Bas Relief: The Big Picture amid Gay Demands

Dear Mick,

They say fools rush in where angels fear to tread. This territory is contentious, but I’m neither rushing in nor fearful to tread. You have pushed me to the wall, all but demanding a response from me, so here goes. Yes, I have seen the news reports about gay teens who have taken their own lives, including the most highly publicized one, Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers University freshman who jumped off the George Washington Bridge after his sexual encounter was filmed and broadcast on the web. Yes, I agree with you that teen death is always tragic, and when it comes by suicide, it’s especially heart wrenching. Yes, I have seen the videos posted online by celebrities, calling for an end to harassment of gays, and yes, I have heard your cries for action.

I certainly won’t argue with, “Stop the bullying.” Aggression and abuse are never acceptable.

So why do you overlook the actual aggressors? Instead of calling them to account, you have leveled your sights on something else. At bottom, your demand really isn’t, “End the bullying.” It’s, “End the religion-based teachings about homosexuality.”

About Defamation
It’s a chorus that’s been building for over a decade. In 1998, after Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student, was abducted, beaten, and left for dead by two local thugs, NBC Today show host Katie Couric also ignored the perpetrators and questioned whether Christian organizations such as Focus on the Family might be responsible, having created “a climate of hate.” As I read Crisis: 40 Stories Revealing the Personal, Social, and Religious Pain and Trauma of Growing Up Gay in America, I heard the same theme. The primary impediment to gays’ mental health and wholeness, according to Mitchell Gold who collected and edited the stories, is religion-based bigotry and religious intolerance. Not bigotry, but religion-based bigotry. Not intolerance, but religious intolerance.

Now the meme has gone global. That became apparent in the NPR article you showed me recently.  “Christians?” you asked, one eyebrow raised. A lawmaker in Uganda introduced a bill imposing the death penalty for some homosexual acts and life in prison for others. I read the article, wondering exactly how Christianity played into this development. It didn’t. The reporter had drawn that conclusion for readers, adding in the final sentence, “The legislation was drawn up following a visit by leaders of U.S. conservative Christian ministries that promote therapy they say allows gays to become heterosexual.”

That conclusion dovetails with your grievance. I and people like me have the blood of gay teens and many others on our hands. I’ll grant you this, Mick. Where others stop at dropping hints, you do have the chutzpah to come right out with it.

About Intolerance
So I will be equally straightforward. As I write this, I am wearing a purple t-shirt. Today was designated by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLADD) as “Wear Purple Day,” to raise awareness and “bring an end to intolerance” in honor of the deceased teens. As a mother of three, I am moved by the plight of troubled teens too, but there’s more to my personal “Wear Purple Day” than yours. I will explain.

My purple shirt also has a cross on it, and on the back you can read, “I’m souled out, are you?” Yes, Mick, it’s a play on words that refers to my religious convictions. I bring that into the discussion because you seem to have a bigger problem with my personal convictions concerning sex and morality than you do with the actual crimes that have been committed.

Fortunately, the legal system hasn’t taken your approach. The boys who killed Matthew Shepard are sitting behind bars, and probably will be for the rest of their earthly lives. Likewise, the students accused of webcasting the escapades of Tyler Clementi are under investigation by local authorities, as are the perpetrators of other crimes you’ve brought to my attention. (You call them hate crimes. I just call them crimes.) But this doesn’t seem to matter to you. What matters to you is that people like me be called upon to either change our beliefs or … or what, Mick? The cries are increasingly sounding like a threat, “Endorse homosexuality or else!”

About Harassment
I have not asked you to live by my code. But you are demanding that I adopt yours. To be honest, Mick, I’m starting to feel bullied. In recent months, you have called me, directly or indirectly, a bigot, a homophobe, a hater, an extremist, and now a virtual murderer. To the best of my memory, I haven’t called you anything but Mick. Honestly, who’s harassing whom?

I could make the dissension between us go away overnight by mouthing a blessing on your homosexuality. It would make my life easier, but I can’t do that. My conscience won’t let me. In fact, to be gut-level honest, Mick, love won’t let me. Love for you and for those teens struggling to figure out love in a hyper-sexualized culture. You see, I believe homosexuality is less than what God made you for. You may be content with it (though I would venture your escalating demands for affirmation suggest otherwise), but there are many who aren’t.

About Questioning Sexuality
College professor J. Budziszewski records a poignant conversation with a graduate student in his book, Ask Me Anything, that illustrates the soul-searching going on among today’s youth.

Adam had been living the gay life for five years, but he was growing disillusioned with it. He had no problem finding sex, but even in steady relationships the lack of intimacy and faithfulness was getting him down. “I’m starting to want … I don’t know. Something more,” he said.

“I follow you,” the professor said.

“Another thing,” Adam went on. “I want to be a Dad.” His gay friends couldn’t relate to that. Get a turkey baster and make an arrangement with a lesbian, they said. But he didn’t find the joke funny.

