Are anti-gay Christians my “brothers and sisters” in Christ?

Are anti-gay Christians my “brothers and sisters” in Christ? July 5, 2012

Got this in yesterday:

Dear John,

I stumbled across your blog while doing other research and was interested and then confused. Though I appreciate your loving, Christian manner and what you have to say about Christians not treating homosexuals with hell fire antics, God’s word is quite clear on the subject. You suggested that God would not ask any Christian to choose between their heart and faith [here] but doesn’t Jeremiah 17:9 tell us “the heart is more deceitful that ALL else and is desperately sick, who can understand it?” As a Christian, many times I have has to choose between what my heart desires and what God commands, we all do. Don’t get me wrong, I do not wish for homosexuals to be mistreated though I do feel their “rights” should not discriminate against Christians rights (especially when it comes to marriage). However to tell a homosexual that their lifestyle is not active sin would be a lie and not help them grow closer to God. Just as it would not glorify God to tell an gluttoness [sic], overweight person that they are not sinning. Sin comes in many forms and to cover it up or try to sugar coat it, only allows Satan more an avenue for his lies. My cousin is a lesbian and in a committed relationship with a wonderful friend but we get along because I tell her the truth without being her judge, I love her and her partner even though they, like I, are sinners. Homosexuals have choices to make each day, just like heterosexuals and some of those choices are sinful and some are not but we must be honest about who and what we are, so that God can examine our heart and conform it to His. Thank you for your time.

A little bit later I wrote on the wall of my Facebook page:

Yes, crazy Christian, it is your right to hold the opinion that homosexuality is a sin. You can even pretend that you’re unaware of the life-destroying ramifications of that opinion. But do not kid yourself: God knows what you allow yourself to pretend you don’t.

And while the great majority of the responses to that statement were hearteningly supportive, it also (as expected) compelled others to rush to alert me to how I was failing to show proper love to my “brothers and sisters in Christ.”

Which I think begs the question: Are people who hold the beliefs expressed in the letter above really my “brothers and sisters” in Christ? Such Christians and I do, after all, have radically different, fundamentally opposing ideas about the very nature and purpose of God. So when is it reasonable to wonder whether or not we do in fact believe in the same God at all?

When does the God in which I believe become categorically different from theirs?

At any rate, I’m all for showing deference and respect to people who deserve it—and to anyone who might even almost deserve it. But it is indisputable that the “Christian” belief system evinced by the letter above daily and directly contributes to the ruination of the lives of gay people and those who love them. To my mind anyone who at this point persists in clinging to those beliefs does thereby forfeit their absolute right to respectful treatment. Because when all is said and done such people are nothing but bullies. They are sweet-talking, reasonable-sounding bullies who are daring to use God as their weapon of persecution.

I owe such people nothing whatsoever. My allegiance is to their victims, and to the God they shame by their ignorant bigotry.


Image from my post  Christians and the Blood of Jamey Rodemeyer.

P.S. Eighty-five comments later, I’m moved to make the point that I’ve nowhere claimed that anti-gay Christians are not my brothers and sisters in Christ. I merely speculated on the validity of the automatic assumption that they are.

Follow-up post: I’ve loved me some gay-condemning fundies.

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  • Deb Schofield via Facebook

    No way—-

  • Alicia Schaub via Facebook

    NO! They are instruments of the devil.

  • Would we say of those who disagree, “Are pro-gay Christians your “brothers and sisters” in Christ? I would say, “yes”.

  • Joshua Tree Whittle via Facebook

    Yes, they are. Otherwise we fall into the same category of intolerance, hate, and bitterness they do, which is something we all need to be very careful of. We’re ALL in this thing together whether we get a long and agree or not.

  • Susan Rogers St Laurent via Facebook

    I think this is a twist on the whole in-or-out thing. I think I understand what you’re trying to say, though.

  • Jamie Stanek via Facebook

    They are our brothers and sister. Our prodigal brothers and sisters who have not yet come back to a loving home. I’ll party with them when they come back. Until then, they are lost and want no help, or anything to do with a love that died for the whole world.

  • Hmm. That’s a loaded question. Like most things having to do with theology, it needs a lot of unpacking if it can be understood. Do these people even believe in the same “Christ”, the same God, that you or I believe in? Do yo believe in the same God I believe in? I find it kind of silly that we so easily lump Calvinists and Unitarians together under the same big Christian tent. So, yeah, maybe these people are my brothers and sisters but if all of them are Christian then I am not.

  • Annie Gardner via Facebook


  • Alicia Schaub via Facebook

    “I owe such people nothing whatsoever. My allegiance is to their victims, and to the God their ignorant bigotry shames.”

    I agree completely with this statement.

  • Christ said “Love your neighbor,” even the bullies. THAT’S why Christianity is hard.

  • Jill

    John, I appreciate you more and more each day. You remind me of something I once thought I’d lost– hope for love to conquer hate, light to swallow darkness.

  • Janet


    Have to respond to this one. You are quite right. I’ve struggled with this myself; I am a monotheist, but what I believe about God, the nature of life, the universe, and everything is so different from what, say, my fundie sister believes, that for all practical purposes we worship different gods. We can go on and on about how we can’t fully understand God, and we each only see a little bit of all that God is, but still. Brothers and Sisters in humanity, yes. Brothers and Sisters in Christ? “Get away from me; I never knew you.”

    Oooh, that seems harsh as I read it. But I’m not taking it back.

  • YM

    John, I fully support equality, but my husband’s view is more in line with the letter writer. We’ve tried calmy discussing the issue, but it gets very heated. He truly has a good heart and I hold onto the hope that he will one day come around. I didn’t realize how far apart we were on this issue until the marriage amendment came up for a vote here in NC. He always seemed to be accepting of my friends who are gay.

  • Thynkie Dink via Facebook

    I think that ultimately they ARE my brothers and sisters just as all men and women are regardless of faith or religion. But it doesn’t mean that I like them or want to invite them to dinner. I confess freely to having the sins of anger, unforgiveness, and resentment. I am not proud of this and am still trying to figure out what forgiveness means exactly and how to accomplish it. I know that it has something to do with judgement which is also my sin. So they judge me and find me guilty and I, in return, judge them guilty. We are both wrong.

  • Jeff Partain

    Here’s a thought I’ve been meditating on: Jesus said, “They will know you are my disciples if you love one another.” If this is true, then why isn’t the lack of love (or even the antithesis of love….such as, hate) the primary evidence of heresy?

  • Joshua Tree

    Hey John,

    I responded to this post on FB, but figured I would also respond here. I do believe that we need to treat these people as brothers and sisters in Christ but that does NOT mean we have to agree with them or hang out. Although there is a part of me that wants nothing to do with this kind of thinking I have to admit that at one point in my journey I WAS one of them. I was never actively against the homosexual community, but I believed it was a sin and fell into the same line of thinking of the person that posted the initial comment that prompted this post. Because of that thinking I know that I hurt people and ostracized many. Of that, I’m now ashamed. I am very grateful that my thinking has evolved and that I’ve grown in my understanding of people and God. I’m However, I still feel I’ve got much room to grow. I think if we start treating these people in the same manner in which they treat others we’re essentially hypocrites. Is it not grace that set us free? Are we not obligated to extend this same grace? I know that I am constantly amazed at the amount of grace I need in my own life and strive to extend that which I desperately need to others.

    I live, work, and study at one of the largest evangelical universities in the country and I have conversations on a daily basis regarding issues such as homosexuality, hell, original sin, Christian nationalism, etc. etc. etc. If I lose my cool, and I decide to ex-communicate the people I’m in community with here then what have I done? What difference do I make by throwing up my hands in frustration at those who disagree? I’m here to learn and grow and hopefully help others see truths that I’m blessed enough to know. By me NOT losing it I’m bearing witness and I hope, making a difference.

    Anyway, that’s my take. I would like to say that I sincerely appreciate you take on things and I read the blog on a regular basis. Don’t allow yourself to become bitter torward these people. In the words of this famous guy we mutually love, “Forgive them, they know not what they do”.

  • Jana Harrison Currier via Facebook

    Thynkie Dink, you expressed that so beautifully! I struggle with the same issues!

  • Well… I have to say I’m of two minds about this. I’ve made it my work to try to reach my fellow non-Gay affirming Christians and to help them get the fact that they are hurting people, which is also what you do. And I don’t believe that a person ever gets very far in an argument by starting to let their cynicism and contempt show. Your comment did border on contempt, which isn’t a very Christ-like quality even if it a totally understandable one.

    Your loyalty to their victims does imply a need to help stop the thinking that is victimizing them. I fervently believe that many of these Christians are people who could be won over to God’s heart. The only way to make this world a safer place for our gay brothers and sisters is to make the people who feel threatened and afraid expressers of God’s Love instead, and that can’t be done by showing contempt for them. I hate to say it, because I’d love to get all contemptified… but unfortunately I feel a pretty strong conviction that it’s just as bad to judge my fellow Christians harshly and act out against them in anger as it is for them to do the same thing to my gay brothers and sisters.

  • I don’t think the question is relevant, practically. Jesus said to love your enemies. Therefore, it doesn’t matter if these people ARE your brothers and sisters in Christ, you still have to TREAT them as if they are. It does make for an engaging Facebook discussion, though.

  • Lynne Jacobson via Facebook

    Well, of course they are–bless their hearts and souls–and they get to have first pick at the table–can sit at the head and have the best slice of turkey and the biggest piece of pie if they want.

  • Janet Fischer via Facebook

    Brothers and sisters in humanity, not in Christ.

  • Brian W


    As usual a nice post but I fail to see how a Christian that believes same gender sex is sin and a Christian that believes it’s not “have radically different, fundamentally opposing ideas about the very nature and purpose of God”. Really? I can see that between say a Catholic and a Protestant but over homosexuality? The nature of God and purpose of God’s plan far transcends homosexuality. At its core the nature and purpose is Jesus Christ

  • RFSJ

    John – I come from a sacramentally-oriented branch of Christianity. It’s our understanding that all baptized Christians are our siblings in Christ because we have all been adopted by God. Therefore, we owe each other, above all, charity in all things. We don’t get to pick whom God calls to the font and the Table, and once he does, it’s our obligation to show them the agape and philos love that we show to our own families. This doesn’t really answer your question except in the negative – to break all relationship is indeed a great sin.

  • Adam


    Yes, many anti-gay Christians really are your brothers and sisters in Christ.

    I’m a gay Christian man, and I think of my parents.

    My parents’ faith was pretty straightforward prior to my coming-out. They could trust the plain words of the Bible, and where it was confusing, they could trust their pastor to explain it. So homosexuality has always been a sin in their eyes, and while I am trying to wean them away from this, it makes their faith complicated in a way they’ve never had to deal with before.

    You seem to think that people like my parents are “pretending” to be “unaware of the life-destroying ramifications of that opinion,” but my folks really aren’t pretending. They really *are* unaware. They find it inconceivable that the God’s Word (as they have understood it for decades) could be anything but life-giving and life-affirming: surely the Bible’s interlocutors must be mistaken!

    Yes, there’s a ton to unpack there. And I’ve even bought a copy of your book _Unfair_ to give them in hopes of changing their thinking a bit. Maybe you personally don’t have the patience to deal with people like my parents, but that’s no reason to exclude them like this.

    Think of it like this: *I* am your brother in Christ, and my parents are *my* brother and sister in Christ, so if nothing else, you’re related that way.

  • Elizabeth

    Christianity is hard because people quote “Love your neighbor” in an adult theological discussion. That John reads this line 50 times every day without gouging his eyes out amazes me.

  • Dallas Jenkins

    Boy, I hope the dozen friends of mine who are active homosexuals, including two who are believers, don’t read this. Even though we disagree on the subject of whether or not their sexual activity is sin, not one thing in our relationship is different than if we did agree (similar to the dozens of non-believing friends I have, with whom I disagree on every aspect of sin, sexual or otherwise). But if they read this, their naive minds might discover that I’m actually a bully who’s persecuting them.

