To a Gay Anti-Christian Activist Who Suddenly Converted

confusedA friend of mine is a gay artist who, up until a few days ago, was a tireless and fairly high-profile opponent of Christianity. His world recently changed when he realized that, despite his “hard-won atheism,” he was rapidly becoming a Christian.

“I’m sitting here listening to Jars of [bleeping] Clay and weeping,” he wrote me. “Mother[bleep]er! Where is this [bleep] coming from? And why am I okay with it? God[bleep] it.”

Knowing my history (see I, A Rabid Anti-Christian, Very Suddenly Covert), my friend asked for some advice about the phenomenon he was experiencing. That advice (which he was kind enough to encourage me to here share) was/is:

Hey, buddy.

Up until my freakish conversion experience I, like, you, basically loathed Christianity; I considered it at best appallingly stupid. Same as you thought!

That God. S/he sure is … seriously intrusive.

Anyway, yeah: I have some idea of where you’re coming from, and perhaps a bit of what you’re experiencing.

I’m certainly aware of your concern that becoming a Christian will mean having to give up aspects of yourself that you hold dear. Please put that fear to rest. Of all the things that becoming a Christian means—or is supposed to mean, anyway—one of them is not getting absorbed into the giant Borg of Christian Conformity.

Exactly the opposite is true, in fact. God desires you to be more of who you are, not less. God made you exactly the way you are. And God is more than aware that you’re the only person in the history of the universe who is anything even vaguely like you.

You’re it, friend. You’re the culmination of the entire, literally ageless stream of creation that ultimately led to your existence. You’d be letting God down if you used your new awareness of His/Her presence in your life and heart as a reason to suppress the person God made you to be.

You were a bold, irreverent, truth-telling artist before you became a Christian. Become anything else now, and I think you’ll just piss God off. God needs bold, irreverent, truth-telling artists. That’s for sure. I’m gonna guess that’s why he yanked you over to his team.

Here’s a few random quick Christian Points I’d definitely encourage you to bear in mind:

Christianity comprises two very different things: faith and religion. Too often people confuse the soul of Christianity—the deeply intimate faith part of it—with the religion of Christianity. Not the same things at all. Faith is the water; religion is the cup. You need a cup to share water; a cup helps you partake of water yourself. But water always remains separate from whatever container it’s in.

Christianity is nothing if not rational. Part of becoming a Christian is not having to leave your brain outside the door; it’s not suspending your God-given ability to think critically. The idea that Christianity is not rationally supportable—that the Christian faith system is not at least as rational a response to reality as is any other faith system or philosophy—is nonsense. It’s just some freak of history that Christianity is today so easy to associate with Brain Dead.  (See my The Rational Genius of Christianity.)

It’s between you, God, and no one else. There is nothing in this world more personal, intimate, and tailored exactly for you than the relationship between you and God. Nobody but you can experience, feel, understand, or know that relationship. Nobody but you and God will ever be privy to the ever-unfolding dynamics that inform that relationship. What God says to you—what God shows you, how God proves him/herself in your life, how God moves you—always remains between you, God, and no one else. It’s the ultimate in Impenetrably Private.

Becoming a Christian doesn’t solve all your psychological problems. Becoming a Christian doesn’t mean the angst of life just suddenly evaporates from your life. Christianity does grant you a comprehensive context for understanding the whole of the human experience. And that’s hardly nothin’. But it’s not everything. God gives you the big picture; but a lot of the little picture is still yours to paint. You still have to deal with whatever it is in your life that’s causing you whatever pain or trouble it might be. If you had a crappy childhood, for instance, then becoming a Christian doesn’t instantly resolve whatever psychological legacy with which that may have left you burdened. (I wish it did!) Everyone, Christian or not, ultimately has to take out their own garbage.

You don’t have to be any more “moral” than you are right now. If God wants you to change, you’ll change. If you have habits, or predilections for behaviors that are out of line with what is best and healthiest for you, then trust that God, in God’s own time, and in God’s own way, will smooth those behaviors away from you. In the meantime, go easy on yourself. Trust the process that is being in relationship with God. You’ll be all right. I’d say the main thing about becoming a Christian is that it means you can relax. It means that everything is okay. Even you!

Don’t sweat the Bible. You don’t have to understand or feel comfortable with everything in the Bible in order to be deeply moved by huge swaths of it. The Bible is a massive, deeply complicated, and arguably infinitely complex book. It’s exactly as complicated as any given person. So don’t worry about grasping, loving, or understanding all of it. Just pay attention to the parts of it that sing to you. Read that stuff. That’s enough. It’s certainly enough for now. It’s enough forever.

Find your church. There are as many different kinds of churches as there are kinds of people. Rather than trying to fit into a church, find a church that already fits you. Keep looking till you do. (For more, see my How to Find the Right Church for You.)

You can curse. I think we both know how likely it is that you’ll continue to curse with the gusto of … well, me, for one. And that’s fine. Obviously, you don’t want to be a dinkweed about it. But God’s not a schoolmarm. He/She gets it. You’re free to use language in whatever way you’re old enough to know best. (See my I, The Comfortably Cursing Christian.)

I recommend Unfundamentalist Christians. I wrote the fourteen tenets for that group, which articulates a Christianity that keeps the Christ but loses the inanity.

Finally—and I know you already know this, but just in case—neither the Bible nor God condemns homosexuality.

For more on all this sort of thing, you might find these posts of mine worth your time:

What Exactly is the Holy Spirit?

What is prayer?

Once Upon Atone

Four sure and easy ways to deepen your relationship with God

No One REALLY Walks and Talks With Jesus

Advent, Easter and Ordinary Time: Knowing the Christian Calendar

Stars of the Old Testament

Congratulations on this amazing new development in your life. You’ll love it. If I can be of any other assistance to you, please don’t hesitate for a moment to ask. All love to you, brother.

