Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Sojourn to a Foreign Land, part 2

Let's just jump right in here.  My mom and I don't usually discuss politics, but the weekend that I visited in November, it was hard not to-- it was a topic of discussion everywhere we went.  At one point I criticized the Republican party's obsession with what people are doing in their bedrooms, because it is none of their business.  And that segued into the gay marriage issue.

At which point my mom said, "Well, Barb, the Bible does say that homosexuality is a sin."  Point taken, and for a Southern Baptist and many other conservative Christians, that is all that needs to be said.  [As an aside, let's get one thing out of the way here before we start on this:  for the record, my mom and most of the conservative Christians I know would never condone violence against gays, or putting gays in concentration camps, or participating in any activity that gave the impression that God doesn't love gay people.  Those kind of statements come from a bunch of fringe loonies (in my opinion) that we're not even going to bother discussing here, because 1) God loves everybody (that's also in the bible, and a whole lot more frequently than anything about gays) and 2) there is no chance I will be able to have a respectful conversation with any person that claims to believe in a loving God and simultaneously wants to herd certain people into concentration camps.]

No, my mom and millions of other Christians are of the "love the sinner, hate the sin" persuasion.  It's a distinction that makes no sense to those of us who don't see gay-ness as a sin, but it makes perfect sense to them.  They love the person, and they believe that God loves the person, but they see homosexuality as a behavior that is sinful in the same way that lying or stealing is a sin. 

I don't remember any specific teaching on the question back when I was a kid-- it was the sixties and seventies, and in spite of all the fanfare about the sexual revolution, sex just wasn't talked about all that much, or at least not in specific detail, and not with children.  I'm not sure I even really understood what homosexuality was.

But we knew "fags" and "lezzies" were something bad because of the tone of voice in which the words were spoken.  I remember arguing rather vehemently in high school that Shannon and Beth were not lezzies because I knew lezzies were bad and Shannon and Beth were not bad, therefore they couldn't be lesbian.  But although my logic was solid, my premise was incorrect-- the reason I could tell that Shannon and Beth were not bad people isn't because they were straight, of course, but because there's nothing wrong with being gay.

I ache now for how hard their high school experience must have been, Shannon and Beth and my friend Mike the bassoon player who lived out near my house and frequently gave me rides, and several other people I now know are gay.  Probably most of us didn't mean anything by it, we were just ignorant.  I thought I was being a loyal friend by jumping to their defense and insisting that they couldn't be gay, but instead, I was just uninformed, and probably made things worse.  Or at least more confusing.

I went off to college still uninformed.  My junior year, I transferred to a school on the west coast where I lived in a coed residential house with 25 or so other students (another aside: that's where I met Dean).  One of my favorite people in the house was a young man we'll call José.  José was funny and friendly and very helpful when I was trying to figure out my new school.  But he was in the process of coming out, and it was a difficult year for him.

I'm afraid I didn't make it any easier.  I remember a conversation where I was sympathetically listening to him talk about how hard it was to come out to his Roman Catholic family, and how some of them acted like it was a deviant behavior.  I cringe every time I remember this, but confession is good for the soul, right?  Fresh out of Sociology 101 and eager to display my knowledge, I said, "But it is a deviant behavior!" because technically a deviant behavior is a behavior that deviates from the norm, and in my mind, heterosexuality was the norm.  I've lost track of José, but every time I think about this, I send him a mental apology.

The whole issue confused me.  On the one hand, there was José, and there was just no way I could believe that he was a bad, sinful person (at least, not any more than the rest of us).  And he clearly was happier and at peace once he was out, compared to being fairly miserable and conflicted beforehand.  On the other hand, there was the minister that I went to talk to for advice, who gave me the "love the sinner, hate the sin" speech, with Bible verses to back it up.  Thank God I never got up the nerve to give that little speech to José, even though the minister urged me to "confront him with his sin."  Or maybe at some level I already knew that minister was wrong.

Well, I guess this is going to spill over into part 3, because this is already pretty long and I have more to say.


  1. I can't have conversations with people who tell me that the bible is the word of their god. Because on the cover of that book it (usually) says "King James version" (which means ol' royal Jim re-wrote it) and even if it doesn't, we all know that the number of translations these stories have gone through render it no longer words of a god, but words of men.

    I'm with Karen, from the last post, keep writing, you are very good at this! (Great series, by the way.)

    1. thanks. I'm sitting down to write the next one and I only have a hazy idea of how I'm going to be able to say what I want to say. wish me luck. :-)

  2. I heard this comment recently and loved it:

    Love the sinner and hate YOUR OWN sin.

    1. that is an excellent variation. love it!