Open letter to Matt Barber.

The Liberty Counsel’s Matt Barber has an open letter to gay teens in the wnd.  Here’s my open letter to Matt Barber.

Hi Matt.  I’m a straight guy.  To be perfectly honest, the thought of another guy’s penis repulses me only slightly less than your letter.  And yet, here I am, writing you this letter to explain why your latest screed got so much wrong about homosexuality.

Who am I? I’m a husband and a father. More importantly, and by the grace of God, I’m a follower of Jesus Christ.

Following god was also more important to Abraham than his fatherhood of Isaac.  That’s why, when god commanded Abraham to murder Isaac, Abraham was willing.  In this scenario, there is literally no command so flagrantly evil that you would not follow, if only you believed it originated from god.  This is the same mindset that moved Andrea Yates, the Christian woman who drowned her children because god told her to, to commit filicide.  This is also what prompted Daphne Spurlock, the deeply Christian woman who slit her son’s throat at the behest of god’s voice, to kill her progeny.  You cannot argue that the god you worship would never command these things, because he did so with both Abraham and Jephthah.  Like Abraham, those women passed god’s loyalty test.

There comes a point where you must recognize that no good man accepts a wicked master.  If the commands of god are deleterious to humanity, particularly those humans we love, then it doesn’t matter if he is god – our response to his commands should be “no.”  To do otherwise, even if it’s out of love for god, is not the noble quality you believe it to be – it is actually moral irresponsibility.

If you believe that there is no egregious violation of human liberty or cruelty that cannot be enacted by god’s command, then we have nothing to discuss.  Of course, you can no longer realistically talk about loving someone, if you’re willing to siphon away their happiness to appease god.  If you do so willingly, rather than out of coercion, you love god and you love yourself, and that is all.

What I write I write with the purest of aims and with your well-being in mind – physical, emotional and spiritual well-being, both now and for eternity.

Very much in the same way the Mafia approaches a store owner to sell him protection.  They only have the store owner’s well-being in mind, and they want to save the store owner from what they are going to do to him if he doesn’t fly straight.  If the mafia doesn’t want bad things to happen, why create the threat in the first place?  Ditto, if god doesn’t want gay people in hell, why make hell in the first place?

You will read truth here, not because I say it’s true – I’m nobody – but, rather, because the Creator of the universe, the very God Who wove you together in your mother’s womb made it true.

His truths never change.

And your letter goes on as if this point is entirely uncontested.  If you purport to speak only truth, I would advise you that segueing directly into “a guy rose from the dead and walked on water, and that’s why I’m right and the entire discipline of modern psychology is wrong” isn’t the strongest opener.

I have three kids, a boy and two girls. My son will soon enter his teenage years. I’ve had many people ask me what I’d say to my children if one of them came to me and declared: “Dad, I’m gay.”

Here’s what I’d say. I’d tell them exactly what I’m about to tell you.

I love you. I neither judge you nor condemn you. I accept you and I would die for you.

But you are not “gay.”

Yes, you may be physically attracted to people of the same sex, but how you act on those attractions is entirely your choice. Who you are – your identity – is not defined by your sexual feelings, temptations or behaviors. The difference between who you are and what you feel or do is as the difference between night and day.

Actually, being attracted to someone of the same sex, regardless of whether or not you bump hips with them, is precisely what it means to be gay.  As Ed Brayton puts it:

Who you are, your identity, is, in fact, defined by your desires and preferences. That’s why it’s called a sexual orientation. A straight person can choose to have sex with someone of the same gender (porn stars do it routinely) and a gay person can choose to have sex with someone of the opposite gender (lots of closeted gay people in sham marriages have done that), but that does not change who they are or what their orientation is at all.

You are the product of your desires.  Your favorite food, what you find attractive in others, your favorite sports teams, what moves you to compassion, all of these things make up the person that you are.

Here is who you are: You are a wonderful, beautiful, precious human being created in the image and likeness of the one righteous and Holy God of the universe.

God has quite eclectic interests, apparently.  If everybody is made in the image of god, then god is both healthy and has Downs syndrome.  He also hates the Chicago Cubs and…well, he hates the Chicago Cubs.  People are varied and are composed of different, often contradictory qualities.

But if being made in god’s image had the effect of, say, making me want to drown every person on the planet save for eight people or impregnate virgins in their sleep where their consent cannot be acquired, if I also had compassion I would fight those urges with all that I am.  It’s why I fight the urge to overeat.  Some facets of our “design” (and I use quotations because I obviously don’t believe we were designed) are antithetical to human and societal happiness.  It doesn’t matter from whence they arose, they are still not things we should do.

