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Saturday, August 6, 2011

If Your Child Were Gay..(Discussion of Documentary "For the Bible Tells me So")

If your child told you they were gay....what would your reaction be?

For some of us this is a no brainer, for others this would be an issue a bit more complex for ourselves and our families to deal with.





I recently watched the thought provoking documentary, "For the Bible Tells Me So", (available on Netflix) which explores the journeys that four different Christian families with fundamental evangelical roots took when they experienced one of their children being gay. These personal narratives were accompanied by commentary from voices like Bishop Desmond Tutu, Harvard's Peter Gomes, Orthodox Rabbi Steve Greenberg and Reverend Jimmy Creech,  all giving their views on what the Bible  says about homosexuality.


Honestly, almost as soon as I personally consider the question I posed at the start of this post, I already know my answer. I see every human as no less than a miracle. Knit internally within their mother's womb by the very intentions of our Creator.  I can't imagine something like my child being homosexual as a factor that would shift internally within me my love and affections towards them. Would I choose a lifestyle of homosexuality for my child? No. Would I reject them for it? No.


Most of the families in the film had a very hard time when their adult or adolescent child came out with the truth concerning their sexuality. A mother's tears unraveled the tragic tale of openly rejecting her daughter, subjecting her to insults and harsh words of condemnation after she revealed her sexuality. The end result was that her daughter had been so swallowed up by her pain and feelings of abandonment and rejection that she felt no other choice but to end her life by hanging herself in a closet using her dog's leash. I couldn't imagine the pain, grief..and yes, guilt, that her mother might have felt by how her reactions towards her child's sexuality had helped drive her to such an end.


That same mother went on to study the Bible voraciously, looking for answers about what it really had to say regarding homosexuality and what she found prompted her to become an active advocate rallying those around her to encourage the Church in openly accepting homosexuals. This was also the result for the other families as well, with the exception of one.

One family in particular that really inspired me was former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and his wife's reaction to their daughter breaking the news to them that she was gay. Him and his wife had a tearful yet loving reception of the news exclaiming the importance of parents to have an unconditional love for their children. Their tender and unwavering love towards their daughter was truly touching and I believe, glorified God.


So what does the Bible really have to say about homosexuality according to the documentary?


First, one of the most important themes that was stressed among all the commentators and theologians interviewed was the necessity of reading the Bible from the context of the culture that it was written. The Bible was written by a specific people during a specific time and for one to get a truly clear picture of what God's message is in a passage they must first realize the context in which that passage was written.


One of the major verses that those who advocate that homosexuality is a sin use is Leviticus 18: 22:


22 “‘Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman; that is detestable.


Pointed out was the fact that that verse was one verse among many in that passage that included a whole list of actions that were deemed as abominations. Actions that are not seen as abominations today like eating shrimp or planting two seeds in the same hole. What the theologians and commentators emphasized was that those laws were "holy laws" written by those at the time in that culture to help them live holy lives. The reason why a man wasn't to sleep with another man was because that law was written in a culture that was striving to grow and that would have went against it's goal of increasing it's population for prosperity and survival.

One other major source that those who oppose homosexuality to the lengths of feeling it is a sin deserving the punishment of hell is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Experts in the film made it quite clear that Sodom and Gomorrah was not destroyed because of homosexual acts but because of inhospitality and cruelty. There are other verses in scripture that support this argument. After a little digging, these are some verses I came up with:


Ezekiel 16:49-50 

49 “‘Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy. 50 They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them as you have seen.


Ecclesiasticus 16:8

Neither spared he the place where Lot sojourned, but abhorred them for their pride.


In Luke 10:10-13, Jesus, describing the sin of inhospitality, mentioned Sodom:

10 But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town we wipe from our feet as a warning to you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.


The documentary is produced from a very liberal perspective, with only liberal commentators and experts providing opinions and information for the views presented. I think that's an important thing to note. As one who has been for most of my Christian walk steeped in conservative evangelicalism I could identify rather quickly with the biased slant that was being espoused. I, however, could identify much truth in what they were saying and frankly was refreshed by the overall message of love and tolerance the film expressed. The sentiment in the film  was frankly more attuned to my natural inclinations towards this issue, rather than those of which I've been taught.

