Tag Archives: homosexuality and the Bible

A Letter to the “Just Because He Breathes” Haters

This week I’ve been deluged with messages and comments by people who are incensed and infuriated by our story. By us. I didn’t see it coming this time, since I haven’t blogged or knowingly posted our story anywhere lately.

You have called us f-king murderers, child abusers, people who should never have been parents, and self-obsessed narcissists, who demanded apologies from our son, without ever realizing that we were the ones who had wronged him. You’ve told us that we might as well have shot our son, point blank, before he came out, because that would have been more merciful than what we did do. We’ve read how idiotic and stupid we were to not learn basic parenting truths until our son was on the streets, killing himself with narcotics. You’ve called us some pretty horrible names, some that have been posted online, some not. I’ve only read a small fraction of these kind of comments, but from those I have read, I hear your message loud and clear.

And these are just from those of you who hate us from the “left” side of the conversation. There is a whole separate contingent of people who condemn us from the other side…but thankfully, they’ve been quiet lately. Nope…the religious folks don’t like us much, either.

I have cried a lot this week. I have sobbed at the threads of truth contained in these hate-filled messages. Which might be gratifying to hear, for some of you.

I have to wonder, though, about you, the people who hate us. Do you really think that we are bragging about how we parented? Do you suppose that we told our story, at the request of a small group of underground LGBTQ students, with the intent of getting attention or garnering pity? Or even worse, with the purpose of accumulating accolades?

If so, you would be wrong. Dead wrong.

Admittedly, there have been countless LGBTQ people who have written to tell us of their similar experiences, and to thank us for sharing Ryan’s. There have been parents of gay children, both young and old, who have written to tell us that our story has prevented them from doing the same thing – following the prevalent, still widely preached belief that Christian parents with gay kids must do everything possible, if they love their children, to protect them from this allegedly soul-endangering immorality.

And many of those people have been exceedingly loving and gracious toward us. We are so thankful for each one who has written to tell us that our story has changed their story.
But please, don’t for a second think that those affirming words let us off the hook.

Please don’t imagine that we revel in some newfound “fame” or that we find solace in the number of times that the Huffington Post article was shared, or the view count of the video of our testimony at Exodus’ final conference.

None of this makes the pain any less.

For those of you who want to be sure that we know how wretched we are, be comforted. We know all too well and feel the pain of that knowledge every day.

I wish you could sit down and ask our close friends, our surviving kids, our therapist and our pastors whether or not we are really aware of the severity of our mistakes, the complete wrongness of our actions. They would tell you what I tell you now:

We don’t live for a single moment without regret.

Our much loved eldest son and dear friend Ryan is dead – a fact that I daily try to get my brain wrapped around – and if you have ever had a child and lost them, you know that the pain of losing a child NEVER leaves you. NEVER. We will live with intense sorrow over his death until our own deaths, and right now that sounds like a very, very long time.

When we weep and mourn we don’t question God or wonder why He allowed our son to die. We don’t have questions for God that complicate our grief…we only have questions and accusations of ourselves. The tapestry of our grief is woven through with threads of remorse, regret and self-reproach.

Each time our Affirming Hope LifeGroup packs our living room, we die inside a little as we ask ourselves if THIS was what we were so afraid of. These amazing, loving, responsible, honest, generous children of God. Really?? We didn’t want Ryan to grow up and be like them? These people who have become some of our closest friends?

Each time we read a heartbreaking coming out letter, we hear Ryan’s voice echoing from the pages, revealing new depths of the pain he felt as a very young child, knowing that something was different…that he didn’t fit into the expected mold of our family.

Each time I sit down to work on writing a longer version of our journey through Ryan’s coming out and our responses, and in preparation, I read the things we wrote to him along with his replies and journal entries from those years, I fight utter despair at the deep, deep level of our misunderstanding. Once he wrote to me, in very large, all caps, “YOU JUST DON’T GET IT!!!” Oh, how right he was. How completely right he was, and how tragically wrong we were. WE JUST DIDN’T GET IT.

For those of you who seem determined that we know how completely and totally wrong we were, WE GET IT NOW.

We have not insulted ourselves from the hundreds of stories from LGBTQ teens and adults, both written and told to us, stories that recount the intense pain, agony, self-loathing and suicidal thoughts caused by the same teachings that we communicated to Ryan. We have not stopped reading Ryan’s own journals that record that very same suffering.

But we also know that we’ll be continuing to “get it” at a deeper level the longer that we live in community with those who have been oppressed, listening to their pain and through them, learning about our own child.

For those of you are seem determined that we suffer and are held accountable for our mistakes, we can only say that the pain of knowing how deeply we wronged Ryan and not being able to sit down across from him and ask his forgiveness (as we did during the last ten months of his life, and as we do now with our surviving kids when we wrong them) is agony beyond all attempt to describe.

