if your kid comes out to you

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Note: This post was edited with softer language regarding Dr. Moore and his article. Upon reflection, I recognized my language expressed the passion of my convictions but did not reflect my earnest hope for and belief in peaceful, thoughtful dialogue.

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I first realized I was gay when I was around eleven or twelve and in the silence of that moment, I swore I would take it to my grave. I made myself promise. No telling. No telling because if anyone knew, no one would love me anymore.

 

The weight of that secret grew heavier over the years, attacking me like a cancer, breaking me down with grief, isolation, and so much fear. At 21, I began to slip away. I disappeared into drinking. I checked out friendships. I shut out the world. And then I passed out on the floor of a bar around 2 AM and woke up knowing it was do or die, quite literally.

 

The next night I told my parents. I came home from college and walked up their stairs. Every step feeling the full decade of dread pulling me back, telling me to leave, to suck it up and go home. Or die.

 

But I knew I had to do this. It was so heavy.

 

When I finally told them they were… frazzled. They were in complete shock, looking as one does after a two-ton anvil drops on their head and there were lots of tears and hugging and trembles in voices. But they were also kind of perfect. They made due, stringing together words amidst the hurricane of feelings in that moment.

 

They spent much of the night calling out the lies I believed about myself. When I said I felt like a freak, they said oh honey, that’s a lie. When I said I thought they’d be afraid of me, they looked at me like I was a limping puppy. They wrapped me up and said, no, pumpkin, we LOVE you.

 

That was my coming out experience. It took me a couple years to realize just how lucky I was.

 

At the Gay Christian Network Conference there were a number of parents present wearing large buttons that said Free Dad Hugs! and Free Mom Hugs! ready with arms wide open for the kids whose parents cut them out. Told them off. Said they loved them, but hated their sexuality. In a quiet room of the hotel we were at, these proxy parents held these orphaned kids. Held them close. Prayed over them and told them they loved them.

 

I tell you, friends, resurrection always wins, even in the dark- for that matter, especially in the dark. God is near.

 

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I have really been trying to restrain myself here on the blog from responding to every LGBTQ-related article or statement emanating out of the self-appointed Gatekeepers (see: Southern Baptist Convention, The Gospel Coalition). But the latest hits felt like too much. Felt too dangerous. It all felt too close to home.

 

First, Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention who is not a family therapist, who has (to my knowledge) no gay kids of his own, wrote a blog post about how parents should react to a gay son or daughter coming out to them. It was, as expected, unhelpful. But his post is nothing compared to John MacArthur’s video, in which he said that the Christ-like response to a child coming out is too shun them. To disown them. To, in John’s words, “turn them over to Satan.”

 

So, I thought I’d pen my own advice, from experience. This is for all the parents with closeted gay kids. These are words you need to hear.

 

If your son or daughter comes out to you, go to them. Hold them. Whisper your love and kiss their forehead and make them feel your love. Say it again and again and again because here’s the deal: The faith many of us were raised in told us this was a deal-breaker. That this love between you was not strong enough for this. And odds are, your kid is thinking there’s a chance you might not love them anymore and a chance that your lying if you say you do. If there was ever a moment to step up as a parent and love your baby, now is it. You don’t get a redo.

 

If homosexuality is something you’ve been familiar with and are theologically affirming of, then you are probably pretty comfortable here anyway and I have no further advice for you than this: Your kid might not share your theology. And you have to respect that. All you have to do is listen and share when you are asked.

 

If you’ve held conservative opinions about homosexuality and have long held to a traditional sexual ethic, this confession might leave you feeling impaled. It might feel like a tearing. A falling apart that you can’t stop, no matter how much you want to, and I have a few words for you.

 

You are okay. In this moment, you are not against your kid, and in the future, if you find yourself still in the same theological mindset, that doesn’t make you hateful or bad. It means you disagree. And you are okay.

 

Now is not the time to say so, though, to tell your kid that you think he’s sinful. Now is not the time, as others might suggest, to say you love your kid, but you hate their sexuality. Now is the time to say the most important truth you know. The truth that you are most certain about. Tell him you love him. Tell her you love her.