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. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Todd Reeder

    Why would a gay person be interested in Christianity when you have preachers who say they are men of God calling gay people hateful names? And saying hateful things. One famous evangelist said to his congregation and on tv that if a gay man tried anything with him he would kill him and tell God he died. Then he laughs about it. He owns the ministry so he would be out of a job for it. He has also been caught in sexual crimes. So why would a gay person or anyone want anything to do with people who say they are Godly and say hateful things. “Christian’s aren’t perfect. Just forgiven.” That’s the excuse.

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

      Really? sigh. Okay: Well, Todd, see, because not all Christians are rabid anti-gay bigots of the sort you’re describing, see.

      C’mon, man. Are you really that unconnected to the room in which you’re speaking?

      • http://loveyourselfbetter.com Jenn

        Thank you John. My story is similar to yours and your friends. I spent most of my 40 some years very much not a believer and now many of my friends are confused and my at-least-agnostic-but-probably-atheist-free-thinker Mom is wondering where she went wrong. It’s so great to read your stuff because it’s so much where I’m coming from.

    • http://www.holyhomo.com Rand Duren

      Because the same way that not all gays are sleazy, hyper-sexual, promiscuous guys, not all christians are bigots who want to send you straight to hell. Easy as pie.

    • http://rindle.blogspot.com Lyn

      You just had to rush right down here and comment without closely reading the article, the links within the article, or anything else that John’s ever written or said here, on the NALT Christians Project, at the Huffington Post, at the Unfundamentalist Christians Facebook page, on the UC blog on Patheos, or in book form, or anything that’s been said about John, NALT, the UC, etc.

      Every belief system, including atheism and agnosticism, has its share of jerks, assholes, power-hungry tyrants, and sociopaths. “This Christian/Buddhist/Hindu/Muslim/atheist leader/thinker one time said [execrable thing], therefore I cannot be a member of that belief system, and you should not be either,” is the epitome of illogical thinking. More than half of all American citizens are Christians. Do you really think they’re *all* sociopathic sleazeballs?

    • http://GayGeekGospel.com Sean Rahner

      Todd, I can’t answer for John’s friend, but (as a gay Christian) I can say that I don’t believe in Jesus because of what a few bigots who call themselves Christian say or do. I have faith because of what I have learned about Jesus and what I have seen Him do in my own life. I believe that was the point that John was trying to make in his distinction between faith and religion. Even though I regularly attend church and I am steadfast in my faith, I detest many things about Christian religion. Often times I just have to look past the morons to get to the message.

      • Carol

        Eh Sean I am what is called ‘straight’ and I totally agree with you. Look past the morons to get to the message has summed up beautifully what I have saying for years. Churches are full of people (I guess that’s the idea ;o )) and people can be a pain. LOL.

        I have also certain things about my past I do not try to hide and I can see some looking on disdainfully. Let them. It is a pretty quirky past too.

        Divorced Mom of 4, fled domestic violence, after recreating her childhood, which was professional middle class. We went through the social service system, I used alcohol as a crutch for a few years. I was an evening drinker. I gotten into A.A. I am happily remarried and have a message to share. I fought the system to get my youngsters out of it and back with me, which I did.

        I am ‘real’ I am the person God created me to be. Romans 8:28/Psalm 139 have to be the 2 parts that I always connect to 1st, if I was to sum up my life.

        I am not ashamed of who I am and nor should be, as none of us should, as we are the people God chose us to be.

        God bless you and you all

        • DR

          What a story, thank you for sharing, your recovery shines through the text. Very encouraging!

    • DR

      This is such a condescending perspective and it’s also very objectifying. There are a lot of different people with spiritual needs who also happen to be gay. They are seeking something and as a result, more than likely seek out those who are Christian who don’t hold such bigoted, twisted theologies.

    • http://www.facebook.com/LostInSpaceMan Steve Armstrong

      I’ll tell you why a gay person would be interested in Christianity! Because Jesus died for us so that we could be reborn into a relationship with God through him! It has NOTHING to do with people who claim to be Christian who spread hate, fear and death and everything to do with the life that God gives us through his holy spirit!

      Would you want to stop being gay just because of a few bitchy queens? No, you’d still want to be gay because you want a relationship with a man. It’s the same thing.

    • http://brmckay.wordpress.com brmckay

      One either digs God or one doesn’t.

      What’s all this other stuff about?

    • Lymis

      “Why would a gay person be interested in Christianity when you have preachers who say they are men of God calling gay people hateful names? ”

      In this particular case, it sounds like the answer is that the Holy Spirit showed up in his life and knocked him off his metaphorical ass. When the relationship starts with a direct experience of the Divine, the hypocrites who claim to speak for God ring pretty hollow right from the start, and you’re forced to keep seeking until someone outside is saying things that match what you’re experiencing inside.

      My guess is that this conversion is not based on a sudden Spirit-based conviction that he’s a horrible sinner doomed to hell because he gets off on guys. So when he’s confronted by one of those, he’s going to say, “No, you don’t speak in God’s voice to me.”

      If you know the real star personally, you are less likely to get confused by bad press coming out of his fan club.

  • http://Fordswords.net David S.

    The water/cup metaphor is perfect. Absolutely brilliant. Kinda like the cyber-cup you’ve crafted in this space Mr. Shore.

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

      Ah, that’s sweet. Thanks, David.

  • Matt

    “It means that everything is okay. Even you!”

    This is the part that I like the most about this post and about Christianity. I agree, it is extremely relaxing.

    I feel like congratulations are in order for your friend. Not because we’ve “won one over” or something, but because it’s always nice to see another person get more peace/belonging/meaning in their life, in whatever form that takes. So, congratulations John’s Friend! Your reaction was perfect, because it was gut-wrenchingly honest. I don’t like liars, and I bet you don’t either. That’s a great quality for a Christian to have. Good luck on your journey!

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

      Exactly, on the congratulations part.

  • Jill

    Damn. This is what being away turns into– I’ve got so much good stuff to catch up on over here. It’s gonna take me a while…

  • Rick

    Good god! I hope he doesn’t suck down the bathwater with the baby Jesus. There is SO MUCH toxic culture in the various brands of Christianity!!! I know it all too well as an openly gay, former pastor.

    God, I hope he doesn’t drink the Kool aide!!!

