House Bill 1523 has no doubt unearthed a firestorm that has been brewing beneath the surface for a long time now. People on both sides of the issue are very passionate and there is much disagreement. But, any vitriol or venom is the complete responsibility of the individual. There may be fear that these discussions are pitting Christians against Christians. But in actuality, these Christians were already in disagreement but just not having dialogue around difference. In the church world it is easy to gloss things over and not talk about them, not get uncomfortable, to take the popular stance. And there is a temptation for believers wijh unpopular views to stay silent and assimilate in order to not lose their sense of community. So it is good that these conversations are being had. They are important. They test the limits of our love. They make us think about who our neighbor is, who our enemy is, and how to love well.
I don’t pretend to understand homosexuality. I have always been captivated by feminine beauty, feminine essence, and the female form. I am as heteroas a human can be. I don’t pretend to know who is born gay and who chooses to be gay. I don’t even know many gay people. I have no close gay friends. I have a cousin and his partner that I love, though I have not seen them since moving back to Mississippi from Tennessee. But they have been together since about as far as my memory goes back. And they are some of the most wonderful, kind, generous, and loving people you could ever hope to know. And, they love Jesus as much as anyone I know. They are very active in their church. We attended church with them when we lived close to them. I also have an uncle that is gay. I love him too though honestly I don~ really like him all that much these days. But he was my favorite person when I was little. I have memories of him riding me on the back of his 10- speed and building me forts out of cardboard boxes. My oldest memory is of him pulling me down the sidewalk in a wagon to an old mom and pop store and buying me a stuffed animal. I loosely know a gay guy who has been a total jerk at times. I don’t like him either. Not because he’s gay, but because he is mean. I know a gay student at Ole Miss that I love dearly and will miss seeing when he graduates. His heart is as big as the room. He brightens my day.
As a counselor, I have had clients along the lifespan that are openly gay, secretly gay, or wrestling with their identity. It has been gut wrenching to see them suffer so very much, to watch them experience the limits of their family’s love, to hear story after story of mistreatment, condemnation, and discrimination. It has been heartbreaking to sit with families that stand by their children and hear how their extended families and church families turned on them. I have seen their tears. I have heard their cries. I have cried many a tear for them and with them. I have sat with them through terrible depressions and suicidal episodes. I have listened to a man recall the day in his Mississippi high school when he was beaten mercilessly by a group of boys in the school bathroom and urinated upon by them while being called many harsh names. I have listened to the stories of fathers and older siblings “beating the gay out” of young boys, of “conversion therapies” thrust upon young men in order to “save them” from being indefinitely burned alive by a God that hates them. And I know that Jesus did not die for this. This is not good enough. He died for something better than this. When people say “love the sinner, hate the sin” I do two things. First, I vomit. Then, I instantly think not just of the sins committed by the “sinner in question” but also of the sins that he/she has suffered at the hands of those called to love them. Because I know the subplots. And then I cry again. I don’t want to be that kind of Christian. Because I don’t serve that kind of God.