I'm Christian, unless you're gay
Anonymous #comment 1. Homosexuality isn't a sin if there is no megalomaniacal jealous bigoted tyrant of a God to judge you. No amount of bronze-aged myth will make YHVH true, and homosexuality is a TRAIT, not a CHOICE. Heard of penguins, lions, giraffes, elk, dolphins, etc.? They're also born gay sometimes. It's a disservice to believers to not state the truth about their false gods, and intellectually negligent to your children to fill their heads with this hateful, self-defeating garbage.
A note from Sam Smith, Viewpoint editor: When I found this piece by Pearce, I was compelled to obtain his permission and share it, shortened to fit the section. I hope those impacted by this article will visit his site, danoah.com, and read the responses.
I'm not being facetious when I say that I hope I can get this message across without offending … well … everybody.
That being said, I believe some strong words need to be said today.
"God hates fags." We've all seen the signs being waved high in the air by members of the Westboro Baptist church. It's hard not to take notice. Over the years, I've watched seemingly never-ending disgustingness and hatred spill across the media airwaves from those who belong to the organization.
For those who don't know much about that "church," they have made a seedy name for themselves by doing drastic things like picketing beneath atrocious signs and hosting flagrant anti-gay protests at military funerals.
Almost every person of nearly every religion has no problem loathing and condemning the Westboro Baptist Church and its members, and perhaps with reason. They take freedom of speech far beyond what our Founding Fathers intended when they fought to give us that right, and they laugh at the rest of the world while they do.
But today I don't want to talk about those idiots. I want to talk about you. And me.
And my friend who I'll call Jacob.
Jacob is 27 years old, and guess what ... he's gay. Not a lot of people know. He lives in a community where being gay is still very "frowned upon."
I was talking to him on the phone a few weeks ago, telling him about my failed attempts to write this post. He was trying to hold his emotions in, but he eventually became tearful as we deliberated the very problem that this post attempts to discuss. Today's post is not about homosexuality. It's not about Christians. It's about something else altogether. It's about love. It's about kindness. It's about friendship. And love, kindness and friendship are three things that Jacob hasn't felt in a long time. I'm thankful he gave me permission to share our conversation with you. It went something like this.
"Jacob, I honestly don't know how to write it," I said. "I know what I want to get across, but I can never find the right words."
"Dan, you need to write it. Don't give up. I'm telling you, it needs to be said."
I paused. "You don't understand. It's too heated a subject. It's something people are very emotional and touchy about. I'd be lynched."
My friend hesitated. "Dan, you are the only friend I have that knows I'm gay. The only freaking one," he said.
"What do you mean? I know you've told other friends." That's when his voice cracked. He began crying.
"Every single person I've told has ditched me. They just disappear. They stop calling. They remove me on Facebook. They're just gone," he said. "They can't handle knowing and being friends with a gay person."
I didn't know what to say. So I didn't say anything.
"You don't know what it's like, man. You don't know what it's like to live here and be gay. You don't know what it's like to have freaking nobody. You don't know what it's like to have your own parents hate you and try and cover up your existence. I didn't choose this. I didn't want this. And I'm so tired of people hating me for it. I can't take it anymore."
How do you respond to that? I wanted to tell him it was all in his head. I knew it wasn't. I wanted to tell him it would get better and easier. The words would have been hollow and without conviction, and I knew it.
I live in this community too. And I've heard the hate. I've heard it all, and I've heard it tucked and disguised neatly beneath a wrapper of self-righteousness and a blanket of "caring" or "religious" words. I've heard it more times than I care to number.
About gay people.
About fat people.
About people who smoke.
About people who just look at you or me the wrong way.
I've heard it, and I've heard it over and over again.
Hell, in the past (and to some degree in the present) I participated in it. I propagated it. I smugly took part in it. I'll admit that.
And I did so under the blanketing term "Christian." I did so believing that my actions were somehow justified because of my beliefs at the time. I did so, actually believing that such appointments were done out of ... love.
This isn't just a Utah phenomenon. It was just as bad in Denver. It was just as bad in California. I hear it on television shows and radio programs. I hear it around my own family's dinner table from time to time. Usually said so passively, so sneakily and so "righteously."
From Christians. Buddhists. Hindus. Muslims. Jews.
"God hates fags."
"God hates addicts."
"God hates people that aren't just like me."
Why is it that so many incredible people who have certain struggles, problems, or their own beliefs of what is right and wrong feel so hated? What undeniable truth must we all eventually admit to ourselves when such is the case?
Now, I'm not religious. I'm also not gay. But I'll tell you right now that I've sought out religion. I've looked for what I believe truth to be. Every major religion had good selling points. Every major religion, if I rewound far enough, had some pretty incredible base teachings from some pretty incredible individuals.
According to Christians, Jesus taught a couple of interesting things. First, "love one another." Second, "He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her." ("Her" being a woman who cheated on her man.)
According to Buddhists, Buddha taught a couple of thought-provoking things. First, "Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule." Second, "Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned."
According to Hindus, a couple of fascinating teachings come to mind. First, "Do not get angry or harm any living creature, but be compassionate and gentle; show good will to all" (Krishna). Second, "Love means giving selflessly, excluding none and including all" (Rama).
