A video making its way through the internet depicts one of the worst coming out experiences one can have. In it, we hear a mother start with "I love you," and move quickly to kicking her son out of her home, to attacking and beating him.
The video is painful to watch (listen to, actually, since it's taken on a phone that's been hidden). They call his sexual orientation a choice, despite his assertions that it is not and her assertions that she knew he was gay from when he was a small child. In the end, the family attacks their child, calling him a “disgrace” before beating him and yelling, “You’re a damn queer!”
Many of the headlines have depicted this as "Christian parents beating and disowning their gay son." It's not an inaccurate title. The parents appeal to their Christian faith and to the bible as the justification for their actions.
This video should make every Christian cringe. This is not the faith that I was taught throughout my Christian education, from Sunday school to seminary. This does not sound like God calling all of creation "very good." This is not the example of Jesus, who laid down his life for his loved ones. This is not the apostles, sharing the good news with a diverse range of people. This is completely foreign to what the vast majority of Christians believe. In other words, a false gospel.
If you feel the need to watch that disturbing video, it's here:
Some question why it's important to continue working within communities of faith on issues of LGBT equality. Why do we need congregations to stand up in support of marriage equality? Why do we need faith leaders to speak out against employment non-discrimination? Why do we need people of faith rallying against bullying?
The answer is that if we don't, we allow this video to become the representation of Christianity that people are left with. I don’t believe, not for one second, that this family is following the will of God or the tenets of Christianity. They may believe it, but I suspect that they are following a false message.
But that's not the only reason. Both Christian communities and LGBT communities benefit when there is mutual support for one another. Youth find more stability and support when they're in intentional communities such as churches, and Christian churches who have gone through the process of formally welcoming LGBT people have found themselves to be much healthier.
In Matthew 7, Jesus tells us to test what we have been taught. "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit," Jesus said. What are the fruits of what this family has been taught? Another homeless LGBT youth. And he's not alone. Studies find that of the homeless youth population, 40% identify as LGBT, despite being less than 10% of the youth population. And nearly 90% of homeless LGBT youth are homeless specifically because they are LGBT, and, like the video, they were kicked out of their home, harassed, or neglected.
On the other hand, what's the fruit that is produced by the call to love "God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and to love your neighbor as yourself."? That love reduces youth homelessness, discrimination, poverty, depression, and a host of ills that plague our society, not just for LGBT people, but for all of us.
As a Christian, and as a gay man, this video sickens me. Someone needs to tell this family that disowning and beating their son are not Christian actions. Beyond just pointing blame on them, we need to take a hard look at what we believe about LGBT people and where those messages are coming from. If it doesn't bear good fruit, then it must be dismissed.
If we encounter preaching and teaching that this sort of discrimination is acceptable, or even desirable, we have a duty to call it the false teaching that it is. Calling out bad theology isn't anti-Christian. In fact, it may be exactly what Christianity needs to survive and even thrive in this day and age. For too long, we have allowed anti-LGBT forces to co-opt the message of the gospel and turn it into a weapon. And for this family, who really believes they are following Jesus' teachings as they understand them, we need to say that the way these Christians behave does not reflect Christian teachings.
The time is now for Christians to step up and speak out. Do not let this family's actions set the standard for how Christians treat LGBT people. Do not let the one who taught them this is acceptable have the last word. Use your voice and share your belief that God has created, knows and loves all God's children, including those who are LGBT.