Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Rainbows and Other Signs of Hope

Testimonies like the one in italics below touch my heart. Touch isn't really the right word, pain would be more accurate. I know young people like the one who penned the words below -- beautiful, delightful, sweet, kind, strong, smart, wise-beyond-their-years young people. Dear human beings who are Christians and lovers of God. I'm talking about Christians who have had to come to grips with who God made them to be. The text below was written in reference to Mary Lambert's song, "She Keeps Me Warm".

"This was the song  that was so important, my God. I wanted to write a chorus that was poignant and honest; genuine. I really tried to not be gay at points in my life, but I was (and am) at a point where I refuse to apologize about my identity. I am not sorry about my gayness. I am not sorry I’m a Christian, either, though that’s far less persecuted than my gayness, which is ironically, instigated by the Christian community. “Not crying on Sundays” was a huge lyric for me to write. I cried and cried in church for a year, believing that I was going to Hell, trying to reconcile “the demons”. At some point, it became absurd."

I realize there are some brands of Christianity that would keep this dear person, these dear people in that absurd place, crying every Sunday -- and most of the week as well. Some of you reading this would defend your stance saying it's better to be miserable and cry all through this life than to burn in hell for eternity. You'll claim it's only because you love gay people that you persecute them, hoping to push them to repentance. You forget, it's God's kindness that leads to repentance. It's by grace we are saved, not because of anything good that we've done, but by His grace.

I've come to know quite a few Christian people who are gay. I've met some of the young people interviewed on a DVD entitled "Through My Eyes". They tell their stories, many of them heart-wrenching stories of lonely journeys, coming to realize they weren't like all the other girls or boys. Denying as long as possible their sexual orientation. Knowing that accepting it and coming out would rock the world of everyone who loved them, they kept their secret. They tried changing, tried dating opposite sex, tried and prayed to get straight. All to no avail. So they mustered their courage and went to a best friend, a sibling, a parent, and told their secret. The results varied widely and wildly. Some best friends turned their backs, some siblings turned them in -- telling on them as if they were still children, some parents fell apart, cried, screamed, denounced, sent away. Others stood by their children offering them not support and acceptance, but help. "We can help you change. There's an organization that guarantees success. Together, with them, we'll pray away the gay for you."

But that organization, Exodus, International, is closing up shop. This is a convoluted sign of hope for the LGBT community, but a sign just the same. Exodus leadership realized the error of its ways, confessed they did more damage than good, even called their ministry a "hurtful echo chamber of condemnation." The false hope they offered to gays led innocent people to acts of desperation when they weren't healed. One of three things typically happened after a round of reorientation therapy. 1. Under pressure and with lots of discipline some people felt and claimed a change took place. 2. Lacking what it took to claim a healing touch from God, disillusioned gays walked away from faith. 3. Others who couldn't find God's healing, deduced they weren't good enough -- not worthy of a healing, not worthy of God's love. They took their own lives.

Beautiful people, delightful, sweet, kind, smart, Christian people, lovers of God. But they took their own lives. I would have too. 

Only those in category #1 were success stories -- each a poster child for sexual reorientation therapy. Many of them married opposite sex people and began families. Sadly, most of those found their "change" temporary. The result when one or both partners could no longer keep up the charade, a divided, divorced, broken family.

Meanwhile, conservative churches, the ex-gay ministries, and hopeful loved ones continued to rally for change. They were happy for anyone who gave it the old college try! Never mind the frustration, the hurt and sadness. Never mind the devastated spouse, child or children left in the wake. And I can't help but wonder, who was there to pick up the pieces? (In their defense, Exodus dropped the slogan "Change is Possible" a few years ago, and in January 2012 the president of Exodus International, Alan Chambers, admitted that 99.9% of conversion therapy participants don't experience any change to their sexuality. A year and a half after that statement, June 2013, the ministry announced its closing.)

And now, July 2013 the Pope, the Roman Catholic Pope, Pope Francis, has taken a step, made a conciliatory speech that could change the tone of how the Catholic church views and responds to gay people. It's a glimmer of hope, just a glimmer, but still, a sign -- of hope.

We're fearfully and wonderfully made by a Creator, our Father God, who so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish (burn in hell), but have eternal life (go to heaven). God did not send Jesus to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.…

 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
Psalm 139:13-14


Kristine Riddle said...

As always, beautiful words. You show your heart, and I love that.

Betsy Henning said...

Thank you so much, Kristine. It's hard to "out" myself. It's harder still to remain silent.