    • Matt

      I’m not understanding your and other people’s knee-jerk response of “Be careful, gay Christian!” This guy seems plenty smart enough to decipher what being Christian means to him. If he had “drunk the Kool-aid,” no one would have heard from him. He’d be selling Bible’s door-to-door with a glimmer of madness in each eye. Instead, he’s not only reaching out to a trusted friend (John), but he’s even allowing us a glimpse into what is a very personal process.

      Maybe we should not make this about us, and have it be about him instead. Just a thought.

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

        And a good thought, as always with you, Matt. (And you’re right: this guy’s no fool.)

      • DR

        Agreed, it’s such a condescending posture.

      • http://allegro63.wordpress.com sdparris

        I really wish the phrase “drink the Kool-Aid” would disappear from the religious, cultural lexicon. What it refers back to is an episode of mass murder in the name of religion, committed by a twisted individual who tricked and then betrayed his followers.

        Such episodes are thankfully quite rare, and are not remotely like what Christianity is about. Even the more restrictive, oppressive versions of the faith, don’t sanction the mass murder of its followers.

        • http://rindle.blogspot.com Lyn

          So agree with this. I remember seeing the video from the folks in the helicopter who discovered the massacre. Everything was all green and tidy and beautiful, almost serene, and you could understand the appeal it would have had. And then, suddenly, there’s all these splashes of color and for a moment, it’s pretty. And then you realise what those splashes of color are– the clothes on the bodies. Bodies and more bodies and more bodies, till it’s just too much to take in. Men and women and children. People who’d been looking for a new start, a better life, a connection to God, a community of believers. All that laughter and love and singing and friendship and community, not just silenced, but inverted, turned to horror and fear and oppression, unimaginably betrayed.

          That’s what “drinking the kool-aid” means.

      • Rick

        My well-wishes WERE for him. I’ve already done my tour of duty.

        • Elizabeth

          I hear you. I think we’re all feeling shell shock these days. With a whiff of mustard gas.

    • DR

      I understand this was written though the filter of your own experiences but you seem to be almost unwilling to acknowledge that an experience of faith might not be a part of your story but could absolutely be a part of someone else’s. Why would you offer such skepticism during such a vulnerable moment? I don’t understand. You get the last word on what you believe but you don’t get that for anyone else.

    • Lymis

      Well, there is a lot that’s toxic in the various brands of Christianity.

      And I hope the friend doesn’t fall afoul of one of them, too.

      I don’t see anything particularly wrong with those sentiments.

      However, I certainly hope that an adult conversion – and it sounds like a very nearly Pauline one, too – where the person is in some ways actively resisting being drawn in, might be somewhat less subject to simply buying inconsistent stories simply because they’re presented. Someone with no access to alternate views who is presented with the undeniable experience of God might, but once someone knows that not all Christians think alike, one hopes that they’d be more questioning, or if they do get “sucked down,” they’ll come back up for air in fairly short order.

      If it doesn’t actually work and integrate into his life, it probably won’t last long. If it does, it’s probably somewhat impervious to the more flagrant absurdities.

  • http://SaintLukeMinistries.com Judy

    I just love your analogy of water and cup. I haven’t heard that before, but it’s so right. I really like your letter to your friend. It strikes the right notes of informing and encouraging.

    I’m a recent “liker” of Unfundamentalist Christians and a lot of what is said resonates with me. Not everything though. And here is where being a unique individual comes in. God indeed broke the moulds when he created each of us. And there are good and bad apples in every barrel, to coin another cliche.

    I am not a Christian because of Churches or religions. I am a Christian because I was brought up by a loving minister Dad and his equally loving and supportive wife, my Mum. I was given information about God and Jesus. So, when I went to a Billy Graham revivalist meeting at the age of ten, I became a Christian. I am now 52, and I remain a Christian. I have made informed decisions about my life, but I also have a close and personal relationship with God.

    I cringe when I hear bigoted comments from “high up” representatives of “Christian” organisations, but I know that I am not linked to them in the minds of anyone who knows me. I present to them an alternative view of what is acceptable to God, and I am thankful for that.

    I’m really glad I saw this post today. It has refreshed me. Thank you.

  • censorship

    Censorship alert, comments are censored.

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

      Um. I don’t think anyone thinks they’re not.

      • Elizabeth

        I can say ‘fuck’ all I want. Seniority rules.

    • http://rindle.blogspot.com Lyn

      Gee, for someone whose username is “censorship,” you don’t seem to really understand the concept.

      You come into my house and make racist, sexist, heterosexist, ableist, anti-immigrant, or broad-brush prejudicial or stereotyping comments about religious people of whatever persuasion or atheists/agnostics, you will be told that such speech is not welcome in my home, and to either control your speech or get out. If you come into my house and say or do something threatening, harassing, or oppressive to my family– either blood family or heart family– you will be removed, immediately, and not welcome back. The same is true of my online spaces.

      This is John’s online home. It isn’t censorship for him to insist his visitors treat those coming to him in a state of vulnerability and the members of his online family with respect. That’s known as common human decency.

      None of us have any right to comment here. We are here at John’s discretion. If John decides a comment doesn’t get posted, tough luck. It’s his blog. He gets to decide. His rules can be as arbitrary as he wants because it’s his space.

      You want to post whatever comes into your mind? Go get your own blog.

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

        Will you marry me, Lyn?

        Wait.

        Will you …?

        Wait.

        Great comment!

        • http://rindle.blogspot.com Lyn

          Well, I think our spouses might object…

    • Nicole

      Yeah. The Internet’s not a democracy, sweet pea. And I now defer to Lyn’s amazing response.

  • Benjamin

    I’m a gay Christian, and by no means a perfect one–I could definitely work on my faith a bit. But I defer to the gay Christian who commented earlier, saying you “look past the morons.” God is bigger than the church, and desires everyone to come to Him–He didn’t make gay people to sit on the side lines and let straights have all the spirituality. No one has a monopoly on the Gospel.

  • Allie

    I just googled your line about the water and cup because it was so good, I wanted to be sure you weren’t quoting something so I didn’t look like a dink when I say: wow! John, that’s good. That’s like, really really put-it-on-the-poster good stuff. I am going to use that analogy from now on whenever I have to explain the difference between faith and religion.