    In the exchange in this post, I only saw one person being antagonistic and calling names, and it wasn’t the person being called the bully.

  • Al

    To my mind, there is very little that is “Christ-like” in what the letter-writer and his/her kind of “Christian”, so it’s a mistake to call them “brothers and sisters in Christ”.Their God is a god of judgement and they mistakenly believe God empowers them to discriminate against those who don’t share their beliefs .

    That said, if we are to follow Christ’s example we’re still obliged to love these people as our neighbours, even if they are our enemies. Tough to do but that is what the Bible commands, as I understand it anyway.

    I agree with what you say here, Joshua Tree, about the need to keep communication open with those who disagree with us.Over time people do change and alienation will only make that change longer in coming. Just look at the growth in support for gay marriage in recent years. Notwithstanding setbacks at the state level, there seems finally to be majority support for equal rights, and the day when gays and lesbians will enjoy full and equal rights is in sight.

  • My answer to this is – Families fight.

    Sometimes, you don’t choose your brothers and sisters (I know… as in, with genetic family). Families are prone to bickering and arguing. Sometimes, all families do is fight.

    You can still call someone a “brother” while calling him out on being an idiot about something.

  • Dallas Jenkins

    “But it doesn’t mean that I like them or want to invite them to dinner.”

    “but that does NOT mean we have to agree with them or hang out.”

    Good grief, people, since when does a desire to be someone’s friend hinge on their beliefs on one issue? Who’s being intolerant now?

    I happen to find abortion reprehensible and horrifying, but I have dozens of friends who are pro-choice, including some who’ve had abortions or would have one if they felt it necessary. But our relationship or desire to hang out together doesn’t hinge on that one issue; we don’t talk about it much. And when we do, we disagree. Big deal.

    Two of my closest friends are active Christian homosexuals; we each know how the other feels about the issue, but the issue comes up, oh, about once every two years. The rest of the time, they don’t judge me and dislike me for my viewpoint any more than I judge or dislike them for theirs.

  • Elizabeth

    Right. Calling homosexuals “naive” is not bullying at all. What John is saying, in formal language “real” Christians such as yourself think they can nitpick, is that we’re allowed to be impolite now. We don’t have to waste time justifying ourselves or trying to convince you. If you doubt his theology, there’s a whole blog history you can use to educate yourself. I got my start studying the Bible as Literature at Oxford– where they translated the King James, just FYI — and I’ve read John carefully for three years. I also live in Harlem and have a bad temper. I assure you, the only bully around here is me.

  • I guess you should hope your friends don’t find this and read it because if they did they might also read your comment. I doubt they would appreciate your saying that they have naive minds. Do you think that of everyone who disagrees with you or only the gay people? Also, I’m curious, what would an inactive homosexual look like? That’s very peculiar terminology. Do you consider sexually active heterosexuals to be active heterosexuals versus inactive heterosexuals? It’s time you learned that homosexuality and heterosexuality are not strictly about sex. A homosexual is a homosexual whether they are celebate or monogamous or anything in between. If you feel you need to distinguish between gays that have sex and those that don’t may I at least suggest that you do so accurately. You can use something like celibate gays versus non-celibate gays and we’ll all know exactly what you mean. You don’t need to invent some weird and completely inappropriate terminology. An active homosexual to me is a gay person that lives an active (as opposed to sedentary) lifestyle. It has nothing to do with sex.

  • John C Hoddy via Facebook

    Full disclosure-Conservative Christians who insist on continued discrimination against gay people piss me off. That being said, I used to be like that too. If folks on the left hadn’t treated my ignorance with a measure of grace, my journey might’ve had a different conclusion. We never lose when we respond to hatred with love and grace. Sometimes it feels better to tell off some bigoted asshole, but we always lose when we fight our detractors w/ their own weapons.

  • Just thought to expand upon this further.

    My older brother – my genetic, by family, physical older brother. He’s an asshole. I’m not going to tell you anything different unless he’s around to hear it and be hurt, though I’m pretty sure I’ve told him that same thing straight to his face a few times I don’t even remember…

    Living with him, when I had to… was a form of psychological torture. He stole from me, belittled me, threatened to wreck my stuff… did some things I’m not even going to talk about right now… I feared for my life with him sometimes. He’s the chiefiest reason why when my boyfriend-from-the-Internet proposed to me and proposed to move me to the other side of the country, away from everything I’d ever known, I practically jumped on him and said “Save me!”

    Yet, my brother is still my brother. I ask my parents about him sometimes over the phone, have some concern for him even as I’m happy to be about three-thousand miles away. I sort of have this genreal family love and concern for him because he’s my brother, even though I don’t have any particular desire to be anywhere near him (despite his ability to make the best barbeque on the planet).

    “Brothers,” and “Sisters” can be strange, whether the relation is genetic, or by some kind of general ideological/spiritual persuasion where we don’t get along in the rest, or just being human. I consider myself a part of the “human family” albiet *very* relucantly.

  • Well said John. Being loving is not not the same as being nice. Count the number of times Jesus got angry! Or do people think calling a whole generation snakes is gentle, meek, and mild? Prophetic anger is greeting God in many.

  • I believe that the people like the one who wrote that letter to you are not Christians, because they believe in a false god.

  • Amy

    I think I am in agreement with many of the comments below. My husband and I do not agree about this issue. Should I dismiss him, divorce him, not see him as a “real” Christian? Or should I continue to work on helping him stop seeing homosexuality as sinful? Daily I choose the latter. I fear his opinion may never change, but I try nonetheless.

    I do see a difference in the letter writer’s attitude, however. The letter writer is rather condescending and appears to be operating on stereotypes rather than actual human beings. I say this because the writer uses hurtful words in other ways as well. I wonder how many people caught the subtle association between body type/size and gluttony–as though all overweight people are that way from stuffing their faces with crappy food. Making that comparison between obesity and homosexuality shows ignorance. People like that usually have trouble with ANYONE they perceive as different, finding them undesirable in some way and also believing they can become “normal.” thankfully, not all Christians who believe homosexuality is sinful are like that.

    I’m not trying to justify being against homosexuality. I’m doing my best to enlighten anyone I can. But I know that if someone hadn’t reached out to me, I would still think it was sin too. Now it’s my job to reach out to the next person. No one will listen if I tell them they’re not my brothers and sisters until they agree with me.

  • Ben

    I suspect your relationship with those friends would be different if you didn’t view their acting on their sexual orientation to be a sin. I’m sure they love you and care about you, and I’m sure the reverse is true. I can say, however, as a gay Christian, that there is a barrier between me and those of my friends who view my sexual identity as sinful versus those friends who are as welcoming of my homosexual identity as I am of their heterosexual one. When I know a friend thinks such an intrinsic part of me is sinful, it hurts. I still love them, and I share my life with them, but I hold some things back because I know they tolerate, rather than celebrate, a key part of who I am. Obviously, you know your gay friends better than I do, and this may not be true for them.

    To come to your defense on one thing, your use of the word “naive” was obviously sarcasm. You clearly weren’t actually calling your friends naive.

  • Ben

    Here’s the thing. For you it’s “one issue”. For me, it’s my life. It colors everything about me, even if only a little. Just as, heterosexuality colors the life of everything about straight people. There’s just not a tendency to see it because it’s society’s norm.

    As I indicated below, I have friends who agree with you, and I love them. But thinking about it, they’re mostly grandfathered in from before I knew I was gay. It’s just hard for me to bond with people who think so poorly of such an important part of me. (Similar to how I don’t make new friends who think my love of comic books or poetry are worthy of disdain because those are core parts of who I am.)

  • Dallas: You wrote, “Since when does a desire to be someone’s friend hinge on their beliefs on one issue?” It depends on that one issue, doesn’t it? Would you be friends with someone who had no problem sharing with you that they find nothing sexier than a 7-year-old girl? Or that it was a shame Hitler didn’t kill every last Jew on earth? Or that black people should be the slaves of white?

    Some issues are deal breakers, are they not?

  • Adele Sakler via Facebook

    HHHHMMM, when i was a Christian, and i am queer, i was told by conservative Christians i was NOT really a Christian, thus, not their sister in Christ. So, i agree with John’s assertion here.

  • For the record, I’ve nowhere said that anti-gay Christian aren’t my brothers and sisters in Christ. I merely speculated on the validity of the automatic assumption that they are.

  • For what it’s worth, Adam, please note that I’ve nowhere said that anti-gay Christian aren’t my brothers and sisters in Christ. I merely speculated on the validity of the automatic assumption that they are.

  • Melody

    It’s the “love your enemies” bit that makes it hard. That said, I think some who believe homosexuality is a sin are my brothers and sisters in Christ; they aren’t cruel or damaging to LGBT people, just misguided in their personal beliefs. Others, like Fred Phelps and Michele Bachmann, I would never call my brothers and sisters, because of their unabashed cruelty and danger to the LGBT community.

  • The bible, especially the NT, gives the best example of how to treat people that are “brothers and sisters” and yet do things that are “harmful” or “betraying” the “family”. That example is with the Jews who were tax-collectors. Jesus gave the best example of how Jews should treat tax-collectors, which was seen as derogatory to the Jewish people, same as “Sinners”. Since Jesus had a tax-collector as one of his disciples, therefore, I think the parallel between how Jews treated tax-collectors (who were Jewish), is the same how Christians treat fellow Christians who are homosexuals, therefore, we should treat them the same way that Christ treated the Tax collectors.

  • Brian: You have the luxury of determining that “God’s plan” transcends homosexuality because no one is claiming that same God thinks you are an abomination before God that it’s perfectly okay to bully, denigrate, malign, belittle, and drive to suicide. You can comfortably look at the big picture because in the little picture no one’s coming after you with a baseball bat.

  • Drew M.

    I probably don’t agree with Dallas’s concepts of sin. That said, even I can recognize oozing sarcasm when I read it.

    Hint for Elizabeth and Cindy: He doesn’t really think of his friends as naive.

  • It’s kinda funny how ‘tough love’ is preached (for decades, if not centuries by the way) from the homosexuality-is-a-sin camp as a sound, loving Christian response. Yet when John flips the tables it is received with, ‘well, that’s not nice.’

    um… ya think?

  • Go, John!

  • Amy

    That makes sense. I was mostly responding to the responses. I figured maybe I missed something. I read the post, but it sounded from the discussion like all people who think homosexuality is sin were in the same category. Obviously not, and I apologize for misreading that.

  • No, no worries. I mean, I know going in to this sort of post that people are going to quite often respond not to what I said, but rather to what, in their rush to respond, they THINK I said. That’s just … inevitable. So it’s cool. But thanks for apology.

  • Diana A.

    Yeah, I agree with you. Though sometimes my temper does get in the way.

  • Diana A.

    I agree with this.

  • Lymis

    Don’t be so sure. All you can be sure of is that they aren’t discussing it with you.

    Don’t assume that they aren’t judging you negatively for not considering them fully human or their love to be genuine.

    If gay people harangued all the people who held negative views of homosexuality, we’d have pretty empty social calendars.

  • Gordon

    Letter writer: What the heck does “…tell her the truth because I’m not her judge” mean? I have a little secret to tell you: Your lesbian cousin and her partner think you’re a pinhead.

  • Lymis

    Or a constitutional amendment.

    Well said, John. Thanks.

  • Diana A.

    This nails it right here. I do believe that we are to love our anti-gay neighbors as ourselves, yet there is definite hypocrisy in those who consider their hurtful actions toward gay people (and others whom they perceive as sinners) as “tough love” but who do not much like it when such “tough love” is applied to them.

  • Patricia Boese

    Again and again I hear this rhetoric. Lumping LGBT people in as sinful (just as you and I are sinners) but here’s the problem. Why are they born with a double sin? If they believe we are born with original sin, and then they believe gay people get born with a DOUBLE original sin, then they aren’t distinguishing their own acts of sin from gay people’s acts of being. They are saying that gays can do nothing, not even act out a single sexual act, but by the mere fact of orientation they are sinful. Good for you, John for calling these Christians out. They always say they are not judging, (“I am a sinner too!”) but they aren’t saying they are a sinner by orientation. Their sins are sins of either doing or original sin. This is blatant and egregious hypocrisy. Frankly this kind of deception seems pretty sinful in itself. The consequences are even more tragic and clearly these cannot be seen worthy in the eyes of any God.