It was truly painful to listen to their clip of James Dobson, host of popular evangelical radio show "Focus on the Family",  saying that "homosexuality is a preventable disorder"  and if  "your child tells you that he or she is gay/lesbian, you should not try to accept them but get them changed."  Experts warned that this line of reasoning is deeply flawed and potentially very harmful. Dobson actually has a program parents and children, or adults on their own, can be involved in that will help them get "straight". While this might alter their behavior, it still suppresses who they are internally which can have devastating effects, as is seen by the countless number of suicides among homosexuals that have felt severe rejection and condemnation from their families and communities after the sexual orientation became known.


I think this film would be beneficial for liberal and conservative Christians alike to view. It's important, in my opinion, to hear all sides to an issue. You might not agree, and perhaps be vehemently opposed, to some of what is expressed in this documentary, but hey, it makes some great dialogue. And if we, as the Body of Christ, can't enter into civil dialogue with one another about an issue that threatens to divide the church than we are not honoring God.
God is all about unity within the Body, for that's the only way it can properly function and manifest His Kingdom here on earth. 

I feel it's important to confront some of these issues, in a non-threatening way with others, discussing them in respectful forums and perhaps settling at the end of the day to agree to disagree. With  world hunger on the rise, wars causing death and destruction across the globe and people still suffering the lingering effects of natural disasters...what's the point of dividing ourselves over something that might not be a real issue anyways?

Any thoughts? I'm sure you have some! Please leave them in the comments section!

23 comments:

  1. For what it's worth, Jessica, I SINCERELY believe that God loves us all regardless of skin color, orientation etc. Isn't what the church preaches tolerance, love, acceptance?

    How can ANYONE in ANY religion think it's alright to condone anger, hatred and abuse toward ANYONE? This is yet another black mark against the church.

    Didn't Jesus preach all of the above as well? Peace? Tolerance? Acceptance? This is one issue that can provoke me.
    --
    Chris

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  2. I believe, Jessica, as you do, that God loves all His children and we are bound to do the same if we truly love Him. I have one gay friend with whom I worked with who was wholly dedicated to God. One of my cousins is openly gay and married to his partner. Interesting to note that when I contacted him a few years back and initiated a dialogue where I distinctly, and in love, stated that I had nothing against homosexuality, but that I disagreed with marriage, in its traditional sense, being promoted as acceptable. Needless to say, I stuck the hornets' nest and, regrettably, we haven't spoken since. I will amend this if and when I can, thanks to this article of yours.

    Yes, if my child, or grandchild was gay, how could I not still love them? And, yes, I think that the Christian right is wasting too much valuable time where they could be spreading the good news of God's saving grace to gays instead of persecuting them. They can think homosexuality is a sin, but they are commanded by our Lord who loved all sinners to love them, too.

    Awesome, provocative, food for thought and then some. Masterfully done, Jessica!

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  3. what an outstanding piece, i have very different views on how one should manage their life and am complete ease with those whose love is directed differently to mine, but i admire the passion offered in your article. i don't for a minute understand this notion of liberal or conservative, it's all interpretation. mine is (i hope) based in fact, great work

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  4. I am an African and i cannot fathom any reason why a man will be dating a man like a man dates a lady, or a lady dating a lady like a man date a lady, having said this i think that it is a waste of time hating anyone who chooses to be a lesbian or Homosexual for the bible command us to "owe no man nothing but love". What is require is that those who are in such situation be brought back to the right part with love.

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  5. I've often asked this question on my reflections and it always leads me to this...

    Acceptance is one of human's basic needs to survive. In fact,love and belongingness is at the third level, while self-esteem (which includes respect of self and others) is at the fourth in Abraham Maslow's heirarchy of needs.

    The suicide in your narration easily caught me. Children naturally crave for acceptance first from the family. I feel sorry that the person found no other option than that. I felt even more sorry that no choices was offered her.

    I think one should be very clear first in his/her own sexual orientation. The biases might come from one's own prejudices. Acceptance of one's own sexuality is at the base of everything.

