One of the ways religious stigma propagates itself is through repetitious oversimplification of polarizing topics where the LGBT+ person is characterized as some form of unreasonable, irrational, and selfish.
Joe Dallas, a former mentor of mine, does this regularly. In a recent blog post he writes:
Can their (“Bible believing Christians”) acceptance exist without their complete approval, or does love require them to say, “If I love my gay son, I must also approve of, and celebrate, his homosexuality”?
Twenty years ago we would have said Duh!, but not now. The rules of relationships are changing more quickly than most of us can play the game, so what seemed obvious in the past is up for debate now.
Which is why so many Christian families are being torn apart when homosexuality hits home. They’re not necessarily divided because they disagree on the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality, but rather, over the ability to have a relationship despite the disagreement. Too often, the family says “Can’t you see that we accept you even if we don’t approve of this part of your life”? and the gay loved one responds “Approve, or your acceptance is rejected!”Source: When Someone You Love is Gay — Joe Dallas’ blog
First, twenty years ago, there wasn’t any “Duh!” People were arguing about it just as much (more?) in 2000 as they are today in 2020. Loving relationships of all sorts exist in a dynamic setting. That is why professional counseling doesn’t call it family rules; they call it family dynamics. To see them as “changing rules” says a lot about how Dallas compartmentalizes stressful issues into rules that are either kept or broken instead of a give and take dynamism.
However, it’s the last paragraph that is the biggest concern. Let’s emphasize that paragraph again with the extra emphasis being mine:
Which is why so many Christian families are being torn apart when homosexuality hits home. They’re not necessarily divided because they disagree on the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality, but rather, over the ability to have a relationship despite the disagreement. Too often, the family says “Can’t you see that we accept you even if we don’t approve of this part of your life”? and the gay loved one responds “Approve, or your acceptance is rejected!”
That last sentence wouldn’t be uttered by a single LGBT+ person I know. It’s not that simple or a realistic portrayal. Also, notice the context, Dallas starts from the get-go dividing the family into we (plural) and you (singular) with violent metaphors of “hits home” and “torn apart.” He portrays it as we are right, but that all-or-nothing gay person is hitting the home and tearing the family apart.
He also assumes that it is ok for family members to integrate their “bible-believing Christian” beliefs about one issue resulting in a conditional acceptance/approval of their gay loved one. Dallas doesn’t seem even to consider how an LGBT+ person might do the same. Meaning, it is possible an LGBT+ person can accept a family member for who they are but not approve of their religious bigotry disguised as “bible-believing Christian” values concerning the “rightness or wrongness of homosexuality.”
In tough family situations like this, it is rarely all or nothing, my way or the highway, coming from the LGBT+ person. Just ask any of the tens of thousands of homeless gay teens in the country (I was one of them at 19). It’s self-serving of Dallas to make this seem like an impossible situation that families will need extra help for and compel them (twice in his post) to purchase his six-part video series for $79 to wade through.
But back to the main issue. When a family member says they love and accept us except they don’t approve of the gay part, we all know that “bible-believing Christians” believe that the gay part of our lives is relationally “broken.” They have adopted a belief that LGBT+ people live in some variation or degree of broken, dirty, dishonoring to God, dishonoring to our bodies, selfish, hurtful, socially/politically influenced, not innate or immutable, and worthy of God sending us to hell forever. And, according to Dallas, somehow an LGBT+ person isn’t supposed to be upset about that? That’s somehow this horrible mischaracterization of a very intimate and vital part of who we are is to be relegated and pushed off to “one part” of our lives?
It’s not a bad thing for us to let our family members know they are wrong. They don’t have a problem letting us know when they think we are. A family seeking to keep the LGBT+ loved one as an idealized version of who the family would prefer them to be is a rejection of the real person God has put before them. It’s good for us, and honoring to our Creator, to stand up for our authentic selves. Letting someone we love know they are hurtful and incorrect is healthy. Getting counseling and developing healthy boundaries to protect ourselves and relationships is not rejection. It’s called persevering in loving and living in authenticity amid complicated family dynamics.
You can still be in a relationship even with all that swirling around. I have a family member who I know will never let Dan and I sleep in the same bed if we wanted to spend time at their house. There is a good chance that they will not come to our wedding. Yet, we still talk. We do visit. They ask about Dan and our daughter. It’s taken a while, but they will bring him into the topic of discussion before I do. They have said they are glad he is in my life; they are happy that I am finally happy.
It was not easy at first, wouldn’t say it is always easy now, but we are family. And if they choose not to come to our wedding, it will hurt, but I have a choice to either live with bitterness, or I can forgive and live on. I could choose to ignore the great many beautiful and lovely things about them, but then I would be a hypocrite. Because when it comes down to it, accepting, approving, hurt, blessing, rejection… all of it is covered by unconditional love.
How can I ask for unconditional love if I don’t give it?
You don’t need 6 twenty minute videos for $79 to help you figure this out. We all have permission to love unconditionally our family regardless of all the reasons that make that easy to do, and of all the reasons that make that very difficult to do.