  • Lymis

    Hitler was my brother in Christ. So was Jeffrey Dahmer. So was Torquemada. So is every anti-gay Christian.

    (Yeah, yeah, Godwin’s law. Sue me.)

    God gets to decide who His children are, not me.

    I get to decide how I deal with them. Sometimes, the most loving and Christian thing I can do is distance myself from someone who wants to hurt me, especially if there is nothing I’m going to do to change their minds, and the only effect of engaging them is to damage my own forehead banging it against their walls.

    I don’t have to think fondly of them. I don’t have to deny the pain they cause me. I don’t have to pretend to agree with them, and I don’t have to roll over and play dead when they hurt me or the people I love or the other people that they are hurting who can’t defend themselves as well.

    Hitler was (well, would have been) my brother in Christ, as a human being for whom Christ died. That doesn’t mean the answer was to “agree to disagree” with him or his social policies.

  • Thynkie Dink – fantastic response. Letting go of anger, resentment and giving forgiveness is the most freeing thing. I wish you well in your journey.

  • Kristi

    I always enjoy reading your comments Lymis. Very well written.

  • Kristi

    Patricia – from those I know who believe homosexuality is a sin, they do not believe a person is born a homosexual. They believe it is a choice the person makes, and that is a reason why they refer to it as a homosexual “lifestyle”, more insinuation of it being a choice.

    I read part of Bringing Up Boys by James Dobson and he has a whole chapter about homosexuality and how it is a choice and how there isn’t any scientific evidence stating otherwise, and how homosexuals can recover through psychotherapy. It is straight up crazy, but I wanted to read it just so I could see what those types of people preach.

  • Like others have already expressed, I think it would be a step too far to decide that anybody who believes that gay sex is sinful cannot be a brother or sister in Christ. What is and isn’t sin will always be something that very few people will agree upon. If I had to say that to be my brother/sister you must hold the exact same view as me on what is sinful and what isn’t, I’d have very few brothers and sisters because most of us would find at least one point of disagreement in that list.

    Having said that, I do realize that we treat this particular issue differently because we see the damage that has been done (and continues to be done) to many of our gay brothers and sisters by many Christians. So I understand where this is coming from and do myself at times struggle with what actually is the right approach in dealing with such people.

    I think this is very different from other arguments about what is or isn’t sin for the obvious reason that homosexuality isn’t really about behaviour. If we disagreed about whether or not gambling is sin, we could do so without any serious complications because nobody views gambling as an important intrinsic part of their nature. If I were a gambler and you thought gambling was sin, that wouldn’t interfere in any way with our ability to have a good relationship (unless of course you spent all your time harping on me about it, in which case I obviously wouldn’t find much pleasure in being around you). We could just agree to disagree and still be good friends and I probably wouldn’t give it a second thought that you think I’m sinning when I take a trip to a casino. Replace gambling with pretty much any other behaviour and this holds true. But replace it with homosexuality and it’s a whole different ballgame.

    Homosexuality is not a behaviour. Now of course, some Christians who believe gay sex to be sinful will tell you that it is the sex (something we can all choose to engage in or not engage in) that is sinful. They do this through many different ways of compartmentalizing people like the comment below where someone uses the ridiculous idea of referring to their gay friends as active homosexuals. As a much too sedentary homosexual, I could definitely use to be more active but that really has nothing to do with sex. Others call us practicing homosexuals. I find this term rather insulting as would I think my wife. What we do together is definitely not practice. My father recently informed me that he does not see me as a homosexual because I am a Christian and therefore not a homosexual even though I am a married to someone of the same sex. What these people fail to comprehend is that my life is not compartmentalized in that way. We gay people are gay whether we ever have sex with someone of the same gender or not. It is not sex that defines us. But here’s the real complication. One could say, then why can’t you just agree to disagree on whether or not same-gender sex is a sin in the same way that we could agree to disagree that say gambling is sinful? If it’s not about the sex, why is it important that people agree that the sex is not sinful? If you could be a gambler and not be offended by people who believe that gambling is sinful, why can’t you be gay and not be offended by people who believe that same-gender sex is sinful? Here’s the problem with that as I see it: I am married to (in my opinion) the most wonderful woman in the world. I love her far more than I have ever loved anyone in my life. My relationship with her has changed me in so many ways and made me a better person. It is also the greatest reflection of God in my life. So, when you tell me that I am sinning every time I have sex with my wife, what you are really saying is that my marriage is a sin, my love is a sin, somehow, against all reason, this wonderful self-sacrificing love that I feel for my wife is actually evil. Nobody that believes that gay sex is sinful would say that it would be perfectly ok for my wife and I to be married and totally devoted to one another as long as we didn’t have sex. So, as much as these compartmentalizing Christians like to say that it is all about the sex being sinful, it really isn’t, it can’t be as the sex cannot really be separated from the rest of the passion and devotion and love that I feel for my wife. If we stopped having sex tomorrow, it wouldn’t change the essence of our relationship and would not satisfy these Christians that we are no longer living in sin.

    Having said all that, I understand that it is difficult for someone who, being part of the majority, has never had to think about what it means to be heterosexual to understand what it’s like to be homosexual. The average heterosexual person does not think of their life as being in any way defined by the type of sex they have. Neither does the average homosexual. But sadly, many heterosexuals do think that homosexuals are defined by the type of sex they have. And this is why it is so hard to get through to them, even when they sincerely want to be loving and supportive. There are plenty of anti-gay Christians out there who are just a**holes, I’m not denying that, but there are also many who are good loving people who really just don’t get it. I’m not excusing that they don’t get it, but I’m trying to understand and therefore show some compassion for them in their journey. Perhaps this is a little easier for me than it is for someone like John Shore. See, I can look back (only a few years) and remember when I was there. And I remember that I did not knowingly harbour any hatred towards gay people. If you could go back only 5 or 6 years and ask me my opinion of homosexuality and homosexuals, I would be one of those people that would tell you that I certainly don’t hate gay people and I have friends who are gay that I think the world of, but I believe that gay sex is sinful and that God wants something better for those people. Back then I didn’t consider myself one of “those” people. I was deep in denial and only rarely even considered the idea that I might have homosexual leanings, usually with a stray thought like, “if I weren’t a Christian I could probably be gay”. I didn’t consider myself anti-gay (or closeted) but I’m reminded by my wife that I once told her that I wouldn’t vote for a certain political candidate just because they were gay and the only thing I ever took the time to write to my member of parliament about was how strongly I was against the law that made same-sex marriage legal here in Canada and how much I wanted the newly elected conservative party to strike down that law. Of course, this is one of those times where I am so thankful that I didn’t get what I wished for. Though I had never felt any real attraction to men, I never gave any serious consideration to the idea that I might be gay until I fell madly in love with my best friend and was therefore blown out of my denial. I just held to the idea that one day, if I prayed and believed hard enough God would bring Mr. Right along and I would fall madly in love. Little did I know that Mrs. Right was right in front of my nose all along and I just needed to get over myself and wake up to see it.

    When I came out to my family, things did not go smoothly and they certainly didn’t react in a loving manner or one that by any stretch could be considered Christian. It wasn’t an easy journey to get to the point where we are now, which still consists of them believing that my relationship with my wife is sinful, but with things being very civil and them treating both my wife and myself in a loving and respectful manner. There were a couple of points along the road where I came close to giving up on them (but for the encouragement of my wife things may have turned out much differently) and to be honest, if they were not family that I loved dearly, I wouldn’t have made such efforts. But the progress that we’ve made has also given me a different perspective on dealing with anti-gay Christians in general and a hope that I might not otherwise have. On a recent vacation home, my wife and I got to have an actual civil discussion with my parents on the bible and homosexuality for the first time and I don’t believe there was any animosity on either side. My father has even agreed to read a book or two on the subject when I send them to him. I am carefully considering my choices. I am strongly leaning towards Jack Roger’s “Jesus, the Bible, and Homosexuality: Explode the Myths, Heal the Church” at the moment as I think it comes from a perspective that my father might be able to relate to. I haven’t read John’s book on the topic yet but I suspect from this blog that there might be a sarcastic tone that while I often enjoy it would turn my father off and keep him from really considering the points made.

    In the end, I think there is a lot of ignorance of what homosexuality really entails by your average anti-gay Christian. Some of it is willful ignorance, but some of it is just a result of the bubbles they’ve been living in. Living in a bubble certainly doesn’t excuse bigotry, but it can mean that if we can just find a way to pop the bubble we might find a very loving brother or sister hiding inside it.

  • Gordon

    Even if there were (and there eventually will be) incontrovertible scientific and biological PROOF that homosexuality is genetic, people like Dobson wouldn’t believe it. The don’t believe in evolution or climate change. They have no problem with denying scientific proof in order to cling to their hateful and harmful views.

  • Patricia Boese

    It’s so crazy when you see that children at such a young age are already clearly gay. You’re right that they do believe it is a choice, but they don’t seem to realize that just because they choose to believe it does not mean it is so. There are so many things we haven’t figured out yet scientifically, but that doesn’t mean that they do not exist. Electrical impulses existed before we discovered them. They didn’t happen because we discovered them. It’s irrational. Just like one day people had to accept the world was not flat, they will have to come to accept that LGBT are treated equally whether they like it or not, and they will go to heaven and find God loved and accepted them just as well. It will be an eye opener for them to find out they didn’t have the Platinum American Express Card all for themselves.

  • You might want to take your own hint. I got the sarcasm and was responding in kind. But then again, that should be obvious from the sarcasm in my post. Funny how that works…

  • David M. Greer

    “I owe such people nothing whatsoever. My allegiance is to their victims, and to the God their ignorant bigotry shames.”

    victims? john, as a christian and as a gay man, i am a lot of things: a “victim”, however, is not one of them. my husband and i both have aids but we don’t see ourselves as “victims” of that, either.

    instead of feeling the negative emotion contempt for these misguided people, i am able to find it in my heart to feel sympathy for them, for their having been brainwashed by people who cling to a God that you and i don’t know…that God of fear and retribution and hate and anger. the God that divides people, instead of bringing them together.

    that isn’t our God, john. our God tells us and (and more importantly) *shows* us how we are to treat those people. our example is found in Christ, whose anger only manifested in limited outbursts. we must be like Him, or at least strive to be like him.

    thanks for letting me vent.

  • Hear hear

  • As a gay woman, I wouldn’t consider myself a victim either, but that is not to say that this people do not have many victims. For example, the gay teenager who commits suicide after enduring all the harassment he can handle. If ever there was a victim, he is a victim.

  • Bmac

    I feel that all people are our brothers and sisters as they were all created and loved by God. Some are just the deranged, misguided, hateful siblings that I’d rather not be pals with.

  • Jennifer Sandberg via Facebook

    No they aren’t brothers and sisters “in Christ”. They think that gay people are more sinful than they are. They don’t follow the teachings of Jesus, so how can they be even called, “Christian”?

  • Quoting Jer 17:9 doesn’t mean you can simply ignore your conscience, feelings and intuitions or eschew reason and logic. It also doesn’t mean you can avoid the clear teachings of Jesus (e.g. Mk 12:30-31). Jer 17:9-10 presents a great case for being extremely cautious about judging others and about making sure our motivations and actions are rooted in God’s love rather than our own selfish desires.

  • Ryan Nix via Facebook

    A church I helped plant and am currently not attending, sent me a Facebook invite to attend and hear from the Author and Speaker Andrew Comiskey … a prominent ex-gay speaker. They “love me” and wanted me to attend. Am I to expect that it has nothing to do with me being gay and pawn the ex-gay work on a guest speaker? Their words are sweet like honey, but no matter how you coat it, it taste like crap.

