Yesterday, an article was shared with me about what to do if my child came out as gay.
The article was written by a conservative Southern Baptist, and at its crux was basically that I should evangelize with love to my child in hopes that they may be put right someday. The article told me that this is a gospel issue, not a “culture war” issue, and that as long as my child wasn’t telling me this was an “identity, from which they refuse to repent” that I could keep the relationship loving and open without having to support them or affirm their choices.
Basically, it was the conservative response to gay people wrapped up with a little bow for family members.
It’s a bunch of bad advice, bad theology, and over all if my son(s) came out as gay I would fear this advice would alienate them more than draw them closer to me as their parent.
Side note: there is a great direct response to the article from Ben Moberg over at Registered Runaway.
I have a four-year old son and another due to be born in October. These are bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh, and I love them with a great, everlasting love. The scenario of one (or both) of them coming out as gay is years away if it happens at all. I know much of what I am writing today is speculation, but I feel I need to say it because of where I have come from, and because of how much I love my kids.
See, I grew up believing being gay was a sin. That is was somehow a choice people made to reject God and live their own way. Even later in life when I came to understand orientation vs choice, I still believed living in a same-sex relationship was sinful and would keep someone separated from God. I was certain I was correct, and in that certainty I could have written an article of how to respond “in love” to your child coming out of the closet. I could have said that we love the sinner and hate the sin. I could have said that they needed therapy, that if they were unrepentant they needed to be shunned. I could have said all this and so much more dangerous, hurtful things.
These days I have more questions than answers around the LGBTQ people and the church. I am firmly convinced that you can be gay and still be a Christian. My questions are more about same sex relationships and what the bible says, and, as I said, I have lots of questions. I am not the certain kid I was years back, and I think that movement into the questions has made me better equipped to be there for my sons should either or both of them come to me with the revelation that they are gay or bi-sexual or queer in their sexuality. I am better equipped because I am ready to wrestle and discern God’s voice alongside my child rather than pronouncing judgment over them. I think this posture is key in actually embracing, loving, and affirming their humanity.
Since this is mostly speculation on my part (I mean, my four year old hasn’t come to me and said, “Dad I’m gay.”) I can’t really speak with what steps I would take or what I would do. I can however lay out a track that I hope would guide my actions and decisions.
First of all, I always want to embrace my child. I believe that is important. No matter differences we may have, arguments we might have, or anything else, I need my child to know they are loved. I can start this by fostering an environment where my child can talk to me and his mom about anything, no matter what. There are things I don’t talk to my dad about because they are uncomfortable or off limits. I don’t want that with my children. We will be able to talk about things, think through things, work stuff out, and keep discussing the hard things.
Second, I will never treat LGBTQ and the church as a gospel issue. It’s not. The gospel is that God has reconciled all things to himself in Jesus who died for the forgiveness of our sins and was raised to life for our justification. This is the gospel: reconciliation. Sexual orientation is not the gospel. I don’t want to be flippant about it or dismissive, but it’s not an issue of life and death of my child comes out as gay. It’s serious and weighty, but it is something we can figure out.
Above all, I want to love. If that means that I choose to affirm because they are my child, so be it. I don’t think God will fault an honest effort to understand scripture and to choose to love and embrace over rejecting people and treating them as some sort of pariah. And ultimately, if the decision we come to isn’t “correct”, the good news is that God has already reconciled us to himself and we cannot be separated from the love of God. So why should my child ever be separated from my love for them?
I know that coming out is a deeply personal thing, and I want to respect that, whether it is a friend, family member, church friend, or my own child. I want to honor the person entrusting me with such a deep thing. That is going to mean that I have to be willing to discuss, wrestle, and discern for myself, rather than taking the word of some stranger spouting some 1-2-3 steps for what to do when someone comes out. I need to be willing to question, to be challenged, to be uncomfortable all for the sake of learning to love as Jesus has loved me. That love isn’t something that would turn me away or shun me, so why should I shun another human, especially my child, even if they have a different opinion and view than I am comfortable with?
People are going to keep writing and talking about the issue of LGBTQ and the church for a long time. We need to get past the rhetoric, past the simple steps and the certainty. We need to be with people in their lives, just as we need people to be with us in ours. I will not deny that human right to my children. I will be there for them no matter what, straight, gay, whatever.
I now have to ask, what are you going to do? It may be speculation, but I might suggest that it is worth the time to decide now how you are going to respond: with love or with judgment. That decision alone can make a lifetime of difference.