 

Of course, there’s a scrambling for words, sometimes these things last a long time and what else can you say with all trip wires tying around you? Do you talk about the theology stuff after the love stuff? Do you ask about their relationship status? No and no.

 

Here’s what you say. It is, in my experience, the second best thing to hear: You. Are. Brave.

 

It’s the truth, after all. My own coming out was and will probably be the most impossible thing I have ever done. I still can’t believe I did it. And there is nothing more affirming than hearing you, my boy, have guts. You inspire me. You are so, so brave.

 

And finally, thank them for trusting you, because you know they could’ve chosen not to. Tell them you feel privileged to know this part of them That you are happy to know them better. Remind them that you love them and then give them a kiss goodnight.

 

If, near the end, your own opinions crop up, here is something non-threatening to say: I admit, I have a lot to learn. I will try to learn, because you are my child.

 

Listen to me. I have seen the kids of parents who have followed the advice of the Russell Moores and John MacArthurs of the world and I can tell you, no one wants that to happen to their kid. No one wants to live with that kind of regret. Listen to me, this is your job. To love. And it ends there.

 

Now, as far as learning goes, I’m afraid you have homework. I’m not assigning you theology, I am sending you to those who have been in your shoes and know your experience better than I do.

 

For starters, here is the Marin Foundation Parent Network. Try calling some of these ready-to-support-you folks (my parents are on there!) and hear their stories and find that empathy and community that you need.

 

Check out the story of my friends Linda and Rob Robertson, who have been tireless in their efforts to support parents of LGBTQ kids. They want to bring about more understanding and grace and love to families everywhere. These two, they’re such good and Godly people.

 

Go check out one of my favorite blogs, Susan Cottrell of Freed Hearts. Susan has written a book about her experience as a mom of gay child and she blogs consistently about issues facing the LGBTQ community and issues facing parents. She is a wonderful woman and a gift to us all.

 

Watch this video, Lead With Love, which my parents also watched. It is absolutely phenomenal, I’m surprised I don’t share it more.

 

Rachel Held Evans, a wonderful advocate just for people in general, wrote once about how she would respond if she had a gay child. It is beautiful. Glennon Melton of Momastery did the same, which I bet money will leave you in a mess of hot tears.

 

Look, it’s not easy. I know that. It’s complicated and there are lots of questions, let alone feelings, and for a small amount of time you might feel completely isolated and alone. But your kid is your kid, and you love her, you love him and they need you to be their mom and their dad right now, not their theologian. Not their pastor. Their parent.

 

Hold them. Love them. Listen to them. Kiss Them.

And God will lead the way.

~

 

For Parents Everywhere

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Did you know that there are homeless kids living on the streets of America? Or are you like me. Did you hear this once and think, okay, okay, no. C’mon. There has to be more to this story. There has to be.

 

Did you know that, statistically speaking, LGBTQ people make up roughly 7-8% of the population (not counting, of course, the closeted) and that 20-40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ? What is the story here? There has to be more to it. Must be. Right?

 

*

 

When I came out to my parents, I didn’t know how lucky I was. I was held close to my family as others were shoved out the door. Homeless. Orphaned. Wandering a world they aren’t ready for.

 

This doesn’t just happen.

 

The Gospel Coalition and Denny Burk and Franklin Graham perpetuate it; they might not know it, but they do. As does a particular reading of the Bible, the lazy literalist, quick google search kind, an approach that has a history of leaving other minorities bloodied up in it’s wake. And then there is the loss. The swift death of dreams, of weddings and holidays and grandchildren; a jolting adjustment to a future that looks different. That looks less than ideal.

 

LGBTQ people today are coming out so much younger in life- meaning: they are still under their parents’ roof. And with that comes the beautiful and painful tension flaring, making all things new. Hard hearts are being made soft. The bonds of family are strengthening. No one ever knows how much love there is until the unforeseen bomb drops, and everyone stays.

 

My parents knew they could never understand what it was like to be a gay Christian, but they wanted to figure out how to be good parents to one. They held the Bible in one hand, me in the other, trapped in a paralysis of unending questions and no understanding to be found- anywhere- from anyone.