  • Wendy

    I just don’t get the constant acrobatics from Christians trying to fit God into the “Nice Guy!” category. Anyone who’s read the bible for more than five minutes knows that he’s an asshole – and I’m saying that as a former Christian. At least the fundies are being honest about all of it – when they’re spewing their hate you can rely on the source.

    Why all these mental gymnastics about brother in Christ this and gay Christian that? Why try to put morals and common human decency onto an imaginary deity that has proved himself over and over to be the complete opposite of what you’re trying to preach? I think you’re a great guy John, but seriously, it puzzles me why you contort an obviously very intelligent brain around a paradigm that is never ever going to work out the way you think it is.

  • Mezzanine

    Is there anyone we’re NOT supposed to treat lovingly, if we are Christians? After all, the whole point of the “who is my neighbour” thing was that we should treat everyone as our neighbours.

    Whether they are your brothers and sisters or not, John, they are our neighbours and they are lost and blind. We should do our best to lead them in the way they need to go, and love them even when they’re obviously totally off the mark.

  • Melody

    Agreed. I came around largely due to the patience of my more liberal friends. Sometimes, though, it is necessary to be upfront and not sugarcoat it, especially when someone is acting like some of the trolls who frequent this site. You have to be tough with those types. With others I’m more gracious, if they’re obviously trying to learn and understand.

  • Lindsey

    Oh, well said!

  • Michael

    Another false (and hurtful) assumption that the modern church has propagated is the idea expressed in the letter to John that heart remains wicked and deceitful. This portion of scripture was written under the old covenant before Christ came to redeem us. Under redemption, our hearts are PURE. Jesus himself commands us in Luke to “love the Lord your God with all your HEART…” We could not possibly do that with a wicked heart. Living to love, feel and think from the heart is one of the greatest gifts that God has given us!

  • David S

    Dallas. Perhaps you should ask your friends who are gay if they mind being referred to as “active homosexuals”. Perhaps you should ask them if they can agree to disagree about their God given worth and dignity. They may be able to love you despite your hurtful position that they are not worthy of giving and receiving romantic love. They clearly have more patience and grace than I do. BUT YOU DO NOT GET A PASS A PASS ON YOUR HURTFUL POSITION JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE GAY FRIENDS THAT ARE WILLING TO PUT UP WITH YOU.

    There is no way to believe as you do without attacking the personhood of people who are gay. Through you misguided beliefs, you are necessarily diminishing the worth and dignity of your friends.

  • SheaSheaSharee

    I would first like to say that this will be my last comment on this board as I will be unsubscribing and unliking on Facebook as of today. To me many of you are no different than the bullies that you are describing on this site, the only difference is some of the people that are being attacked are being attacked because they disagree not because they have ruined someone’s life personally by not believing like some of you here on this site. First, John, in some of the articles and posts you have placed here it is clear that the people conducting the evil actions of ruining another’s life are not truly Christians. They may claim to be, but clearly through their actions they are not, that is a duh fact that most people with common sense should be able to see. Then there is the fact that many of you would really love to force those of us who say we don’t agree with being gay that we have ruined lives by feeling and believing this way, which is a blatant lie! It is the ACTIONS people take with their beliefs that ruins lives. Just because I don’t agree with being gay does not mean I am going to go out and lie to a straight woman about her gay lover, or burn someone who is homosexual, or beat to death someone who is homosexual, or even attempt to tell them that they are going to hell because of their beliefs and way of life, etc. That is what ruins lives, that is what causes damage. I am not going to be a parent that refuses to ever speak to my child or allow her or him to be happy because I don’t agree with their choices, that is what ruins lives. Not agreeing with someone else’s choices and way of life does not ruin lives, please try to comprehend this (although I know many of you will not). I had posted a couple comments a couple weeks back and the negativity, rude, and mean comments that were left in return were horrible but above all they made me question what this site was really about and if some of you even see how wrong you are in yourselves. With the behavior some of you exhibit you are far from the “loving” Christian you are trying to portray as well or does the love only go towards those who are gay? Am I allowed to commit every other sin under God and can be accepted here as long as I agree that being gay is not a sin. Help me understand what your point is in this website besides to force people to say that being gay is not a sin. Cause acceptance, love, and tolerance is forgotten as soon as someone says “I don’t agree with being gay, but I love the person anyway.” People disagree and have their lives ruined everyday for numerous of misguided actions of people who do not know how to accept people with different beliefs and opinions. People from abortion, to having sex and children out of wedlock and so on. Homosexual individuals are NOT the only ones with their lives ruined by people trying to use the Word of God for their own perverted purposes and taking matters into their hands that they should not. I still stand firm in my beliefs that I don’t agree with homosexuality but I also do not judge. I do not know if homosexuality is against God’s will or even if homosexuals will be condemned to hell because I am not God, but for me as my own self no I don’t agree with it. Despite that I have several homosexual friends whom I love and adore and they feel the same about me. We agree to disagree but we do not sit up and bash each other, hate on one another, or decide not to be in each other’s lives because of our differences. Hell they don’t even agree with who I have selected to be with. And despite these disagreements not one has killed him or herself, found themselves damaged, or f***ed up because I don’t agree with their choice just as I don’t based off of their disagreement with whom I choose to love. Some of you need to seriously GET OVER YOURSELVES, learn TOLERANCE, grow a tougher skin, and be the person some of you are pretending to be. Period! So you don’t want to be my brother or sister in Christ because we don’t see eye to eye well I choose to not want to be your brother or sister in Christ because I refuse to be dogged out, bullied, and made to feel like I am less of a human being because I don’t agree with every little thing you want me to. So continue to judge me and others like me, that is the exact reason why you will continue to be judged not because you believe homosexuality is not a sin.

  • Melody

    Good riddance. Don’t let the door hit your bigoted ass.

  • Susan in NY

    Shadsie, I’ve got a sister who makes me crazy. She is not evil, but she makes me want to tear my hair out. So I live far away from her, and we generally do not speak.

    I appreciated this paragraph you wrote regarding your brother. It resonated with me.

    Shadsie said: “Yet, my brother is still my brother. I ask my parents about him sometimes over the phone, have some concern for him even as I’m happy to be about three-thousand miles away. I sort of have this genreal family love and concern for him because he’s my brother, even though I don’t have any particular desire to be anywhere near him ”

    I saw her over the holiday. I got indigestion.


  • Lymis

    Could you live with “target?”

    I think the point is that these people are directing real and deliberate harm at people and in many cases, succeeding in inflicting it. John needs a word to describe that. I don’t claim “victim” as an overriding identity, but I don’t deny that I’ve been attacked and harmed by these people through no fault of my own.

    “Victim” neither means “irreparably damaged” nor “helpless.” Just means someone did something to you.

  • Because I don’t think God is imaginary. And I want him/her/it properly represented.

  • What does “don’t agree with being gay” mean? Is that like not agreeing with being a woman or not agreeing with being African American?

  • Thanks, Lymis. That’s all I meant by that word, of course.

  • Elizabeth

    Sarcasm? Never heard of it.

  • Oh, Dan. Must you insist upon being rational?

  • Lymis

    In short, you’re not the bad kind of bigot. You’re the good kind of bigot, and you get offended when people lump you in with the bad ones.

    You don’t want to actually love your gay or lesbian neighbor, and you want to reserve the right to feel that you know more about their lives, their loves, and their relationship with God than they do, but you don’t want to take the responsibility for the damage it does to people.

    Your attitude does far more to give permission to the bad kind of bigots than it gives love and support to actual gay people – and standing idly by when people are being hurt is participating in hurting them. Look at the parable of the Good Samaritan and see how much credit the people who didn’t attack the man, but didn’t stop to help, either, got.

    You don’t have gay friends who you love and adore. If you have this attitude about people in your life, then you don’t know them at all, and can’t possibly love them.

    On the other hand, I would think you probably are somewhat right when you say they feel the same way about you that you feel about them – thinly disguised loathing masquerading as polite tolerance.

    “Some of you need to seriously GET OVER YOURSELVES, learn TOLERANCE, grow a tougher skin, and be the person some of you are pretending to be. Period!”

    Ahem. Indeed. Got any mirrors at home?

  • DR

    I love that you encouraged us to grow a tougher skin while posting a huge wall of accusatory, hostile text and then “unsubscribe” so you don’t have to deal with the fall out. Talk about cowardice, dear.

    Simply put. Your choice to believe that being gay is wrong (your words, not mine) is an *action*. You are taking a stance. And not only that, you’re *expressing* it publicly! That’s action. I know it’s hard to face the reality of the impact of your actions. I know it is, it’s like a punch in the stomach when people tell you the truth about yourself, about how your choice to believe this way is hurting people. Hurting kids. It’s awful, a lot of us have been there. But

    When (and if) you choose to settle down and let the smoke clear, you’ll see that you believe that you are entitled to set the own consequences to your belief. You want to believe that being gay is wrong and still get to be the proverbial good guy, the loving Christian. Because you no doubt *feel* that way toward gay men and women. You love them, you wish no ill will toward anyone. But because we’ve been there, most of us know exactly what you’re doing here, you’re letting your hurt feelings put words in the mouths of those who are holding you accountable for what you’re doing. No one here has said you are “less than human”. You’re inserting that in the dialogue so you can demonize those who’ve made you feel badly about yourself so you get to feel ok about walking away. It happens everyday on this site and it will happen again. We’ve all done it.

    But what you aren’t seeing and need to open your mind and heart to is that your intent is very different from your impact. And *you* don’t get the last word on the impact you’re having on gay men and women, on kids. You just don’t, you don’t have that kind of control and those here on the site will continue to remind you of that.

    1 John says we have fellowship when we walk in the light. Walk in the light of your own choices. At least be open to the fact that as much as you want to, you don’t get the last word on the damage you do to the GLBT community. They do. When you’re ready to listen, to really hear it – when you’re ready to put them over your own fear that you’re going to be considered the bad guy? That will be an amazing experience for you.

    Until then, remember that the heart of the stubborn never find rest. You chose to be here and you’re choosing to leave because it got too difficult for you. Consider it got too difficult because of you, not because of anyone else. I get what you’re going through but I won’t give you a pass.

  • DR

    Because you don’t get the last word on what many of us believe God to be. That’s why. For the record, I’m completely cool with you believing He is imaginary, I’m ok with that. That stops with you, it is not a declarative, sweeping assessment and for those of us who do have faith, we want the God we believe in to be represented with integrity.

  • DR

    I wonder how your “close friends” feel like when you refer to them as “active homosexuals”?

    What does it mean to be a “passive” homosexual? Help a sister out.

  • DR

    Tell that to the families of the two lesbians who were shot in the head a few weeks ago.

  • Brian

    “When does the God in which I believe become categorically different from theirs?” SERIOUSLY, SO TRUE JOHN!! I’ve been in the space for about 8 months with my “brothers and sisters” in my own coming out process.

    But, when you said “thereby forfeit their right to respectful treatment…” needs further clarification to me…while yes, they could be categorized as “unbelievers” to a certain extent, and yes, beautifully deceptive bullies, the idea that a human forfeits what is inherently theirs (a right to love, forgiveness, and respect from God and us) based on their behavior puts you in the judgment seat you declare is so destructive…yes?

    No matter how destructive, vile, hateful, and degenerate one person is, aren’t we called to be the light of love and acceptance no matter what? Or, do we deem them unworthy b/c of their ignorant bigotry?

    It’s a slippery slope b/c of all the hateful history that’s out there for the ex, ex-gays like myself. Still figuring out how to dance among the “unbelievers” myself is all. Thanks for the dialog John.

  • Brian W

    The vast majority, if not all, the Christians I know would never believe or state that bullying, denegrating, maligning, belittling or driving a person to suicide is anywhere condonded in the inscripturated Word of God. They try and follow the example as set by Jesus – to love God and love your fellow man as yourself. Living in such a manner precludes treating a homosexual (unconverted sinner or Christian) any different than a heterosexual (unconverfted sinner or Christian).