According to Muslims, Muhammad taught a couple interesting things as well. First, "A true Muslim is the one who does not defame or abuse others; but the truly righteous becomes a refuge for humankind, their lives and their properties." Second, "Do you love your creator? Love your fellow beings first."
According to Judaism, scriptures teach a couple of remarkable things. First, "Love your neighbor like yourself." Second, "Examine the contents, not the bottle."
The greatest spiritual leaders in history have all preached love for others as the basis for happiness, and never did they accompany such mandates with a list of unlovable actions or deeds. They never said to love everybody except for the gays. The mandate was pretty damn clear, wasn't it? Love others. Period.
So if this is the founding directive of all the major religions … why is it that sometimes the most "Christlike" people are those who have no religion at all?
Some of the ones who understood love better than anyone else were those the rest of the world had long before measured as lost or gone. Some of the people who were able to look at the gays, the straights, the basest of sinners and those who were just ... plain ... different.
They were able to look at them all and only see strength. Beauty. And if we boil it down, isn't that what love actually is?
I know a lot of incredible Christians, too. I know some incredible Buddhists and Muslims and Hindus and Jews. I know a lot of amazing people, devout in various religions, who truly love the people around them. I also know some atheist, agnostic or religionless people who are absolutely hateful of believers. They love only those who believe (or don't believe) the same things they do. In truth, having a religion doesn't make a person love or not love others. Being without a religion doesn't make somebody do or be any of that either.
No, what makes somebody love, accept and befriend their fellow man is letting go of a need to be better than others. Nothing else. I know there are many here who believe that living a homosexual life is a sin. But, what does that have to do with love?
Don't we get it? To put our arm around someone who is gay, someone who has an addiction, somebody who lives a different lifestyle ... doing that has nothing to do with accepting what they do as OK by us. It has everything to do with being a good human being.
What I care about is the need so many of us have to shun and loathe others. The need some of us have to declare ourselves right and "perfect" all the freaking time and any chance we have. And for some of us, these are very real needs. All it really is — all any of it really is — is bullying. Sneaky, hurtful bullying.
There are things we all do or believe that other people consider "sinful" or "wrong." There are things we all do or believe that other people would be disgusted or angered by.
"Yes, but I have the truth!" most people will adamantly declare.
Whether you do or not, I promise you it doesn't matter what you believe. Somebody else, somewhere, thinks you are in the wrong. In fact, there are a lot of people in this world who do. We each understand that. Yet, we expect and want love anyway. We expect and want humanity. We expect and want respect for our beliefs, even from those who don't believe the same things we do.
We expect all of that from the people who disagree with us and who disagree with our lifestyles and beliefs because, let's be honest, nothing we do is actually bad enough to be worthy of disgust, anger, hatred or cold-shouldering. Right? No, we're all perfect. But the gays … well, shoot.
I think it doesn't matter if you or I or anybody else thinks homosexuality is a sin. It doesn't matter if you or I think anything is a sin. It doesn't matter if homosexuality is a sin or not. Because sin is a very personal thing. It always has been and it always will be. And it has nothing to do with love. Disparity and difference have nothing to do with love. We shouldn't choose who we will love and who we won't.
"I'm Christian, unless you're gay." That's the message.
"Oh, but you're not gay? You're clean, and well dressed, and you have a job? You look the way I think you should look? You act the way I think you should act? Then I'm definitely a Christian. To you, today, I'm a Christian."
I bet you've heard that from others. Maybe you've given that message to others. Maybe not in those words, but the message is clear to those who hear and are listening. It's clear to those who are watching and seeing. The message has been very clear to Jacob. Jacob is a dear friend. He's my brother. He's a damn good human being. He's absolutely incredible. He's also gay.
And I wish with everything inside of me that it didn't make any difference to others. I wish we didn't all have to find ways that we're better than others or more holy and saintly than others in order to feel better about our own messy selves.
It makes it easier for us to justify our thoughts, words and prejudices that way. All these people become clumped together. And in the process, they all somehow become less than human. They become unworthy of our love. And what a great thing it is when that happens, right? It makes our rationalization for hatred and bigotry so easily justifiable.
We no longer have a hand to offer our fellow human beings. We no longer have a need to. And why would we? Why the hell should we?
Unless, of course, we actually want to live what we all so often claim that we "believe."
This has to stop. We have to put our ugly picket signs down. We have to be the examples that help make it happen in our own lives and in the lives of the people that surround us.
My request today is simple. Today. Tomorrow. Next week. Find somebody, anybody, who is different from you. Somebody who has made you feel ill will or even hateful. Somebody who you, until now, would always avoid, always look down on, and always be disgusted by.
Reach your arm out and put it around them. And then, tell them they're all right. Tell them they have a friend. Tell them you love them. Because what you'll find — and I promise you this — is that the more you put your arm around those who you might naturally look down on, the more you will love yourself.
The more you love yourself, the less need you'll ever have to find fault or be better than others. The less we all find fault or have a need to be better than others, the quicker this world becomes a far better place to live. Don't we all want our kids to grow up in a better world?
So let's be that voice. Let's offer that arm to others. Because the honest truth is ... there's going to come a day when you or I are going to need that same courtesy. There's going to come a day that we are desperate for that same arm to be put around us. We'll be desperate for that same friendship. We'll be desperate for that same love.
Life will make sure of it. For you. For me. For everyone.
It always does because — as it turns out — there's not a damn person on earth who's perfect.
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