I have been on a journey.
The journey began when I was around 18 years old. I'd been a Christian for almost two years. I read the Bible voraciously. Went to church every Sunday. Was firm in my faith and beliefs.
And when a friend of the family who'd come out as a lesbian came to our house and asked me if it was true the Bible said she was going to hell, I not only told her yes but took her in the kitchen and showed her the verses.
I never questioned what I'd been taught. Never considered what it was like for homosexuals to be cheated of civil rights based on the principles of a faith many of them didn't believe in or adhere to.
Now, a little over 20 years later, I have been a Christian for over two decades. I still read my Bible voraciously. I go to church almost every Sunday. And I'm still firm in my faith and beliefs.
But I question...a lot. And because of that, my views have changed. And I know that some of you will decide it was a tolerance of culture and some of you will denounce me as a true Christian and some of you will call me a bad parent but I don't care.
I don't believe this comes from a culture of tolerance. I believe it comes from the journey of understanding the gospel as the gospel of judgement, to the understanding of the gospel of redemption and ultimately, to the gospel of grace.
I believe that as I stopped judging myself, sure that God shook his head at my every failure and character flaw, that I found myself not judging others. As I understood all that He had redeemed me from and forgiven me for, I found it so much easier to forgive others and not only receive grace but give it. And as I began to understand and accept unconditional love for myself, I saw how Jesus offers it to others and how he wants us to do the same.
And I saw that both I and the church were getting it wrong. Our stance of judgemental posturing and political show boating have alienated people through the ages. We have been on the wrong side of history so many times! And refused to apologize for it! Which is why, by the way, the church remains one of the most segregated institutions in the United States.
Here is a statistic for you, 40% of homeless youth are LGBT. The majority of those kids were kicked out of their homes because their parents believed that was the best course of action based on their religious beliefs. We love the story of the prodigal son but we don't want to be the parent who welcomes him home. And I know the son declared himself a sinner but the father was running to meet him way before that. And he didn't ask what the sins were.
Recently the Boy Scouts changed it's policy toward LGBT youth...and churches changed their policy toward the Boy Scouts. Effectively telling young boys, we don't want you in our building unless you live up to our standards. And here is the deal, you are allowed to be a sinner and come into our church. Jesus said there was none good, we are all sinners. But some sins we are more comfortable with than others. So, if you are a liar, a glutton, a gossip, lose your temper regularly, even if you've committed adultery...WELCOME! But not if you are a homosexual. That's the sin where we draw the line.
And not only will we force our religious beliefs on you but our political beliefs as well. We'll tell you that it's okay that you can lose your job just because of who you date, that you could never be as good a parent as us, and that you shouldn't be allowed to marry who you love therefore further denying you rights when it came to taxes, ownership of property and even the right to make medical decisions or be informed when your loved one is sick or injured.
I can't do this anymore. I'm so sorry I ever did.
My journey has taken me to places where I researched laws and policies to make sure we wouldn't get in trouble for not letting homosexuals in, to knowing and loving the very people those policies would hurt.
A few years ago, I had a conversation with a homosexual man who had blazed into Atlanta like Sherman, ready to set the Atlanta theatre scene on fire. He's got more theatre knowledge and know how in his pinky than I've got in my brain or book shelf. And he was pretty defensive around me, knowing not only was I a Christian but worked in a Christian organization. And then one day, I can't even remember what we were talking about or why but I got the chance to say "It's not my job to judge you. I'm not allowed to judge you." The look on his face was priceless. The look on mine probably was as well. It was the first time I'd ever said it out loud. It was the first time really clicked for me. My job, my mission, is to show others the love of Christ. My job is not to judge or condemn...in fact he tells me not to (Luke 6:37)! And I'm proud to say, if ever we dislike each other it has nothing to do with that...and everything to do with stubbornness (on both sides).
So I love my friends who are homosexual and I learn they are not my homosexual friends. Because that is not their only or even main characteristic. There is the one who loves to read, the one with the quick wit, the amazing singer, the actor, the one that loves animals, that loves kids and is going to be a great teacher some day. We go on vacation together, we watch Avengers and drool over Thor together. We live life together.
But the journey isn't over because we do Laramie Project at NTC and I learn about Matthew Shepard and I read everything I can get my hands on and I get to talk with the kids in the cast about what they are processing...their attitudes toward gay people, their attitudes toward their parents because of THEIR attitudes toward gay people, their own sexuality...and I realize the poor job we've done in helping our kids understand and process and take a stand so I start talking to my kids...
And I get it wrong again. Because I understand that people are being hurt and rights taken away but I have to be careful. Because I have a mission, a purpose and if I speak too loudly I could lose influence or my job. I'm teaching my kids to lie, to value what others think above what is true and I justify it by thinking I have to have "priorities".
And ultimately, I lose my job anyway (for something completely unrelated). And I've realized that, as I look for another job, I cannot and will not comprise my integrity anymore. That I will not devalue my friends and loved ones anymore. I'm so, so sorry from the bottom of my heart.
I'm sorry too for the friends and co-laborers who will feel betrayed. I'm ready for the backlash (but will still delete your nasty comments). And I accept the loss of any friendships with regret.
But here it is, I'm "coming out" as it were.
1) I do not believe that the LGBT lifestyle is something anyone chooses or can be cured of...nor do I think you need to be.
2) I struggle with the laws of the old testament versus the grace and redemption in the new and what exactly it means-specifically for homosexuals, but ultimately I know you can have a relationship with Jesus and I don't think you have to be lonely and miserable to do so. I also believe there's grace for the both of us if I'm wrong. I use grace to cover an abundance of sins so one more won't matter.
3) I am against any law that takes away rights from someone based on who they love. And I not only support marriage equality in all 50 states but would do my part to bring it about in Georgia.
4) I am perfectly fine with whomever my children (both the biological and the "adopted" ones) choose to date-except "stupid". Please don't date "stupid". "Stupid" rarely if ever has the ability to care for themselves and will therefore never be able to care for you the way you deserve.
5) I'm sorry to anyone I've ever hurt in my ignorance. The journey has been long and it took far too much time for me to get here. For my conservative friends, you may be right. But I've said it before and I emphatically repeat it, God help me...I'd rather get it wrong on the side of love than condemnation. And if I could go back in time, to that conversation in the kitchen...I'd do it so differently.