    Actually I have been chased after with a bat and dogs because I was a white guy in a “non white” neighborhood knocking on doors passing out church invitations to a church that wasn’t Catholic.

    Homosexuals certainly do not have the corner on discrimination, it happens all over the place for many reasons to many people.

  • But sure, if you have a private thought that you never expressed and never even unintentionally affect your actions, it won’t ruin anyone elee’s life… but, hey, let’s be realistic here. People that Shea here wants to exempt are those that express there opinion (sometimes often and without prompting) and who in almost all cases want to deny marrage and oridation to gay people – and who say, vote or lobby to deny these rights. Um, actions anyone?

    I think what John is saying is that anyone who contributes to the societal marginalization of gay people is in psrt responsible, and people who very vocally “disagree but don’t hate” are indeed doing just that.

  • Brian

    DR, I heart you so much…you are a freaking genius.

  • Ahem….I don’t think you’re getting the picture…..

  • whoops, meant to reply to shea

  • I actually think the terms “brother,” “sister” and “family” are really spot-on for the whole followers of Christ thing because of how little choice is involved with who are your “relatives,” so to speak. We’re all people bound by “a something” (a calling, a conviction, a desire to follow certain teachings, philosophy and whatnot) – it’s sure as chance-y as being bound by blood. Heck, if I recall correctly, an “inter-family fight” was recorded in the New Testament (some passage where Paul was complaining that Peter was putting too many rules on people, forgetting some things God had showed them all about the inclusion of Gentiles and being a general stubborn idiot).

    The truth about families is that some people, when it’s time for Thanskgiving or Christmas or some other holiday where they’re to meet with the relatives are “Praise God, I get to see them again!” while others are “*OH GOD* I have to see them again!!”

  • Elizabeth

    This is a lovely testimony. Thank you. But as a straight woman raised in the Bible Belt, I truly believe the only way to pop the bubble is to stop apologizing for straight Christians. If bigots — on any issue, gender, race, or orientation — can’t reason for themselves, the way to get their attention is to point out their stupidity.

    I know many gay and lesbian children who left home with only the clothes on their back. Most of their families realized they loved their child more than their prejudice and welcomed them home again, years later. Those children had grown into strong, sweet adults. Like you.

    Heterosexuals aren’t a minority. No one should tiptoe around their feelings because they live in self-created bubbles. You love your parents. Of course you want to teach them instead of hurt them. But, unless we’re going to spend forty more years after Stonewall gaining LGBT rights family by family, it’s time to lose patience.

  • Paula

    When is my sister and brother not my sister or brother? When do we walk away from each other, or from sharing the Lord’s Table, and declare another Christian’s opinion not just wrong, but heretical? That’s a very, very serious call, and I hate to have it treated as cavalierly as “don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” –as some here have suggested.

    After all, we aren’t the first Christians who’ve met this sort of serious crisis. Remember slavery? Remember the Nazi’s and the Confessing Church? Remember when the World Alliance of Reformed Churches declared an occaision of “status confessionis,” — and suspended the Dutch Reformed Church of South Africa for its theological justification for apartheid. Interestingly, timing is one of the principles. For a time, the logic goes, you countenance differences, even serious differences, –but the time comes when you no longer can. When the proclamation of the gospel is at stake.

    It’s a big deal, and if we’ve indeed reached that point (as some here have suggested) I would hope we’d treat it with the seriousness it deserves. To be clear John, I think you’ve done this, but the larger conversation seems somehow less serious than it deserves to be.

  • Brian W

    Were they killed because they were lesbian’s?

  • Matt

    Anyone who is a Christian is my brother and sister in Christ. End of story.

    That being said, letter writer?

    Don’t pull out the “my relative [no matter how distant] is gay, so I can never be homophobic ever.”

    You can’t even get away from being homophobic if you ARE gay. It’s the nature of the beast; it’s simple hate and haters gonna hate.

    And, also? You can’t “discriminate against Christians” because we’re the dominant religion in this country. Our entire government is designed to cater to Christians. We have all the power, we hold all the cards, socially, economically, and politically. Stop using certain words to pretend you’re being oppressed. The people who really know what those words mean will not be fooled.

  • That doesn’t absolve us from “Loving Our Neighbors” regardless of their status as believers. This is the point we’re trying to make to them so we can hardly back away from it ourselves!

  • Are they our brothers and sisters? Yes.

    Just like anyone else who has a problem s/he hasn’t been able to overcome, they might well be Christians despite being messed up.

    However, there is a fact that we have to confront this kind of thing, especially since the body count from enabling bigotry is a lot worse than that of confronting it.

    I’ve never heard of a fundamentalist who killed himself because he was rebuked by a clearer-headed Christian. I can’t stop hearing about my LGBT brothers and sisters who find no other escape from worldly persecution.

    So, no, I don’t feel the need to use the kid gloves whether the bigots are Christians or not.

  • DR

    The person in my life who called me out on my self-absorbed, injured privilege told me that he refused to give me a pass. He saved my life and put me on a journey of truth, of character, of bravery, of integrity and of Grace that I never would have experienced otherwise.

    I know I’m tough on this site – I know it! I know I hurt peoples’ feelings. I don’t like to do that. But there’s no way I’ll rob them of the opportunity to shake loose of the Christian privilege so many of us allow ourselves to be enslaved within, we’re hurting the Church, we’re hurting other people but we’re really hurting ourselves! I don’t want that for Shea. And whether she knows it or not, this door is open for her now. The restlessness within her will just keep agitating. She chose to be here and if she’s leaving because she needs to regroup, that’s ok. Even if she never came back, Shea allowed a work to get started within her on this site. It won’t rest until it’s completed. 🙂

  • The letter-writer’s argument was that non-affirming Christians should be allowed to say to their LGBTQ brethren in Christ, “I love you, but I believe your homosexual lifestyle is wrong, and I believe God wants you to stop it.”

    So why can’t they grant the same right to affirming Christians? Why do they play the martyr card when a fellow Christian says to them, “I love you, but I believe your homophobia is wrong, and I believe God wants you to stop it”?

  • Allie

    Some brothers and sisters are pretty shitty people. I think they are exactly your brothers and sisters – you didn’t pick them, you may not like one single thing about them, but they are still family and you keep trying to make things right between you as long as success seems possible, and if it seems like it will never be possible, it’s a real and sad loss.

  • DR

    Where in the world did John suggest that this is a group of people who is not to be treated lovingly? What are you talking about?

    I’m tough on people in here. I’m caustic, I’m abrasive at times. I won’t tolerate the injured feelings that some of these people insist on prioritizing when John or someone else confronts them with the truth of their beliefs and their behavior. To do so is to silently stand by why they hurt the GLBT community, there’s no way I will do that.

    But you people need to get a good understanding of conflict. Christians have somehow gotten the notion that gentleness is the *exclusive* output of “love”, of “kindness”. If that’s true, then ask a recovering alcoholic who got help at an intervention if it was people being gentle with him or her, sobbing and angry as they told the addict about the impact the addict had on their behavior.

    Some of you are reading “mean” because you simply can’t handle conflict. You have your own emotional issues that you’re projecting into this dialogue, so much so that you actually *change* the text of what John has written here. He chose his words very carefully and yet as often is the case, many of you are reacting to what you think he said – what your own emotional filters are telling you he said – instead of what he actually said.

  • Allie

    I wish this site had a like button. You’re right, I’ve never heard of a Christian who was so continually persecuted for being Christian that he chose to kill himself. Yet we’re constantly hearing from the Christian right how persecuted they are.

    Also, what rights exactly do gay people discriminate against when they ask to marry? The right of Christians to be sad little bitches? That’s a right any real Christian would willingly forgo.

  • Allie

    But hon, you DID take those actions, when you posted your opinions here. You DID go out and tell gay people you think they are sinners. How can you say you wouldn’t in the same comment where you say you did?

  • David M. Greer

    thanks for the clarification, john. obviously, that word pushes a lot of buttons for me. i appreciate your advocacy and thoroughly enjoy reading your work!!!

  • Drew M.

    I genuinely do not read any sarcasm at all in your post but I’ll take your word for it.

    Mea culpa.

  • Gordon

    You are dear to me, DR. Very dear.

  • Jill

    Lymis, I love reading your posts. That’s all.

  • I know, right?! That’s the worst part of the letter:

    “Don’t get me wrong, I do not wish for homosexuals to be mistreated though I do feel their “rights” should not discriminate against Christians rights (especially when it comes to marriage).”

    How is it that Christians have right but gay people have “rights”? And how would gay marrige (i.e. marriage) descrinate (or in any way affect) Christians??? Straight people can still marry the same as before and Christians does not equal straight. That was the point for me in the letter where the letter seemed competely, utterly out of touch.

  • I think this comment and others are reacting to “To my mind anyone who at this point persists in clinging to those beliefs does thereby forfeit their absolute right to respectful treatment.” Not treating people respectfully is different than simply not being nice. I don’t take it badly when I first read it, maybe because I had a sense of how John DOES treat people who believe that and I don’t see anything wrong with it. But on reflection, I can see how that sentence could be read very badly.

    I also had the “so what?” reation of asking “who is my neighbour?”. Why should brothers and sisters in Christ get off easier than any broethers or sister in humanity? Why the special treatment, especially when it come to opposing bigotry. Maybe it just doesn’t matter.

  • What you don’t get to decide is how all Christians have to approach the bible and our possible sources of knowledge of our God.

  • Yay! Anti-proof-texting!

  • I’m sorry… which one of us perfectly follows the teachings of Jesus? We ll fall short, including in ways we don’t yet realize.

    Ahem… love the bigot, oppose the bigotry.

  • Btw, “love the bigot, oppose the bigotry” gets a pass (unlike it’s evil counterpart) because it gets neatly summarized as “love everyone”. You know, justice and mercy and all that.

  • Kristi

    Exactly Patricia!

    The craziest part of the chapter in that book was all of Dobson’s material sources stating that the homosexual society was out to rape and destroy all boys and bring them into a homosexual lifestyle. Are you freaking kidding me?

    I do not get how people just swallow down such craziness and never even question it. I guess I have been a free thinking rule breaker my whole life. Good thing I grew up in the ELCA church or I would probably be an ex-Christian, too.

  • Jill

    DR, you gracefully say what I want to but can’t get the words for it. Your ‘toughness’ is courageous witness.

    The Christian elitism you challenge is why I left it many years ago. This site is why I care enough to re-connect, because it affirms what I hope, which is a rebirth of the Love of God in us mere mortals. It is loving to be honest, and it is of such respect and dignity that you respond. And I admire that.

  • Rob

    Which is…how, exactly?

    If I remember, he said, “The well have no need of the physician.” This is why he reached out to the tax collectors; they were seen as doing something “ungodlike.” In what way did they need the physician? Did he stop them from being tax collectors? If not, in what way did he heal them?

  • I think I get what you’re saying and I don’t necessarily disagree. Bigotry needs to be called bigotry and people definitely need to be called on all the stupid reasons they have for clinging to it. Admittedly, I grant more lenience to my family than I do to just about anyone else. I think that’s only human really. Personally, I don’t think the best approach is always clear nor is it the same for everyone. I still struggle with what is the best response to various levels of bigotry that I meet with. I am sometimes quite harsh and at others gentle. At all times I attempt to respond with a measure of grace linked to my own recognition of what I came out of. I always try to understand where the crap is coming from, but admittedly there are many cases where that is truly beyond me.

  • I’m good with losing patience, but I’m not sure pointing out stupidity, or even logic, will be the most effective first step in bubble bursting.

    I think the problem is that many of the die hards come from a culture that teaches them they know everything, that they have a direct line of knowledge to God, and that they don’t need anything but their gut and their reading of the bible to know everything there is to know with perfect certainty. Even when other people are heeded, sometimes unquestioning, those people were first chosen because of a gut feeling on whether they were saying something true, and not all for their experience or credentials. Usually a trstimony of healings or raising the dead is sufficient to ake them an expert on every topic in the universe. Having stubbornly held views that are not researched or even well thought-out is not unique to “the gay issue”.