    Personally, I don't approve of homosexuality (preference of the same gender as sexual partner). My focus is always on the importance of building a family, that is, composed of a mother, a father, and children.

    BUT, I accept the person for what he/she is.

    Issues are raised here on same sex marriages... and it goes as far as what 'gays' should wear... which comfort rooms they should use...in which lane should they pass. So that causes confusion even for them.

    Let me reflect more on this...thanks for raising this up :)

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  6. Jessica, this is a well done article, and doesn’t judge either end of the spectrum, neither the left nor the right view. Thank you. In this day and age the Body of Christ simply cannot afford to be divided any more than it can afford to major on the minors.

    One of my daughter’s best friends is a gay young man. I’m amused by their relationship. She loves hanging out with him because he’s fun-loving, humorous, and even loves to shop with her :) One night she took him to a youth service at some local church and the speaker addressed homosexuality, inviting anyone who is influenced by this lifestyle to come forward. Abi said she felt a little uneasy for Tyler because of the focus on this issue.

    I can’t judge either camp, including those who believe homosexuality is a sin. I know sincere Christians who are homosexuals, and some who have adopted a young Korean boy. They are among the most loving and kind souls I know. But are they living in sin? That’s not for me to say. You judge the tree by its fruit, and from what I can see, they bear the fruits of love. Isn’t this, at the end of the day, how we will be known as his disciples: by our love?

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  7. Christopher, I couldn't agree more! Thank you so much for stopping by :) God does not discriminate...again and again the Bible states that God shows no partiality. He is a God of love and of compassion. His love is greater than any hatred men can toss into the world, the sting of hatred however has wounded a great many. I pray many in the church that are intolerant soon become inundated with the love and compassion of Jesus and let go of their fear and simply love like Jesus did. God will take care of the rest.

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  8. Martha, thank you so much for sharing your experiences and for stopping by. I agree, much of the church wastes far too much time mired in this issue when there is work to be done to advance the Kingdom of God here on earth. To bring hope to the hopeless, good news to the poor, to bind the broken hearted and release the prisoners from their darkness.

    I will pray for full peace and reconciliation between your cousin and you. Sometimes it's hard to know how words will effect a person during a conversation, I know it must be difficult for you to have that distance between the both of you.

    Blessings to you and yours.

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  9. Tbaoo, thank you so much for stopping by. I'm glad you enjoyed the article! :)

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  10. Thank you so much Sandy for stopping by. If only we all would live life with the mantra to "owe no man nothing but love". Love, indeed, is God's greatest commandment for us but oftentimes the most neglected one.
    Thanks for your input, I appreciated it!

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  11. Melissa,

    Thank you so much for your honesty. I was also touched by the account of the suicide. What a tragedy. I'm not an "advocate" for homosexuality at the same time I am not going to be marching against it anytime soon (let's say never!) ;) I believe it's almost a nonissue...that we should live and let live on this particular issue. That if we just love people for who they are (acceptance ;) ), live ourselves the way we know Jesus would have us live, than God will work in people's hearts to align with what His will is for them.
    Thank you for your thoughts!
    ~blessings

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  12. Debra, thank you...your words are eloquent as always! I couldn't have said it better: "You judge the tree by its fruit, and from what I can see, they bear the fruits of love. Isn’t this, at the end of the day, how we will be known as his disciples: by our love?"

    I agree, with this particular issue I remain neutral. I'm not marching at any one rally! I believe love should reign in every situation and in every believer's heart, and when it does, we can't go wrong, For love is the greatest commandment of all.

    Thanks so much :)
    ~blessings

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  13. The Bible states its position on homosexuality and that's the bottom line for many devout christians but I can't imagine a parent abandoning a child because of their sexual preference. Personally I wouldn't be happy but if my child is happy with their choices then I'd come around in time. To cast a child to the wind seems harsh but understandably it happens all the time. Love is love and does conquer all

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  14. Thanks for stopping by David. I know it happens all the time..that parents will cast their children out, but I still don't understand it. I can't imagine it either. Amen...Love does conquer all :) At least even if we are rejected by those around us we will never be rejected by God. IT's just sad that some are taught that. Love will prevail though.
    ~blessings

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  15. Hi, Jessica! Just coming at the question from a slightly different angle, I think parents have certain expectations for their children in a variety of different areas, including sexuality. It would cause some initial stress of anyone when that image is altered. For my part, I think sexual preference is just one aspect of someone's personality and I hope that ultimately I wouldn't treat my child any differently or love her or him any less.

