The following post is from Laura Statesir, Director of Family and Youth at The Marin Foundation.
One of the questions that haunt Christian parents when their child comes out is, “How will this affect my child’s faith?” Parents worry that their LGBTQ child will lose their faith. The deeper question behind this is, “Can my child be both LGBTQ and a Christian?”
Where does this fear come from? Why is it that this announcement about sexuality or gender identity causes parents to think that their child will all of the sudden abandon their Christian faith?
Unfortunately, historical data supports this fear. In the past, the LGBTQ community left the Church in large numbers. The Christian Church as a whole is often seen as homophobic and unwelcoming to the LGBTQ community. [See the book unChristian by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons.] This is changing in various parts of the country and in some denominations but overall many LGBTQ people feel judged and condemned by their faith communities, which often causes them to lose or leave their faith.
So when your child comes out, how do you help them keep their faith? How do you point them towards Jesus?
Let’s start with what will not help your child in their relationship with Christ:
– Do not throw scripture in your child’s face. Some parents think that if their LGBTQ child studied the 5 to 7 verses in the Bible that a traditional, conservative interpretation says condemn homosexuality then their child would turn away from being LGBTQ. This will not help your child keep their faith. It will only make them feel condemned and judged. Plus, most LGBTQ Christians have already studied these verses and will know more about them and their various interpretations than you do. If you want to point your child to scripture, point them towards verses like Romans 8:31-39 and Psalm 139 that speak of God’s unconditional love for all of us, no matter who we are and what we do.
– Do not think that “Tough love” will change or fix your child. Some parents think that if they lay down ultimatums about not being LGBTQ that this will change their child and ultimately save their child’s faith. This is why some parents kick their child out of the house or force their child into therapy. (Note: If your child wants to go to therapy, talk with them about their motivations and help them make the decision that is right for their mental health.) Again, all this will do is make your child feel rejected and judged by you. If you are a Christian, and you represent Christ to your child, then your rejection and judgment feels like God is rejecting and judging them, which will only lead them further from Jesus. Also, it is not your job to fix anyone. We cannot make anyone do what we want them to do or be who we want them to be. Only God can effect great change in people’s lives.
– Do not try to make them “choose” between being Christian and LGBTQ. Most of the LGBTQ community feels that they are born that way and that their sexuality or gender identity is not a choice. Therefore, trying to force your child to choose between being a Christian and being LGBTQ is a losing battle that often ends in children leaving their faith behind. If your child’s faith is important to you, don’t put more qualifications or obstacles in the path between them and Christ.
So how do you clear the path between your LGBTQ child and God?
-Examine the obstacles you are placing in your child’s path to Jesus. Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) Ask God to reveal to you how you might be making it harder for your child to be a Christian.
-Encourage and help your child find a church community where they feel safe and can grow in their faith. This does not necessarily mean that everyone in your family immediately abandons your home church and starts attending an Open and Affirming church. However, your child may not feel comfortable attending your home church anymore. They may feel so condemned, judged, uncomfortable, or even threatened that they can no longer hear the Word and receive God’s love at your home church. We cannot grow when we are afraid. It is better for your child to grow in a church whose doctrine is slightly different than what you grew up with than for your child’s faith to be stifled and destroyed in a church that you believe is doctrinally correct.
-Encourage your child to speak to others who have walked this path and kept their faith. In Hebrews 11 we are given a list of Heroes of the Christian faith. We all need examples of people who have faced the same situations that we have and stayed close to Christ in the process. We need mentors and brothers and sisters in Christ to encourage and walk alongside us. But we also need these mentors to actually understand what we are going through. As a parent told me no so long ago, “The most powerful words in the English language are ‘Me too’”. A heterosexual pastor, no matter his or her education and experience, can never truly understand what it is like to be a Christian and discover that you are also LGBTQ. If you don’t help your child find good examples of Christians who are LGBTQ then they may find poor examples on their own.
-While any person’s sexuality is important, pray for your child’s faith, not for their sexuality. If your child’s faith is truly the most important aspect of their lives, then pray for that. Pray that their faith will remain strong. Pray that God’s presence will fill their every waking moment. Pray that they will be surrounded by other Christians who love them well. Pray that condemnation, judgment, fear, and hatred will not drive them from Christ. And leave the rest to God.
Remember, at the end of the day, no one can ever truly know the condition of someone else’s relationship with God. You are Jesus to your child, so show them the unconditional love of Christ. Trust what your child tells you about their personal faith. Trust that God is in control.