If I’m made in the image of a god who thought stoning non-virgins to death was a good thing, I will not resign myself to a life spent living in that image.  I will attempt to be better.  And that is what you should do, Matt.

But you are flawed – you are a sinner.

I am flawed – I am a sinner.

We are all flawed sinners – corrupted beings in a corrupted world. We are all tempted by sin.

You are flawed, just not on your perception of what god wants, right Matt?

Those temptations manifest themselves in different ways for each of us. We are all on equal footing, however, as to how we react to those temptations.

Homosexual behavior is always wrong – demonstrably and absolutely wrong.


Every major world religion, thousands of years of history and uncompromising human biology declare this objective reality from the rooftops.

Yes, we’re all tempted.  It’s just that god made some of us tempted by the acceptable set of genitals and others by the ones that could land them in hell for all eternity.  That god, he’s a real practical joker.

And how does biology declare that homosexual behavior is objectively wrong, Matt?  You never say.  You just toss it out there and move onto your next equally unsupported claim as if we’ll treat your moral proclamations with the same blind deference with which you treat the ones men scribbled into the bible a few thousand years ago.  Biology can only tell us what is natural and how the mechanics of life work, not what is right or wrong (they are not necessarily the same thing).  Biology can only tell us the facts about how life works – it’s up to us to decide what to do with those facts.

For instance, biology can only tell us that human beings are born without pierced ears.  It says nothing about whether or not choosing to pierce our ears is right or wrong.

And biology is clear: thousands of species demonstrate homosexual behavior.  These animals don’t believe in god so they cannot be rebelling against him.  They are only doing what they are biologically motivated to do.  Is it so strange that some humans, who share much of the same DNA, could have the same biologically ingrained desires?

Though your heart may deceive you, something deep within you knows this to be true. Scripture says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. …” (Jeremiah 17:9)

It also says somebody lived in the belly of a fish for three days.  Consider the source.

Some say, “But Jesus never mentioned homosexuality.” First, we don’t know this.

You’d think if it was important he could’ve managed to squeeze it into his book.  Or was the ancestry of scarcely relevant people, long descriptions of all the places to which Jesus and his disciples were traveling, and the stories of people getting turned into pillars of salt too important?  Or maybe the bible could’ve added another page to accommodate the two sentences where Jesus says “being gay is bad, mkay?”

We have no record in Scripture of Him specifically addressing homosexual sin, but neither do we have a record of His addressing incest, bestiality or other sexual sins.

Wait, so we have to rely on our own moral intuitions for those?  What if our moral intuitions tell us that being gay is ok?  Why must we defer to your moral impulses where Jesus is silent and not to our own?

Jesus was clear. He condemned all sexual immorality as detailed within the moral law. He was clear that any sexual activity outside the bonds of marriage between husband and wife is sexual immorality – sin.

So god made us with desires and then, rather than telling us himself, he sends a bunch of guys who claim they spoke to god (y’know, just like every other religion) to tell us that god set the rules in opposition.  You’re not making arguments, Matt, you’re just making claims.  You’re not giving us any reason to believe they’re true, and there are plenty of reasons to distrust you.

That is to say, yes; unrepentant homosexual behavior is disobedience to God.

First, you need to convince me that your god exists.  And, even if your god did exist, by what authority should we obey his commands?  He’ll torture us forever if we don’t?  Does that make us immoral or does it make god immoral?  Saying he’ll hurt us if we don’t do what he says only makes god more powerful than we, it does make his commands moral or good.  (See my post about what a savior looks like for more on this)

If we rebel against God and refuse to repent and ask His forgiveness, then we have chosen our own fate – we have chosen to disqualify ourselves from heaven.

We have chosen hell.

Untrue, it just means we find your claims that your particular god exists and that you know his will unconvincing.

Imagine if there were a doctor who told me I needed to take a particular medication and I said no.  In that case I’m rebelling against the doctor.  Now imagine some guy named Matt Barber came up to me and said there’s something wrong with me (even though I feel just dandy) and a doctor, who I can’t meet or question, said I needed to take a handful of medications.  I ask if I can go see another doctor and have them run some tests to find this thing that’s wrong with me and you, Matt Barber, tell me that modern science can’t detect the problem, but you can.  When I tell you to take a hike, I’m just rebelling against Matt Barber, because I don’t believe your doctor exists, and I don’t believe there’s a damn thing wrong with me.

That’s how it is with god here.  I’m not rebelling against your god.  I can’t be because I don’t believe he’s there.  I’m very much rebelling against you, Matt, because I believe you’re full of shit.  If god wanted our free will to mean something, he should allow us to make an informed decision.  He should have us born with the knowledge that god exists and of what his will is.  That way we could actually choose to rebel, and that choice would not get conflated with our inability to swallow absurd stories about someone rising from the dead just because our neighbor threatened us with hell.

