I wrote this many years ago, when I was the pastor of a small church in Central Illinois. I am no longer there, but my sentiments have not changed since writing this.
What if I were gay? What if I was a teenage boy living in a small town in Central Illinois, and I was starting to come to the realization that I might be homosexual? I started thinking about that today because October 11 is National Coming Out Day. Not sure who deemed it as such, and I probably would have had no idea about this day if it were not for facebook. In light of the recent suicides of four teenagers that were bullied, embarassed, and harassed for being gay, the organizers of National Coming Out Day have encouraged others to “come out” instead. They have asked the following:
We would like everyone, whether you are gay, straight, bi, trans, queer, curious, confused, or anything else, to come out as an ally. If you have a gay friend or family member, if you do not but would not mind if you did. If you believe that everyone should have the right to feel safe, loved, and respected no matter who they love, on October 11th we ask you to change your status to “[insert name here] IS AN ALLY”.
This morning I was pondering making that change to my status, and I felt reluctant. I felt nervous about how others would react. I wondered if it would cause controversy in my church, or if it would anger someone I didn’t want to anger. I wondered if making such a post would somehow negatively affect my ministry. All selfish considerations, yet responsible things to ponder nonetheless. In the end, I made the change. Why?
Because I thought to myself – “If it is this hard to post on facebook that I am an ally, a friend, a loving, safe outlet, how hard would it be to actually come out to people?” I thought of those four young people that committed suicide in the last few weeks. I thought of the thousands of others that have already taken their own life, or are considering it right now. I tried to feel for a moment what they might be feeling every second of their life. I tried to feel their despair, their fear.
What if I were a gay teenager living in fear? What if I had heard someone shout “God hates fags!” What if I had heard my friends joke about “that queer” or call each other “gay” as if being gay was the last thing anyone would want to be. What if I feared that my church-going parents would try to send me to some camp because I was broken? What if I didn’t know what the word abomination meant, but I knew it wasn’t good? What if I thought my pastor was going to tell me I was going to hell because of the way God created me? What would I do? Where would I turn?
I thought for a moment about those questions, and I wondered. What if I were a gay teenager living in a small town and I read my pastor’s facebook status, and it said that my pastor is “an ally.” What if I knew that there was someone that I could talk to? What if I knew that even though there are a few that are convinced that “God hates fags,” there are more that think “God is love.” There are some that think that I am created in God’s image, and that I’m good. How would that change how I feel?
So I decided to come out. This isn’t about politics. This isn’t about church dogma. This is about love. This is about offering mercy, kindness and grace.
If you are reading this, and you are gay, straight, or confused, know this: I am a friend. I do not want to change who you are or who you love. I do not believe that loving another person is ever a sin. I believe that we are all in need of transformation, that we all fall short of the perfect love that God calls us to. I believe God is love, and all love is of God. I love because God first loved me, and God loves you too.