Gold delivered a heartfelt and stirring account of the difficult upbringing he and others had endured “growing up gay in America.” With a clearly pained heart, yet determined spirit, he recounted his own suicidal thoughts in middle school, how one young man he’d met dealt with his same-sex attraction by taking a razor blade to his chest to spell out the word “fag” in blood in order to “expel the demons,” (a technique which evidently his religiously based “ex-gay” counselor advised he continue), and how one woman completely cut off interaction with her lesbian daughter at the advice of her pastor, resulting in her daughter committing suicide.
Events such as these are indeed regrettable, and we need to take stories like these seriously as we examine how we as followers of Jesus deal with same-sex attracted youth. What are we to make however of Gold’s approach to parenting these youth when during the question and answer period following his lecture, he advised a high school teacher that she tell her students not to tell their parents they are same-sex attracted lest they bring them to (shudder)… an ex-gay ministry? That he desires to see parents of struggling teenagers closed out of the loop until they meet his approval as “gay-allies” is startling. Is this the face of mainstream gay leadership?
The biggest takeaway from the event however was Gold’s exhortation to the LGBT community to address the “big pink elephant in the room,” namely “the sin issue.” Gold is correct in stating that this is the core of the matter. If a person’s religion or belief system describes homosexual sex as a sin, then clearly this will affect how that person views homosexuality, and will indeed forbid that person from celebrating or accepting it in others. The question then is, since Gold and other LGBT activists want to destroy the idea that homosexual sex is a sin, how will they go about it? Will they come against those of us that hold to this belief, and tell us our faith is wrong in this regard? Or will they attempt to redefine our beliefs, so that it will appear that we were actually wrong all along when we believed the Bible (or other religious texts) taught that homosexuality was a sin? The first approach I can handle, the second however is where things start to get murky.
Which of these approaches will the LGBT movement take then? Following the event, I asked Matt Comer (who contributed a story to Gold’s Crisis book, and spoke at a follow-up event on Feb. 25th) the following:
During Thursday’s lecture, Mitchell Gold talked about the “big pink elephant in the room” that no one is talking about with regard to growing up gay in America, namely “the sin issue.” What do you believe is the best approach to deal with the belief in many religions and denominations that homosexuality is a sin? Do you intend to come against these religious beliefs, declaring that those that hold these beliefs are wrong in this area? Or do you intend to alter the religious beliefs so that they embrace homosexuality, regardless of what their sacred texts or traditions teach?
To which he responded:
When Mitchell Gold spoke of the “big pink elephant,” or the “sin issue,” he spoke of many LGBT organizations’ tendency to shy away from religious issues when engaging in debates on LGBT civil equality. The reason, I believe, is that LGBT people have experienced so much pain from religion and the church that they’d rather not address it or think of it.
Common experience shows us that those who know an LGBT person are more likely to support our civil and social equality. The reasons for this are clear: When one knows personally an LGBT person — whether it be a brother, sister, child, parent, other relative or close friend — a person is exposed to the truth: LGBT people are not the sick and sinful monsters the church has taught them we are. Rather, we are loving, dedicated members of our families and healthy, contributing members of our local communities.
All religion, and Christianity itself, is not monolithic. There is not one interpretation of Scripture or other religious texts. And, while we might disagree over theology or doctrine, we can all agree that no child should be harmed by those who love him. The truth is, anti-LGBT religion-based bigotry and prejudice causes damage in the lives of youth. Like other youth faced with loneliness and despair, LGBT youth fall victim to depression and mental illness or turn to drug abuse and suicide to solve their problems. Unfortunately, the rate at which LGBT youth fall victim to unhealthy behaviors is far higher than that of their heterosexual peers. Perhaps it is because LGBT youth often have nowhere — nowhere at all — to turn when they feel as though their families, friends, schools and school officials, faith communities and communities-at-large will not love them or accept them?
You asked me if it was my intent to “alter the religious beliefs so that they embrace homosexuality, regardless of what their sacred texts or traditions teach.” I challenge you to take a deeper look into Scripture, to come to really know God and his magnificently radical, inclusive love. I encourage you to understand and accept that one can have a relationship with God even if they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. One mustn’t ignore Scripture in order to understand that God loves each and every one of God’s children, without reservation, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender-identity. One can live in peace in Christ and in fulfillment of the Gospel knowing that they are who they are as God made them, or that their loved ones are just as much a brother or sister in Christ as they. Perhaps it is the “tradition” that has betrayed God, and not LGBT people or the ones who love them?