I know, it’s not easy. Temptation is not easy.

Not all temptations are bad.  I’m tempted to help those less fortunate.  That’s a good temptation.  I’m also tempted to overeat, and I should fight that one.  Temptations that lead to happiness are more often just called “preferences”.

In the case of who you’re tempted to kiss, why should anyone fight that one like they fight the urge to overeat?  Oh yeah.  It’ll make them happy, but then god will roast them for it.  You seem to think the problem is the people kissing, not the god roasting them for it.  You’re wrong.

To sin, however, is easy.

You try finding a date when only 10% of the population is datable (and when many of those are closeted for fear of people like you, Matt Barber, making their lives hell before god has had the chance).  Yes, indulging our urges (like to own faces at League of Legends) is sometimes easy.  Sometimes it’s hard (helping the poor).  Who cares if it’s easy – you’re doing a crap job of explaining why it’s wrong.

If you are caught up in homosexual sin, you know – intuitively you know – that such conduct is wrong, that it is both immoral and unnatural behavior.

Leave it to somebody who follows a “religion of humility” to tell me what I know.  No, Matt Barber, I don’t know it’s immoral and, as I said above, it sure as shit ain’t unnatural.  What I do know is that loving a person who meets your criteria for attraction is fun and often fulfilling.  It brings much happiness into the one life we’re guaranteed.  That’s why we boggle at you and god.  In your case, you want to take that happiness away unless someone conforms to what makes Matt Barber happy.  In god’s case, he’ll punish someone for finding love and happiness.  You’re both immoral.

Truth is truth, even though we may deny it.

Truth is the product of reason and logic, even though you may deny it.

God has written His law on your heart.

Maybe he skipped me, because I haven’t notice.  Of course, if he wrote his law on the hearts of gay people, why did he make them desire that thing he didn’t want them to do?  That’s a pretty lousy way of imbuing a person with his rules.  “I have these rules, but I’m going to make you really want to break them.”

You are a physical being; but, more importantly, you are a spiritual being. When we sin, we create separation between ourselves and God.

If god’s a negative influence on my life and on humanity, good!  I also create as much separation between myself and the mafia as I can.  You seem to be convinced that just because someone is more powerful than we that we should do what he says.  I wonder if you also decry tyranny and coercion, Matt…

God’s word also says that when we sin sexually, it’s particularly egregious because our bodies are the temple of Christ.

Free porn for him then.  Free pizza too.  Hell, free meth in some places.

This separation from God – a natural result of sexual sin – can lead to depression and even despair.

Because Christians never get depressed.  You know what can also cause depression?  Loving someone you can’t be with, not because anybody is harmed, but because of one group’s ancient, arbitrary rules and their desire to make even non-believers conform to them.  Being unable to be with the person you love in the 21st century because a group of people are unwilling to let all the moral standards of the 1st century die along with slavery can lead to some real depression.  It can also lead to bitterness toward the religion at fault and its adherents and, frankly, I’m shocked that result isn’t more frequently achieved.

If you feel such despair, know this: it is not “homophobia” causing it, as adult enablers might tell you, but, rather, it is the sin itself that causes it (or struggling alone, absent Christ, with the temptation to sin).

No, it’s the homophobia.  Lots of gay people are perfectly happy.  When you hear their stories, they’ll often tell you how much happier they are having come out of the closet, rather than denying themselves and their affections for fear of the social consequences from Christians who, like you, claim to love them.

You are being used. Adult homosexual activists with a political agenda are using you as a pawn to achieve selfish goals in a dangerous political game.

Selfish?  Selfish?  Do you even know what that word means?  It is you, Matt, who wants gay people to contort their behavior to align with your desires, not theirs.  That’s selfish.  If LGBT people wanted to abide by your standards, they’d be doing it and your letter would be superfluous.  Adults like me (the homosexual activists who, in cases like mine, are straight) want others to find happiness for themselves, free of the senseless constraints and social pressures of people like you.  That’s the opposite of selfish.

It’s hard to use someone when your message is “follow your heart”.  Juxtapose that against your message, Matt, of “do what I say or god will hurt you.”

They may have convinced themselves otherwise, but they don’t care about you. They don’t love you. They can’t. Their version of “love” is built on lies. It’s devoid of truth.

Love without truth is hate.

I can’t care for the happiness of my other fellow human beings?  The obvious rebuttal would be an easy “Yes I can.  I care enough to write this letter and to deal with the hassle of fighting people like Matt Barber.”  The more appropriate and more satisfying rebuttal is “Fuck you.”

