge your feedback or change your mind. :)

          • DR

            (I love the phrase “font of koolaid”, I’m going to steal that). And the great thing about being so honest is sure, some of us here might not be in the space you’re talking about but surely other Christians who aren’t, stumble across this site and read this and they need to hear what you’re saying.

          • http://www.justjohnboy.com JustJohn

            Thanks. For what it isn’t worth, but as a context-assist: I’m not gay.

            I’m not straight.

            I’m in the group of people who don’t find a home in either of the camps. Unique problems for us – though I contend that we are the majority of humans.

            I also contend that it is from my group that much of the “dirtiness” associated springs – guilty feelings for *one* part of our needs/wants for being “merely lust” as it were.

            No one is sinless in this.

  • Andy

    While we certainly can’t expect every GSD* person to accept this apology and acknowledge that not all Christians are bad, if even one decides to give us a second chance, it was worth writing this. Thanks for sharing it.

    * Gender & Sexuality Diversity – I hope no one takes offense to that; I’ve heard it proposed as an alternative to LGBTQIA or whatever version of the initialism that doesn’t take every possibility into account.

  • Paul

    Wow! That’s some dream. You must have an extraordinary mind, that you’re able to recall word for word, the printed letters you read while dreaming. Total recall must be a fantastic gift. Do you have a photographic memory?

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

      No, I don’t. And it wasn’t quite as … simple as that. It was really the oddest thing. When I woke up, I of course immediately went to my computer. And with my hands hovering above the keyboard I just sort of went into this … waking memory trance … thing, where I went back to the letter, and there basically read it again. Except the words were this time sort of more in my Bizarro Conscious State than they were, like, on an imagined page. I dunno. I can’t explain it–or at least don’t at this moment have time to try. But the words were more … immediately present in some weird after-dream state than they were in my conscious mind as a memory. But in another way it was like I really was “reading” the exact same letter. I mean, this was that letter.

  • http://www.gaygirldatingcoach.com Mary

    Hi John,

    Well from someone who’s ridden the crazy pony of being christian and praying my butt off to be “cured” to finally realizing it wasn’t going away, I’ll say thanks. I think one of the most potent things you said is this: “Shamefully, we have turned the way you love into the way we hate.” Jesus Christ was NEVER about hate. Never.

    As someone who became a licensed minister in a born-again church hoping it would fix me, to finally leaving the church to be able to find peace with who I really am, for most people accepting our homosexuality isn’t easy. But being able to live our lives without hate inflicted by others and teaching us to hate ourselves can only make the whole world a better place. Tanks for being brave enough to post this blog.

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

    Thank you John for motivating this conversation, not only in THIS blog, but many others. I find the effort toward making a distinction between humans having sex and “fevered, bucking animals” kind of sad. I have always loved it when I got to that point because I define that as ecstasy. That is where I lost myself, and found myself in a different place I can only describe as touching God. I sincerely believe I have touched God during sex which actually seldom happened I regret to say, coming not remotely close to it in other life experiences. And it isn’t even frightening to me. It’s glorious. I’m always reminded of the Bernini sculpture of the Ecstasy of St Theresa.

    I totally agree about “Christians” fear of sex. For me, there’s nothing frightening about that kind of loss of control. I can’t imagine ever harming someone under such circumstances. I love too much to fear it.

    That said, John asked his readers to proofread his essays. In that spirit I add this comment: “Why were we moved to with such ferocious vigor supplant God’s healing light with our own wretched darkness?” It reads more clearly if you have commas after “to” and “vigor”.

  • http://www.narrowcrookedlanes.wordpress.com Will Wildman

    Hi John–I’m new to your site and still finding my way around, but Fred Clark has spoken very highly of you, which is worth a lot of points in my book, so that’s a good place to start.

    I realise that you are not presenting this as anything other than ‘a dream I had’, and thus there is a lot of contextual openness (that is to say, you aren’t actually making this apology or claiming that it is an accurate representation of the world as it stands). But as a guy who likes other guys, I find this letter tiresome, patronising, and in some cases actually offensive, and regardless of whether the punctuation is correct or not, I would strongly advise some reviewing and reconsideration of its content before including it in a book. You seem like a man honestly trying to do good work, and I would be happy to discuss with you further (or at least provide specifics of my thoughts). As it stands, I think this letter has a vastly greater potential to alienate the people it purports to address than to achieve any reconciliation. I know it’s just a dream, but not all dreams are worthy of publication.

    • James

      as another guy who likes guys, I have to say I don’t get your take on this essay even after several re-reads. maybe it’s a generational or regional thing? I’ve heard a similar reaction from someone I know to be about a decade or so older than me (I’m 45). I haven’t heard (so far) any negative response to the essay from any LGBT folks who I know to be significantly younger than me.

      • http://somethingshortandsnappy.blogspot.ca/ Will Wildman

        Well, I’m 28 tomorrow, so that’s the ‘younger generation’ box ticked. I fully expect that people would have different reactions to this letter depending on their age and location and all of the personal experiences those imply, so don’t take this as saying you’re flatly wrong to not be bothered; this is my take.

