I should know better by now than to read the Internet. Like, ever. Yesterday was a veritable feast of anger-making poo. (Using the word “feast” loosely here; I don’t advise dining on poo.) Let me recap: We had George Will’s stunningly awful rape denial/apologism; the Southern Baptist Convention’s advice on shaming and shunning trans people; and Russel Moore’s jaw-dropping take on how to handle your child coming out to you.
It was not a good day for news and opinion.
Honestly, neither George Will nor the SBC surprised me in the least. I suppose that should say something about both of them. Their beliefs are things I heard regularly in church, so maybe that’s why I’m not shocked. I was more surprised to leave Christian culture and find out that there are people out there who don’t believe those things. I don’t have more to say on either topic at the moment. I need a few days to process.
Instead, I’m concentrating on the sentence in Russell Moore’s piece that stood out to me more than anything else I read yesterday. With regard to a child coming out to a parent he says:
He or she could be saying that this is an identity, from which they refuse to repent.
What. the. hell.
There are two parts to this. First, and let me make this as clear as I can, a person cannot—and should not—repent of his or her identity. Who we are at the center of our being is not up for debate, discussion, or apology. Regardless of whether the child in question intends to live openly or remain celibate (and that has to be their choice), it doesn’t change who they are. This is just another piece of the very foolish belief that we need to entirely empty ourselves of, well, ourselves in order to be “filled with” Jesus/the Holy Spirit/whatever. The end result of such a view is nothing but confusion and turmoil.
Second, there is something implicit in the “refusal to repent” that the parents have a responsibility to force this change. Moore rightly states that parents are not to blame for a child who is gay. But I lived with the persistent belief that it was my responsibility to badger my gay friends and family to turn to Jesus, repent, and no longer live a “sinful lifestyle.” I’ve seen other friends over the years encouraged to shoulder the same burden.
Allow me to offer this piece of advice: If someone—anyone—comes out to you, it is not your job to do anything about it. It’s not necessary to keep talking until they feel convicted of their “sin.” You are not responsible for making them see the light. Your eternal soul is not at risk for not evangelizing hard enough.
Want to know what is your responsibility? Being a friend, a child, a parent, a sibling, a cousin. That’s all. As in, you don’t have to do anything at all.
I’m the first to admit that I’m not a particularly nice person. When I hear people whispering about their gay family members and telling their children things like, “We don’t approve of Aunt Jane’s lifestyle” or shaming anyone who loves and supports their gay child, I want to bean those people on the head and shout at them. I want to say, “What are you people thinking?!” And then I want to distance myself from them as far as possible so they can’t have any influence on my kids.
Fortunately, there are people a lot nicer than I am who are willing to be there to help parents when their kids come out to them*. If you want to read a much kinder answer (and several others linked within it), take a look at Ben Moberg’s response. (For real, he’s much nicer than I am and far less sarcastic.) Of course, if you just want someone to give you a swift kick in the pants and tell you to butt out and let your kids be themselves, I’m always available.
As for me, I just hope my own kids know their dad and I are here for them, and they’re surrounded by bunches of people—including at church—who love and support them. And if their friends need help, we’re always here for that, too.
*It would be great if we also had resources for kids whose parents come out to them. If anyone has anything to offer, feel free to link up in the comments (one link at a time, or it goes to spam; sorry). I think there’s probably some good stuff out there for siblings and friends, but more would be good. Same for spouses/partners, particularly when they are part of conservative religion. We tend to focus on the parent-child relationship (which is important because they are minors), but that’s not the only relationship that can become strained.