And for someone who keeps using the word “truth”, you’re pretty light on defending any of the assertions you make.  You don’t just achieve truth by declaring your beliefs to be true.  Wouldn’t it be great for the bible if it worked that way?

To any LGBT person reading this, one person here really does care for you.  On the one hand you have me who is saying to love who you want, regardless of whether or not I would find them attractive.  On the other hand you have Matt Barber, who is demonstrating his love for you by demanding that you be just like him (under pain of torture, and he worships the torturer).  One person here cares very much for you, the other one cares very much about his religious beliefs – so much so that he thinks you should ignore the precepts of whatever religion you hold dear to be bound by them.

If you continue down this wide, empty path, make no mistake: it will not “get better.”

It gets much, much worse.

Why would it get worse?  Let’s ask the American Psychiatric Association, the most prestigious battery of psychological minds on earth.

Prejudice and discrimination have social and personal impact. On the social level, prejudice and discrimination against lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are reflected in the everyday stereotypes of members of these groups. These stereotypes persist even though they are not supported by evidence, and they are often used to excuse unequal treatment of lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. For example, limitations on job opportunities, parenting, and relationship recognition are often justified by stereotypic assumptions about lesbian, gay, and bisexual people.

On an individual level, such prejudice and discrimination may also have negative consequences, especially if lesbian, gay, and bisexual people attempt to conceal or deny their sexual orientation. Although many lesbians and gay men learn to cope with the social stigma against homosexuality, this pattern of prejudice can have serious negative effects on health and well-being. Individuals and groups may have the impact of stigma reduced or worsened by other characteristics, such as race, ethnicity, religion, or disability. Some lesbian, gay, and bisexual people may face less of a stigma. For others, race, sex, religion, disability, or other characteristics may exacerbate the negative impact of prejudice and discrimination.

The widespread prejudice, discrimination, and violence to which lesbians and gay men are often subjected are significant mental health concerns. Sexual prejudice, sexual orientation discrimination, and antigay violence are major sources of stress for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. Although social support is crucial in coping with stress, antigay attitudes and discrimination may make it difficult for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people to find such support.

And while you, Matt Barber, say it will get worse if people don’t suppress their sexual orientation, the experts in the relevant science say the opposite.

Coming out is often an important psychological step for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. Research has shown that feeling positively about one’s sexual orientation and integrating it into one’s life fosters greater well-being and mental health. This integration often involves disclosing one’s identity to others; it may also entail participating in the gay community. Being able to discuss one’s sexual orientation with others also increases the availability of social support, which is crucial to mental health and psychological well-being. Like heterosexuals, lesbians, gay men, and bisexual people benefit from being able to share their lives with and receive support from family, friends, and acquaintances. Thus, it is not surprising that lesbians and gay men who feel they must conceal their sexual orientation report more frequent mental health concerns than do lesbians and gay men who are more open; they may even have more physical health problems.

What did you say about love not being able to coexist with lies?

Consider, for instance, that according to the CDC this path will lead you, boys, to a one-in-five chance of contracting HIV/AIDS. The CDC also found that 64 percent of all syphilis cases strike “gay” males and that homosexual behavior leads to astronomical risk of nearly all other forms of STD.

Matt Barber’s conclusion:  So either don’t have sex, which all manner of studies demonstrates hardly ever happens, or just have sex with people of the opposite gender, because apparently that never results in STD.

My solution:  Get tested for STDs and use protection, just like straight people should.

Let’s follow your logic to its conclusion, Matt.  Lesbians have far fewer cases of STDs (using your source, the CDC).

To date, there are no confirmed cases of female-to-female sexual transmission of HIV in the United States database (K. McDavid, CDC, oral communication, March 2005).

Even lower than all those Christian straight people.  So should all women only sleep with other women, even though they may be attracted to men?  Should you let your wife and daughters know, or shall I?  It might be easier coming from me, that the women you care about need to only have responsible sex with people to whom they are not attracted.

Even more startling is the fact that, according to the International Journal of Epidemiology (IJE), “[L]ife expectancy at age 20 years for gay and bisexual men is 8 to 20 years less than for all men.”

First, even if this were true, so what?  Playing football has a similar effect, but if that’s what you want to do with your life, knock yourself out.

And what’s more, your quote is not the whole story according to Politifact:

The report’s authors, in 2001, took exception to conservatives who used their study to condemn the lifestyle of gay and bisexual men. The researchers said circumstances had changed since their study ended in the early 1990s.