    I think until we are more interested in seeking good over seeking “right” – in other words, until all-out love trumps this or that etymological argument, we ain’t getting anywhere. This is a battle won in the heart.

  • I never said that I didn’t love them as all human beings should love each other. I simply do not believe that they worship Christ and the same loving God that I do.

    Jamie Stanek (below, about prodigals) said it better than I could, since I ran my fingers before reading the other comments. 😛

  • Gee, I thought you were going to say you affirm they were your brothers and sisters in Christ because tou knew how painful it was to have your Christianity dismiss. That’s been my experience.

    (I’m assuming by “agreeing with John” you meant to say they aren’t, even though John never actually said that.)

  • OMG, I love.

  • This reminded me of something I just read in a Susan Jeffers book. “Would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?” Most of these people, heck, I’d venture to say most people, would rather be right. The problem is, she goes on to say, is that nobody really knows what’s right, only God does. So you’re sabotaging everything just to feel superior.

    In any case, reading this book, “Embracing Uncertainty” was very healing for me.

  • I can’t imagine having good friends with whom I would mention my wife only, oh, once every couple of years or so. I probably mention her or “we” nearly every minute or so… ok, hour… in social conversations. That is, in the few things she isn’t actually with me.

    What do you possible mean by “active”? Because unless they are single, how does it NOT come up ALL the time?

  • That would be me. I spend way too much time sitting on the couch. Need more exercise 😉

  • I agree with you, Lymis, and as usual your voice rings clear as a bell. Well, almost, this time.

    Just curious, how does one define “brother in Christ”? Is it the same as saying one is my brother because they are also human? If that’s what you mean, why bring Christ into it?

    I don’t mean to sound snarky at all, I just don’t understand the phrase. I am new to Christianity after what I’ve been through with my “Catholic” parents — I use the term very loosely, obviously.

  • Dallas: I really hope your “friends” do read this. Thoroughly.

  • Elizabeth

    Cindy and Christine, both these answers blow me away. The level of discourse is so much higher than it was when I constant commenter two years ago. I’ll have to step it up. Thank you for teaching me.

  • Elizabeth


  • Rob

    Absolutism vs. relativism. That’s the Christian conundrum. Does god change and evolve, or is everything in his book absolute?

    John has written very eloquently for the position of relativism; the time of Leviticus was completely different from the time that Jesus taught. Moreover, the clobber passages are taken out of context from their times and place.

    Many fundies, I think, argue an absolutist point-of-view. Every word in the book is true, and absolute, all the time, period. Which, as has been pointed out here, is completely ridiculous, considering how many tattooed, shrimp eating, serial marrying Christians there are out there.

    Therefore all the mental gymnastics. It’s a shame, really, that Christians rely on the Old Testament. It really messes up Jesus’ message, which is simply to love god and love your neighbor. You don’t need anything more than that really. Trying to hold onto the rest makes you static.

    Emperor Wu of Liang asked Bodhidharma, “What is the the highest meaning of the holy truths?”

    Bodhidharma said, “Empty, without holiness.”

    In other words, don’t be an absolutist, because that will also make you into a douche. It’s all fluid, no fixed concepts. All you need is, “Love God, and love your neighbor.”

  • “Actives” are on top, “passives” are on bottom. 😉

  • So, I would say “yes” to your question. While some of the haters out there (haters of all types of people) might be suspect for the status in my view (and fall more under the “love your enemies” portion of scripture), I think it soes occur with some that they view homosexuality as sin without having a completely different God.

    I think that because some of those “gay is a sin” Christians (although, the question was “anti-gay”, so maybe there’s a distinction to be made there), do really believe of a God of love a justice. The believe in a God that is as love and just as could be conceived of and do believe that if God did or said it, it is loving and just. God they get. It’s love and justice they don’t understand. Ans that we do all mess up as times.

    For instance, they are some that would agree that God is too loving, merciful and just to make any group of people uniquely bent for sin – that He would never take someone’s greatest capacity to love and make it instrincially geared towards evil from even before they were born. We can agree that is just reprehensible and ungodly. The difference is that that premise leads me to conclude that gay sex is not sinful and them to conclude that no one is actually born gay. God isn’t at issue, so much as things like what justice looks like and, well, science.

    These people are wrong. Dead wrong, sometimes literally. And we need to fight for love and justice unflinchingly and unweavering. But I think in some instance, God is not actual what we don’t agree. More like evrything else.

  • I think that is a false dichotomy. I believe there is a evolution in the bible, but a human evolution, not a changing God. I can’t say, descrimination against women (let’s look at forced marriage alone…) is wrong now, but it was ok then, because that was then and things were different. I can only say that now we (generally…) RECOGNIZE that descrimination against woment is wrong and they didn’t then. But it was always wrong. That is believing in some absolutes in truth and morality – it’s not relativist. But neither is it absolutism about the bible, but instead quite the opposite.

  • Thanks, Elizabeth. Cindy and I are a lesbian couple tag team! 🙂

  • Diana A.


  • Ok, massive edit fail tonight. Apologies, but I think it still made sense, even if you have to do a few double takes.

    I’ll add another example: Often these people are I would agree that sin and negative consequences go hand in hand, they might even agree with me that sin is defined by its not-lovingness, that harm DEFINES sin. We get and agree that God isn’t arbitrary or spiteful, that the “rules”, such as they are, are for people’s good, not because God needs to get all puffed up or is testing us. This leads me to conclude that gay relationships are not sinful – their fruits are just like those of straight relationships, they can be wonderfully loving, not at all harmful, deeply beneficial things. These other people would be lead to believe that homosexuality must therefore be harmful, even if they don’t quite understand how (or are prone to fall for the many, many deceiving stats and studies out there) and are therefore lead to try to “rescue” their fellow brothers and sisters for their own good.

    See? We agree on the God part. What we don’t agree on are the methods or criteria we should use for judging harm, and therefore sin. Mine are grounded in the real world, theirs in how they have always viewed and have always been taught to view scripture. The bible, given its mistranslation and misinterpretation, as well as the focus on proof-texting, has become a stumbling block. But the bible’s emphasizes (Jesus’ and the NT’s at least) is focused on teaching what contitutes love and the purpose of the law, moving away from written laws, and so provides a can-be-demonstrated-in-the-real-world criteria. When we look at the big picture, it make it obvious, but they are such in the ambigiuty of the actually irrelevant specific. It is the same God. It’s the hermenuetics that differs.

  • Diana A.

    They don’t yet know the motive–mostly because the shooter hasn’t been caught. Also, only one member of the couple died. The other “remains hospitalized.”

    Still, gay people have been killed for being gay. And some preachers recently made themselves prominent by preaching hatred against gay people–ranging from stating that they should be kept behind fences until they die out, to stating that they should be put to death, to applauding little children for singing a gay-hating song.

    Given these circumstances, I’m not overly inclined to be sympathetic toward those who want to “hate the sin but love the sinner.”

  • I have no clue what you are talking about.

    Mat_9:10 Then it happened that as Jesus was reclining at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were dining with Jesus and His disciples.

    Mat_21:32 “For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him; but the tax collectors and prostitutes did believe him; and you, seeing this, did not even feel remorse afterward so as to believe him.

    But these are what I had in mind, when I posted my post.

  • vj

    They may or may not have been, but you are surely not ignorant of other cases over the years where people quite definitely *have* been assaulted/killed *purely* because they were LGBT?

  • vj

    Lymis, you are quite simply marvelous! When I think of ‘gay Christian’, I think of you, and the love and grace that shine through your comments, and I am compelled to say, along with Peter in Acts 11:17: “If then God gave the same gift to them as He gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”

  • vj

    Yup – just because events/behaviors are described in the OT doesn’t mean they were *supposed* to happen that way. Most of the OT is about people repeatedly getting things wrong and God repeatedly telling them they’re getting it wrong, until eventually Jesus comes to show us what getting it right looks like…

  • vj

    Me too. How does extending legal protection to minority communities detract in any way from the existing legal protections enjoyed by the majority? I.just.don’

  • Mezzanine

    “Some of you are reading “mean” because you simply can’t handle conflict.”

    Likewise, you are reading “gentle” when all I said was “loving”. It is possible to treat someone lovingly without being “nice”; I’m not so sure it’s possible to treat someone lovingly without treating them “respectfully”. You should give them the respect due to a human, if not an ounce more.

  • DR

    Well you certainly don’t get to define what “respectful” looks and sounds like on the internet. For me, respect means no-holds barred truth. Period. If someone is being an insensitive asshole, I say it. And it’s said to me and I respect it when that occurs. I own it.

    I think those of you who are more focused on tone – policing it, making sure we’re all speaking according to the guidelines of respect that you believe are universal as a Christian are well intended but kind of dangerous. You focus more energy on the tone instead of the substance of what is being said, you allow the tone to take root and become the focus.

    Respect is a lot of things. And if you define it a specific way then you get to do that. You don’t get to do that universally, particularly on the internet.

  • vj

    But you did actually write that: “Are people who hold the beliefs expressed in the letter above really my “brothers and sisters” in Christ? Such Christians and I do, after all, have radically different, fundamentally opposing ideas about the very nature and purpose of God. So when is it reasonable to wonder whether or not we do in fact believe in the same God at all?”

    Not too long ago I might have expressed sentiments almost identical to that letter (excluding the rant about marriage rights). When I first started reading your blog (a little over 2 years ago), I might have written virtually the same letter to you (if I were the sort of person who thought there was any point in telling a complete stranger on the other side of the world that I disagreed with his theological viewpoint – what is it with people who do that?).

    At the same time, I found your posts about God to be profoundly moving (“God is love, Christ is pain” is still my all-time favorite), and one of the reasons I hung around is that in your writing I found a view of life and faith that resonated enormously with my own. “Homosexuality is a sin” was never central to my faith (it’s such a small part of the Bible, and hardly ever came up in church), and it wasn’t something I gave much thought to beyond thinking that when a gay person becomes a Christian they automatically stop being gay – I was ignorant, not malicious.

    *Because* I felt that we have the same God, I was open to reading your LGBT-centric pieces with an open mind. *Because* of this, I encountered the experiences of LGBT Christians, and had my eyes opened to the pain and rejection they encountered from family and church – as well as the love and acceptance the received from God. *Because* of this (and some other personal experiences, and starting to read my Bible again more consistently) I have come to a place where it seems more right to me to include LGBT Christians than to exclude them.

    It’s not my God that has changed, it is my understanding of this ONE aspect of God, and of how humanity relates to God, that has changed. Everything else that I used to believe about God is still the same – not “radically different, fundamentally opposing”. My love for God has grown deeper as I have read my Bible and pondered spiritual matters much more than I used to, but my underlying beliefs about God are the same.

    As you know, I am grateful that your writing helped me to change my views, so that while my [lesbian] mother was dying of cancer I was able to simply love her and her partner, not try to change them. And you have been kind enough to consider me a friend in cyberspace. So it pains me a little to think that, if I were still in the place I was 2 years ago, you might consider that we do not share our God. (I do appreciate the clarification in your P.S., but your original question still stings a bit. Not that you owe me an explanation or anything.)

  • Lymis

    Trick question, right?

    Because they are lying. They don’t love their LGBT neighbors, don’t claim them as brethren, and simply feel the need to condemn.

  • Lymis

    I’m assuming that she made the same mistake that so many Christians do – since she is speaking to a Christian about Christianity, she simply assumed that no gay people were present. After all, in her world, homosexuality is completely inconsistent with Christianity, so no True™ Christian would be gay or tolerate gay people, and no True™ Gay Person would tolerate Christians.

    It’s that elite privilege DR talks about. The assumption that she gets to define everyone else’s experience for them, and ignore anyone who seems inconvenient.

    In her world, I don’t exist, so how could she be talking to me?

  • Lymis

    I agree with Christine. It’s a false dichotomy, and it’s based in part on the insistence that our experience of God in some way defines God, rather than being a reflection of us as humans.