We tell our story to anyone who will listen for ONE REASON ONLY. We are trying, in our own small way, to do something right. By exposing our own disastrous errors, we pray that others will learn from us, and treat their own children differently. We pray that it won’t take them six long years and losing their child to drugs and the streets in order to wake them up to the truth that every parent MUST love their children without any condition. Our children learn to love themselves through the love that we have for them. And a child who is told, “I love YOU, but I do not love your sin” does NOT hear love. He does not learn to love himself or that God loves him. Ryan did not. None of the thousands of gay children who have written to me have heard love through those words. None.

So, to those of you who have written to tell us of our utter depravity, we couldn’t agree more.

Many of you have rejected the God whose “words” were used to reject you, and we can see why. But for us, we know that we are utterly, completely broken and without hope. Our hope comes in the form of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, the One who can take our deplorable actions and use them, somehow, to give hope to others…to speak His love to those who have been told they are unworthy of it…to give parents who have told their children they are no longer welcome at home the humility to ask their kids for forgiveness…to kneel before them and weep for their own sin. In the words of a band that Ryan loved, here is what our Hope looks like, in the face of our utter depravity:

I know one day, all our scars will disappear, like the stars at dawn
and all of our pain, will fade away when morning comes
and on that day when we look backwards we will see, that everything is changed
and all of our trials, will be as milestones on the way

and as long as we live, every scar is a bridge to someone’s broken heart
and there’s no greater love, than that one shed his blood for his friends

on that day all of the scales will swing to set all the wrongs to right
all of our tears, and all of our fears will take to flight
but until then all of our scars will still remain, but we’ve learned that if we’ll
open the wounds and share them then soon they start to heal

as long as we live, every scar is a bridge to someone’s broken heart
and there’s no greater love, than that one shed his blood for his friends

we must see that every scar is a bridge, and as long as we live
we must open up these wounds

when someone stands in your shoes and will shed his own blood
there’s no greater love. we must open up our wounds
From Thrice’s album Vheissu, released on October 17, 2005.
Listen here

And as long as God keeps using our story in to build bridges for others, we will continue to open up our wounds and share each time He prompts us to.

We don’t expect you to agree with, or even respect our faith (especially since many of you have been gravely harmed in the name of Jesus) and you don’t have to believe that our motives are good, but I hope you will see that we choose to speak out about our story ONLY because we believe that we were wrong.

There are many, many leaders and pastors out there still teaching that parents should treat their gay children just as we did, and for that reason, we cannot stay silent. This is not about us. This is about the children, the pre-teens, the teens, the young adults and adults who are still living in self-condemnation, not believing that they are worthy of God’s love, because that is what they are hearing from their church communities and from their parents. And that has to stop.

Lives are at stake.

So even if you hate us, can we please agree on this one thing? If we each do our part to stop the oppression and start saving the lives of LGBTQ kids, maybe we can actually be a world with fewer haters and a lot more lovers.


Note: To those who feel compelled to write and tell us to forgive ourselves…thank you for caring about us, and wanting to ease our pain by encouraging us to be merciful to ourselves. But if you’d simply pray for us instead, we’d greatly appreciate it.

We have a very close circle of friends and family who speak into our lives and have permission to talk with us about this, as well as a distinguished psychologist and spiritual director who we meet with regularly. And most of all, we talk to the Lord about this all the time, and He is walking this journey with us. We don’t know if He will lead us away from our journey of learning more about the pain that we caused; He might or might not. But we do know that He is faithful and good, that He has never failed to provide for us and that we can trust Him. Thank you for respecting this request.

My Identity as a Straight Christian

Today I welcome my first guest blogger, our dear friend, Julie Rodgers, who is on her way from Dallas to Seattle to spend the weekend with us right now!

As a straight Christian woman, I “identify” myself as a heterosexual ALL THE TIME. One look at my FaceBook, and my friends know that I am CRAZY about Rob. My desk at work had pictures of Rob and I, and our kids, all over the place. Friends could easily accuse me of “flaunting” my straight-ness, if people were accused of such things, because Rob and I are very public with affection and open with how grateful we are for each other.

Julie-and-Us-June-2013

If Rob and I are getting a bit too friendly at church, our friends just laugh at tell us to get a room, or they stop and tell us that we are a role model for young marriages around us. We don’t get judgment – we get affirmation. Nobody in the church has ever challenged us that we are not putting our identity as Christians first. We’ve never been told that we aren’t making Christ the center of our lives. They assume we are, based on our commitment to loving each other in a Christ-like way.

If I had to stop identifying myself as a straight, married woman when I walked into our church, I would quickly stop going, because it would be IMPOSSIBLE for anyone to really know me. Rob is my best friend, my soulmate…and he has been so for the past 30 years. He is part of me, and has been an enormous part of how I am learning to trust that God loves me unconditionally. If someone wants to know Linda, they are going to have to hear about Rob. That is just HONEST. It isn’t a crime or a sin or anything else negative…and it is about time we start extending the same permission for our gay friends, if we ever want to really know them, and if we ever want them to feel comfortable at our churches.