“If we were to repeat this analysis today the life expectancy of gay and bisexual men would be greatly improved,” the authors wrote. “Deaths from HIV infection have declined dramatically in this population since 1996.”

The researchers, however, did not conduct a new study on the life expectancy for gay and bisexual men.

We spoke to Julio Montaner, a co-author of the study and director of the British Columbia Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDs. He said Marshall’s statement is a “gross misrepresentation” of the research.

“To use my report to support the notion that gay and bisexual sex is somehow the reason why people die early is misusing the data,” Montaner said.

Montaner noted that his group’s original report was conducted at a time when the HIV epidemic was poorly controlled and treatments were ineffective. Since then, there have have been great strides in treating the disease and preventing its spread, Montaner said. In British Columbia, annual diagnoses of new infections have dropped from 900 in the mid-1990s to 300 in recent years, he said. Deaths from HIV also have fallen sharply, he said.

What else could be causing their lower average lifespan?  Oh yeah!  Suicide because of depression, which the APA says is caused by discrimination and prejudice which, in this country, is fomented almost exclusively from the pulpit.

Marshall, in his email, listed sent abstracts of other studies saying homosexuals have high rates of suicide attempts and certain types of cancer. Two of the studies cite high number of deaths among gay men from HIV and AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s.

It appears, Matt, that the Christian love that you so frequently cite is part of the reason the average lifespan of gay people is lower.

Unnatural behaviors beget natural consequences. “The wages of sin is death.”

Yeah, unnatural behavior like getting one’s ears pierced, taking painkillers, or buying an airplane ticket rather than walking.  Unnatural behaviors have some pretty awesome results a lot of the time.  What’s more, you have no evidence that homosexuality, while normal in thousands of other species, is unnatural in ours.  You also have no good reason that we should give the first shit if it was.

  But there is hope.

There is no hope without reason.  You can hope that diseases go away, but without a doctor using the products of human intellect, they won’t.  You can hope that you’ll stop being hungry, but until we employ the best techniques conceived by human to produce food and make it safe, you’re going to starve.

The problem, in this case, is a story about a god who has eternal torture waiting if people indulge the avenues to happiness with which god supposedly created them.  Fortunately, for us, it isn’t true.  And even if it was, why should our hope reside in the option to obey the cruel god you describe and not in wishes that such a god doesn’t actually exist so we can love whoever we want?

Jesus loves you with a love that no human can fully grasp.

Your definition of love is twisted beyond recognition, Matt.  The love you offer to LGBT people is so mangled that it is indistinguishable from hate.  I’ll not be giving your opinion on the value of the love of a god who committed genocide against the entire human race and called it moral any credence.

This is true not because of your so-called “sexual orientation,” but, rather, it is true in spite of it.

It’s true that some people find members of the same gender attractive.  There is far more evidence for this than anything you’ve insisted is true in your entire letter.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

And in reality, life for LGBT people in this country is often a nightmare, not because loving another man or another woman makes one miserable, but because there are a great many Christians determined to make LGBT people that way.  The respite in Jesus is tantamount to his followers backing the fuck off when someone decides it’s easier to pretend they’re someone else than to deal with the social consequences imposed by Christians for being who they are.   My message to you, Matt, and to every other Christian who thinks it’s a privilege granted by god for them to determine who other people should kiss, is that you should back the fuck off anyway, regardless of whether or not a person is willing to kowtow to your mythological bunkum.

Kids, take your sexual confusion – your struggle with sin – to Christ.

Because a life-long virgin from the 1st century will know better than all of modern psychology.  Pro tip: if we’re not deferring to that century for our policies on agriculture, science, and literally every other discipline, then we probably shouldn’t trust their knowledge about sex to be superior or more relevant.

No one else can give you rest.

There is no rest in hiding who you are in order to co-exist with people who would hate you if only they knew (even though they’d call their misery-inducing actions “love”).  If you take that road, you will always be tortured by the desire to be with people to whom you are truly attracted, and you will always live in fear of the Matt Barbers of the world will find out.  This is not rest.  This is a hell that is infinitely more real than the one with which Matt Barber and his ilk are threatening you.

You get one life.  It can be full of love as honestly as you can express it.  That will never happen if you’re letting Matt Barber and other believers dictate who you can love.  They’ll try to make you miserable, like an abusive husband who repeatedly tells his wife how much he really loves her.  Tell them to take a hike and decide that a life of love is worth enduring the slings and arrows of would-be tyrants rebuked.

And let allies and atheists like me help.  Despite what Matt Barber says, it does get better when you claim your life as your own.

Patheos Atheist LogoLike What Would JT Do? and Patheos Atheist on Facebook!

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.