Tate and I have very different backgrounds. Growing up, his mother was (and still is) very religious. His dad is a Christian, but he doesn’t talk about it much. Because of his mom, religion was a big part of his childhood. When he ended up at the Christian private school where we met, the rules in school weren’t so different from the rules at home.
My parents were a little bit different. My mom is somewhat of a hippie and my dad is a Southern Baptist. Their story is very long, though, so I’ll just stick with mine. My household wasn’t very religious growing up. I knew that my uncle’s talked about the Bible a lot when discussing women, and that they preached the most when they were drunk, but that was all my dad’s family. My mom and her family didn’t discuss religion very much.
So when I was enrolled in the Christian school, I quickly went from a “go to the neighborhood church for something to do” Christian to a Bible-thumping, in your face fundamentalist. From the ages of about 13 to 16 I was very judgmental. Some of my family members smoked cigarettes; I let them know how they were desecrating their temple every time they lit up. Sex out of wedlock was a sin worthy of hell, and homosexuals were an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. Worst of all, they chose to be gay! My God could never create something so unnatural, I thought.
Although I knew about homosexuality from home (my mom never left a question unanswered, anything I wanted to know about she told me the truth about), Tate didn’t really know anything about it because his mom “didn’t feel he should learn about that from his mother.” So when we were told in school that homosexuality was a dangerous and horrible choice people made, he believed it outright and I slowly started to believe it, too.
Then we left school and entered the real world. It was a huge transition for me in particular, and very difficult at first. Here I had been told, and believed, for years that everything of this world was horrible and the only way to reach the pearly gates was to damn and condemn anyone and anything that didn’t follow religion’s rules. Now I was learning that it was possible, and okay even, to live in both worlds.
Slowly but surely, my preconceived notions changed. From sex out of wedlock (Tate and I were definitely sinning in that department), to cigarettes (I’m now a pack-a-day smoker) to homosexuality (I’m not gay, but I have several friends and family members who are), I went from fundamentalist to progressive.
I had already changed my views on homosexuality before my cousin was pulled out of the closet, but the aftermath of his outing just cemented my new-found change of heart. I won’t go into any details for privacy reasons, but suffice it to say that his mother made his life a living hell when she discovered, without him telling her, that he was gay. He was about 17 at the time and he had kept it a secret his entire life and for good reason; he knew what his family would do if they ever found out. She told him that he was going to hell on a daily basis. When he asked how she could say some of the terrible things she said to him she responded with “oh, I’m not saying it to you, I’m saying it to the demon inside you.”
That was when it really hit me that no one would choose to go through that. To be spoken to so harshly and treated so terribly by the one person who is supposed to love you through thick and thin. He didn’t kill anyone, didn’t rob a bank. He received hatred and cruelty just because of the way he was born. Now he is dating someone and she seems to have come to terms with it, but he is one of few that experiences a parent changing their heart about it. Many gay people end up homeless or kill themselves because of the repercussions of coming out.
After seeing first hand how she used the Bible to back up her hatred, I started to read it. Like, actually read it. You see, before this, I was the worst type of Christian: the one who preaches without knowing the sermon. I had never read the Bible, I had only parroted verses that I was taught. When I got older and started to mature, I realized that I was a part of the problem. Not only was I just parroting these verses, I was using them in the wrong context and for the wrong reasons, and my use of them was hurtful.
I learned that Jesus doesn’t actually speak about homosexuality. Yes, he says that the husband will leave his mother and father to be with his wife (Matthew 19: 4-6), but other than that there is no direct condemnation of homosexuality from Jesus. And if you are going to use that verse to condemn same-sex marriage, you need to use it to condemn divorce, as well, which I have yet to see anyone do.
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