The Language Wars – by Julie Rodgers, Guest Blogger

There seems to be a lot of confusion surrounding the term “gay” in evangelical circles, which is understandable since the church has only recently begun asking questions of how to welcome gay people in their congregations. Among conservative Christians, “gay” is often understood as an identity—particularly an identity that communicates one’s desire for gay relationships. Many well-meaning Christians take the assumption further, believing it’s a sin for someone to embrace a gay label because they see it to be an identity rooted in something other than Christ. Among the culture at large, however, “gay” is understood simply as a description of one’s attraction toward the same sex. It’s a way of communicating an important aspect of their lives to the rest of the world through language. So when someone says they’re gay, they’re saying “I’m attracted to the same sex,” but Christians often hear: “Homosexuality is the foundation upon which I’m built and the driving force in every decision I make.”

Because of the confusion over the term, I typically avoid using labels altogether and say “I’m just Julie”. For years I’ve internally thought of myself as “gay” (in the descriptive sense) and used the term among friends who know me well, but I haven’t felt compelled to use it broadly if it’s going to cause problems for those in my community or lead them to make assumptions about me. In other words: I accommodate others by framing my experience in a way that makes them more comfortable. But if we’re asking questions about how to create a safe place for gay people in the church, I think we should consider ways to welcome them without insisting they accommodate us with the terms they use to describe their reality. It can be detrimental for gay people to be constantly challenged by loved ones based on the language they use to describe their sexuality. Imagine this scenario:

Your friend calls you on a Friday evening and invites you out for a night of bowling with the crew. You’re tired after a long week of work, and you respond with: Thanks for the invite, but I think I’m going to stay in for the night. I’m an introvert and I recharge by being alone, so I just need some time to myself. “WHAT?” Your friend replies. “Why would you say you’re an introvert? You’re not an introvert—you’re a child of God!” Well of course I’m a child of God, you say. I’m a child of God, but I also happen to be an introvert—I recharge by being alone. “How can you claim an identity other than what God says about you?” Your friend insists. “Besides, I see you interact with others and you’ve always got TONS of energy! Why would you identify yourself this way and reduce the whole of your life to this one small thing?” Well, I don’t want to argue with you and I’m not claiming this as a defining aspect of my identity, you explain. I’m just sharing an important part of myself with you to give you a better feel for what it’s like to be me so you can know and understand me more fully. “Well, I get that you sometimes feel the draw to be alone,” he replies, “but I think you need to avoid using labels like that when speaking about yourself. There’s a lot more to you than this, and I hate to see you defining yourself by this one aspect of your life.” But I’m not defining myself…..

That sounds absurd, doesn’t it? We communicate who we are through language, and we use descriptive words to share our internal experiences in order to be known by others. While our primary identity is certainly rooted in Christ, we use countless adjectives to describe unique aspects of ourselves to one another: sensitive, intelligent, emotional, artist, brother, actress, writer, old soul, high strung, laid back—all these terms paint a picture of a person’s relationship to the world around them. Most people with a gay orientation desire to communicate that to their loved ones, and most feel the word “gay” is the easiest way to express one’s attraction to the same sex. Just like we don’t make assumptions about a heterosexual’s ethics or habits based on their revelation of being “heterosexual”, we shouldn’t make assumptions about a gay person’s beliefs or relationships based on their revelation of being gay.

This is important to understand because it can be defeating for gay Christians to be challenged every time they share this personal part of their lives with loved ones. It can start to feel like they’re being shoved back into a place of hiding—as if they’re only loved by you if homosexuality is a small part of their lives they communicate in subtle terms that don’t make you uncomfortable. Many gay people feel like “SSA” does not authentically communicate the extent to which their orientation affects their day to day lives: it gives the impression that this is simply a feeling that arises from time to time. But sexual orientation involves more than mere attraction; it affects the way we interact with the world. There’s a different relational dynamic when someone walks into a room as a gay person than when someone walks into a room as a straight person (just like a Latino probably experiences a country dance hall different than a Texan). It’s not necessarily a good thing or a bad thing—just different. But in order for your gay loved ones to be known by you, it’s important to extend them the liberty to communicate their reality through whatever language they feel best describes them.

This might not seem like a big deal, but we honor people by referring to them however they wish to be described. If someone takes the vulnerable step of welcoming you into this aspect of his or her experience, I think it should be cherished. It can be defeating for them to be challenged based on how they communicate their experience simply because you disagree with the language they use to describe it. I understand Christians don’t mean harm by insisting gay people reject the gay label—the rationale makes sense. But I hope you’ll consider what it’s like to be in the gay person’s shoes next time you find yourself uncomfortable with their choice of descriptors. It’s likely they’ve felt tremendous shame for being gay in the first place, and they’ve probably agonized over the fear of expressing that to their Christian community. I hope our churches will be a place where we desire for people to be known and loved enough to get past our discomfort over whatever terms they use to describe themselves. And I hope we won’t make assumptions about the way they choose to live their lives based on our preconceived notions. Ask them questions! They’re probably longing for a safe place to share more about this integral part of their lives.

