How can a religion based on love allow hate to destroy its children?
He finally said no.
I had asked my son many times if he was straight. He always said “Yes, Mom” and I would release a dramatic sigh of relief and say “Oh good”. Today the thought of my words is like a punch to the gut. I wish I could take them back. They must have hurt so much each time we went through this dance. However, in the summer of his 17th year, I asked if he was straight. He said “No.” My world turned upside down.
I was raised Nazarene. I married a very religious man, attended church faithfully, and brought my 2 boys up with the “homosexuality is a choice and a sin” doctrine which I had never questioned. In my day, we were taught that being gay was all about hedonistic sex and perversion. A lifestyle choice. Love was never even considered. I remember being shocked when I heard that Jim Neighbors was in a long-term relationship. Love? It was all about orgies, wasn’t it? Those terrible gay sinners, who tried to recruit children, were doomed to Hell and they deserved it. They had no right being in church.
Now it was MY son. My baby. My easy, non-rebellious child who had dedicated himself to God. The boy who wanted Greek and Latin language lessons for Christmas so he could study the Bible better. He would argue theology with any missionaries who come to the door. He used to wake me up to pray for a friend who was hurting. Faithfully he would attend church and youth group, even on days when I skipped. He stood up for the hurting and oppressed and always defended the faith. He was an ideal Christian youth, adored by the church leadership and all who knew him.
Obviously I suspected something, or I wouldn’t have kept asking. At three, he announced that he was a girl on the inside. I just laughed it off. His best friends were always girls. Unlike his older brother, he totally refused to discuss sex and love and relationships with me. Still, I had no idea that in middle school he was attracted to the football player in his class and not the cheerleader. He tried to have crushes on girls. They never advanced. He staunchly held to evangelical theology and believed that God hates queers and that you couldn’t enter heaven if you were gay. For that reason, he spent many nights, in secret, crying and praying for God to change him. He read books on conversion therapy and tried to work it out on his own. He threw himself into Bible and theological study—hoping that God would cure him if he just did more, tried harder, and prayed. He fell into depression and began having suicidal ideations. He once started driving to a nearby cliff to jump, but he turned the car around when he got there. I was completely unaware.
Once he was out, his legalistic dad abandoned him. That was expected. His older brother loves him, and had trouble coming to terms with this. He is very involved in the church the boys grew up in, which is not affirming or even accepting of LGBTQ people. I worry that he might abandon his brother someday too. I cried. Often. He knew my heart was broken. I wanted another daughter-in-law. I wanted to see babies with his curly brown hair. I didn’t want him to get AIDS or be beaten up or murdered by a zealot. Most of all, I feared Hell for my baby. The church, while not cruel, tried to get him to attend seminars from people who became “straight” again. We know that doesn’t work, just look at Exodus International. People who loved him looked at him with pity in their eyes. I was asked over and over if he was “still” gay. He just couldn’t attend anymore.
He couldn’t live with the thought that the God he loved had created him this way, hated him for being gay, refused to change him, and was going to send him to Hell. He saw his choices as: 1. Remain celibate, which isn’t his calling. He wants love. 2. Become more progressive in theology—but we had successfully raised him to believe in only the American evangelical doctrine and everything else is apostasy. 3. Kill himself before he acted on his desire, or 4. Turn his back on God and the church all together.
So, I spent two years dealing with him wanting to die. Counseling, in patient care, and medications. I cried so much and was always afraid of leaving him alone. His college sent him home early one Christmas because he had made a plan for his death and was steadfast in his determination to do it. He went into treatment. I was frantic. He was angry.
He saw how the church he loved spewed hateful speech about anyone LGBTQ. They were called pedophiles and groomers. That meant him too. So, he made his choice. He chose to live. He turned and walked away from all things Christian. You know what happened? He has thrived. He is on track to receive his master’s degree soon and he volunteers on the suicide hotline. He has a large support group of friends and I am proud to be his #1 fan. I don’t know if he will ever accept Jesus or God again. That is his path to walk, not mine. I would love to have a gay Christian son, but I love my boy just as he is. I would not make him straight, even if I could, or he might cease to be the wonderful, loving person he is.
As for me, I am reevaluating and deconstructing. After a lifetime—over 50 years—of blindly accepting what I was spoon-fed about LGBTQ people, my eyes are open to the hate and harm and judgment the traditional church is guilty of. How many of our own babies have we sacrificed, via rejection and suicide, in the name of righteousness? And we dare to say we are “pro-life”. When did Jesus say that you must be sinless and conform to the rest of the congregation in order to belong and be saved? God loves my son, as he is. He never says I will only love you if you change. My own faith took the largest shift when I realized how the church makes those who are gay hide or change before they can be part of the congregation. I mean, most churches have addicts, ex-convicts, adulterers, abusive congregants and even leaders. How many churches can say they have gay congregants and if they did, would allow them to even take up the offering?
With that realization, I listened to scripture and sermons differently. They really aren’t meant for everyone. Not for gays. I began adding “except the gays” at the end of sentences and realized how far we are from the love taught by Jesus.
“For God so loved the world (except the gays) that He gave His only begotten son. That whosoever believes in Him (except the gays) will not perish but have everlasting life (unless you’re gay. Then you will go to Hell.)
Ridiculous, isn’t it?
We need to love like Jesus.
Lisa Perry lives in Idaho with her wonderful husband of three years. She is mother to her two boys and Mimi to two beautiful grandbabies. She is an accounting specialist by day and a community theatre participant by night.