Last night I turned the final page in Andrew Marin’s Love Is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community, and for a few minutes I sat there in the silence.
It’s a brilliant book [you should read this one], but what hit me most wasn’t the principles Andrew teaches, as good as those were. What hit me were the stories, his stories and the stories of people in the GLBT community who he ministers to in the Chicago neighborhood of Boystown.
As I sat there their stories went through my head once again.
John, who prayed every night for fifteen years that when he woke up God would make him straight like everyone else. And who, still gay at the age of thirty, started to conclude that there either isn’t a God after all or that God didn’t hear his prayers because he was already condemned to hell.
The unnamed businessman who was publicly outed at work, as a woman points to him and screams she won’t work in the same building with him because he has AIDS.
And Andrew Marin, a young conservative evangelical and admitted former-homophobe, who’s world was rocked when three of his best friends came out to him in three consecutive months.
Especially that last one.
See, Andrew’s story sound a lot like mine. Not because I also had a series of friends come out, but because I was a lot like Andrew.
This is hard for me to write, and these memories more than almost any others bring a flush of shame to my cheeks, but in retrospect I was definitely a homophobe in high school. I talked disparagingly of the GLBT community, assumed all sorts of things about their “agenda”, and frequently used various words for gay as derogatory terms.
I wish I could tell you why, but I couldn’t, not really.
Maybe in a time of working though my own newfound heterosexual failings it made me feel better to point to people who sexual struggles were “worse”. Maybe it was sort of an assumed mindset handed down by a branch of evangelicalism with a sad history of bigotry. Maybe is was the vitriol and fear-mongering pouring each day from personalities on the radio.
Or, maybe, it was none of those.
Whatever it was or wasn’t, I have no doubt that I did a lot of harm during that time in my life. A lot of harm to people who later came out as GLBT and I’m sure were incredibly hurt by my words, to people who looked up to me and had that bigotry reinforced and glamorized, and to myself because that does something awful to your own soul as well.
I cannot express how much I wish I could take back every one of those moments, every one of those words.
I know changing the past is impossible though, so my focus has to shift to where I am today and where I’ll be in the future. I might not be able to take back words dripping with hate, but I can now speak words filled with love.
Do I think I have all the answers to these tough questions of sexuality? No, not anymore. That’s not the point of this post, I have no interest in playing that game on my blog or in my day-to-day life. Easy answers and quick condemnations haven’t gotten us anywhere.
Yes the Bible has things to say about our sexuality, yes we need to take what it says seriously, and yes those things might require a more thoughtful interpretation than we’ve often assumed.
But amid all the questions of hermeneutics and exegesis, one thing I’m sure of is this; we as followers of Jesus are called to love and the way I acted towards the GLBT community was anything but loving.
For that I’m sorry.
Grace and peace.