Julie blogs at JulieRodgers.wordpress.com and has an incredibly important voice in the discussions around being gay AND being a Christian. Lots of great discussions happen on her blog…join in!

So I’ve Come Out to My Christian Parents…Now what?

Ever since Just Because He Breathes was printed on Huff Post, I’ve been getting emails. LOTS of emails. And so many of them have been from gay “children” who want to have a healthy, good relationship with their Christian parents. I’ve noticed that a lot of you, like me, are people pleasers…and almost all of you want to have open, honest, respectful relationships with your parents, whatever your age. I’ve answered a lot of the questions, but I’m realizing that I’ve been saying a lot of the same things over and over again, so I am going to try to put them together here, for use by any gay “child” who has a Christian parent – or even any parent – with whom they want to be in relationship.

Things to Remember About Parents

Parents, particularly Christian/Catholic/conservative parents, are probably going to need some time…maybe a lot of time…to figure out how they feeling after finding out that their son or daughter is gay/trans/queer.

The list below is not a list of excuses for bad behavior on the part of parents…but it is my attempt to help you have some understanding of where they might be coming from. Families require a lot of grace…hopefully given by all parties. But sometimes you might have to be the one who gets the grace going.

I think this is for a lot of reasons, but here are some of the biggest ones:

1. No parent wants his/her child to have a harder life.
Inarguably, the life of an LGBTQ teen/adult is more difficult than the life of a straight person in America – and immeasurably more difficult in many other countries. This is something any parent is going to feel, even if they don’t have ANY concern about your sexuality otherwise.

2. Most parents have the “dream” that their child will someday grow up, marry and produce grandchildren.
When I found out that my future wasn’t going to necessarily include four heterosexual children and four spouses, all happily married with their own children (obviously, this is ludicrous, in hindsight), I had to surrender that dream to God…to give that up for the better dream that He had for us. But that took some time. Allow your parents some time to grieve the loss of that dream, if you can.

3. We parents can put WAY too much importance in how our family and friends see our children, and, consequently, us.
It is true that “good parents” are often deemed worthy of that title by the spiritual, moral and academic success of their children. This is a complete fallacy, but it is a very real pressure that parents face. It takes time, and a lot of strength (for us, that came from God), to be able to let go of what our friends and family think, and to ONLY listen to what God is saying to us. Most likely, you won’t be able to convince them that what their friends at church think doesn’t matter. You might be able to tell them that you need to know that YOU are more important than their friends, though.

4. Christian parents have been taught that being gay means this: You will reject God. You will live a dangerous, life-threatening “lifestyle.”
You will never be truly happy. You will abuse drugs and alcohol. You will have repeated, random hook-ups with complete strangers. A lot of them. And again, you will reject God…which means, to many Christian parents, that you will spend an eternity in hell.

None of the above is true, but it was EXACTLY what I was taught. And what I believe is still being taught by many churches and Christian organizations (see “The Story of Gay” on Julie Rodger’s blog). This lie – what I like to call propaganda – is largely what caused my SEVERE reaction of fear when Ryan came out to us. I believed all the Christian pastors and leaders who had told me that these were the facts. Again, it took time for us to realize that this was not true…not true at all.

5. Parents can sometimes be incredibly hurtful and cause you unspeakable pain.
We can do this, all the while thinking that we are doing what is “best” for you, because we are “speaking truth.” Too many of you have told me of horribly painful things your parents have said, done or posted on FaceBook. Although it is easy for me to think, “At least we never kicked Ryan out, or told him he was going to hell, or said he was abomination…at least we weren’t THAT mean”….the truth is we did do things that, unintentionally, broke Ryan’s heart. I could make you a list (not without crying). But we never did stop loving Ryan…we just hadn’t learned, yet, what the kind of unconditional love God was calling us to looked like.

6. Christian parents may need the support of other Christian parents with LGBTQ kids.
A friend of mine said this:

“I found out our son was gay over two years ago, accidentally. I sat on the info for over a month and cried every day. I searched the net for a forum like this, a Christian group. I found PFLAG and a very kind lady emailed me and we spoke on the phone. She has three gay children. When I mentioned being a Christian, well, I might as well have said I have the plague, in her eyes. She said that Christian kids have a much harder time because their parents and churches usually turn their back on them. I was discouraged and alone.”

In the past month, we have started a small network of Christian parents who love Jesus and who also love their LGBTQ child. Right now, the parents are literally and figuratively all over the map – where they live and where they are in their process of learning to fully love and relate to their child. But since we’re all on the journey, we are able to be there for each other, providing support, prayer and understanding that we can’t find in our local churches. We are praying for the resources needed to allow this network to grow and include more parents; please pray with us for this!