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  16. I completely feel that the greatest goal of every religion should be love and acceptance. NO ONE is perfect and judging others can lead to terrible shame like you described.

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  17. Jessica, a very current topic, this one. I wasn't quite clear about what the Bible says of homosexuality and this post helped me to delve deeper into the Bible for answers. My thesis was on transgenders and many fellow Christians did not take quite kindly to it.

    Thanks Jess.

    Blessings and joy,
    Susan

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  18. Jessica, great post that raises a lot of issues and questions. My half-brother is gay. I remember when he told my parents and how shocked they were. He told them then that he could marry a girl, have children but in the end he will be ruining many lives. He is a Christian and he knows it is against the Bible and in the process experience conflict every day.

    I am against homosexuality but he is my brother and I love him and cannot judge him or turn my back on him. The same goes for my stepfather (my Mom passed away some years ago). Will God abandon him? Will God turn him away one day? Who knows? I believe we serve a good and fair God and that He will judge each one of us in fairness.

    Excellent post!

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  19. Thank you for sharing this with me! I think I've seen this documentary before, at least I know I've read about the mother whose daughter hung herself. She is doing some excellent work on inclusion issues, and I don't think any of us can imagine what she goes through on a daily basis.

    This is one of those topics that make you really think. Years ago, when I first because a dad (24 years), I would have immediately disagreed and would have easily rejected one of my children over this issue. I am so ashamed of that position, and thankfully, for both my children's sake and my own, I was never put in that position. In my ignorance, I would have very much messed it up.

    Regardless of our personal feelings, this documentary definitely puts the debate in perspective. It's not just a theological argument. It is about real people; real lives, people whose very identity is at stake. I think we should embrace them and extend to them the love of the gospel and fellowship in the church. We should let them be who they are, period. Paul's question comes to mind here, "who are we to judge another man's servant?"

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  20. Very well written post. My thoughts on all of this are very different than the average joe, you did a very good job of expressing yourself without bias. Thank you.

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  21. I have friends and family members who are gay and transgendered. I love them all the same as everybody else. I do worry about a world where we can't find balance between the genders. But, everybody has a right to make these choices for themselves in life and learn their own lessons.

    I admire you for tackling a touchy Christian issue!

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  22. God loves us all always has and always will. I also do not think Christians should shun their children for instance just because they are living a life that is unbiblical.

    Not because it is not wrong but because Jesus said 'He came to minister to those who needed help not those who's lives were already going in the right direction.' Mark 2:17 (a paraphrase)

    I came out of or away from the idea of an open sexuality when I rededicated my life to the Lord after living my teen and young adult years for myself like a prodigal.

    I have a gay cousin that I know of so there is a history in my family. Not that it is a publicly accepted thing. Still I know the hiding, shame, confusion, refusal to accept and other things that occur in families occur because it is not what we are called and designed for.

    God created man and woman and set them together in an institution He created and called marriage. Only the enemy of our souls tries to explain that away as only an idea about how people should live and relate sexually.

    The Bible says there is nothing new under the sun. That means these ideas were alive and well in Bible times. There would be no mention of them or a positive comment on the practices if there was no reason to see it as improper.

    Rather it is specifically mentioned and rules for community are clearly given. We do not live by our feelings but we must live by the Holy Spirit and faith.

    As a child I never understood the phrase "A lie becomes the truth." I must be grown now. Things people know they have been warned about they decide to accept because it comes to them and they are clueless and powerless in prayer. I have seen people delivered from aborting the plan of God for their lives.

    I know the power for that is real and still flowing. It started with me.

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  23. I love this article. We were going to show this film at a LGBT human rights film festival at University but couldn't due to it not having a certification :-(

    Here is another great film to watch on the same subject: Prayers for Bobby.

    Can I also be cheeky and plug my own blog post on a similar topic which includes some youtube playlists on LGBT rights i think are pretty good.

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