 

When my mom emailed the Marin Foundation, it took them less than ten minutes to email her back. She called and they answered. They invited us down to Chicago. They took us in and listened and loved us deeply.

 

They connected my parents to other parents of LGBTQ kids. They built a community around a couple feeling isolated.

 

And now they have done something incredible. They’ve compiled a contact list of parents of LGBTQ kids for parents feeling beyond alone. Parents in the south, for example. Or parents in stuck inside fundamentalism. Those who disagree with their kid or with each other or with the church or with themselves, searching for some kind of path that cuts through.

 

The official announcement of the list came first on the Marin Foundation’s blog, which I’ve reposted below. If you’re a parent feeling alone, drop a line, to my parents or others.

 

Often, I talk about how we sexual and gender minorities are waves crashing and shaping the church into something new. But that’s nothing to say of our folks. These people are our protectors, our defenders, our activists and our listeners.

 

And they are only one call away.

 

From the Marin Foundation:

 

If you are a Christian parent of a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning (LGBTQ) child you may feel alone. You may think that you are the only one who feels this way. You might even believe that no one else could understand your journey. But…

 

You are not alone.

 

The Marin Foundation has put together a a list of Christian parents who have LGBTQ children and have volunteered to share their experiences with you. They would love to listen to your story, talk with you, cry with you, laugh with you, and come alongside you. Most of these parents are not counselors or psychologists; they are simply fellow pilgrims on this journey. They don’t have all the answers. They may not have their theological positions all figured out. But these parents know what you are going through and want to help.

 

To see this list and some other resources for Christian parents of LGBTQ children, Click HERE.

 

The parents on this list come from all different backgrounds, Christian denominations, and beliefs about this conversation. They may not have the same theology as you or feel the exact same way about this topic but they will listen and give advice with compassion and understanding. While these parents are not official representatives of The Marin Foundation and may not reflect a particular theological position (whether conservative or progressive), we have heard their stories and know them to be great resources. What they have in common is a desire to love their children and stay true to their Christian faith.

 

We hope this list will help you in your journey.

 

Much love,

 

The Marin Foundation

A Love Letter from Hännah Ettinger

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I have only met a handful of friends from the internet, but I am so glad Hännah Ettinger was one of them. Shortly after I made my move to DC, she invited me out for drinks where we had the chance to get to know each other on a deeper soul level. She introduced me to her friends and new places and then…. We both moved out of the district- (sad face).

 

Hännah has written a poignant letter that will leave you feeling touched and encouraged and motivated. I was so moved when I read this that I read it several times over. Friends, I cannot encourage you enough to go check out her blog here (that is, if you haven’t already heard of it, since it was mentioned by SETH MEYERS a couple weeks ago)

 

Here is her letter. Be so blessed.

 

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This post is not a big deal. This post should be obvious. I told Ben I wouldn’t write this post, last year when he first asked me. I said that I didn’t want to make a big deal out of something that isn’t mine.

 

But I don’t want to receive another letter like the one I did this morning, a letter where an old and dear friend came out to me and asked if I would be comfortable having a lesbian as a friend, because she couldn’t tell from my blog.

 

I don’t want there to be any question in the minds of my siblings where I stand on this issue, because statistically speaking, there are nine of us, and right now the official word is that one in ten people identifies as LGBTQ+.

 

I don’t want anyone to be afraid of me knowing who they really are.

 

Let this be crystal clear, then, for I am about smashing shame and isolation.

 

I love you. 

 

I will stand up for you to our friends if they talk about you behind your back, saying that you chose this and how cruel and selfish it was to have the audacity to come out.

 

I will be angry with you at your parents when they send you away with your boxes full of your inheritance, a prodigal child made wanderer by the older son’s bitterness.

 

I will answer the phone and sit with you when you call me to tell me that your mom found your birth control and you think you’ll have to tell her you’re bi.

 

I will cry in relief with you when she doesn’t tell your dad.

 

I will beat my inner English major asshole into submission and carefully use your preferred pronouns despite my habitual stumble-trip awkwardness.

 

I will try to gently educate those who I introduce to you if it will make you feel better to not have to explain to more people that you are called they or hen or ze or Ivan.

