Combating the downward pull of Christian negativity

pull-up-under-hand-grip

Serendipitydodah for Moms is a private Facebook group for open-minded Christian mothers of LGBT children. The group’s founder, Liz Dyer, asked if I’d answer questions submitted to me by members of the group. Join me here each Wednesday (and possibly Friday) as I do just that.  You’re of course wholeheartedly invited to chime in with your own response to the questions, being ever mindful, please, of my comments policy, as stated in Be Nice. (Moderators: I want to protect these moms, so … let’s not allow anyone to be in any way caustic or offensive. Thanks! And thanks to all of you for understanding.) If you are interested in joining Serendipitydodah for Moms, email lizdyer55@gmail.com for more information.

Dear John,

Is there a particular scripture or prayer that you can share that might help us with all the negative people out there? I am so down by the judging that happens in church and online. I can’t help but judge others for judging the LGBTQ community. I want to stay positive, but honestly I want to tell some people to f … off! I would never do that, but sometimes it is on the tip of my tongue. Thank goodness for the Holy Spirit blocking my mouth. Ha. I love your writings, they are so organic and vulnerable and courageous. You inspire me to be strong with each post. Please share how you stay positive. Thanks.

Southern NC mama (living in NW Houston) of an awesome 15 yr old, out, gay son who keeps my iTunes playlist in the modern times.

Best sign-off signature ever. (And thanks for the kind words about my work!)

If I could real quick: I’m afraid it’s not clear to me just what you meant by “f… off!” Could you please fill in those blanks for us?

Har!

John Shore. Tricking moms into outright cursing since 1962.

Lemme show another submitted letter like this one:

John, how do you deal with all the negativity? I know you bear a lot more of it in response to your blog posts and all, but just reading the troll comments makes me despair. I can’t imagine how you must feel. Is there a way you have of looking at all the ugliness that keeps you sane?

So I’ll respond to both these.

There’s nothing wrong with judging a person who is doing harm in the world as a person who is doing harm in the world; and any person who believes that being gay is a sin is most certainly doing harm in the world. (See Is every Christian against gay marriage necessarily a bigot?) Of course it’s no one’s place to in any ultimate way judge anyone. But saying, “It’s wrong to judge the words and actions of others!” is the same as saying, “I can’t tell the difference between right and wrong!” Jesus sure didn’t have any problem calling bullshit bullshit. (“You brood of vipers!”, etc., etc.) We shouldn’t either. (And yes, when appropriate I curse: see The comfortably cursing Christian.)

As for a bit of scripture or a prayer that I might suggest by way of helping one deal with all the anti-gay negativity out there. Personally I’m a big fan of good ol’ Psalm 23, these lines of which sometimes pop into my mind when dealing with people that I, in my heart of hearts, lovingly consider life-sucking ignorant cretins (kidding!):

Even though I walk
    through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil,
    for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.

I like these lines, because when anyone condemns gay people to hell (however “lovingly” they flatter themselves they’re doing so), that is evil, and no two ways about it. And evil is scary. So I like the forcefulness of  this pronouncement in Psalm 23. And I especially like the way the lines Your rod and staff, they comfort me can be read to mean that in chastising or correcting such people–in essentially refuting their evil–I am in fact wielding the very rod and staff of God. It can be little intimidating to take on someone who’s aggressive enough to be actually proclaiming that God believes that gay people are, in and of themselves, a moral abomination. So I sometimes take comfort in understanding these lines to be an invitation by God to take comfort in righteously wielding His/Her rod and staff to ward off, or defend against, evil.

But as to how I generally stay positive and sane in the face of the negativity that pours my way because of the pro-LGBT work I do online?

Well, right off the bat, it’s a heck of a lot easier for me to stay positive and sane in the face of anti-gay bigotry than it can possibly be for an LGBT person or the parents of an LGBT person. I’m not L,G,B or T. My friends who are, are plenty capable of taking care of themselves. I’m simply not vulnerable to anti-LGBT threats and insults in the way that you, the parent of an LGBT kid, necessarily are.

When I hear some dipshit Christian going on about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, it’s easy for me to summarily ignore and dismiss that person, because such bullying can’t really affect me as readily as it must you.

What gets me down isn’t the Bible-thumping bigots; it was, after all, Jesus himself who said, “The toxically asinine you shall always have with you.” (I’m pretty sure that’s the quote, but I should probably look it up.) What gets me down are all the letters I get from LGBT people sharing with me how heavy in their lives has become the burden of the negativity heaped upon them by anti-gay Christians. I appreciate those letters, absolutely; they mean the world to me. But I do take them to heart; they sink way down inside of me, and can become a real source within me of an enduring, active, pervasive sense of oppression, depression, and dejection.

So when that too much happens to me I unplug. I walk away from the Internet. I go outside. I work out. I meditate. I spend some quality time with my wife or a friend.