My good friend, Susan Cottrell, also has a great blog with lots of resources for Christian parents of LGBTQ kids:  FreedHearts.com

7. You are going to need a lot of patience and a lot of faith.
We parents are slow to learn things sometimes, but just as God doesn’t give up on you, He doesn’t give up on us. It was GOD who did the “heavy lifting” in what Rob and I needed to learn; He was the one who really hammered the hard lessons home. He never abandoned us, even when we were way off track, following the trail of our own fears rather than following His voice.

Things to Remember About Yourself as an Adult Child

I’d like to share with you what I am learning, as a 49 year old woman, in my own life with our adult children, and through a lot of therapy sessions with an incredibly gifted Psychologist/Spiritual Director.

1. It is not your job to avoid hurting your parents’ feelings.
Though our kids (I will call them kids, but they are all adults now) do their best to be respectful, as they would in any relationship, often they have hard things they need to say to me. They need to tell me how I have hurt them, annoyed them, neglected them in some way, or made them feel unimportant. Sometimes they express these feelings beautifully, and sometimes it comes out in a rush, and it is very messy. Either way is okay. I am their mom, and it is my job to hear them, however they communicate. If my feelings are hurt, that is between me and God. If they have truly said something that was mean or spiteful, I can bring that up, but my first priority is to truly listen, mirror them and ask forgiveness, if necessary (it usually is). If I don’t respond well, it is NOT their fault nor their responsibility.

2. It is not your job to avoid causing your parents’ pain.
Actually, pain is a good thing for us as parents. It causes us to look inside, to examine our own hearts, and to depend on God, who is our ultimate source of comfort and security. When Ryan came out to us, it was an enormous gift. At the time, my walk with Jesus had grown rather stale. But after he came out, it was ANYTHING but. Through the next 8 years, my walk with Jesus grew and grew and grew. All thanks to Ryan’s honesty…my pain…and my resulting need for God’s help.

3. It is not your responsibility to protect your parents from trauma or illness.
Many of you are afraid, or have been told, that your sexuality will cause your parents a serious health crisis. But the truth is this: When Ryan came out to us, I threw up for days. I lost over 20 lbs, and I was already thin. I didn’t sleep. THAT WAS NOT RYAN’S FAULT. It was MINE. It was about MY fear. MY lack of faith. MY inability to trust Jesus to love Ryan more than I do.

4. It is not your job to make your parents happy by being a “good” daughter or son.
Nobody can make anyone else happy, but you can almost kill yourself trying, as I know all too well. If my happiness depends on the choices one of our children make, I am in BIG trouble. Not only will that not work (they’ll never keep me happy), but it will push our kids away from us faster than I can say the word happiness. Our kids have to know that they are free to make ANY choices, follow ANY dream, disagree completely with us as parents, and even disconnect from us completely…and we will STILL love them just because they breathe. Our happiness cannot be based on them…it MUST be based on our own lives – our own walks with God, our own marriage, our own friendships.

5. It is okay to tell your parents what you wish your relationship could look like.
If you express to your parents your desire that they really know you, and love you, that is what our family calls “leaning in” to the relationship – moving toward them because you love and value them. As you know, they aren’t mind readers. If you’d like them to ask about who you are dating, let them know that you’d love that, when they are ready. If you’d like them to treat you just like they treat your straight siblings, tell them that. It always works great to start these kind of statements with phrases like, “It would mean a great deal to me if….” or  “One thing that would speak love to me is….” or  “You are very important to me. I want to be close to you. It would help me to be closer to you if…..”

Just remember, what you desire cannot be an expectation. It can’t be something you demand, because you don’t control your parents (as you know). But do tell them what you need! This has been one of the greatest gifts our adult children have given to us.

6. The best thing you can do for your parents – and yourself – is to separate from them.
Become your own person, not dependent on their approval or their favor. In the end, this will result in a better, more real relationship with them, if they desire. Let me give you a few examples.

When Ryan returned to our lives, he was an adult, gay man who had walked away from his faith. He had made choices that were very different from ours, but they were his. He was completely honest about those choices, both the good ones and the bad ones. Our new relationship was built upon mutual respect, complete honesty and joint willingness to admit wrongs and to ask forgiveness. There was a clear acknowledgement that he wasn’t asking us to dig him out of the legal, financial and moral holes he found himself in, any more than we were asking him to help us feel “good about ourselves” as parents. This new relationship was PURE GIFT. It was authentic and open and DELIGHTFUL. There were no assumed expectations and Rob, Ryan and I each had complete freedom to be ourselves, and love flourished.