        I have an entire essay of my own written up on what I find troubling about this dream-letter, but if I were to boil it down to the shortest summary I can:

        It addresses ‘all gay persons’, which I find painfully reductive and exclusive when considering the vastly more diverse range of people who get targeted with homophobia. I know it’s inconvenient and complicated to try to describe/include that entire range, but if someone is going to approach me penitent and on their knees, I don’t think they should be disregarding inclusionary things just for being inconvenient. It’s inconvenient because of the oppression that this letter is supposed to be apologising for–elsewise we’d have invented more efficient words a long time ago.

        It disregards the existence of sexualised people inside Christianity (We’ve all read the Song of Songs, right? We know Solomon was a huge fan of oral sex?) and of sex-friendly non-Christian religions (We’ve all met Pagans, right? Very big on nature?), instead centring gay people as the freewheeling love interest in a romcom who teaches the stuffy repressed Christian how to embrace the whole of their being. I am not anyone’s Magical Queer.

        Related to that, it plays off the same old exhausted notion that queer people are inherently more sexual than straight people, which is the same premise we hear every time a homophobe whines that seeing two women holding hands on the sidewalk will somehow force them to explain tribadism to their four-year-old child. The only reason queer people talk more freely about sex is because we often have to for the sake of our own health while living in a (fortunately decreasingly) hostile society. It may be a more enlightened approach, but it grew out of acts of defiance, not meditation.

        And that defiance is the last key part, because this hypnagogic epistle claims that all of Christian homophobia is based on the fear of sex-positivity (which is apparently the sole province of queer people) and that is excruciatingly reductive. Setting aside the actual acts of sex entirely, same-sex coupling also completely upheaves strict notions of gender roles and restrictions, and on a broader level things like asexuality or transgender identities reject the idea that an external authority can accurately tell a person who they are and what they want in life. Everything that falls outside the defined space of ‘man is this, woman is that, and they have sex this way’ defies the kind of authoritarianism that often dominates most human socialisation and institutions, and Christianity more so than some. That’s not a small thing.

        So, yeah. I don’t blame anyone for the things they dream, so this isn’t meant as an attack on Mr Shore. But this letter is simplistic, reductive, exclusionary, and plays into irritating stereotypes. Even if I had patience for or interest in people I don’t personally know soliloquizing on how terrible they are compared to me (which I do not), this letter would mean little to me. It doesn’t sound like someone who knows the people they’re apologising to.

        • anakin mcfly

          I liked the letter, but I like this response too.

          “Related to that, it plays off the same old exhausted notion that queer people are inherently more sexual than straight people”

          yesssss. This is something that annoys me very much, especially because I’m far less sexual than the vast majority of straight cisgender people that I know, and it aggravates me greatly to have them then condemn me for my alleged sexual deviancy when I’m a frakking virgin and they’re sticking their genitals aganist every opposite-sexed human adult that moves. The smug hypocrisy stings. (It’s also turned me into a resolutely sex-negative slut-shaming person so I can be a jerk back at them for stuff they’re *actually doing*, as opposed to my unchosen state of passive existence, and I fully acknowledge that that’s not very nice of me, but that’s a whole other story.)

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

          Criticizing something because of all the things it’s not is an … odd modality to choose. But, what the heck; I’m just now avoiding cleaning my office. So, to your complaints:

          The letter is addressed to gay people. That’s … who it’s to. I don’t see how it would be possible to write one letter of apology that satisfactorily addresses everything one might care to say to each segment of a “vastly more diverse range of people,” but … doing that that wasn’t the purpose of this letter. Again, why bitch about a Volkswagen because it’s not a Chevy?

          Given its line, “We fear our own sexuality because its power seems to us far beyond what we are capable of controlling,” I hardly think the letter “disregards the existence of sexualized people inside Christianity,” or “plays off the same old exhausted notion that queer people are inherently more sexual than straight people.”

          And insofar as I can follow it, your final argument, in your critiques penultimate paragraph, seems to support the letter.

          Well, then. There’s that. Proof (as if I needed more) that you can’t please everyone. And now the laundry strewn about my office beckons.

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

      All my dreams aren’t worthy of publication? That’s weird. I thought they were.

      • Jill

        Perhaps not everybody’s, but yours are strangely cool, so I’d run with it.

  • jonricht

    As a borderline-atheist heterosexual male who’s spent way too much time discussing religion online, I enjoyed this. As others have mentioned, the context of reading this in a dream gives an “easy out”, a way for you to distance yourself from the ideas you’ve expressed.

    Still, in one of my more schizophrenically optimistic moments, I’ve taken those words to be yours, and I’ll assume it as I reply.

    I’ve long argued that model of Biblical sin is egalitarian: with only a few exceptions, all are equally bad (in God’s eyes), and thus any Christian focus upon one sin more than the others is a statement about that Christian – not God’s will/desires/values. Lying is just as bad as engaging in homosexual sex, which is just as being as being heterosexually unfaithful, or cheating on your taxes, etc.

    In this sense, I applaud your dream vision. The Christian who spends time lambasting homosexuals is someone too buried in his own values to see that they conflict with his holy book.

    Cheers for an interesting post.


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