A lot of times I read the Bible. I (of course) get why it’s recently become so popular to act like Paul is some kind of misguided hindrance to the spiritual life, but screw that noise. Paul soars. I have a problem with the way people read Paul, sure. But Paul is the consummate master to consult when the world is threatening to drag you down with it. He is a genius of spirituality, to say the least.

Bottom line: Negativity is an imbalance in Le’ Force Grande. And how do you right an imbalance? You put your hand out, and tip the scale the other way.

This is a good world. The arc of the moral universe does bend toward justice. Forgetting that means that I’ve forgotten who I am. To remember who I am I only have to close my eyes, take a deep breath, and lo and behold, there, instantly, is the Holy Spirit inside of me—the reality of the Father and the heart and soul and spirit of the son he gave and was—making it very clear to me who I really am, and what I’m really for.

And that, simply, is to love. And be loved.


I’m the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question:

unfair-cover-xsmallPaperback. Kindle. NookBook. Signed and inscribed by me according to your direction.

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.

  • http://gracerules.wordpress.com/ Liz Dyer

    I am wiping away the tears because you have touched my heart with your understanding and support! Thank you!

    Each time I feel like I am being pulled down by the negativity I am going to remember your words:

    “This is a good world. The arc of the moral universe does bend toward justice. Forgetting that means that I’ve forgotten who I am. To remember who I am I only have to close my eyes, take a deep breath, and lo and behold, there, instantly, is the Holy Spirit inside of me—the reality of the Father and the heart and soul and spirit of the son he gave and was—making it very clear to me who I really am, and what I’m really for.

    And that, simply, is to love. And be loved.”

    • Jeff Preuss

      Hey, Liz, as the gay kid of a Christian Mom with a gay kid, let me just tell you you (and other parents) continuing to endeavor to show and act love makes ALL the difference in this world. Best way to combat negativity is to create positivity. :)

    • WilmRoget

      I personally find that the music from the Taize’ tradition is extremely helpful for combating the downward spiral of modern life. With lyrics like ‘come and fill our hearts with your peace, you oh Lord our God are Holy’, it helps me return to what is essential.

      If you are not familiar with the Taize tradition, I encourage you to look into it. There are cd’s available on Amazon for example, that will give you a good taste.

  • Sarah H

    John, what a wonderful way of looking at Psalm 23. And I love this gem that you wrote, “And that, simply, is to love. And be loved.” That is what it all boils down to. I am a Christian mama with a young gay son. Your words are like a balm to my soul. I was just praying for you John. Your word are exactly how I feel. Thank you!

    • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

      Blessings to you and your dear son, Sarah H!

  • Robert John Abada Ofm

    super like :-D we can just say we love them and we’ll pray for their conversion from the sin of homophobia, bigotry, and prejudice. we can also say may God bless them with beautiful lgbt children and grandchildren ;-)

  • Brandon Roberts

    nice article.

  • Benjamin Martin

    Discarding hell would reduce much of the gravity pull.

    • http://www.enesvy.com/ Enesvy

      True. Evaluating the concept of hell in light of the cross is what caused a seismic shift in my Christian beliefs. When you stop casting Jesus as a sociopathic sadist who is capable of torturing souls for eternity, everything changes.

  • Maura Hart

    wonderful answers. glad i found your blog. i didn’t know there were loving christians still left on this planet.

  • Chisra

    As a mom with 2 gay sons, I thank God for you. I am a Christian who has been so hurt by the church. You are a breath of fresh air to me

    • http://www.fordswords.net/ Ford1968

      You won the rainbow jackpot!
      I have three brothers, one of whom I know is straight. The other two….well…not sure.
      Seriously, thanks for loving your gay sons. I know how hurtful the church can be to allies – the accusations of aposty and unfaithfulness, the shunning (or speaking in hushed tones as you approach), the being relieved of church duties because of your “witness”….

      Your sons are lucky to have you beside them.

  • Guy Norred

    To the letter writer, not that I succeed much of the time, but it often helps to try to remember to see what looks like an attack on me as a symptom of the pain the attacker has experienced of which I probably really know nothing. I guess it comes down to trying to look to the always empathy filled model of Christ to lead my reactions. Admittedly, this is more about protecting myself than about protecting someone else so…

    To John, lately I keep rather shocking myself by quoting Paul and really must get down to a deeper study. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Matt

    I have always enjoyed Psalm 139, especially this part:

    “If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
    even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.
    [...]
    My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.”

    It moves me to happy tears. So much of anti-LGBT rhetoric has such arrogance, such certainty that they know us better than we know ourselves (again, however they try to cover it up). There is also so much dismissal and invisibility. Mothers, perhaps you also feel like you are surrounded by darkness, are being ignored or condescended to, or made to feel like your children weren’t carefully and lovingly handcrafted. That verse can be a reminder that none of this is true.


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