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

      You can always trust that if I’m knowingly quoting someone else, I’ll definitely say so.

    • Lymis

      I agree. Great image!

    • Terry

      The Bible does talk about new and old wineskins. It says you shouldn’t put new wine (as in the new covenant of Jesus’ blood that brings forgiveness, freedom, grace, truth), into old wineskins (as in the old testament, old covenant, the law), or it will burst.

  • Grace

    I am intrigued by your conversion experiences. My question is – do you think it can work both ways? What does it mean if you experience a phenomenon where, despite your hard-won Christianity, you find yourself becoming freakishly de-converted?

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

      I’ve not heard of an instance where someone suddenly converted to atheism, in the way people sometimes suddenly convert to Christianity. But I don’t see why it couldn’t happen that way. As for what that would mean? It would mean … someone suddenly went from Christian to atheism. I mean … that’s about it, right? Lots of atheists are former Christians, obviously. And I personally sure have no problem with anyone making that transition. That’s their business. If they’re happier as atheists than as Christians, then who the freak would I be to complain about that?

      • Dana

        Grace,

        I get what you’re saying, but I’m wondering if your sudden de-conversion has more to do with religion than with your faith in God? Being a Christian in a fundamentalist, evangelical church, I had (and am still having) a hard time reconciling religion with my faith when our 16 year old son came out to us last summer. I left that church and am still searching for an accepting church community, but I’ve come to understand the difference between what man (the church) says, and what God says. I’m going with God all of the way and working on my personal relationship with him vs. worrying about finding a human to tell me what God thinks. Does that make some sense?

        • Jim

          Dana,

          What you’re saying, your questions, they do make sense. As John said in his post above, “God desires you to be more of who you are, not less. God made you exactly the way you are,” and “It’s between you, God, and no one else. ” The best anyone else can do is point to the path; your path is uniquely yours.

          Don’t give up looking for a church that fits you, where you are on your journey right now. And, don’t base that judgement on one or two seemingly discordant points–a chance remark by someone during fellowship hour, or how you are (or aren’t) greeted at the door. Take time to start figuring out if their theology matches yours. When you find a fit, don’t assume that you’ll be there forever. Churches can be like last year’s swim suit; you may find that you’ve grown out of it in the intervening season.

    • Lymis

      The first question I’d have would be based on the same point John made in his letter above where he separated the water from the cup.

      Did you find yourself “freakishly deconverted” from God, or from the Church? Did you become allergic to the water, or did your cup spring a leak?

      Do you believe that there’s a purpose to the universe, a guiding presence that speaks in the heart of each human person, that loving one’s neighbor is the highest good, that caring for the sick, hungry, hurt, and oppressed is a part of what makes us decent human beings? That humans become most deeply human, connected to themselves and each other when Love is present, and that where there is not Love, something deeply important is missing?

      Or did something about how you thought you were supposed to believe shatter? Did you realize you had an image of a robed, bearded, somewhat grumpy Grandfather on a throne sitting on a cloud and it didn’t work any more? Did some wealthy jerk buying his second beach house try to tell you how “entitled” poor people are when they insist on getting sick and wanting care? Did something about repopulating the entire planet from what fit on a tiny boat after the entire planet got soaked in saltwater for over a month strike you as sketchy?

      God isn’t Christian. Christianity is one path to experiencing your relationship to God. It’s not the only one. And there are times when God works by shattering what we were holding on to so that we can get rid of something that was holding us back.

      If you stay open to where your path takes you, it may not be “de converting” at all. It may be transforming into something more real for you.

      • Jill

        Lymis, I am also trying to understand this in my life, where Christianity isn’t always the most compelling belief system for me, and I don’t know how much more genuine wrestling I can do with it to make it be a true fit for me.

        Regardless, your point that God does for us what is needed for us as individuals, that there is no pre-set factory model of what our relationship to the Divine will be, is well placed and much appreciated.

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

          Jill, for whatever it’s worth, consider the wisdom of finally stopping all the questioning and just jumping right in. At some point something a lot bigger than your mind is going to have to take over anyway. Might as well give that a try. If once you’ve jumped into the water you don’t like it, you can always jump right back out again. But I’ve been watching you “genuinely wrestle” with Christianity for what I believe is now years. Why not commit to just … trying on the clothes you’ve been examining under every possible light for such a long time now? If you don’t like the new outfit, take it off; it’s not like you have to buy anything. But you might find that you like the fit a lot more than you’d have ever known when all you’re ever doing is scrutinzing the clothes from an arm’s length away.

          • Jill

            Technically a year and a half-ish, but your point is taken. I wish I held a fraction of the clarity that you and others here seem to have, perhaps naturally. I truly respect it, and admit some envy of it.

            Since you offered, could you also recommend how one tries it on or jumps right in? Something else I can do, but not? I’m attending a church, taking a bible study class… it’s supposed to feel right at some point, right? I am fully no-sarcasm genuine in my questions. At this point, I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.

          • Matt

            Jill, I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong. But if it helps, “Christian” is something that you are, not something that you do. And to be something, you don’t really have to do anything else other than declare it, even if just to yourself.

            Maybe this angle will help, since you know me so well: I’m not a transgender male because I wear certain clothes or act or sound a certain way. I’m male because I say so. I have declared it to be so. And before I told another soul on the planet, I told myself. That was the first step. I did some reading, studying, and reflecting afterwards, of course. But nothing would have happened if I hadn’t taken a leap and actually embraced this thing. I continued because every step along the way felt more natural than the last, always knowing that I could absolutely go back if this was not it.

            The motivation always came from inside. And so the same is with Christianity. You already have everything you need, right now.

          • Elizabeth

            Jill’s a genius. She’s scared, and she has every right to be with her background. Thank you.

          • Jill

            And in my mind I’m still arguing with people that have long left me behind, as a traitor and a disappointment. They all had such high hopes for me to take my place as a subjugated female. Yup, still scared. Mostly sad that it had to go down that way.