And there was one more thing. He’d started thinking about God. He’d been to a gay church, but something about it didn’t sit right. Adam was confused, and he’d come to Dr. Budziszewski to get the Big Picture about sex.

I don’t know what you might have said to Adam, but I know what one prominent gay author counsels. In Growing Up Gay in America: Informative and Practical Advice for Teen Guys Questioning Their Sexuality and Growing Up Gay, Jason Rich recommends making contact, anonymously online if necessary, with other gays. “You can also access the tremendous amount of gay pornography on the Internet and see, for example, if hot naked guys and/or sexual images of guys having sex with other guys actually turns you on,” he adds.

About Discrimination
Adam had already tried all those things and found them wanting. Now he was thinking about leaving homosexuality. Which leads to a subject that is even more contentious for you. Ex-gays. Mick, you have a lot to say about gays being mistreated, but it appears to me the most abused and reviled group of people in America today is not gays, but ex-gays. The Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays (PFOX), a non-profit advocacy group, has documented a lot of incidents of hostility and blatant discrimination against men and women who have left homosexuality. Ex-gay Perri Roberts, in the preface to his autobiography, Dying for Love, pleaded with homosexuals to simply grant him the space to change his life if he chooses, and to allow him to help others who want to leave homosexuality do so freely.

Would you grant Perri that freedom? Would you even grant Dr. Budziszewski the freedom to explain the Big Picture? Or would you have them censored and silenced, effectively consigning young people like Adam to homosexuality with no way out?

About Acceptance
Mick, I respect your freedom to live out the sexuality you prefer, but I will not jettison the Big Picture. Adam is onto something. Sex has its place, but the human soul longs for more than sex. Things like intimacy and permanence. Becoming a parent and raising a family. There is a Big Picture about sex, Mick, and all those things are part of it. I will not withhold that from Adam or others like him.

I do not accept responsibility for the teen suicides, nor do I accept the charges of bigotry, intolerance, or hate. I realize my Judeo-Christian construct for sex causes you distress, but I can’t surrender it for you or anyone else. That would be giving you a cheap substitute for love. Still, I value your friendship, so I leave it to you to decide whether you will accept me as I am or jettison me from your life.

I leave you with one final thought. You may succeed in silencing me and others like me who hold to the Big Picture, but that won’t make the Big Picture go away. It’s part of the created order.

Even your protestations attest to that.

This article first appeared in Salvo 15, Winter 2010.

Related articles:

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  • Beliefs or Bigotry? “According to Judge Walker, if you believe marriage should be reserved for one man and one woman, you are a homophobe and a bigot. Such legal reasoning not only charts the course for destroying religious liberty, it paves the way for societal chaos.”
  • Dig Deeper: What’s Behind the Scenes at the White House Anti-Bullying Summit?

16 Comments on “Bas Relief: The Big Picture amid Gay Demands

  1. Well said Terrell. I would like to point out ywo minor details: 1.) If you look deeply into the Matthew Sheppard case, past the media hype, He was a student who was brutalized by thugs, who happened to be gay, not because he was gay.

    2.) The Baptist demonination was speaking out against the killing of gays in Uganda.


  2. Terrell, Rick did a wired of the word, on Uganda, either last spring or summer.


  3. More evidence that anti-gay, conservative “values” contribute to teen suicides — both gay and straight!

    Study looks at gay teen suicide risk
    Associated Press / April 18, 2011

    CHICAGO — Suicide attempts by gay teenagers — and even straight teens — are more common in politically conservative areas that lack school programs supporting gay rights, a study involving nearly 32,000 high school students found.

    Those factors were a substantial influence on suicide attempts even when known risk contributors like depression and being bullied were considered, said study author Mark Hatzenbuehler, a Columbia University psychologist and researcher. The study was published online today in the journal Pediatrics.

    Hatzenbuehler’s team found a higher rate of suicide attempts even among youths who were not bullied or depressed when they lived in counties less supportive of gays and with relatively few Democrats. A high proportion of Democrats was a measure used as a proxy for a more liberal environment.

    The research focused on the state of Oregon and created a social index to assess outside factors contributing to suicidal tendencies. Other teen health experts called it a novel way to evaluate the problem.


  4. Rev. Ed Bacon

    Rector, All Saints Church, Pasadena, Calif.

    Being Gay Is a Gift from God
    Posted: 10/11/11 06:06 PM ET

    As a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show in January 2009, I said, “Being gay is a gift from God.” Those seven words — spoken to a call-in viewer from Atlanta — set off a ripple of response that lit up Oprah’s switchboard, almost crashed our parish email server and continues to bring people toward us here at All Saints Church in Pasadena. And that moment continues to be for me an iconic example of how important it is for people of faith to confront discrimination against our LGBT brothers and sisters by standing up and by speaking out.

    It is why on this National Coming Out Day 2011, I believe it is no longer enough for LGBT people to come out and let the world know who they were created to be, although that continues to be a courageous and transformational act. It is time for Christians to come out and let the world see the Church as it was created to be: a vehicle of love and justice, not a bastion of bigotry and homophobia.

