A few months ago, at “Single Dad Laughing”, Dan Pearce wrote a post called “I’m Christian, unless you’re gay“, in which he wrote about a friend of his, Jacob, who is gay. And closeted.
I’m not going to try to summarize the post. What interests me, is the sequel, and an important observation by Dan at the end. But to give just the flavour of the original, here’s an extract:
Before I go on, I feel I must say something one time. Today’s post is not about homosexuality. It’s not about Christians. It’s not about religion. It’s not about politics. It’s about something else altogether. Something greater. Something simpler.
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
It’s an important post, with 19 549 comments, at last count. That’s right. Nineteen thousand, five hundred and forty nine. Read it yourself, and browse the comments. (You couldn’t possibly read them all).
But here’s what happened next, as Dan described in a follow – up post..
At least one school teacher distributed copies to the class, setting as a homework assignment, an essay about the post, and “what it meant to them”.
When one of the kids came home and showed the assignment to his mother, she got really mad:
I read just the title and became furious at his teacher and at you (even though I know you had nothing to do with her handing out the assignment). Anyway, I confiscated it from him and told him he wasn’t to do anything with it till I had a chance to read it first.
And then I got madder and madder as I read it as I felt like it was a direct attack against our beliefs and our Christian religion and that it was promoting homosexuality, a practice that around here is a huge “sin”.
I gave my son an earful about homosexuality and God and told him that he could tell his teacher that he would not be participating and if she had a problem, she could come talk to me and then I threw the article in the trash. My son didn’t say anything just walked into his room and shut the door.
The son, however, was determined to write the essay – so he snuck out of the house, went to a friend to write it there, then sent Mom a text to say what he had done, and signed it “Jacob” – not his own name, but the name of the closeted gay friend Dan Pearce had written about to start with.
That got Mom’s attention, so she read the essay – and this is how it began:
I am gay and only my one friend knows so far. My mom doesn’t know yet. My dad doesn’t know yet. You didn’t know it when you gave us this homework. I am only 15 years old and I have never felt so alone. My mom and dad always are being angry about gay people and talking about how they are bad and going to hell and they also always talk about how all the gays should be shipped off to their own private island or something so that the rest of us could live God’s commandments in peace.
I have been so scared of them finding out that I’m gay because I know that they would hate me and would want me out of their life and at the same time I can’t keep this secret anymore because it is not something I asked for, never in a million years would I ask to be gay in a town like this where everybody would hate me. And anyways I can’t keep this secret anymore because I’m about to do something crazy like run away or hurt myself or something. I just want to be dead sometimes.
Tonight I am going to send this to my mom and see what she says I guess. I don’t know what will happen but I know that I deserve to be loved just like everybody else does I just hope she thinks so too.
No mother could resist words like that. When “Jacob” returned home, all she said to him was to repeat, constantly, that she loved him. She also went back and reread Dan Pearce’s original post, this time reading it through the eyes of her gay son, and transformed her own response, dealing with her son, and in talking about gay people with others in her community. Then, she wrote to Dan, about her experiences. Some extracts:
You see, Mr. Pearce, you are right. It’s not about what other people do. It’s about whether or not we are loving them. Nothing else matters at all. And it took all of this for that to finally sink in.
That was a month ago and in the last month my son and I (his dad lives three states away and still doesn’t know) have grown much closer than we ever were before. We have both stood up against hate several times when we hear it coming from the people around us. You see, where we live people really do have problems “being Christianunless…” But no longer in this home.
I’ve shared your article now with countless people. I have made my sisters read it. I talked about its message to my parents. I sent it to my friends and neighbors. And I’ve had some people get really upset by it, but a change is starting to happen around here and it’s because one teenage boy finally had the courage to stand against what he felt was wrong. He believed he could make a change. And I’ll tell you right now, it makes me happy to see him so happy. I never knew how unhappy he was until I could finally see how happy he could be.
So thank you.
Sincerely yours, one proud mom.
I particularly like the lesson Dan Pearce draws from this story.
If you think you can’t make a difference, you are wrong. If you think you are too old or too young to make change happen, you are wrong. If you think that somebody else will do it first, you are wrong. I think this letter is proof enough of that.
