This week in my Sunday School class, a class based on the book by Adam Hamilton, Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White...we are discussing the chapter about homosexuality. I will be digressing for the next day or so...perhaps longer.
I spent most of the day yesterday at gay Christian web sites. I have visited some of these sites before since this has long been a topic of interest for me. I was about forty when I became a Christian and had long lived an almost totally secular lifestyle. I knew gay people...and had known them most of my life. Homosexuality was no big deal to me.
When I was in my teens, I spent several summers in Wildwood, New Jersey with my (very dysfunctional) family. My "sort of in the closet" gay uncle...probably in his forties at the time... spent the summer there with us...living in the apartment we all shared. He worked as a doorman at a night club that featured (surprise, surprise)female impersonators. I got to see the show several times (Diana Ross and Liza Minnelli come to mind) and met some of the guys. It was not really regarded as a perversion by my family....or by me...and it was openly acknowledged that these guys were gay. So what?
My grandmother (wild, wild...oh so wild) had a good friend...Warren...who I met a few times and who was openly gay. I knew what gay was when I was a kid...but I didn't know about the Christian stigma that surrounds it. Warren did of course and he chose to reject the God who rejected him. He was a very convinced atheist.
Later, as an adult, my ex and I had several friends that were gay. Very gay. We were invited to their home several times a year and many of the other guests were gay couples. Again..no big deal. They were all very nice, professional people. No leather chaps...no chains etc. I didn't really care what their sexual orientation was.
I worked in restaurants a lot in my younger years when my body could still take the wear and tear of waitressing and I've known a lot of gays throughout the years. Some were in the closet...some were out. I remember one guy I took a particular liking to when I lived in Nashville...Wendall. He was openly gay and I was fine with that. One day he called me into the back room because he wanted to tell me something.....something that nobody else knew at the restaurant where we worked (Shoney's) "I have AIDS," he said. He had been diagnosed ten years prior. He was kind of an oddity then since he was still so functional. This was 13 or 14 years ago and there has been a lot of progress made in the treatment of AIDS.
He was involved in what he thought was a long term monogamous relationship. It was for him...but not so for his partner. His partner was promiscuous, became infected with AIDS and passed it on to Wendall. He was a kindergarten teacher when he was diagnosed. The doctor told him he had to quit his job immediately or he would infect all the kids....so he quit...and ended up working at Shoney's when he was able. His main symptom was neuropathy in his legs.
In spite of his illness, the loss of his career, the heartbreaking betrayal of his partner and the shunning of the Church of Christ (not the liberal United Church of Christ but the ultra conservative southern version of the Church of Christ) he was a happy go lucky kind of guy....a real hoot...hilarious. He me laugh all the time. I lost touch with Wendall when I changed jobs and then finally moved away from Nashville. I wonder about him sometimes though. I hope he was able to take advantage of some of the new therapies and meds that are available now for AIDS patients.
I've known other gays through the years. Even now, I interact with several gay people on a daily basis. I won't belabor the point by retelling the details of every relationship and all of my experiences with gays. From my anecdotal dealings (which have perhaps been more extensive than the interaction most people have with gays...at least knowingly) I see them pretty much as just regular people with a different sexual orientation than mine. I do not see it as a choice....and in situations where it is truly a lifestyle choice, it is the exception and not the rule.
I know there is homosexual promiscuity...the bath houses...multiple partners...stories of human "chains" but there is promiscuity in heterosexuals too. And it is my firm belief that if you hear you are a piece of crap enough times, you will act accordingly. Society, churches...especially churches....have driven home the point that homosexuality is sickening. Hate the sin, love the sinner. Even if that was the ideal, how many times is that REALLY put into practice in our churches? What if the sin is as ingrained as the color of your eyes?
I've digressed in this digression. This all sort of started when annie posted an article on EU about a former hate spewing "Christian" who thought homosexuals did not really have the right to breath the same air as he did....whose life changed dramatically one day after he delivered a tirade on the blight of homosexuality at a family gathering. Afterwards his mom asked the simple question...."do you think your beliefs are Christlike?"
That is a good question, don't you think? And people on both sides of the issue...people with "black and white" sexual orientations and those with every shade of gray in between should ask themselves that same question. Do you think your beliefs are Christlike?
I am going to copy and paste the article annie posted below. A couple of other things I found interesting. Today...Sunday...is the day of a pro-gay rally in Washington. In my web journeys yesterday I read that the Evangelical Lutheran Church (following the lead of the Anglican church) allows gays in monogamous relationships to be ministers. And a sort of related interesting note is what I read yesterday about Tony Campolo and his wife Peggy.
Although they agree on some things related to homosexuals...such as the fact that the LGBT folks need to be assured of equal civil rights, that homosexuality is not really a choice...that the church had done way more harm than good to/for homosexuals...and other similar beliefs, they differ on a very important point. Tony thinks that homosexuals should practice celibacy. Peggy believes that monogamous relationships between members of the same sex are a-okay.
I will talk more about that in the next few days.