 

I will solidarity-drink with you late at night and invite you over to stay at my place and marathon Buffy when you feel you can’t face explaining yourself to your family yet again.

 

I will grieve with you over our alma mater’s choice to pretend that you don’t exist, and howl with glee when you indulge the imp of the perverse and subvert their policies.

 

I will shut up and listen and let you tell your own stories the way you want them to be told, and when you need to yell a little I’ll hand you my megaphone if you want it.

 

I will tell you you’re cute or beautiful or handsome and offer you hugs if you want them when you’re feeling floaty and can’t quite connect to your own skin.

 

I will take endless selfies so you don’t feel alone when you need to take one to see yourself staring back and know you’re really you.

 

I will make you coffee and cookies and have you over to talk or sit alone together in the same house if you need to not be really wholly alone.

 

I will crow profanities in crowded restaurants with you if you need to rage against the universe in public.

 

My parents used to have a tile they got when we drove through New Mexico on our pilgrimage east, and it hung in our entryway at home for years and years. Mi casa es su casa, it read.

 

All of these things I have said, they have a lot of “I” in them. This post shouldn’t be necessary, because this isn’t my story. I prefer to be quiet and let you tell your story.

 

But because invitations are sometimes hard to accept if they aren’t made loudly, let me make it very clear: mi casa es su casa.

 

This house always belongs to you, too.

 

Love,

Hännah

 

~

A Love Letter from Bethany Suckrow

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Much has happened to the gay community the past couple years that has been both uplifting and heart-wrenching, but mostly- exhausting. World Vision encapsulated perfectly the way things have gone. Beautiful affirming moment. Crushing defeat. Anger. Resilience. Restoration. Phil RobertsonMichael Sam! Chick-Fil-A. Rob Bell!

 

It’s been A LOT these past couple of years and I’ve been longing a return to the roots of this blog. Look above this post and see the Love Letters tab. Look through there and you will see the saving grace of this site.

 

It is everything I wanted to find on the internet when I was in the closet. When I felt the whole world growling all around me and I didn’t know where to turn. There was It Gets Better but I doubted it would for the Christian. There were theological treatises, but those went over my head, and after all, the collapsing was happening in my heart. I needed words for my wounds.

 

And I am now restarting the series- well, sort of. I began soliciting requests for more letters, but then life kicked into warp speed and I lost track of it. So this will be more of a rolling basis as they come in. (feel free to send me yours!)

 

AND TODAY we have the incredible, the wonderful, the unbelievably talented Bethany Suckrow publishing a powerful letter to LGBTQ people everywhere. I am so thankful to her for her grace, compassion and encouragement. I am so thankful for her voice. Please, please go check out her site hereYou’ll thank me later.

 

(Also, a Trigger Warning for this post: discussion of suicide.)

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Dear Friend,

 

A few nights ago I was fiddling around on my phone as I waited for my husband to get home from work when I found a message. It was from a friend I haven’t seen in a long time. We don’t know each other well anymore, but we catch glimpses of one another’s lives through links and statuses and photos. I was surprised to see she had contacted me directly, and even more surprised by what she said.

 

“I just want you to know that as a Christian who is also a lesbian, sometimes reading your posts is the only time I feel a glimpse of love from a brother or sister in Christ. Just wanted to say thank you.” 

 

As I sat in the silence of my living room and let her message sink in, a bittersweetness welled up inside of me. My heart aches for her. I feel honored by her words, but I also feel profoundly undeserving. The things I share on social media these days reflect my changing opinions on many things, not the least of which is my growing conviction that the faith culture I’ve participated in has deeply wounded the LGBTQ community.

 

I haven’t always understood this, though. Like so many raised in conservative evangelicalism, I was a teenaged Jesus Freak, deeply committed to my youth group, zealous in my attempts to convert people, and profoundly naive about what it meant to love others as Christ loved me.

