I was raised in a Southern Baptist church. Potluck dinners, hymnals, and immersive baptisms in the always fascinating baptistry. We were at church anytime the doors were open. I went to a Baptist college, where I majored in communications and minored in religion and not being asked out on dates. I grew up in that world of competing in “sword drills,” memorizing Bible verses, and proselytizing the unsaved. I know all the arguments when it comes to homosexuality and the Bible. It was easy for me to have “that” perspective for the first 40+ years of my life, and believe that being gay was inherently sinful, while also being friends with gay people and appearing to be supportive (or at least tolerant). I never took the time to reconcile the two conflicting things in my heart because I didn’t have to. I could silently sit back and judge, while outwardly smiling and asking about their weekend plans. I wasn’t an anti-gay crazy Westboro Baptist protester. I was just taking the easy way out, avoiding conflict, and trying to keep everyone happy. I didn’t want to upset God or my gay friends, so I didn’t think about it too long. I wasn’t listening to the Holy Spirit. I was listening to my own fear of change and the unknown.
A few years ago, my daughter told me she thought she might be something other than straight. I didn’t handle it well initially. I told her she was too young to know what she was. We struggled for a while, as mothers and daughters often do, to come to terms with our expectations of ourselves and each other in light of her realization. My struggle went out the window the night she tried to kill herself. This issue was one of many pressures that created a perfect storm, leading to her attempt. As I sat in the Emergency Room with her that night, I knew that I had lost the luxury of holding onto my self-righteous judgement. I had to start with loving and accepting her and let the rest sort itself out.
CJ’s Dad and I were married in a small United Methodist church, a few months after I became a member there, having relinquished my Southern Baptist roots. When CJ was a month old, she was baptized in the same church, wearing a tiny white gown and surrounded by a crowd of smiling family. She has grown up in Sunday School, Vacation Bible School and church retreats. Her favorite hymn is “Victory in Jesus.” She sings the same words that her parents, grandparents and great grandparents sang for decades, and she sings them with gusto. Over the past few years, she has struggled to reconcile who she undoubtedly is with the world around her. Through all of that uncertainly, she has never stopped asking me to take her to church. She loves God and her heart was made to fight for His children who need someone to stand up for them.
This week, the United Methodist Church voted to say that CJ can never get married within their walls. If CJ one day hears God calling her to preach His word, she must leave the church that raised her and go preach elsewhere. This broke her heart. As her Mom, it broke mine too. Everyone should be welcomed to a seat at God’s holy table. No one should be singled out as less than.
In Matthew 22, Jesus said the greatest commandment was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” That’s it. Love God and love each other, and figure everything else out, starting from there. My words probably won’t change the mind of someone who is determined to oppose the inclusion of LGBTQ people in the church. Words probably wouldn’t have changed my mind either, prior to CJ’s attempt. But I hope that for one moment, those people will stop and consider the humanity of those they are excluding.