    When people talk about whether or not God is changing or relative, it is always a discussion of some rule that human beings constructed and declared to be unchanging, but never about God. Starting from an assumption that any limited human being can fully experience God enough to define Him is the flaw, not the question of absolutism or relativism.

    It’s also a pretty small, shabby, and petty view of God. We as human need sweeping statements, universally applicable rules and laws, and generalizations because we are simply not capable of knowing enough about anything to make case-basis evaluations of each and every decision by each and every person in each and every situation.

    God doesn’t have that limit. God can really see each of us as individuals and judge each of us independently.

    God doesn’t need rules and laws. People do.

  • otter

    Gee, I wonder if a Christian would call someone who advocated some of the bionically-justified wrongs of the past a “brother or sister in Christ?

    If someone stoned an adulterer or a non-virgin would would they still be your “brother or sister in Christ? What if they advocated slavery or the subjugation of a race? If a Christian tortured a woman for witch-craft to purify her soul would he or she still be your “brother or sister in Christ? I would sincerely hope you would have the guts to denounce these acts as both criminal violations of law AND disgusting departures from the teachings of Christ.

    So why are the modern-day tormenters of LGBT people getting away, quite literally, with incitement to violence?? In the current climate of suffering, legal oppression, bullying, suicide and murder, the challenge to progressive Christians is clear. I contend this issue requires open and uncompromising denunciation of the haters who hide behind religious freedom and who scoff at scholarly biblical re-interpretations and civility. And that is going to take a little more passion than agreeing to disagree with a polite smile.

  • Lymis

    That phrase has always bothered me, because it’s a false dichotomy. Even allowing for the fact that very often, “right” isn’t an objective thing, but a uniquely personal experience that will vary from person to person, if you are right, you are right whether or not you are happy, and if you are wrong, whether you are happy about it is immaterial.

    I’ve always felt that the real question is “So, you think you are right. Would you rather be smug or happy?” Because I think smugness (or self-righteousness) and happiness actually are mutually exclusive.

  • Yes, but DR, in this instance, people are reacting to John saying they don’t deserve respect, however defined.

  • otter

    Ken, I like your comment, “I’ve never heard of a fundamentalist who killed himself because he was rebuked by a clearer-headed Christian.” (although I could almost wish for an epidemic of this…)

    This is a great rhetorical point… to which I would add:

    Or got fired, denied hospital visitation, paid unfair estate taxes, couldn’t provide their families health insurance coverage from an employer, etc etc etc.

  • otter

    right on!

  • Lymis

    With absolutely no snark or sarcasm, I personally define “brother in Christ” as “none of my business to even consider evaluating.”

    Don’t take my use of the phrase to be anything like what most people mean when they say it.

    I didn’t get a vote on what other children my parents had. My siblings aren’t my brothers and sisters because I like them, or agree with them, or even get along with them. In a very real way, they aren’t even my brothers and sisters because of their connection to me. They are my brothers and sisters because of our mutual connection to our parents. I have no say in that, and regardless of my relationship with them, or my relationship with my parents, nothing I can do will take their relationship with my parents away from them.

    Gay people as a subculture have a unique relationship to family. Everyone knows of the kinds of things where people say “She’s like a sister to me” or that family friend who is so close that all the kids call him Uncle Mike even though he’s no blood relation.

    But because of the often horrible experiences that gay people have with their birth families, we have some shared concepts and language about family that I don’t see straight people using, even though they understand it when we do.

    Central to that is the idea of “family of choice.” When family isn’t something you can take as a given, and when birth family isn’t something out of a Norman Rockwell painting, you construct your own. This isn’t just “close friends.” This is people with whom you form the kind of bond that family is supposed to be. Where you simply don’t question that when they call at 4 in the morning, you get up and go. When you start your holiday plans by coordinating schedules. Where there are no secrets and the truth gets told.

    And a part of the need to semi-formalize that into a subcultural reality is because a lot of gay people have been cut off by their family, or found their family so toxic that they had to throw up walls in self-defense. That their parents or brothers and sisters no longer get to call at 4 in the morning and expect the call to be answered, much less for us to get out of bed to go to their aid.

    In short, it’s that while they still are our brothers and sisters, they are no longer our family, and we no longer pretend they are. In our own self-defense, we’ve had to redefine for ourselves who is and is not in our family. It’s one of the reasons why anti-gay people who say our families aren’t real, or that we are anti-family, or that they have to “defend the family” from us hurt us so deeply.

    So, I really, really get what John is saying in this essay. At what point does that family connection break? At what point are we so different from the people who “ought to be” our family that we can no longer see them as family? At what point, in our own defense, do we need to declare that they no longer get to trade on the obligations of shared family?

    We see it in this forum all the time – people claiming that our shared brotherhood and sisterhood in Christ demands that we “get along” or “agree to disagree.” That dissension and argument between Christians is intolerable, and therefore we have to overlook their treatment of LGBT people in the name of getting along. That people aren’t being nice to each other and respecting their fellow Christians – even while acknowledging that what we are talking about is deliberately harming other people so badly that in many cases they literally kill themselves to make the pain end.

    This is the language of family. This is “we are in this together, and that bond has to outweigh any other consideration, because we’re stuck with each other.” This is the pretense that because we are brother and sister, that all the warm and fuzzy things that go along with being family automatically apply.

    But it doesn’t. And when the situation becomes toxic enough, even the pretense that you are a family becomes actively harmful. When your own well-being demands that you categorically state – “you are no longer my family.”

    That’s the situation John is describing. At what point do we say, “Whatever you think you are doing, it is so different from what I need to be doing that I can no longer agree that we are in the same family. You no longer have the right to demand of me the obligations that I consider go with being in the same family.” Or, as John put it, “I owe such people nothing whatsoever. My allegiance is to their victims, and to the God they shame by their ignorant bigotry.”

    We cannot do anything, nor should we want to, to cut off their relationship with our shared Parent. But we have every right, and in some cases, the obligation, to make it clear that we don’t recognize their right to call upon us as their family, to speak for us, to demand our cooperation, to insist on respect – and that it is because their choices and behavior make it no longer healthy for us to do so.

    So for me, these people are still my “brothers and sisters in Christ.” But they are no longer my family, if indeed they ever were.

    For me, it’s important to keep that distinction. It is important to me to remember that they are also Children of God, because otherwise it would be far to easy to slip into hatred and bitterness. But it’s equally important to remember that, beyond the obligations I choose to take on myself as a result of our shared humanity, I have no obligation to let them make demands of me because they claim I am part of their family when they feel it is convenient for them to do so.

    As painful as it is to be completely cut off, sometimes that’s cleaner. Gay people as a group have all too much experience of “You are dead to me, we never had a son, we never expect to hear from you again.”

    But we also have far too much experience of “Of course you have to come to Thanksgiving, because the whole family will be there and it would kill Mom for you not to come, but your “friend” isn’t welcome, and we’d all appreciate it if you didn’t dress the way you usually do, don’t mention politics, and for goodness sake, don’t talk about what you two “do” together. This is a family situation, and people don’t need to hear that stuff.”

    That’s exactly what anti-gay Christians are doing when they want us to “stop judging them” simply because they “disagree about homosexuality.” Oh, yes, we’re family, but in polite company, please don’t flaunt yourself and your own reality, while we reserve the right to behave any way we damn well please. We are welcome to the exact degree that we are willing to play by their rules and to overlook the fact that they themselves are breaking them.

    So, they may be my brothers and sisters, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t assholes, and it doesn’t mean I have to agree to pretend they aren’t, and it doesn’t mean I have to spend my holidays with them. And I don’t have to smile and pretend to agree that what they are doing bears any resemblance to love.

  • Lymis

    When you ask the question “are they really my brothers and sisters in Christ” it could mean that you are clear on what being a brother or sister is and questioning whether they are one, but it could also just as validly mean that you have realized that you have some unexamined assumptions about just what being a brother or sister in Christ actually means.

    I don’t see a conflict within the question at all. I see it as a perfectly valid answer to have it turn out to be “these people are, in fact, my brothers and sisters, but I’ve realized that it turns out that doesn’t mean what I assumed it did, and I have to give some serious thought about what it really does mean and how I will respond to it.”

  • N

    Maybe the problem is in the assumption that we all love and respect our brothers and sisters, when in fact siblings are some of the hardest people in the world to love and respect. You can be my brother, if you choose, but watch out, because I hold my brothers to a higher standard. And that means I’ll hold you to a higher standard. So if you’re my brother, you’d better be ready for a lecture on love.

  • N

    I think you can say that.


    They won’t listen. So if you really want to say it, say this: “I love you, but I believe your homophobic lifestyle is a sin, and god will make you burn in hell for it. But hey, if you agree never to tell me that God doesn’t like me ever again, I might agree to still share Thanksgiving with you.”

  • N

    I think…

    The issue becomes one of self respect. Do you owe those people, because they are living, breathing, humans, some dignity? Perhaps. But you have to put your self respect first.

    So if they are all “Hate hate sounds rational sometimes hate” then you respond “I am deserving of better treatment than I am currently receiving from you. I’m going to leave now, and we can try again later, when you can behave nicely. ” Then leave.

    You have treated them not disrespectfully, but as you would treat a toddler throwing a tantrum, because that is what they are. And importantly, you have shown yourself that you are worthy of respect and capable of demanding it.

    Wishing you strength.

  • vj

    This site seriously needs an “I love Lymis button” somewhere! LOVE LOVE LOVE this!!

  • vj

    Thanks for this Lymis, you explain it so beautifully, and I agree wholeheartedly with you on this.

  • It is a pity that Christians quote verses out of context so often to justify their own understanding instead of learning from the Spirit. Jeremiah 17:9 is the preamble to the verses which condemn unjust riches. It is more applicable to the greedy hearts of bankers on Wall Street than gay teenagers in high school.

    9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?
    10 “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.”
    11 Like a partridge that hatches eggs it did not lay is the man who gains riches by unjust means. When his life is half gone, they will desert him, and in the end he will prove to be a fool.

    Her accusation that marriage equality is a threat to Christian rights, of Christians getting married, is foolish. How does the marriage of others interferes with her own marriage?

    There are wolves in sheep clothing, and judging them by their words, or their appearance will lead to falling for traps. Judge a tree by their conduct and if their conduct is hateful and hurtful, they are not Christians. By your love for one another the world will know you are my followers. Listen not to their hateful hurtful words, but love them anyway. Maybe our love will change the wolves back into sheep.

  • You wanna hear the craziest example ever of “I can’t be homophobic because…?”

    A few years ago Bishop Timothy Whitaker of the United Methodist Florida Annual Conference, and me were having an exchange on the topic of homosexuality and the welcome in the Methodist Church. Whitaker, was, frankly, the go-to person when a reporter wanted an authoritative anti-gay quote from the Methodist Church.

    At one point during a phone call the Bishop said to me (and I swear this is true), “I can’t be a homophobe, we have some gay people living in our neighborhood.” I could only bust out laughing, and ask, “So what does that mean? Do you get to vote on who moves in?” After some sputtering nonsense, he just ignored the question and changed the subject.

  • Mary

    So true! We should all hold each other to that higher standard! It doesn’t mean I’m judging you, it means I want you to be better and I want you to make me better, as well.

  • Amy

    Thanks for your gracious response, as always. And you’re right, we do need to wrestle with the way we’re trained to automatically assume anyone who claims the title Christian is a brother or sister. There does seem to be a difference between people who honestly seek wisdom and growth, and those who don’t.

  • Amy

    I have no patience with Dobson. He, and others of his ilk, are perpetuating myths created more than 70 years ago to “explain” why men are gay (and who cares about women, apparently). Those “theories” were all debunked at least 40 years ago, yet people like Dobson have continued to latch onto them as though they were valid.

    I have a suspicion that my son (who is almost 9) is gay. My friend says she knew from the time her son was 4, so I know I’m not crazy. Our family is stable, intact, and his dad is a GREAT role model, but he’s not a “guy’s guy”–super masculine, the “head” of the family. So I guess when our son does come out, we’ll have to deal with Dobson groupies insisting we did something wrong. They can kiss my rear.