 

When I was tenth grade, a girl from my freshman softball team committed suicide. She was a star athlete, a naval cadet, a good student with a kind heart and a quiet spirit. And she was gay. The issue I’d been taught to oppose “because the Bible clearly condemns it” suddenly had a face, a name, a story that ended in tragedy. I went home from school the day we learned of her death, laid myself face down on my bed and wept. All I could think about were all those moments when I looked back at her on the bus ride to and from our softball games and saw her sitting alone. I didn’t go and sit with her.

 

It was the beginning of so many questions for me about how to love you, my neighbor. Still, it took a long time for me to get past my prejudices and preconceptions. In the years ahead, as people from high school and college came out, I realized over and over again that in my devout religiousness I had never been a safe person for my friends to be themselves.

 

I was a clanging symbol of ideology instead of a voice of love.

 

And I am so sorry.

 

These last few years I’ve been working to connect the dots and discover ways to be an active participant in reconciliation for Christians and the LGBTQ community. I’m deeply thankful for people like Ben Moberg, who have bravely shared their stories. The scales are falling off my eyes and I’m finally learning to see my privilege.

 

Today as I write this letter to you, I have this vision in my head. It’s bittersweet, but also hopeful. I’m standing up from my seat on the bus and I’m walking back to where you sit.

 

May I sit next to you? I would understand if you didn’t want me here, if you need more space and time to heal. But if you’re willing, I’ll sit down and loop my arm through yours and say the words I wish I would have said all along:

 

Your story and your being matters to me.

 

I’m listening now. Please forgive me for all the times that I haven’t.

 

I want you here.

 

I want you here.

 

I want you here.

 

 

With all of my love,

 

Bethany

 

Finding God in Exodus International [Deeper Story]

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It’s been a long day of work, so I’m a little late in throwing this up, but here it is. My latest piece for Deeper Story.

The beginning:

 

Last year, Exodus International, the largest ex-gay organization in the world, shut down.

I was at a Starbucks late at night when the news erupted over Twitter. I all but cried. I called my mom. “This is such good news, wow! wow!” she said and then I texted my brother who took to Facebook, posting the news by saying “This is a HUGE WIN for humanity.” This was monumental. A miracle. An answer to so many prayers said by so many souls in our community.

My total “ex-gay experience” was a rainy afternoon, in the home of a man who was not a counselor. He wasn’t from Exodus. In fact, I never met an Exodus counselor nor I have been to any Exodus events. And yet Exodus International once held a daily presence in my life. A powerful one.

Late one night, in my closeted teenage years, I quietly tapped into the Google search bar my most desperate question: “is there a cure for homosexuality?”

Topping the list of results was Exodus.

Read the rest over at Deeper Story

May We Never Stop Speaking

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Last weekend, I sat around a small stove fire on the driveway of my brother’s house with his friends. We were cracking open beers, listening to country music, talking March Madness (which I feigned stress over). And one of the guys brought up the World Vision fiasco and my responses and how I was going about mending from the tragic turn of events that steamrolled over last week.

 

One of the guys, who I didn’t recognize, looked back and forth at us.

“What?”

 

I then explained everything, starting with a stuttered, awkward, “Well, you know, first off- I’m gay and christian, and a blogger, and, also, I’m Ben- nice to meet you!”

 

Then I dove into all the details of everything that went down. All the excruciating messages I heard in the conservative response, the swift and unanticipated betrayal from World Vision, and then, I talked a bit about gatekeepers and their ever shrinking circles. The kid sat their blinking,

 

“So, you’re uh, gay and Christian?”

 

It’s a fair question. Especially after learning about his conservative background, which we share, and his current beliefs, which we don’t. He told me he had a total of one gay friend, but after he came out, that friend quickly walked away from the faith, and from him. And I found it so devastating, the end of a relationship that could’ve borne so much fruit in that tension. The faith his friend was told was not for him. All it did was prove the point right, gay and Christian are mutually exclusive.

 

We talked then, through theology and books and the very essence of Jesus. He posed some brave, awkward questions, ones that showed how little he actually knew about what it is to be gay. Do you believe it is a choice? As in, just tell me the truth, did you decide this? An ignorant question, indeed! But you know what? His eyes were wide open and curious. This was an honest wondering. To him, he explained, all he knew was the old retired debate of choice vs genetics.