Evangelical Christian Brent Childers explains his journey from believing that homosexuality was an abomination to marching in a pro-gay march on Washington.
By Brent Childers | Newsweek Web Exclusive
Oct 8, 2009
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans are a diverse, extraordinary, resilient, and passionate group of forgiving men and women. I wouldn't be standing beside them demanding full and equal treatment under the law and speaking out against the harm caused by religion-based bigotry at the National Equality March in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 11 if I thought they were not created in God's image the same as myself, same as my family, as we all are—we are all God's children.
And I know better than anyone, since six years ago I was one of those bigots. At that time it would have seemed abominable to even consider attending a "gay-rights" event. To me, these would have been the people tearing apart the very seams of our culture and our country.
Today, it is a natural expression of who I am. Some might call that a miracle.
So what it is that would bring someone from a place where he once declared himself a "Jesse Helms Republican," a man who condemned homosexuality as a threat to children and society, told his own son that being gay is a ticket to hell, to travel from Hickory, N.C., to the West Lawn of the Capitol building on Oct. 11, 2009? How can one travel from the seemingly impossible road of bigotry to one of acceptance and love for our LGBT brothers and sisters? The answer is one that I hope religious leaders such as Pat Robertson and James Dobson (and most importantly, their followers) will hear.
It's because something deep inside told me that I needed to step out in faith onto a bridge of knowledge and understanding. I didn't know where this bridge would take me but something was telling me it was a path I needed to walk. My own mother challenged me in 2003 to look at my beliefs and the true intent behind the teachings I held in blind faith. "Do you think your views are Christ-like?" she asked me. Her question was dead on: once I walked away from the Church's teachings of rejection and condemnation, my relationship with God transcended to a higher spiritual plateau. I realized an unparalleled sense of spiritual clarity when I opened my heart and mind to a genuine expression of love, compassion, and acceptance of all sexual orientations and gender identities.
This new voice—Christ's voice—became the core principles of my faith: love, compassion, and respect. That voice I now realize was desperately wanting to be heard, a voice no longer comfortable with the place in which I had chose to confine it for so long—a place of bigotry, prejudice, fear, and misunderstanding.
The walk across that bridge wasn't very strenuous but it was at times painful. The pain came as I began to realize for the first time that I had been using my faith to bring harm to others. That's not a pleasant realization for anyone who marches under a Christian banner of love, respect, and compassion.
During the past four years I have looked into the faces of those I once caused harm to with religion-based bigotry and prejudice. And while I may have never inflicted a physical blow, I know today that my words indeed caused deep wounds—perhaps at some point deeper than I care to dwell upon.
They are the faces of individuals like young Sean Kennedy, who died in Greenville, S.C., in 2007 after being struck by a person who considered Sean a "faggot"; Pat and Lynn Mulder of Auburndale, Fla., whose gay son also died as a result of a hate crime; Jared Horsford of Texas who carved derogatory words into his flesh because he thought it would help control the demon he was told lived there; Nicholas White who was relentlessly berated by fellow 4-H peers at camp this summer as other 4-H campers stood behind the tormentors in silence; or the mother I met recently in North Carolina who grieved over her dead son—a child that had been rejected because he was gay and thought peace could only come through suicide.
There are many, many others I have met in my work with Faith in America, as we try to bring awareness and understanding to the pain and trauma caused to LGBT people, especially youth, when church teaching is misused to justify and promote a societal climate of rejection, condemnation, and discrimination. This environment fosters suicide, hate crimes, an epidemic of antigay bullying in our schools against all kinds of children gay and straight, legal workplace discrimination against LGBT citizens in 20 states, military service members forced to serve in silence or discharged for being honest about who they are, lesbian and gay parents unable to protect their children without the legal structure of federally recognized civil marriage, and lesbian and gay couples unable to provide security for their partners in the absence of federally recognized civil marriage. This is what we march for on Oct. 11 and every day. Every person coming to Washington—whether they are religious or not—does share one faith, and that is faith in America. We can and must do better. As the progress of history has shown, Americans will prove themselves able to see beyond religion-based bigotry to the promises of equal treatment for all. Those who use religion-based bigotry to persecute and discriminate against LGBT people are on the wrong side of history, just as they were with slavery, interracial marriage, the treatment of women, and so many other issues.
I remember the first time I met Sean Kennedy's mother, Elke, sitting in her family's living room just months after she had lost her precious son as the result of a senseless and hate-filled act of violence. And I will never forget that momentary look on her face when I explained to her that I once was someone whose attitude had helped perpetuate the societal climate in which her son lived and died. It was a moment in which I realized the depths of the wounds I may have inflicted upon a gay teen contemplating suicide or a perpetrator looking to justify hate violence. It is a moment that commands me to continue to march, to speak out, and help others experience the spiritual blessing that comes from unshackling the chains of religion-based bigotry and prejudice.
Brent Childers is the executive director of Faith in America. After changing his views on homosexuality, he left the Southern Baptist Church and now attends both a local Pentacostal and a nondenominational church in Hickory, N.C.