  • Amy

    That seriously makes me want to vomit. What, exactly, did they think you’d do? Were you supposed to get something out of listening to him speak?

    Saw an article today where someone complained his gay friends weren’t welcome in his church…followed by his clear statement that “homosexual acts” are sinful. So he wants to bring his friends to church, have them welcomed, then God will “work on their hearts” to become straight, maybe? Sounds like friends with an agenda to me.

  • Kristi

    My children are adopted and are my family. I would be more than happy to adopt you as a family member, too Lymis!!

  • Jill

    I believe we need to keep calling a spade a spade when it comes to the inherently bigoted and prejudiced way LBGTQ people, individually and as a community are perceived and treated. Our laws treat them as second class citizens specifically for their right to marry. Did we lose the wisdom of the Civil Rights movement of the ‘60’s?

    Pointing out ignorance, speaking valid arguments of the Golden Rule every time we’re faced with the old rhetoric is exactly what needs to be done. With respect and compassion, of course, but not with watering down the reality that the condemnation of homosexuality in ANY form IS selective scripture trolling, and it is unjust and should be deemed absolutely unacceptable. To my mind, hate or marginalizing people is simply not on the menu when we eat at the table of faith.

    This may sound like semantics, but while I do not subscribe to hating the haters, I unequivocally do hate the hate and will not condone its’ lame ass versions of it. IDK maybe I’m just crabby…

    BTW I really enjoyed reading this thread, thanks Cindy, Christine, and Elizabeth.

  • charles

    I guess in the end all Christians (those who claim the work of the cross as transformational) are washed by that same blood- the issue is where they might be on that grand continuum of understanding what Gods’ will is regarding loving one another.

    As Jesus said- let he without sin cast the first stone-

  • Brian W

    People have been killed because of race, religion, gender, age, occupation and a whole host of other reasons, including sexual orientation.

  • The Charter for Compassion is very clear on how we are to view *all* others. In my view, the Charter for Compassion reflects Christ’s core teaching on loving one’s enemies without bounds, and it is very relevant to how we are to view Christians (and other religions as well, such as some Moslems) who view homosexuality as a sin.

    Combine this with Christ’s plain teaching on loving one’s enemies, and the elegant sermon by Martin Luther King, Jr., expounding on this point, and I have concluded that there are no exceptions to our agape love towards everyone else.

  • Christine, I just wanted to say that I’ve been loving each and every one of your comments. This one made me laugh out loud. Thank you!

  • I’ve been stalking this blog for a few months now, and I just want to thank John and all the commenters (esp. Christine, Lymis, and DR) for being so completely brilliant. I was beginning to feel alone in the world as a straight Christian who thinks this way and asks these questions, and I’m so thrilled to discover that not only am I not alone, but I need to step my game up because all y’all’s moral reasoning and level of discourse is so much more developed than mine. Way to point to the Way. I read this entire comment thread, all three pages of it, and I feel vastly reassured about the future of humanity……

  • They are, they got me to accept Christ and that was no small task. I will be (literally) eternally grateful. We are ALL wrong about something. They accept Christ, so do I. We all sin. We all live under grace who believe in Jesus.

  • Lymis, I get all that, trust me, with my entire heart. I am not gay, but I have been beaten over the head by my family with the “you’re different, you don’t belong, and we despise you for it, but you still have to do what we tell you because we’re your family” crap. No, I must certainly do not, and I do not even have to consider you my family anymore other than the fact that you fed me and clothed me when I was too young to do so myself. At the cost of my individuality and the trust in my own damn self. At almost 50 years old I’m just learning that I can trust myself — my thoughts, my feelings, my likes and my dislikes. I think gay people must go through that, right?

    But anyway, am I missing the point here? Does “brother in Christ” simply mean they also consider themselves Christian? That they say they are Christian and I identify as Christian also? I’m so confused! I guess I would never think of even saying that because I don’t see religion at all when I see people, so it never even occurs to me to say that they are my siblings in Christ… or Buddha, or Mohammed, or others that I don’t know about because I’m ignorant.

    Or perhaps it’s just that I identify with the message of these holy men instead of their names? Does that mean I’m not Christian? I continue to boggle, I apologize.

  • K

    Man, I go away for a fews days and miss some good John Shore blog/ fb fireworks. Re: the Dear John letter you shared, I’ve heard the “God’s word is very clear” or “quite clear” too many times now – it really bugs me. As soon as I hear that phrase I know I am just hearing a repeat back of something that poster/writer has heard over and over again.

  • Michael

    DR, will you marry me? P.S. I’m gay.

  • Diana A.


  • Diana A.

    I’ve never liked Dobson. Not since I first leafed through–was it “Dare to Discipline” or “The Strong-Willed Child”?–doesn’t matter. I see red whenever I even think of that cretin. I feel sorry for his kids (who are now mini-hims–gag!) and his grandkids, and every other person who has had the misfortune to be associated with him. I also feel sorry for every child raised according to the principles spouted in his books and every woman who has ever bought into his view of women–including his poor, dumb wife.

    “Gee Diana, you don’t much like this guy, do you?”

    No. In all honesty, I really don’t.

  • Lymis

    The problem is that “Brother in Christ” means different things to different people. And at its worst, like “Christian,” it is used in deliberately slippery ways by manipulative people – which is why I rarely use the term at all. In fact, I only ever use it when someone else brings it up first.

    Some people use it to mean people who share exactly their own personal theological beliefs. People who “get it right.”

    Some people use it to mean anyone who claims Jesus as Lord and savior – someone who has “claimed” their birthright by accepting Jesus and the Christian message.

    Some people use it to mean anyone who is a Child of God, whether they acknowledge that relationship or not.

    So, yeah, for some people it does mean all humans, but that isn’t quite the same as saying it means the same thing, or for the same reason. It’s expressing that the kinship is a result of our creation by God and salvation in Christ rather than our shared biological inheritance.

    It’s related to the question of whether Jesus died for all humanity for all time, or just for the people who know about him and accept a specific sort of belief about him in a particular way.

    If someone believes that some perfectly wonderful, moral, decent, and loving people are going to eternal damnation because they don’t believe the right thing about Jesus, then they’d likely not count them as “brothers and sisters in Christ.” Personally, I find that intolerably smug.

    Personally, I don’t think God is Christian, nor bound by Christian rules. I think, instead that Christianity (when done right) reflects a reality that is true of God, but that is equally truthfully reflected in other ways in other traditions.

    Is a Buddhist my brother? Heck yes.

  • Lymis

    Thank you.

  • Thanks, Meghan. Nice to hear.

  • Can we create a new corollary to Godwin’s law that if someone on the internet brings up Hitler in a way that’s actually a valid analogy that proves their point, instead of hyperbole or overgeneralization, instead of automatically losing the argument, they get a cookie? Because that was a really good point.

  • Amy

    “Dare to Discipline” was the one that did it for me. It was my first (and last) Dobson book. I was horrified that he was recommending hitting a child for relatively minor offenses. I hold no judgment for people who spank their kids, but we choose not to do so for a lot of reasons. The problem wasn’t just that Dobson recommended spanking, it was that he condemned people who didn’t as “bad” parents, seemed overly enthusiastic about physical punishment, and used hitting as a go-to line of discipline rather than a consequence relative to the infraction. It made me sad.

  • Diana A.

    Thanks Amy! It was Dobson’s “over-enthusiasm” for physical punishment that pushed all my buttons. And his attitudes toward women and gay people don’t help matters either.

  • Elizabeth

    *buzzer* Try again. We all do something wrong. I do wrong on a daily basis. Homosexuals aren’t DOING anything. They are loving in the way God made them. If you don’t accept God is love, you aren’t playing by the rules.

  • charles

    all have fallen short- whatever orientation one might be….

    the orientation is not the falling. anymore than the race, or hair color…..

  • Elizabeth

    Agreed, Charles. So why is it illegal to deny employment or marriage based on race or gender, but allowed if we love the “wrong” person?

  • charles

    for one, it is only “illegal” as a civil issue. as some states disallow same sex mariage as they once disallowed mixed race marriage. The law of man is not absolute, and is certainly not perfect. Remember that the Equal protection clause basically says we ALL have the same rights under the law….

    Church law is something the individual has the choice to embrace or reject-

    a Church also doesnt control your access to God.

  • I think Eric meant that we are all wrong about things just like the fundies are wrong about gay people – not like gay people are wrong.

  • Elizabeth

    I live in a state where same-sex marriage is recognized. Until my friends and I can travel anywhere in the US as equals, the separation of church and state fails. You and I can argue church law for millennia. ‘Twas ever thus. I’m talking human rights now.

  • Elizabeth

    Respectfully speaking, to be grateful for second-class citizenship smacks of Stockholm Syndrome.

  • charles

    which is why we are all here I think- it is not a church issue at all- it is a human rights issue as defined under the Constitution. Once we can get that taken care of we can argue the semantics of church.

  • charles

    I should add- your travel should be allowed in any country, not just any one of the United States.

  • Thanks, Meghan. Good to hear from you.

  • Gordon

    Who is “they” in this?

  • Huh? Whose being grateful for what, now? You’ve completely lost me.

    To me, Eric is accepting the anti-gay Christians even though they are wrong to be anti-gay, because we all get things wrong sometimes. What does that have to do with anything you just said?

  • I thought it was obvious. The question is “Are anti-gay Christians…?” and Eric begins by saying “They are…”.

  • Elizabeth

    Exactly . Thanks for clarifying, Charles.

  • Elizabeth

    Hmm. I didn’t mean to be oblique. I’m such a heretic, I don’t even believe Christ is the only way to God. Praise Vishnu, Buddha, Allah, or Yahweh. I don’t care. In mixed company, I usually call Him “The Big Pattern or Whatever”. Christianity works for me. I don’t judge what works for others.

    My point is, until LGBT have the same rights legally in the United States and morally in the church, Christians shouldn’t be grateful. I’m glad Eric found God, but God is easy to find. People do it every day. One thing Christians don’t run short of is people who want to introduce you. (John says this a lot better in

    Gratitude is not why we remember Martin Luther or Dr. King. We remember them because they demanded change. To be grateful to those who think you’re “less than” doesn’t make sense.

  • Gordon

    OK…I get it now. Thank you, professor.

  • Granite

    [Fundy troll trash-talk deleted.]

  • Melody

    And now he’s back as Granite. You can’t fool us, Frank. Please, for your own sake, get a life.

  • Diana A.

    The remark “Granite” made makes even less sense than what “Frank” normally says.

  • John,

    I wrestle with this notion a great deal actually. When do I (filthy liberal scum) have the right to call someone else’s “version” of Christianity just not Christian? Lord knows I’ve been told many a time that I’m not. I’ve even been called a daughter of satan – seriously! Can that person really be my brother in Christ? Is that person a follower of The Way? Anywho – love your blog and covet your tagline 🙂


  • Christine

    So, I can’t ever be grateful to anybody who doesn’t think it’s good for me to be gay? Ever? For anything? That seems silly. And arbitrary.

    I think it would be hard not to be grateful to my wife’s parents for, well, her existing, and playing a big role in making her the most amazing human being I’ve ever met. That would be hard. Even if they don’t really get us. I can even be grateful to their latest craze preacher *shudder* Andrew Wommack *shudder* for, for some unknown, inexplicable reason, being the person who finally cracked the shell and got them to believe their daughter isn’t going to hell for sharing a bed with me.

    And how many people who fought for women’s rights do I now have to adamantly NOT be grateful for because they didn’t also fight for LBGTQ rights (even if they’re long dead)? And I pretty much have to give up on being grateful to the people who popularized reason and science during the enlightenment… Shit.

    The point is, gratitude just is. People do things and we’re thankful. That doesn’t mean owing them or condoning or agreeing with their views. Thankfulness is good.

  • Jill

    I’m starting to girl crush on you Elizabeth.

  • Jill

    Why am I ever surprised by the stupidly hurtful things people say/do anymore? Yet I continue to be.