            You’re lovely.

          • Nicole

            I’m sorry you’ve had to go through that, Jill. *hug* I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong. Sometimes, I’ve just had to let myself be in a questioning place and not try to fix it. At those times, I try to focus on what I have, the things I can enjoy at the time and just living. It sounds to me like you’re doing amazing.

          • Jill

            You’ve always been so kind to me and everyone, Nicole. It’s really great to hear from you.

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

            This is really wise counsel, Matt. I’m not sure I’m capable of adding anything to it.

            Except maybe this: Jill: It is, I suppose, at some point supposed to feel right. But it’s never going to feel perfectly, wonderfully, enlighteningly right. It’s never going to utterly fulfill you. It’s not that big of a deal, basically. Becoming a Christian doesn’t give you all the answers. It barely gives you any of them. It doesn’t make you feel In Tune or wise or balanced or centered or wonderful or uplifted or anything. It makes you feel–when you put in the effort to feel like it, when you want to feel like it, when you close your eyes and breath deeply and help yourself to feel like it–that God is a real, actual force in the universe, that he/she is on your side and desires what’s best for you, and that once, a long time ago, he/she manifested him/her self as the figure now known to history as Jesus Christ.

            That’s it. God once came to earth, and the Bible is the whole of that story. Believing that’s true is all that being a Christian is.

            All really being a Christian is is associating the truth we all have inside of us with God–with, more specifically in the case of the Christian experience, with the Holy Spirit. Believe that that inner voice you have–the same one that’s telling you, for instance, not to be duped by any bullshit religion–is GOD talking to you–and boom: You’re a Christian.

            That’s God. That’s the holy spirit. That’s the very living essence of Jesus, still hanging out, still talking to you, still … with you.

            That’s it. That’s all it is. Believing that the unerring truth within you–the light within you, the voice of impeachable reason within you, the moral compass within you, the thing inside you which has made you survive–is the holy spirit/God, is Christianity.

            It’s a great context for understanding/experiencing your life. That’s all. But, you know–and especially when life flips and then body slams you to the floor—that can be everything.

          • http://Fordswords.net David S.

            Hi Jill,

            An important conversation for sure. I so appreciate your openness.

            I’m a Christian. Full stop. I believe that Christ was God incarnate. I believe that Christ died on the cross to reconcile a sinful world with a holy God.

            I’m also married to a Jewish man who pursues God in his own way. I’m good with that. Our understanding of creation/eternity is completely incomplete. Anyone who pretends to have God figured out is either a liar or a fool.

            IMHO, (presuming you believe in God), whether or not you pursue Christianity is secondary to whether or not you continue to seek God. There is a universal truth. I think we all know that on an essential level – even atheists.

            You are putting yourself in spaces where people support you in your faith life. That’s good. That has tremendous value. My advice: stop feeling like there is a single way God reveals Himself to humanity. Have faith in the way that God has revealed (and continues to reveal) Himself to you; find your peace and your wholeness in that revelation. That’s the water. That’s life-giving.

            My prayer is that we can be a cup to one another. I know you’re that to me. I hope to be that to you too.

            With love,

            David

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

            Superb, David. Boy, you guys are nailing this stuff.

          • Jill

            Thank you David for the most beautiful prayer. You have always been that to me, from day one.

          • http://rindle.blogspot.com Lyn

            I will say, as a longtime Christian that I still have this niggling doubt sometimes because I don’t seem to feel Christianity the way others talk about. It’s not that I’ve never been overtaken with a sense of awe, or a sense of God’s presence, or what have you, but it’s rare. But I think just as we each have our own learning style and tastes, so God speaks to us in different ways.

            If God spoke to me only through emotion, I’d find the experience very suspect. It’s taken me a while to accept that the logical/intellectual relationship I have with God is just as valid as the pew jumpers and the mascara runners.

            If you’re in an environment where a lot of folks’ experience of the divine has been something you’ve not had, it’s easy to think you’re not doing it right and there’s some ritual or prayer or thing you’ve left undone. We want to complicate it, layer on requirements for being a “real” Christian.

            But, really, it’s just a matter of saying “I believe. I do not have absolute proof, but the evidence I have is compelling, so I accept.” And then live your life exploring and carrying out the implications of what that means.

            If you need something to make you feel like you’ve made a commitment, find something. Write your commitment down, speak your commitment to God, announce it at your church, be baptized. It’s much like a marriage. Some folks are happy with a common-law commitment, others need the big church wedding with all the trimmings. Do what you need to do to confirm to yourself your new path on your journey.

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

            Very well said, Lyn. Terrific.

          • Jill

            I am moved by every word you’ve all expressed, to the point that I have more emotional response than coherent thought.

            At least though I can see now that I’ve confused multiple threads into one giant mass of a problem. I haven’t been able to see the whole forest, only a smattering of random trees.

            After talking with Matt last night, it began—instead of putting pieces together, it began to unravel what is blocking my view of the whole forest. He encouraged me to see this in a different way– that I already embody Christ’s message, and that’s really all that is needed.

            I continue to have doctrinal issues– I do not understand the martyrdom, the need of a redemptive sacrifice and the trinity is still a new concept. I have expected more of a personal relating to a god I’ve worked very hard to comprehend. I have yet to feel like I’m actually a partner in this thing, still feeling like a novice. Never thought this would get so lonely sometimes.

            But I had forgotten I could take comfort in remembering that one meaning of the name Israel is God-wrestler. That those of the Jewish faith have owned the wrestling, while owning their personal relationship with God. Those were trees I couldn’t see in this large forest.

            Anyway, I am grateful to you all that you still hang with me, even though I track all sorts of mud in on the carpet. ;) Fact: I wouldn’t be healing this without you.

          • Lymis

            At the risk of going entirely too meta, something to consider about the question of “at some point it’s supposed to feel right, right?” idea is that there is the process, and there is the answer. There is the journey and there is the destination.

            Many of us never particularly feel that we’ve reached – or even really know – the final destination, and “don’t feel right” about all the details of where we find ourself in the moment, but at the same time are entirely certain that wherever it is leading us, we are most definitely on the right path, and that our process of proceeding along it actually is something that “feels entirely right.” Even during those times when we can’t quite articulate why.

