Faith, hope, love and contrition
Brent Childers of Faith in America read my earlier post on my faith, This I believe, and he sent me a wonderful email that I would like to share with you. It’s about his journey from homophobia to an open heart toward LGBT people.
As a person of faith, he wanted to share with us his views from a perspective of one who has learned to move past ingrained fear melded with bigotry. It takes strength — and courage, I might add — to discard long held views we are raised with.
Contrition – a fundamental act
Do you think fundamental religious leaders and their followers will ever acknowledge the harm to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people -like certain denominations have apologized for once condoning racism in America?
How close is the day when they realize bigotry disguised as religious truth not only harms others but themselves? How close is the day that they say they’re sorry?
I can’t answer how close that day is.
But I do know that I can no longer wait.
I carried the Religious Right’s anti-gay banner for many years but am thrilled to say today that I’m no longer held captive by bigotry disguised as religious truth. It’s tough admitting your words, thoughts and actions were once guided by bigotry. It’s more difficult yet to realize the harm you caused.
Three years ago, I was in a conversation with a dear family member. As a 43-year-old fundamentalist-leaning Christian, I was railing about how homosexuals were out to destroy America. My mother stopped me mid-sentence with a question: “Was the attitude I held toward gay men and women truly a Christ-like attitude?”
I had so often stated how I “loved the sinner but not the sin” but I never stopped to consider if I really meant that. More importantly, what did the gay co-worker actually feel when I spoke those words. It seems consistent with God’s message of love and forgiveness that I should treat everyone with love and compassion. But being reared in a fundamentalist Baptist church, I was taught that the Bible says homosexuals are engaged in sinful behavior and that they want to bring about moral decay within our society.
Yet, can any student of the Bible say that the overall message – from beginning to end – is not one of forgiveness, love and redemption? God calls upon Christians to love as Christ did. God forbids us from judging or condemning people based on what we consider sin. That, I believe the Bible says, is God’s job. As I pondered these questions, God began to slowly open my heart and mind to what I know as truth today – gay men and lesbians are not wicked and evil individuals and their sexual orientation is simply how God created them. They have jobs, homes, families and many desire a meaningful relationship with God just as I do. While I’m no theologian, I believe deeply that God grants us the ability to discern spiritual truths. One truth that God allowed me to discern is that judging a group of people as wicked and evil because of their sexual orientation – and deeming them as unworthy of my association and unworthy of a relationship with God – was wrong.
It didn’t reflect a Christ-like love toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Certain religious leaders who espouse attitudes of discrimination and condemnation when it comes to the issue of homosexuality are quick to say they love the homosexual – it’s just their sexual orientation they have a problem with. We cannot have it both ways. Christ accepts us just as we are? Shouldn’t we do the same?
Over time I have had the opportunity to speak with numerous of my gay and lesbian neighbors – some Christians, some of other faiths and some who profess no particular faith. They tell me how the harsh and condemning language coming from certain conservative Christian organizations causes them great psychological and emotional distress. When they hear Christians espousing a condemning and judgmental message, they feel no love, compassion or respect. Each time I hear this from a gay or lesbian person it reinforces what I came to realize about my past attitude toward homosexuals – condemning people as sinners because of their sexual orientation prevented me from showing the type love and compassion that Christ calls us to exhibit in all our relationships. Sometimes we accept certain biblical teachings as truth without placing those teachings up against God’s overall message of love, forgiveness and redemption.
It often takes a step out in faith to question a long-held religious belief. Perhaps we’re afraid that changing our belief on something we’ve accepted as truth will lead us to discard other truths found in God’s Word. It reminds me of how Christ was perceived as a threat by religious leaders of his time because he challenged many of their long-standing religious beliefs and practices.
At the end of my days, this is what I will know in my heart: As I discarded my attitude of discrimination and condemnation toward gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals, my faith was strengthened as I realized the difference between genuine love and insincere words.
It’s ironic. After years of wanting to change what I perceived as the hardened hearts of homosexuals, God changed my heart instead.
There’s one thing I still must do and thus the reason for this post.
To all the wonderful, decent and loving gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the world, I have to ask your forgiveness?
I unfortunately know that I can’t undo the hurt that I caused with my condemning words and hateful thoughts, so it seems very insufficient to say I’m sorry.
But I am.
Thank you Brent; sharing your thoughts and your personal journey with us means more than you can ever know.