Four years ago our daughter came out to us. She was 20. Here’s one of my first thoughts: we’ll never be the same in the church.
My daughter is telling me something very intimate and scary, several thoughts are going through my head, and I am a little surprised to realize that one is about how the church relationship would never be the same. Not just our then-church but the evangelical tradition we’d been in for 20+ years. They don’t accept gays, and no way are we going to squeeze our daughter into some box so we could fit a church. No. Way.
Frankly, the fact that our relationship to the church was a concern in my mind in that moment indicates a very serious problem with the non-affirming evangelical church tradition. Every time Jesus interacted with people in need, he was a safe and welcoming place. Done.
We are supposed to be that for each other.
Yet, in this moment of need, I knew the church was not a safe place for me to bring this conversation. Just the conversation was not safe to have with my closest friends there. That is a serious distortion of what the church was supposed to look like.
Our daughter asked if we would accept her. I said yes. She said are you sure? I said of course. Absolutely. My husband said the same – no doubt about it.
As I look back on the conversation now, I get chills. But in the moment, I didn’t grasp the gravity of her question. Of course we would accept her. No other possibility crossed our minds. But she told us this is not always the case. She told us that some of her friends lost their families when they came out. They were kicked out. What?!? How could that possibly makes sense?
My experience since then shows me this rejection is all too common. One young woman’s psychotic mother threw her down the stairs. A young man’s mother fell on the floor and wailed, “Where did we go wrong?” and his father answered, “When we had him.” This response is a serious breakdown. (Ya think?)
And it reveals something horrifying.
It reveals a lack of understanding of sexual orientation. A lack of understanding that it is who somebody is, not what they do, and not a choice. And nowhere, nowhere, does God or the Bible or common sense condone throwing out your child because they’re gay. By no measurement does that make sense. Unjustifiable. Period.
It reveals a completely wrong understanding of God’s unconditional love and acceptance. It is a wrong and dangerous teaching that puts behavior first, that makes worthiness up for grabs, something that can be withdrawn on a moment’s notice. It completely undermines Jesus’ presence on earth and in our lives today.
That my daughter could think, after all these years, that we could cut off or in any way limit our relationship with her is a chilling indictment of much of the church and its teaching.
Imagine someone who’s already been through the struggle of discovering that they are gay, and coming out to themselves. It took immeasurable strength and courage to come out to their Christian parents. And then those parents, and the church throw them out? Shun them? Reject them? Tell them they are going to hell? That makes no sense! ZERO SENSE. And it is the complete opposite of the message of God’s love.
But the church is changing. Because I AM the church. And I know many, many, many parents just like me. The church is shifting.
I’m beyond grateful that God is ushering in a new day and age. Legalism, fundamentalism, literalism – all of it – is on its way out. The next generation will not tolerate it. God is refreshing the truth of unconditional love to all people.
As it should be.
Susan Cottrell is the author of Mom, I’m Gay: Loving Your LGBTQ Child Without Sacrificing Your Faith.
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