 

I explained to him that, no, of course I didn’t. He asked, if it were possible, would choose to be straight. I said, years ago, yes. Today, without a shadow of doubt in my mind, no. And I also told him I wasn’t entirely convinced in the born this way assumptions. I believed it was a mix of things, but perhaps with a divine plan in place? Who knows? Not me. But that’s missing the point. For all we know, heterosexuality isn’t in the genes either. Here we are today.

 

Conversations about sin led him into what I thought was the classic, “but we all sin…” olive branch, but then, instead of passing it back to me, going into what he believed my sin was, we found ourselves standing together on the beautiful core conviction that shame is not of Jesus. We lamented over the obsession conservative Christians have regarding any and all sex. Grieved over our Bible, the way it had been sharpened into a shank against every one of us. All around the fire, friends nodded their heads. Gave sighs of agreement. And we began sharing stories- real, meaningful ones. And we talked about grace. That offensiveness of it. We gave a long hug at the end. He said this conversation was such a relief for him to have. And the truth is, it wouldn’t have happened had I not said I was a gay Christian.

 

Jen Hatmaker published today one of the best pieces I have read from the conservative corner. I was surprised by the warmth it left on me. Like love does, I suppose. And I was impressed with her grace, honesty and her pledge to continue to find ways to love one another (and her acknowledgement that not all Christians agree here, some are-heaven forbid- affirming. An important point which is not ever mentioned in the GATEKEEPER, “Gays are not Christians! Allies are traitors!” posts.) There are gay Christians like me out here, searching and finding and living, and that, my brothers and sisters, is a victory for the kingdom.

 

I am a gay Christian. I have come to feel the destabilizing truth of this declaration. It packs a punch. It pisses off the gatekeepers more than anything, and evokes a call to love and learn from those with searching hearts. It provokes conversations that are fruitful and drop seeds, into both our souls, as we learn the difference between hate and disagreement, gay pride floats and committed relationships, as we, as I, ply apart the person from the, now inflammatory, Evangelical.

 

And so I’ll keep saying it because I am reaping such a harvest, such a renewal of life is growing in the ground of my soul: I am gay and I am Christian. I’m a gay Christian. You are straight and you are Christian. You are man, woman, genderqueer, black, white, brown, and Christian and the kingdom is where we meet and grow together. Sling arms over shoulders. Open our hands and choose to see the best behind our eyes. Choose to stay even when it scares us.

 

God love us all and may we never stop speaking. 

When World Vision Drops Me

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I got the news that World Vision had reversed its’ policy on employing gay and lesbians right after I got done with work. I was outside the school where I aid elementary age kids, special needs kids, and though I sometimes struggle with feelings of inadequacy in my job, I am actually a pretty awesome paraprofessional. Turns out, I’m pretty great at caring for kids in need.

 

And I was in my car when I got the news and I sped away, lest any of my little guys climbing the bus would see me, should I start to cry.

 

Before I headed home where I would find my mom, on the phone with another mom of a gay kid, telling her, “We will not respond the way they did. I refuse to be like them. We will be like Jesus, instead.” Before I got the text message from my brother, a very simple and needed, “I Love You.” I pulled over and parked in a vacant lot.

 

I turned off my ignition and I didn’t cry. I just sat there. Breathing. Stunned and struck by betrayal and pain and anger, wave after wave of it, and I couldn’t form a coherent thought or calm my heart. But in the midst of it, a memory came to me of a conversation I once had with Jay Bakker.

 

Jay, if you don’t know of him, was born into Christian Royalty. His parents were televangelists and their faces were amongst the most well-known and adored in Christian culture. Then the scandal. His dad had an affair, resigned, and then went to prison for fraud, leading Christians to banish the Bakker family outright. And for years, Jay would never step foot in a church.

 

Jay and I bonded over coffee in our shared experiences of feeling orphaned by the faith that raised us. And we also bonded over a shared hero, a man who, in a very real way, saved us.

 

That man is Brennan Manning. I will say it today and tomorrow and every day for the rest of my life that no one has left a larger impression on my faith than this man. Besides Jesus, he is the one I am most looking forward to meet in Heaven.