            Be open to the possibility that where you are supposed to be and what you are supposed to be doing right now is seeking.

            Sometimes, confused, uncertain, vulnerable, and malleable is where we most need to be in order to be who we are becoming.

          • Jill

            Lymis, thank you for seeing me where I am. I appreciate this very deeply.

          • Lymis

            Jill, if it helps, remember that every time Jesus is recorded as inviting someone to be a part of what He was doing, it was always some form of “Come, follow me.”

            He was never recorded as saying, “Sit down and I will quiz you, and if you have it all exactly right, I’ll consider letting you join up.”

          • Jill

            Lyn, once I know what I need to do exactly that– confirm my new path, I look forward to sharing that with you all. Thank you for this.

        • Allie

          Jill, go with what helps you and discard the rest. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that you need a doctorate in theology to get into heaven. Most of the time what we’re supposed to DO is pretty clear – love each other – and that’s what’s important.

          Speaking for myself, I’m a Christian rather than just a Theist because I know God, through personal revelation, and when I read the words of Jesus in the Bible I feel like I recognize that voice, just as I can recognize the style of writing of a friend of mine before I read who wrote it. Jesus always surprises me, he is never what I would have imagined on my own, but always perfect. But that’s where I’m coming from, coming out of my experiences, and you may be in a different place. Doesn’t it say knock, and it shall be opened unto you? You are knocking, you’ve already done your part.

          • Jill

            Maybe I’ll begin to recognize that voice too, thanks Allie for this.

            It reminded me of a time I met a guy roughly my age who, strangely enough, had a similar cult experience. We bonded instantly over our ordeal of getting out. At the close of the conversation, he turned to me in all sincerity and asked, ‘Do you still believe in God?’ Instantly I replied, ‘Yes.’ He fired back, ‘Why?’ I didn’t have an answer. I felt his desire to believe at the same time I felt my own.

            This is me, searching for my answer. And if I ever have the privilege to run into him again, I will send him to this link.

  • Owengirl

    “Everyone, Christian or not, ultimately has to take out their own garbage.”

    Can this be on billboards everywhere in 10 foot high letters, PLEASE???? Brilliant!

  • Nathan

    I guess I would be labeled a “right wing Christian” by many. I am very conservative in my beliefs and politics. Saying that, my 13 year old son recently told me that he is either gay or bisexual. Instead of shock or horror I told him that this may not be God’s path for him, but regardless that I love him. I told my son that I will accept him if he truly is gay and will not treat him differently then his siblings. (For instance, I told his sister that she can’t date until she was 16 and the same would apply to him.) I know that we would not agree on everything concerning homosexuality and the scriptures but I am learning that if my wife and I have a gay son, we will love, support, and be there for him.

    I also told him to keep Christ first. I am not going to pray the gay away or for God to make him straight. He is my son, not my gay son, my son. He is a gift from God.

    One more thing, as I read more about homosexuality and the church, I truly am appalled as to how have handled this issue. We have not always acted Christ like. I ask for forgiveness to my Lord Jesus for at times shunning those who I may not want to associate with.

    • Lymis

      “this may not be God’s path for him”

      Ouch.

      The rest of it sounds lovely, but speaking from experience, you just told your son that you are not a place for him to get any religious support, and not a safe place for him to bring his religious questions and concerns.

      If you honestly can’t be such a source for him, then it’s probably best he knows that now, and if the best way you can support him in finding his own path is getting out of his way and not being involved at all, then this is probably a good thing. It’s the choice my father made, and it took me decades to understand that having no involvement with me was better than the involvement he would have been compelled to have if he’d done so.

      “I ask for forgiveness to my Lord Jesus for at times shunning those who I may not want to associate with.”

      I’d say from my own experience that the chances are vastly better than even that your son feels you just shunned him, or at least that he feels you shut some very significant doors on him.

      I get that you most likely didn’t intend that. Maybe, being from a different generation, he won’t take it that way. But I would. I did. And it caused permanent damage to my relationship with my parents when they said similar things.

      What I would have heard you saying is that you’ve already made up your mind on these issues for yourself, and that you are not open to change. Saying that you won’t fight over it is hugely better than saying he’s no longer welcome in your home or your life, but in essence, I hear you saying that you have no intention of being open to new understandings based on his experience, and that if he shares his experience with you, he needs to be prepared to have it rejected.

      I know I would have (because I did in my day) heard “I don’t accept the truth and beauty of who you are as a person and I don’t believe God accepts it either, but I won’t treat you any differently than your siblings, whose personal experiences I do approve of and who I do believe God accepts” quite differently from how you probably intended that to come across, too.

      “Don’t tell me what’s in your heart, just don’t date until you are 16, and we’ll call it even” may not have been the message you meant to send.

      • Nathan

        Hmm. Wow! I been shredded to pieces and cut down to size. You express no hope. Sorry if you feel that way. I am not angry or bitter. Your experience is not my son’s experience. I won’t fit into some box that you may want me to fit in. I feel sorry for you. I truly do. Because if I wanted to shred my son and parse every word he would yelling and screaming about how the church hates him.

        • Lymis

          I am truly, deeply sorry for both of you that you see what I wrote as having “no hope.”

          My hope is that you’ll be more open to your son’s experience as he has it, and be more open to allowing him to share it with you without the judgement that I hear in what you wrote.

          I don’t want to fit you into a box. I would like to help you see how someone else might interpret what you said in a way that’s very different from the way I’m sure you intended it.

          There are lots of ways to shred someone. Yelling and screaming at them is only one of many. Telling him that God very likely doesn’t approve of who he finds himself to be when he is most vulnerable and most deeply in need of love and reassurance is another.

          Can you at least consider saying to him, “I don’t know all that much about being gay, and I’m willing to find out that some of what I was taught might be wrong, and whatever happens, we’re in this as a family” rather than focusing on starting out telling a vulnerable kid that you expect permanent disagreement on it right from the very beginning? Even if you actually do expect not to have your mind changed, do you really need to tell him that now?

