“So, I’m coming out to my parents tomorrow!”
Her announcement on Twitter spread quickly in our small group of online friends. My heart went out to her, because I remember how incredibly difficult it was for me to come out, and how difficult it remains for all of us in my family to process.
I recalled another woman I had met recently, married with children, who somehow found the courage to come out. Her husband was incredibly supportive; however, when she told her parents…there was only grief and the refrain: “how could you DO this to us?”
I thought of a friend in nearby Washington, who got engaged to his partner of over 10 years after the State legalized gay marriage. He sent invitations to his family, and got a letter back from his sister—using the RSVP envelope from the invitation—that told him how wrong and immoral it was that he was getting married to his partner.
I remembered another friend, a recent college grad in his mid-20s, who wrote a long heart-felt letter to his father, explaining the journey he’s taken: praying, trying to change, and finally understanding that God loves him as he is. His father wrote back: “it would be fine with me if I never saw you again.”
I’ve heard countless other stories from the LGBTQ alumni group of the Christian university I attended, where some or all family members continue to scorn, ignore, or outright reject their loved one.
Update: Please see the heartbreaking true story at Christian Nightmares Too called What hiding the truth from church members cost one Christian man.
So when my friend announced her impending coming-out, I worried for her. A few months back, I had shared with her the story of my formerly-married-friend-with-the-supportive-husband-but-unsupportive-parents. Graciously, she asked about her and her well-being. “Doing well,” I said, “but it’s still a struggle. I’m hoping your parents are much more empathetic. It’s hard when you are taught your whole life that homosexuality is a sin.” Since she is a self-identifying Christian, I just assumed that her parents were too. But she said, “Oh, my parents aren’t religious, so I don’t have that hurdle.”
The first thing I felt was relief. Oh, GOOD! That makes it so much easier!
I also shared this news with my formerly-married friend, and she had the same reaction: one of immense relief.
Then it hit me.
THAT IS FUCKED UP.
LGBTQ people are afraid of religious people; they are afraid of Christians. And can you fucking blame them? Like it or not, Christians have made a name for themselves. As Rachel Held Evans pointed out in her post last year, How to Win A Culture War and Lose a Generation:
"When asked by The Barna Group what words or phrases best describe Christianity, the top response among Americans ages 16-29 was 'antihomosexual.' For a staggering 91 percent of non-Christians, this was the first word that came to their mind when asked about the Christian faith."
As Christians, we’re known for our hate.
THIS MUST CHANGE. It’s not an option. Following Jesus is not holding on to “literal” views of the Bible in order to feel better about your own shortcomings. Following Jesus isn’t defending what you call “truth.” Following Jesus is not being hyper-defensive and playing your martyr card when someone calls you out on your bullshit. Following Jesus is not word-policing or tone-policing or behavior modification.
Following Jesus means loving people where they are; being a champion for justice and mercy; acknowledging your own advantages and humbling engaging with those who are less advantaged than you are--listening to them; calling out abuse and injustice and those who perpetrate it.
I’m the first to admit: I’ve got problems and issues. I don’t love people well. Too often I’m blinded to my own fortune, participating willingly in a world where white men are seen as superior.
On the other side of the coin, I don’t know HOW to love people who are stubbornly abusive, unjust, and ignorant. I feel I’m learning how to love those people who are caught UNDER that trap of being unknowingly abusive and unjust, because I know I’ve done it and continue to do it. I’ve been forgiven MUCH by God and by others. But I'm not there yet. And I still don’t know how to love the perpetrators of it. Perhaps in time and with maturity I will understand how this can be done. (See Rachel's post today for some wise words about this conundrum).
In the meantime, I’m just angry. I want to see a community of people who live out Kingdom of God ideals; instead I see marginalized people relieved when they don’t have to deal with Christians.
As for the woman who came out to her non-religious parents? It went really well. “I have GREAT parents!” she said.
I celebrate with her.
I also mourn for us.