In our oldest daughter’s first year of college, Rob and I saw our firstborn make a marked transition from her dependence on us to dependence on God. She stopped, for the most part, asking us for advice, and instead went to God and to the mentors and friends He had supplied. Her life, in the past decade, has looked very different from what mine looked like in the same time period. Had she followed my example, and my natural inclinations for her, she would have been married for some time now, and would probably have a couple of children. But that wasn’t how God led HER. He had a different plan for her and it was a better plan for her (big surprise, right?). Our relationship today is stronger than ever, largely because neither of us are dependent on the other for our happiness, and we are both free to communicate – or not to communicate – as often as we like. She is a separate individual, accountable to God, and she makes her decisions with His help, not with ours (though sometimes she asks for our input). It took me much longer to be okay with the fact that she wasn’t anxious to marry than it took her…and I am so thankful that she didn’t change the course that God had her on just to make me happy.

So if you aren’t responsible to make your parents happy, and to make sure that they are never hurt, what is your responsibility?

As we all know, the Bible clearly tells us to honor our parents. Personally, I have really struggled with what that means. I am still asking God to show me, so this is a work in progress, as I am a work in progress.

Honoring my parents means, for me, that as a child, I am honest with them. I strive to be truly myself in my relationship with them, as I do with my closest friends. I honor them by being truthful about all my feelings, whether those feelings be anger or hurt or disappointment, just as I do with my husband and closest friends (the people I love the most). I do not slander my parents. I do not intentionally cause them harm with malice or bitterness.

I can honor my parents by setting healthy boundaries for both of us. Our youngest son has done a great job of this recently, as he has recently married. He has set some new boundaries for us, since he is leaving us and cleaving to his wife. Those boundaries have been truly honoring, because he is doing what is best for all of us.

I can also honor my parents by making my marriage and my closest friendships a priority in my life, because I am following God’s call for my life. Our children honor us when they make God’s call – in their own lives – their first priority. Even if we aren’t a primary part – or even a small part – of that call!

So, to conclude this not-at-all-exhaustive “guide” for gay children with Christian parents (God willing, we’ll keep learning and will add to this as we continue this journey together), remember this:

You do not have the power, by yourself, to ensure that you have a wonderful relationship with your parents.

They do not have the power, alternatively, to ensure that you will never be hurt by life, or that you will never encounter difficult situations as you wrestle with reconciling your faith with your sexuality and as you strive to listen to God’s voice above all others. They also do not have the power to keep you from having a flourishing, wonderful life full of God’s blessings.

Most importantly, you have the power to listen to God’s voice above all others.

I can remember Ryan singing…I can see him in my mind, crying out to God with these words:

All of You
is more than enough for
all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You
is more than enough.*

So, with or without your parents’ love and approval, I am praying tonight, and trusting, that God, your Heavenly Father, who loves you far more than you could ever begin to fathom, will be more than enough for you.

 

*Lyrics from “Enough” by Chris Tomlin

So what do you REALLY believe??

Warning to readers: The blog below is written for people who respect, if not believe, the Bible as God’s Word, and God as our Creator. If you do not, as many of you have strongly expressed, don’t feel compelled to read this. There might be better uses of your time. It will just make you angry and then you may feel tempted to send me more hate mail.


Ever since the piece I wrote, Just Because He Breathes somehow got picked up and shared and reshared all over the place, I’ve had people – mostly conservative Christians, but not all – emailing, messaging and commenting with a similar question. It usually goes like this: So, how do you deal with the verses in Romans about homosexuality being an abomination? Do you and your husband even believe in sin anymore? Are you just doing the thing of saying “we love you” over and over again, but really, secretly, you think your gay friends are doing something immoral? How do you get past the “love the sinners, hate the sin” concept that the Bible teaches? I want to love my gay friends, but I just don’t know how to reconcile that love with what I’ve been taught from the Bible. So, instead of answering each of you separately, I am going to try to give you our answer right here. I do need to say a couple of other things before starting:

  1. The Bible does not teach that any human being created by God (and we all were) is an abomination. Wow…I have come to LOATHE that word because of how it has been used to destroy people.

  2. The Bible does NOT include a verse that says, “Love the sinner, but hate the sin.” Someone who wasn’t thinking very carefully came up with that, and unfortunately, it caught on. After the abomination accusation and the threat of hell hurled at blameless individuals who have done nothing but be born, this is one of the phrases that has been most damaging – not only to the individuals who are hurt by it, but to the cause of Christ.Granted, if I am using this cliché to refer to the fact that I love my dog, but I hate it when she poops in the house, it might be fitting. Or maybe if I said to my husband, “I love you, Rob, but I really hate it when you put the aluminum recyclable soda cans in the kitchen trash,” it could pass as tolerable.However, when used to say, “I love my friend John who is gay, but I hate his homosexuality,” it is a complete oxymoron. It is like someone saying to me, “I love you, Linda, but I really hate that you are heterosexual.” How am I supposed to respond? “Oh! Thanks for loving me…..I guess? I will just…um…stop being so attracted to Rob’s body so that you won’t hate my sexuality! And, btw, thanks for loving just PART of me, not all of me. THAT feels so reassuring.” Pardon my sarcasm, but this one really gets to me.Parents of LGBTQ kids: Please, please do not tell your children this. I promise you, they will not feel, hear or believe that you love them, even though you do. In fact, they will probably want to scream that your love is a load of crap before you tell them that if they don’t stop being disrespectful they can just leave the room RIGHT NOW! (Trust me. I have made similar mistakes myself.)