    It is time for people of faith to speak out against the religion-based bigotry that has for too long fueled the fires of homophobia that perpetuate violence against LGBT people and plant the seeds of self-loathing in LGBT youth.

    And it is time to take to heart the words of Rabbi Abraham Heschel, who famously said, “Few are guilty, but all are responsible.” I may not be guilty of the religion-based bigotry that has wounded countless members of God’s beloved LGBT children, but I am responsible for offering a counter-narrative to the lies that have been told about the God I serve — the God of love, justice and compassion.

    My faith tradition teaches that the truth will set you free — and the truth is: God loves.

    The truth is: love trumps.

    And the truth is: Being gay is a gift from God.


  5. The Video was inspiring and hopefully will be widely diseminated ! The other comments by Les Zendel are insightful and on target. There is no room in our society for hate on any basis. Certainly not appropriate for anyone professing to believe in Christ’s teachings or teachings those who are atheists or believe in a God in any form. “By their acts shall you know them” Love your brother and neighbor as you would love me. NO ROOM FOR HATRED for any reason or purpose. Hate burns away your soul, even if some people might not believe that a soul even exists.
    Keep spreading the word Les, Hopefully those who would replace love with hate are an abomination. Ken Irwin


    • KKI: There is no room for hatred. It is _never_ useful or productive.

      There is also no room for condoning behaviours which are destructive of our culture, which (if you are created) violate your creator’s principles/rules or (if you are the end result of a collossal chain of incredibly unlikely accidents) end your reproductive ability (so you as a species).

      Our Messiah (there is exactly one non-false Messiah) instructed us to (& exemplified) loving others — in the sense of being entirely trustworth for others, not in the sense of exchanging bodily fluids. He did not qualify that with “European,” or “African” or “Asian” or tag it with a specific gender, or specify sexually-confused or otherwise. Just do it.

      If anybody hates you for making sexually poor choices (or for being male, or for having an odd accent, or supporting the wrong sports team, or whatever) what they have done does not define you. It defines them as being self-centred & insecure.

      On the poor choices: scientists in the habit of making such poor choices themselves have for several decades attempted to pin such behaviour on genetics or chemicals, principally in order to Justify their own choices, & while drugs like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) can lead to you doing some very bizarre things (sexually or otherwise) while under their influence (ordinary ethanol also does this), gender-confused choices always boil down to choice.

      Some of the actions of others may _strongly_ prejudice you towards making dysfunctional choices (I know a few of those), nevertheless it remains a choice.

      The time is rapidly approaching when dysfunctional behaviour of all kinds will end (be it violence, or theft, or deceit, or whatever), asit has been necessary to let it run on to make it absolutely plain to everybody that it cannot work. Your best plan is to make better choice _now_, so when that time arrives, you will want to survive it.


      • “The one distinct feature of our Association has been the right of the individual opinion for every member. We have been beset at every step with the cry that somebody was injuring the cause by the expression of some sentiments that differed with those held by the majority of mankind. The religious persecution of the ages has been done under what was claimed to be the command of God. I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do to their fellows, because it always coincides with their own desires.”
        A defense of Elizabeth Cady Stanton against a motion to repudiate her Woman’s Bible at a meeting of the National-American Woman Suffrage Association 1896 Convention, HWS, IV (1902), p. 263


      • Les :
        Another Christian who thinks he knows what God wants:

        For the record, Les, I don’t know, & I know that I don’t know.

        You will notice that I cited no authority for what I said, that every word of it follows from very basic principles.

        I’m sorry that your self-righteousness became so readily obvious. Please take courage from the awareness that if you are unwilling to make mistakes, you are unwilling to make anything new.


      • Another Christian who thinks he knows what God wants: The suspect in the Sikh temple shooting who killed six in Wisconsin on Sunday has been identified as 40-year-old Wade Michael Page, a Christian white supremacist.


  6. Les :
    The suspect in the Sikh temple shooting who killed six in Wisconsin on Sunday has been identified as 40-year-old Wade Michael Page, a Christian white supremacist.

    It’s a pity for your assertion that several witnesses observed four men dressed in black clothing carry out that attack.

    I recommend abandoning the tactic of blaming everything on a particular group whom you happen to see as culprits for almost anything, realising that in general we are selfish & self-centred & driven by fear, & that tags like “Muslim” or “Atheist” or “Buddhist” are part of an Antithesis designed to produce a Synthesis which works out to be the ultimate dictatorship. World-wide.

    Devaluing yourself (& others) by regarding yourself (everyone) as purposesless accidents is another component of that same Synthesis.

    When you lose your partiality to false tags, you may be able to do something constructive towards averting (or at least deferring) that. It’s not up to me, it’s up to you.


  7. Les :
    Leon: I suggest you adjust your medication.

    Thank you for demonstrating my point, Les.

    Adjusting my medication should be simple, as there is none (unless you count kombucha).


  8. Pingback: A Queer Entanglement

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