 

Jay was also swept off his feet by the Ragamuffin himself, and when Jay was set to publish his first big book, Son of a Preacher Man, Brennan agreed to write the forward. It was Jay’s dream come true.

 

Not long after, Jay heard from a representative of Brennan that he decided to pull out. He was afraid of the backlash he might receive by associating with the Bakker family. To this day, Jay says that that was the greatest let down, it left him completely disillusioned.

 

Don’t idolize your heroes, he told me. They will inevitably let you down. They’re human, too.

 

Years later, Jay was asked to pen an endorsement of Brennan’s book, and in the years between, they built a relationship based on forgiveness and trust and love. There was restoration. And Jay was brimming over with grace.

 

What Brennan had done was deny the Jesus in Jay. What he did was wrong and unfair and deeply hurtful. He ditched Jay when Jay most needed him, ran straight off the road off the gospel.

 

And yet, at the same time, in the Midwest, a teenager was reading Brennan’s books and his life would never be the same. A teenager would read these words, “God loves you just as you are and not as you should be.” And it would be enough, just that line, to give me the strength to move forward.

 

Though I understand that World Vision essentially had a gun to its head after evangelical leaders incited a mass backlash of dropped funds, it doesn’t make what they did right. Their reversal hurts more than anything I read from the evangelicals ranting. It was the kiss of Judas. And in the end, this was simply wrong and ungodly and deeply defeating.

 

I read Richard Stearns apology to conservatives through gritted teeth, because it is that bad. Richard Stearns, the man I praised the other day, disqualified me in a way against serving alongside him, and begged the forgiveness from those like Graham, Burk, Moore and Piper. And it does really hurt, this abrupt abandonment, this puncture of what was so much hope and pride and encouragement. Suddenly, reversed.

 

But, and not many years ago, it was Richard Stearns who shook up my faith in the best possible way. I read his book The Hole in Our Gospel, twice, and I recommended it to every person I knew. It was and still is one of the best Christian books I have ever read.

 

And who can understand the vehemence of yesterday upon him and his? Who can completely throw out he, Stearns, who left a life of luxury, to serve the world’s poor? Who can deny that World Vision is a rarity in Christianity, a group of folks whose sole purpose is to give the gospel hands and feet, bringing bread and water and mercy? Who can look at those pictures of kids being fed, of kids writing letters, those going to school and becoming kingdom builders themselves and write off an organization that is doing such beautiful work?

 

The truth is, friends, I am sitting in a coffee shop and writing this, and my teeth are still gritted, because I am writing things I am not feeling. But I believe, wholeheartedly, that there will come a day when I will. I know I will.

 

And when it comes to forgiveness, I take something like that very seriously. If it’s not flowing through my veins, then it’s not really there and I refuse to pretend it is. So I’ll say it true, as it is, right now:

 

I am not ready to forgive those that held starving children as ransom because of who I am and I am not ready to forgive Richard Stearns for this profoundly deep betrayal. I am not ready to forgive either of them for the devastating message they have sent to gay children everywhere.

 

But I can do grace. I can reach into the deep pockets of all that I have left and let it be a balm on my heart, let it tend to me until that moment comes when, as Anne Lamott says, “it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back.” I can give and give and give even as I’m pissed off and hurt because although they don’t deserve this, neither do I.

 

And my rage isn’t wrong, because this isn’t right. And so I will channel it all into doing my job here as a blogger, as a believer, loving gay kids and talking about the Jesus that wouldn’t change them for the world.

 

And though a Christian nonprofit embracing me, if just for a moment, is quite an event of subversion, I know in my own little world, the most radical act I can take is to say this: Yes, I love Jesus, too, and you’re my brother, and the Love of God makes us both enough.  It might be offensive to you, infuriating perhaps, it might even tempt you into dropping a kid off the face of the earth and blame it on me, but here’s the truth:

 

My chains are gone. I’ve been set free. My God my savior, has ransomed me.

 

And like a flood, his mercy reigns, unending love, amazing grace. 

When Evangelicals Turn Against Children to Spite Me

world_vision

 

 

On the Moberg couch this evening, my mom was scrolling through her news app and saw the announcement that World Vision was now hiring gay married people.