  3. Before delving into this, please search your heart for what is really at stake. My friend Jodie’s quote bears repeating, “I wonder if it has become easier to oppose ideologies than to actually love people.” It is WAY easier for us as selfish humans to get into an academic debate – especially online – than to get out of our comfort zones and just go spend time with people who are different from us, hearing their stories and learning from them. And really, if you never have a perfect answer to the questions surrounding what Paul meant in the New Testament mentions of homosexuality, will it cause anyone to NOT know the love of Christ? I doubt it. But if we neglect the hundreds of mentions in the Scriptures about loving and caring for the poor, the stakes go WAY up. Not only for us, but for the millions of people who will go unfed, uncared for, unhoused and UNLOVED.

First, our background: As I’ve said before, Rob and I are not trained Bible scholars, theologians, philosophers or even impressively diligent Bible students. We are: Christ-followers, a straight, married couple who are CRAZY about each other after almost 30 years, parents of four adult children (one who is gay), siblings and dear friends to our gay brother and the honored friends of countless LGBTQ individuals who have shared their journeys with us. So as we often reminded our kids when they were growing up, please consider the source as you read and decide whether or not we have anything valid to say. Rob and I were both raised hearing condemning messages about homosexuality (for me, from the Bible, for Rob, from more of a general “American moral code”). As young parents, we heard horror stories from conservative “family” radio speakers about the dangerous practices of “those” homosexuals, complete with graphic details about their perverse practices and number of daily conquests. These came from sources we thought were trustworthy, and though I did doubt their veracity and was suspicious of the agenda behind the tales, I can see now that the power of propaganda to incite fear is, indeed, real and potent. It was after my brother Don courageously came out to us that I began reading books – from varying perspectives – about what the Bible had to say about homosexuality. At the end of the day, I came away a bit confused, but sure of one thing: The Bible did NOT support hate. That, at least, was clear.

It was after our own son came out to us, ten years later, that the fear that had been planted in our minds years before began to grow and make us feel that our son was in very real danger. Hence, our many mistakes and our choice to be ruled by fear rather than to live by faith in the One who made Ryan. Over the past 7-8 years, we have come to care less and less about the academic, Biblical debate. We have read lots of material from both sides, and we know people we love and respect that hold completely opposing views on what the Bible really teaches about homosexuality. However, each time we’ve read the different debates, we’re left a bit cold, because they tend to leave out the human element and they tend to discount the power of God, through the Holy Spirit, to lead and guide us. We’ve learned far more by listening to the stories of people we love, ex-gays, celibate gays, monogamous gays and out and proud gays. To be honest, their stories hold a lot more weight for us about THIS issue than the stories of straight people, Christian or otherwise.

For those of us who are straight, we have other questions to ask. But for these individuals, this “issue”…this unchanging characteristic about themselves is often a matter of life or death. Literally. So what is our “position” on whether or not it is okay with God to be in a gay relationship? First, our position is one of staying on our knees, in prayer, seeking God continually – eyes on Jesus – for His love and wisdom for our lives. Key words: our lives. Secondly, our position is that God has called us to unconditionally love ALL of our friends, family and neighbors, without any exclusions. My friend from high school, Jill Rennick, says that “the gospel has no asterisks.” For those who still really want to know what we think about the Biblical passages, here is our take: After much prayer, study and a lot of listening to God and others, we’ve come to believe that this is one of those issues mentioned – infrequently – in the New Testament, like eating meat previously sacrificed to idols. For some, it may be sin. For others, it is not.

We realize that most of our conservative Christian friends, and many of our closest friends, disagree with us. Our senior pastor, who is one of our dearest friends, has a different perspective. One of my closest girlfriends, and the amazing mother of my son’s beautiful wife, doesn’t agree with me. Thankfully, that has not stopped them from loving and respecting us or us from loving and respecting them. Rob and I know many Christian gay couples who are thriving in both their walks with God AND in their relationships. We see the fruit of the spirit ALL OVER their lives! Really, it is between God and them….not our business. We DON’T secretly think they are in sin.

At the same time, for some other dear friends of ours, God has clearly called them to celibacy, and for them it WOULD be sin to be in a gay relationship. God has given them clear direction, and they are obeying and finding the same level of flourishing in their obedience to His call. This may only serve to frustrate those of you who are looking for THE answer…because it isn’t a black and white answer. But truly, most things aren’t. And, our conclusions might be wrong. We are certainly not above that… Rob and I continually seek our Lord for Truth. Thankfully, God hasn’t given up on us because we’ve been on a journey, and we’re still learning.