He’s right, We won’t all make an impact in the same way, or to the same extent, but we most certainly can, and must, make a difference, each in our own spheres. It’s important to note that in the example above, the difference that was made, came in the form of a chain reaction, each action spurring another. First came Dan Pearce’s orginal article. impact we know about (there will be many more, that we don’t): a teacher used it to set a homework assignment for her class. That prompted the young lad, “Jacob”, to write honestly about his own experience, and to persist even in defiance o his Mom’s forbidding him to do so. Mom’s reading the essay in turn, and the shocked realization that Jacob’s problem was also her own son’s, led her not simply to change her own mind about the issues, but to become an outspoken activist for gay inclusion – and to write her report back to Dan Pearce. That has prompted me to promote the story – which I hope will prompt you to do something yourself, no matter how small. Even small initiatives have an impact, and little snowballs have a way of growing.
One simple example I know of, is that of a young man working with a well – known parish community that is widely believed to be specifically anti – gay. Nevertheless, there came a point when he concluded that he owed it to his own personal integrity to come out openly within the parish about his sexuality, assuming that he would be the only one. Soon after he did so, he found several more followed suit, encouraged by his example.
This is the core principle behind the “Next Steps: Developing Lesbian / Gay Ministry” workshops that New Ways Ministry conducts regularly in the USA, and than I have since started to lead here in the UK: every positive action towards expanding ministry, large or small, has an impact, resulting in further actions. Collectively, these individual initiatives contribute to a powerful momentum towards full inclusion and equality in church (which in time, will inevitably have an outcome in shifts in formal theology and teaching about same – sex relationships). To recap the story of these workshops in the UK:
- After the major New Ways conference in March 2012, Frank DeBenardo wrote about a Next Steps Workshop he was arranging for San Francisco – for our purposes, the first action in this particular chain.
- I wrote to Frank, expressing regret that the workshops were not available in the UK – the next, extremely small action.
- Frank replied that as he would be visiting London for World Pride, he could in fact lead a workshop here.
- I got my friend and colleague Martin involved, and in due course, 20+ participants attended the first UK workshop – with each of us making commitments at its conclusion, on specific actions that we would undertake during the next 12 months (taking due regard to our personal abilities, weaknesses and constraints.
- One of my own commitments was to repeat the workshop, adapted to British conditions, in the UK. I have since conducted one of these, again with 20+ participants, in London, May 2013. Others will follow, in other regions.
I do not recall all the commitments that were made by all participants, nor can I have any way of knowing how far people have progressed in implementing them. But between the two workshops, these are some of the initiatives that I do know have already been undertaken by some of the participants. (Not all of these are exclusively the result of the workshops – but I’m certain Next Steps was at least a contributory factor in getting these going:
- Quest has embarked on an expanding series of regional one – day retreats, resulting at at least in part from initiatives by participants at the first retreat in June 2012.
- Two participants from that workshop have prepared a major workshop and film screening for November 2013, of Brendan Fay’s biographical film on the gay priest and theologian John McNeill, “Taking a Chance on God”.
- Two participants from my workshop in March this year, have already held discussions with the staff at their respective Catholic cathedrals about setting up formal LGBT support for their congregations.
- Two others have arranged to meet with one bishop, and are currently setting up a firm appointment date. Later, there could be additional meetings with other bishops.
- One participant is preparing to meet with the Christian Life Communities, to set up a CLC group for the Farm St LGBT community.
- Another is planning to arrange an LGBT group pilgrimage from London to Walsingham.
- A workshop is under discussion, on the theme of Catholic conscience and LGBT people.
- Quest is planning to host a further Next Steps workshop with a particular focus on its regional leaders, with a view to taking the workshops into the regions, for the local membership – and other LGBT faith groups.
The snowballs continue to roll. What are you doing?
If you still don’t know what you can do personally, take heart. No matter who you are, no matter how limited you think your capacity, there will assuredly be something that you can do, to make a difference. To help in the discernment of just what that contribution could and should be, I suggest that you seek out and attend the next available Next Steps worskshop, in your area. (For the USA, contact New Ways Ministry. For the UK, write to me, email@example.com ).
- What Are YOU Doing, to Promote LGBT Ministry?
- Promote LGBT Ministry: Write to Rome, Write the Bishops”!
- Soho Masses, After Warwick Street: “Next Steps” Workshop, May 4th
- Creating a Parish – based LGBT Ministry
- Soho Masses Community: Feeding God’s Sheep
- Soho Masses Community – Expanding LGBT Ministry
- LGBT Ministry: A Mustard Seed Begins to Sprout.
- The Gay Catholic Quest for Dignity, Integrity.
- Benedict, Francis, And Gays (dish.andrewsullivan.com)
- We Get It: You Don’t Hate Gay People… You Just Don’t Want Them to Be Happy (patheos.com)
- Many Evangelicals Ambivalent About Homosexuality And Civil Unions For Gays (albanytribune.com)
- Evangelicals more tolerant toward gays, civil unions (scienceblog.com)