 

“That’s so great!” She said.

 

“Pretty brave,” my dad added.

 

And for a moment, I thought, I should write a piece defending the decision, because they might get backlash… but wait, no, evangelicals wouldn’t go there. How could they?

 

And perhaps it was this assumption that left me blindsided by the likes of the Gospel Coalition, Franklin Graham, John Piper, and Russell Moore.

 

This isn’t a carefully edited a post, nor a pretty one. It is a stream of consciousness. My feelings that are erupting out of my heart right now.

 

I’ve been sitting in a swell of sad for a couple hours, because this is what I’m hearing: No, you aren’t even worthy to serve hungry children. You are so deeply unwanted that I will let a child die if it keeps you away from me. From us. From the body of Christ. I will spare no life if it keeps you far away.

 

I don’t know how to explain how crushing and infuriating this is. Could words describe this night of speaking the truth over myself: God is love, Jesus is love, This I know is true. Can I even express what it feels like to know that my existence is the reason children are losing their livelihoods? Possibly dying? Falling from protection and into the hands of trafficking?

 

No and I shouldn’t have to.

 

I am tired, friends, so tired of being hit. I am tired of being the most galvanizing symbol for evangelical Christians. It is awaking a lot of old demons in me and the stab feels so much deeper when it’s your own faith attacking you. But who am I kidding? It is usually my own faith attacking me. And I am now at a breaking point, as I am sure is true for many others.

 

I’m done with evangelicalism.

 

I am done being patient with Piper.

I am done pretending I can engage with the SBC.

I am done hoping Franklin ends up more like his dad.

I am done listening to Denny Burk and his blowhards at the Gospel Coalition.

I am done with each and every one of the tweeters out there bragging about dropping their sponsorship of a child in need, just because they hate me.

 

I am done fleeing from and returning to this perpetually abusive house of faith. I am stopping the cycle. I am empty of strength.

 

And I am clinging closer to Jesus than ever before.

 

Thank God our God is our God.

 

Often when I am blindsided by blog posts and vicious tweets, a part of me starts to mistake it all for the voice of God. I start panicking, start clutching my heart, and the old lies of you’re a mistake and ya, God hates you come crawling up from their graves. But then the guard of grace wakes up and bats the monsters away. That guard, of course, is Jesus.

 

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you.” John 15:9

 

I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” John 16:33 (MSG)

 

“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10 You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.” Matthew 5:3-12 (MSG)

 

And now Paul comes in like a brother:

 

“None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” Romans 8:38-39 (MSG)

 

And why not, my favorite passage of scripture:

 

My beloved spoke and said to me,
    “Arise, my darling,
    my beautiful one, come with me.

11 

See! The winter is past;
    the rains are over and gone.

12 

Flowers appear on the earth;
    the season of singing has come,
the cooing of doves
    is heard in our land.

13 

The fig tree forms its early fruit;
    the blossoming vines spread their fragrance.
Arise, come, my darling;
    my beautiful one, come with me.” Song of Songs 2:10-13

 

And of course, let’s let Brennan Manning take the floor too:

 

My life is a witness to vulgar grace- a grace that amazes as it offends. A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wages as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten til five. A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck towards the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party no ifs, ands or buts. A grace that raises bloodshot eyes to a dying thief’s request- “Please, remember me”- and assures him, “You bet!” A grace that is the pleasure of the Father, fleshed out in the carpenter Messiah, Jesus Christ, who left His Father’s side not for heaven’s sake but for our sakes, yours and mine. This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion. It works without asking anything of us. It’s not cheap. It’s free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown up sensibility. Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover. Grace is enough. He is enough. Jesus is enough.

 

And thank God for Richard Stearns, a man whose book, the Hole in Our Gospel, dramatically, beautifully, reassembled my faith. Thank God for this man who, when the gatekeepers deny, thrusts open the door and pulls up a chair. Who walks in the love of Jesus in all spheres of life.

 

Thank God. Thank God. Thank God.

 

Thank God for the constancy of the sun and the fleetingness of the storm.

 

Amen.