What I do know for sure is this: As a straight, married couple, we HAVE had to grapple with the questions surrounding premarital and extramarital sex. Those apply directly to Rob and me. So we’ve taken those very, very seriously. God called Rob and I to be faithful to each other in marriage and to honor the vows we made before God and hundreds of people almost 30 years ago. He has also called us not simply to stay married but to stay in love – and that keeps us plenty busy (wink). Honestly, we don’t really have time to worry about whether someone else is sinning or making a mistake. We have plenty of our own weaknesses and flaws to work on. So for us…Love wins. Every time. And as our friend Julie Rodgers often says, “God invites EVERYONE to the wedding.” THAT is what we’re about. Making sure that NOBODY feels excluded from the love of Christ…because according to Him, NOBODY IS.


For those of you wanting to do your own study, I have found these resources to be extremely helpful. And if you’d like to comment and add your own links to the list, feel free to do so.

Gay Christian Network has posted a fascinating, thoughtful and respectful debate between two gay Christians with different views, Justin’s view and Ron’s view.

My personal favorite when it comes to books for those who come from an evangelical, catholic, Pentecostal or similar background, is Justin Lee’s Torn: Rescuing the Gospel from the Gays-vs.-Christians Debate. Even if you don’t agree with Justin’s personal conclusions, after reading it you will have a MUCH better understanding of the pain, suffering and deeply personal torment that an individual who loves Christ but who is also gay faces.

One that has rocked my world is James V. Brownson’s book, Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships. I love what Peggy Campolo said about it, “If ever a book spoke the good news of the gospel with biblical authority to those children of God who happen not to be straight, it is this book. Brownson addresses with clarity an issue that is tearing the church of Jesus Christ apart, as he gently insists that all of us allow new facts and insights to illuminate our understanding of what Scripture has to say to gay and lesbian Christians.”

Matthew Vines has also written a great book about what the Bible actually says about homosexuality, and tells his own story, and several others. God and the Gay Christian is an easy but extremely informative read (Matthew is brilliant), and is available both on Amazon and Audible, if you’d rather listen to it, like I did.

For those interested in checking out evangelical Christian ministries who are trying to create space for open, honest wrestling of issues around sexuality in a safe space, check out New Direction Ministries of Canada. Their Executive Director, Wendy Gritter, M. Div., also writes a great blog.

Thad Norvell recently posted a brilliant blog called Gay Marriage and the Posture of the Gospel. Well worth your time!

From Peter Enns: Tim Keller on Homosexuality and Biblical Authority: Different Crisis, Same Problem. Another interesting perspective…perspectives, really. Though Peter Enns differs with Tim Keller’s perspective, we respect them both. We own a lot of Tim Keller’s books, and love them. One of them, Prodigal God, is one of my all-time favorite reads.

From Scot McKnight and Steven Harrell comes Bible Verse Arms Race, which though it doesn’t address homosexuality directly, is extremely applicable.

If you are a Christian parent of an LGBTQ child, Susan Cottrell writes regularly on very practical issues related to the experience of having a gay child on her blogsite Freedhearts.com. She also has a new book out entitled, “Mom, I’m Gay” that you can order there.

For those interested in reading the very personal journey of one Christian who has felt called to celibacy, I highly recommend Wesley Hill’s Washed and Waiting. After finishing it, my first comment to Rob was, “DANG. The commitment to celibacy is SO MUCH MORE DIFFICULT than we in the church make it sound. I don’t think I could tell ANYONE that celibacy is their call – I’ll leave that up to GOD!” (Especially given that Rob and I have the ability to sleep together, pillow talk, bike ride and overall, be soulmates, whenever we want. To tell someone else that they CAN’T have that seems awfully arrogant and hypocritical to me.) That said, I have deep respect for Wesley Hill, and for others like him who feel personally called by Christ to celibacy…Julie Rodgers is a new and quickly beloved friend of ours who has a GREAT blog on her own journey.

Note to my critics: You will see that I did not include resources that come down clearly on one side or the other, because I do not. There are a LOT of them out there, on both sides. And a lot of them have valid, good things to say. I included the resources that have spoken most deeply to me, and the ones that I feel encourage having grace and understanding for each other, as well as giving each other in the Body of Christ space to disagree about the things that aren’t essential. Matthew 22:37-40 is essential. Matthew 25:31-46 is essential. Micah 6:8 is essential. John 3:16 is essential. These speak to themes that are repeated over and over again, throughout the Bible. If I am going to die on a hill for something, I will die on a hill over loving the Lord my God with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind…and loving my neighbor as myself. I will NOT die on a hill – or even spend two seconds thinking about – whether or not my brother Don was “Biblically justified” to love his partner Fletcher. THAT was between Don, Fletch and Jesus, and the three of them had it sorted out just fine, thank you, without my help. Okay, bring on the hate mail. I know it is coming. But as Ryan at two said, “Please be gentle.”