But, to directly answer your three questions:
1. The best approach to dealing with the “sin issue” is to engage in direct, one-on-one conversations with our brothers and sisters in Christ. We all agree on at least one spiritual truth: Our God is the creator of each of us, the world around us and all in the universe, and God’s son, Jesus Christ, is our savior. With this agreement, we can have truly honest, brother-to-brother and sister-to-sister conversation, recognizing that while we disagree now, and might disagree in the future, on other areas of theology and doctrine, we are all one in Christ.
2. As much as you might believe I am engaging in sin, I believe the words and actions of those under the influence of anti-LGBT religion-based bigotry and prejudice are deathly harmful, both spiritually and physically, to LGBT people and especially to LGBT young people. For many, at one point including myself, these issues are matters of life and death: LGBT youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, and those who come from rejecting, unaccepting families are nine times more likely to attempt suicide. As much as some might be tempted to see or frame these issues in the light of eternal salvation, these are serious issues of the physical here and now. People are dying, and the church has blood on its hands.
3. Christ taught us that there are two commandments upon which the entire law and prophecy must hang. First, that one should love God with all their heart, soul and mind. Second, that one should love their neighbor as oneself. I challenge you to take into consideration the personal stories and experiences of all the LGBT people you know, and even the stories in “CRISIS,” and ask yourself two questions: First, knowing that condemnation and rejection causes so much pain and despair in the lives of LGBT people, especially youth, do my words and actions serve to cause more pain and trauma, or are they creating a world in which LGBT young people can be healthy, loved, accepted and cherished, allowing them to grow into the fullness of their lives and live in peace with God and themselves? Second, if my words and actions are causing pain and trauma in the lives of others, am I living up to and living by Christ’s two greatest commandments?
Before I address some of Matt’s questions and exhortations (which I will do in a followup article), let’s first look at what appears to be his clearest answer to my question. Matt stated: “One mustn’t ignore Scripture in order to understand that God loves each and every one of God’s children, without reservation, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender-identity. One can live in peace in Christ and in fulfillment of the Gospel knowing that they are who they are as God made them, or that their loved ones are just as much a brother or sister in Christ as they. Perhaps it is the ‘tradition’ that has betrayed God, and not LGBT people or the ones who love them?” It seems from this statement that Matt is indeed taking the second approach, that “tradition” has betrayed God in calling homosexuality a sin. What tradition are we talking about? The tradition that God forbade even idol-worshiping pagan nations from engaging in homosexuality (as opposed to dietary laws for example, which were only for Israel)? The tradition that the Apostle Paul called followers of Jesus out of homosexuality (both male and female) numerous times in his letters? The tradition that Jesus reaffirmed male-female marriage as the divine order and clearly spoke against sexual immorality, which in a First Century Jewish context would have included homosexuality? We did not will these texts into being, and we dare not throw them away because some wrongly use them or others want them reinterpreted to suit their agenda.
Comer’s approach is directly in step with Gold’s. Consider the following statements made by Gold’s organization Faith in America, statements which they describe as “three basic truths” they’ve made their mission to propagate throughout the country:
• Religion-based bigotry and prejudice brings personal, social and spiritual pain and trauma to bear on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and that such harm is particularly oppressive to gay youth. This harm is brought to bear on gay Americans solely on the basis of sexual orientation and is most often justified and promoted by misguided religious teaching that is disguised as religious truth.
• History illustrates how in the past bigotry and prejudice disguised as religious truth has caused immense harm to people of color, women, interracial couples, religious minorities and society as a whole. The attitudes of condemnation and discrimination that once were produced by religion-based bigotry and prejudice toward minorities in the past have been rejected as wrong and morally indefensible.
• It has been established by both science and common sense that a person’s sexual orientation is an unchangeable and essential aspect of the human personality. Sexual orientation is as natural and innate as skin, eye and hair color, left- or right-handedness, and gender and therefore cannot be justified as a reason to subject a person to condemnation, discrimination and violence.
Are these really “basic truths?” Dr. Michael Brown, Director of the Coalition of Conscience, was shocked to see what they present as “truth,” responding thusly:
I don’t doubt that they believe what they’ve written, but do they really believe that by simply stating their opinions they have demonstrated their points? The reverse is actually true.