          No, my experience is not your son’s experience. But believe me when I say that I probably have a lot more experience of being a 13 year old gay boy than you do, and likely, have discussed the experiences other adult gay men had of being 13 years old and gay than you have.

          I don’t think you want to shred your son. I don’t think you intended to shred your son. I don’t think you realize just how much you may have shredded him, because you seem to think that what you wrote was open minded and affirming, and if that’s the tone you maintain, I don’t think you understand just how firmly you may be beginning to push him away.

          The single most terrifying thing about it is that if in fact you close those doors too firmly, or are perceived as closing them by him, it makes it far, far less likely that he will share with you any bullying, harassment, shame, guilt or fear that he has. Lots of genuinely well intentioned parents lose their gay kids because their kids thought that sharing their pain would disappoint them, and folded under the pressure.

          At the same time, I applaud you for turning to Jesus to ask for help in your approach to gay people. Please listen to what God has to say in response.

          • Nathan

            You have given me a lot to think about. My son recently told his sister about his SSA and she told someone else and I started to defend my son’s side. He was furious about his sexuality being discussed to his peers. I told my son that we as parents love him and are proud of him.

            My wife and I are looking at him not so much as our “gay” son but our son! I think that taking his side has made me realize that I love my son and I do not want to hurt him.

            When he is ready, I want him to come out and know that we will be there.

      • Nathan

        My previous response to you was removed. Not sure why? I guess it is okay to cut conservative Christians on this website. Does not show much integrity when I have an initial post censored.

        Anyway, I am sorry how you were treated. But painting me with a broad brush is certainly understandable vis-a-via your experience. I can’t address how you were treated. It is not my intention to hurt my son. The ultimate outcome will dictate our relationship as father and son and also by our actions. We don’t live in a perfect world where ALL of our words and actions will be done perfectly.

        I am not looking for approval or condemnation for my conversation with my son. I just wanted to share. I see from this site the first amendment is limited to those who agree one way!

        • http://rindle.blogspot.com Lyn

          First, your response is still very much there.

          Second, you have no First Amendment right to post here. John is not the government. This is his online home, his private space. We post here at his discretion. He allows a lot of disagreement to be posted, but he doesn’t have to, because this space is his to do with as he likes.

          • Nathan

            Sorry Lyn. Forgive me.

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

            Lyn: exactly. thank you.

          • Todd Reeder

            Well said.

        • Todd Reeder

          The first amendment says that the government can’t make a law to abridge freedom of speech. It does not mean the owner of this website can’t prevent freedom of speech. They have the right to decide what get posted here and what doesn’t. People have the freedom to say and write what they want. The owner has the right to refuse to publish it. Just like you have the right to tell someone in your home they can’t say certain things.

        • Elizabeth

          Nathan, a technical note: my comments usually don’t show up right away. Take a walk around the block and check back. Bonus: then it’s more like a conversation and less like an argument.

          • Jill

            Double bonus: you get a nice walk in for the day.

        • DR

          I”m confused, I still see all of your comments. And with respect Nathan, you’re offering your thoughts proactively on how part of you seems to already be considering that this is “not God’s path” for your son. There are several gay Christians on this site who are sharing their benefit of experience with you on how damaging that mind set can be and you are almost bristling with defensiveness and then saying you’re being victimized. You aren’t always going to get feedback on your specific terms and sometimes it’s not going to feel good – neither of those mean the feedback is invalid, is “attacking” you or should be dismissed. You have the tremendous opportunity here of actually hearing from gay men and women, Lymis being one example – you will decide what you receive or don’t, but with respect it’s a bit of a cheap way out to say you’re being “dismissed”. This is absolutely no joke as you’ve mentioned, kids desert their faith, experience extreme damage and even kill themselves. Part of this is how much you are going to consider facing the fear that in a lot of this? You’ve been wrong. You may decide that you’re not which is really only your choice. What many here are doing is giving you the feedback you seem to be asking for as you participate.

    • http://rindle.blogspot.com Lyn

      Nathan, at the risk of sounding like I’m tooting my own horn, I’d like to direct you to an article I wrote a while ago– http://rindle.blogspot.com/2012/06/open-letter-to-christian-parents-of.html

      While you’ve done a better job than the parents of 25% of all lgbt teens who are driven from their homes into homelessness, you still need to keep in mind that lack of family support is the number one commonality linked to suicide among lgbt teens. There are way too many parents out there who had to lose their children to suicide or deaths related to drugs, alcoholism, or homelessness before they re-examined their assumptions on what the Bible says or doesn’t say about lgbt people and same-sex relationships. Please, don’t become one of those parents.

      • Nathan

        I am concerned for my son. I want to keep my home safe and accepting. I know there are those who are strident on both sides. I know I want to be a better father. Usually, most people don’t chuck their beliefs over night.

        My son recently told me he was bullied in 7th grade. He was called fag, queer, gayboy, etc. He is in 8th grade and taking classes online. When he told me this I was upset. I just found out recently that some kids in his youth group call him the same names! That gets me mad.

        I am beginning to see his struggles and I want to be there to love, support and accept him.

        Sorry for the previous post. I am an idiot!

        • http://rindle.blogspot.com Lyn

          If you read the linked article, you’ll see I very much do not advocate for overnight chucking of beliefs. My journey on the lgbt question started over 30 years ago when I didn’t know (or more exactly didn’t know I knew) any lgbt people. I just simply felt a push from God to start examining the issue. I am from a conservative family. I started my exploration at a conservative Christian college.

          To me, being lgbt is simply another form of being non-neurotypical. And just as I wouldn’t dream of telling my ADHD/autism spectrum younger child that God made him wrong or that he just needs to try and not be ADHD/autism spectrum or that being ADHD/autism spectrum may not be the path God has for him, I wouldn’t dream of telling my genderqueer pansexual older child that God made her wrong, that she should try to not be lgbt, or that this isn’t the path God has for her. Both neurologies are part of who they are, not what they do.

