I have had the privilege to read the series of Diaries by Florida4Obama about her nephew's tragic situation, and was moved almost to tears by The Nephew's own diary on the subject.
I posted most of this text as a comment on The Nephew's diary...and then decided that I wanted to share these feelings as a separate diary. So here it is!
Matt, thank you for your blunt honesty about your faith, your politics, your sexuality, and your familiy. A few of your comments provoked a bit of guilt in me - as they should: I certainly have been guilty of posting some pretty unkind things about your family, and your church, and your school in your aunt's diaries. It was hard not to, frankly: what was done to you just can't come across as loving - or even just - to an outsider.
But as an outsider, I apologize for any unkindness I excpressed: here I am, preaching tolerance and forgiveness and inclusiveness, yet I lashed out in the face of what your aunt told us. Still, it's hard to stand aside and watch a fellow human being being savaged by those who should - and probably do - love him.
I just want to use this diary to focus on the "faith and religion" aspect of your dilemma. I don't know your church or school; I do know a bit about the Southern Baptist denomination, although not much. You should know, though, that the denomination has a broad spectrum of believers and churches, and that there are some Southern Baptist congregations that - to the horror of the "powers that be" - are tolerant, even accepting, of "horrible" sins such as the "sin" of being born with a homosexual orientation.
I'm not bashing your religion, because I grew up in a Christian church myself and still, in some ways, consider myself a Christian. But PLEASE look at some of the hate that has been dished out by your specific church and school, and analyze that hate in the context of Jesus' love.
I'm such an ancient fossil compared to you, but when I was your age (almost 40 years ago) I had already been through at least 12 years of Sunday School and was still active in Youth Group at my church. It was a Methodist church.
The message I took from my church and Sunday school experience?
Don't lie, don't cheat, don't steal, and treat other people righteously.
There was nothing in all that religious instruction about condemning gay people. Nothing. It wasn't even mentioned.
There was nothing about supporting Republican candidates.
There was nothing about promoting war. In fact, we knew Jesus as "The Prince of Peace". The war that was going on when I was your age was Vietnam (gosh, funny how our nation has a war for every generation, isn't it?) and I think I could say that the overall feeling in my church was that the war needed to end, the killing needed to stop, and our soldiers needed to come home.
There was nothing about criminalizing abortion, or amending the constitution to exclude women from equal protection.
There was no need and no concerted effort to force Christian "values" on everybody around us: no demands for "ten commandments" in the courtroom or a manger with the Baby Jesus on the lawn of the Town Hall. Instead, our church had its Christian symbols and artworks, other churches had theirs, and the government had colored lights and an evergreen tree during the Christmas season.
There was no demand that our schools scrap decades of scientific research and advancement and instead teach the book of Genesis as if it were a science textbook. We learned science in school, and we learned the Bible in church and Sunday school.
What I'm getting at here is that the church you grew up in was different: confrontational, judgemental, not loving - except on its terms. Jesus, on the other hand, preached unconditional love.
Remember, when your church's interpretation of your Christian faith relies on the hate and anger of the Old Testament, that Jesus actively condemned the "priests and pharisees". He acknowledged the Ten Commandments, but he said, clearly:
This is my one commandment: that you love one another.
I find it hard to see the "love" in expelling a wonderful, successful, caring young man from his school for no reason. I find it hard to see the integrity in "rewarding" another young man for practicing deception, lying to another student for months, and deliberately inflicting hurt. The expression "hate the sin, love the sinner" comes across to me as a cop-out.
An important thing to remember, I think, is that - as a Christian - your faith is not your church. It is the love and salvation of Jesus Christ. Period. Many churches will deny that simple fact, because if you come to realize that you don't need them in order to find salvation in Christ...well, there goes all their power.
And, looking at the way the church heirachy has attempted to impose its will on not only church members but the nation at large, not to mention what it did to you personally: wouldn't you say that there's at least a chance that it is POWER, not salvation, that motivates these people?