First, they make the utterly false claim that that the obvious and plain sense of the Scriptures (which always speaks against homosexual practice), not to mention God’s foundational male-female order, is “misguided religious teaching that is disguised as religious truth.” In reality, over the last forty years, no new evidence of any kind has been brought forth to change the Bible’s clear condemnation of homosexual practice – not linguistically, archeologically, textually, historically, or contextually – and yet we are supposed to throw out what God’s Word states simply because our society has changed. This is exercising proper faith? It is actually working against true faith.
Second, they wrongly compare the misuse of the Bible in the past to hurt and persecute others with the right use of the Bible to uphold sexual morality and family stability. And they forget that while the Bible does, as stated, categorically condemn homosexual practice whenever it is mentioned, the Bible never says a negative word about people of color (some of whom apparently played an important role in biblical history), and it has much good to say about women and their role in the Church and the society. Where then is the comparison?
Third, they claim that “both science and common sense” establish the innateness and immutability of “a person’s sexual orientation,” whereas science has absolutely not determined that anyone is born gay and many of us personally know former-homosexuals (with science confirming their existence as well). Moreover, the whole argument that alleged innateness and immutability somehow justify behavior breaks down the moment we mention the forbidden subject of pedophilia, since the pedophile makes the identical claim about being born that way and being unable to change. To be perfectly clear, I’m not equating pedophilia with homosexuality. But I am pointing out the obvious: If we are to accept the one behavior based solely on alleged innateness and immutability, then how can we reject the other behavior, based solely on that same criteria?
And to think: Those making these self-evidently flimsy and false arguments are doing so in the name of true religion, branding those holding to the words of Scripture as misguided bigots. If ever light was being called darkness and darkness called light, it is here.
We welcome Gold, Comer, and the LGBT movement’s desire to address the “big pink elephant in the room.” We are hopeful the attention will work to refine our motives and sensitize us to the struggles of so many. We cannot change truth however. God really does have a better way.
Note: Given the breadth of Comer’s response, I’ll look at the bulk of his points in a followup article dedicated to that purpose.
Liberty Counsel is asking youth around the nation to participate in the annual Day of Purity on February 14th. According to their website:
The Day of Purity is a day when youth can make a public demonstration of their commitment to remain secularly pure, in mind and actions. Today’s culture encourages youth to become sexually active at a young age and to experiment with sexual preferences. The Day of Purity offers those who strive for sexual purity an opportunity to stand together in opposition to a culture of moral decline. When you stand up for sexual purity you send a message to parents, churches, communities, legislators, and the media that you want a better world. Now is the time to let your voices be heard. Be a part of the “counter-culture” – – be politically incorrect. It’s time for a change. You can make a difference.
In part of an answer to the question “Why a Day of Purity?”, Liberty Counsel had this to say:
“The fear of the religious right is that the schools of today will be the governments of tomorrow. And you know, they are right. If we do our jobs right, we’re going to raise a generation of kids who don’t believe the claims of the religious right.”
–1999 GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network)
One freshman health text told students that “Testing your ability to function sexually and give pleasure to another person may be less threatening in your early teens with people of your own sex. . . . You may come to the conclusion that growing up means rejecting the values of your parents.” (emphasis added). A school survey in another district asked students what “caused” their heterosexuality, and whether they were heterosexual because they “feared” the same sex. PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) tells young students that “one or two sexual experiences with someone of the same sex may not mean you’re gay. . . . Your school years are a time of figuring out what works for you, and crushes and experimentation are often part of that.” In fact, the push to experiment at a young age has led to a nationwide phenomena among teen girls known as “bisexual chic” – declaring themselves bisexual for attention and because it’s cool. Experimenting with sexuality may be seen as “cool” but what’s not cool, and in fact, not even discussed, are the devastating consequences of sexual activity outside of marriage.
All questions regarding the positive and negative attributes of the so-called “religious right” aside, it is clear from what GLSEN and PFLAG are trying to accomplish, that their effort to keep youth with same-sex attraction safe from bullying has ventured into territory that they have do not have the moral authority to tackle. We pray that the Day of Purity and other attempts to show the world that purity is beautiful and valuable succeed in their attempts to do so.