        • DR

          Ugh I wish I saw this prior to my first comment. Good for you for making such a commitment to putting him first, it can be so hard for Christian parents to do that with their gay kids! It’s my understanding that PFLAG is an incredible organization that can be very helpful. And I hope this community can be a safe place for you as you’re making your home and life a safe place for your son (I’m so sorry for the harshness of my first comment to you!)

        • Tessa Gray

          Nathan~

          I applaud you for being open to listen and willing to learn. It sounds like you are taking your son’s struggles to heart, and are truly willing to walk beside him. That’s awesome. I’m a gay daughter of a conservative mom, and yeah, it’s hard. BUT if you have a solid relationship, you’d be surprised by how much you can work through together.

          Mutual respect is a good place to start. If you both start out accepting that you can never change the other, you suddenly have a foundation that you can work from.

          I know my mom loves me no matter what. And it sucks that she still has this internalized homophobia to work through, but I understand that I have to give her time.

          Granted, I’m an adult, so it’s a bit different. But it’s obvious that you love your son as well. I understand that your beliefs are important to you. If you can’t 100% validate his identity, just make sure he knows that he is loved. It will make all the difference.

          From the sounds of it, he does. It sounds like you are trying really hard to be a good parent, and that will shine through in the end.

          It just may take a little while.

      • Nathan

        I read your link. So, how do I make my home safe for him? I don’t want to single him out. If he comes out before high school, maybe go with him to PFLAG? Or get to know him better and friends? Hear them out. Open my home to his friends? What about relationships and sex? I am willing to listen and learn. Can’t promise I would agree with it all, but I have read the stats on teen suicide and homelessness for gay teens. It is not lost on me. I want my son to feel to be who he is. I know that just loving him takes more than words. This is my son.

        • http://rindle.blogspot.com Lyn

          Mostly, just be a safe person for him to be himself with and for his friends to be themselves with. Let him talk and just listen, don’t interrupt, don’t judge. Apologise if you think you have acted “judgey” as the kids say. Even if you don’t see it or think it was judgemental. Ask yourself, “If I were to say this to someone who was autistic or black or left-handed, would I think it was a neutral thing to say?”

          Don’t let anti-lgbt slurs be said in your house (except as part of your son sharing his experience). I think one of the reasons my daughter felt comfortable coming out to me was that long before, I had outlawed “That’s so gay!” from my house.

          Communicate. It’s okay to not have all the answers.

          Practice hesed– hospitality– if he has lgbt friends. And practice the same “listen lots, speak rarely” formula with them. Let them trust you.

          Re-evaluate who you give your money and support to. A lot of anti-lgbt political groups rely on lies and fear to raise funds. They are not Christian. They are not family-friendly. And they do not have your son’s interests at heart.

          Find out if there is a local Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA). If there isn’t, and he’s interested, work to start one. Join PFLAG if you want. But keep in mind that he may not want to join an lgbt group. His lgbt identity is one facet of who he is, but it may or may not be a facet around which he wants to socialize or be activist.

          Be his ally. Gay or straight, he doesn’t deserve to be bullied.

          Don’t treat his relationships any differently than your other kids. If none of the other kids get to date till they’re 16, he doesn’t get to be an exception. If you expected him to wait for sex till he’s married or in a committed relationship equivalent before he came out, that doesn’t change now that you know he’s gay. If you wouldn’t allow your daughter to be alone in her room with her boyfriend, he doesn’t get to be alone in his room with his.

          Keep in mind this isn’t about sex. It’s about who he falls in love with. Don’t dwell on sex discussions with him any more than you would with your other kids.

          Most of all, remember he is the same kid before he came out as he is now. You just know more about him.

          Don’t be afraid to take your time, but don’t get so caught up in studying the bible and commentaries and scientific studies and so on, that you forget to be open to him. Don’t be afraid to change. We aren’t all magically experts on all thing theologically at any point in our lives. Remember that just because an interpretation of scripture is common or traditional, that doesn’t mean it’s right. Just ask Galileo.

        • Patricia Garvin Fox

          PFLAG is a good start with or without him along. Be honest if you are struggling but please always make sure he knows you love him, period.

          When my kids were growing up, they had gay and lesbian and bi friends. We offered support to several to come out to their family. We also let them know that if the worst happened, they could stay with us. Blessedly, none of them were rejected. Stating your willingness to be a refuge to a gay friend might help if you can consider this.

          Let me emphasize the goodness in not rejecting your child. A classmate in seminary came out at about 40 to his parents and was totally spurned. His identical twin, also gay, chose to stay in the closet and sided with the parents. Trust me, rejection by a parent at any age is a horrible thing.

          Judge his friends as people, not just by their sexual identity. If you can see the person first, the rest will come. And don’t assume all friends are also gay.

    • DR

      Telling your son this may not be God’s path for him with all due respect, invalidates absolutely everything else you chose to say and/or do. How in the world is a child supposed to be able to “keep Christ first” when those he is drawn to love and be in relationship with – desires he is not choosing, that are innate – may “not be a part of God’s path for him” and yet he won’t be able to choose anything else? I see a lot of loving words that stopped short at loving action.

    • Patricia Garvin Fox

      You are about halfway there. Saying you love and support your son but then telling him thar who and what he honestly is goes against God’s plan for him is at best contradictory. It’s an “I love you” with restrictions and reservations, an indication that an intrinsic part of him is flawed. He is your gay son just as he would be your straight son or asexual son. He is perfect just as God made him including his sexual orientation. May God take you the rest of the way.

    • Laurie House

      I”m sorry but your statement of ” I told him that this may not be God’s path for him,” rubbed me wrong so so much. My own mother used that exact statement towards me when I tried to have a conversation about me a christian living with my non-christian boyfriend. She was so angry when she told me that that i couldn’t even finish my sentence.

      You can’t say that to someone!! I’m on my path for a reason, GOD has put me on this path for a reason!

      My mom thinks I’ve left my faith but I haven’t. I still love and believe in God very much!!

      Not to mention hearing your parent say that this isn’t God’s path for you..you have no right to say that. You don’t know the path God has for your son, just like my mom doesn’t know what God has planned for me.


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