Growing up as a gay kid in the south was not easy. The constant fear of people discovering who you really were and the inevitable shame that would fall upon you and your family dictated how you lived your life everyday. Luckily for me, I was fortunate enough to move to places where it wasn't a constant daily reminder that I was an abomination. For my family, however, they still live in ground zero of intolerance for the LGBT community and have the unique pressure of having a well known gay relative. When I came out, they came out.
For years they have had to deal with the judgmental looks and constant condolences from friends and strangers as if I had died. "I'm so sorry, you are in our thoughts."
Now, my parents aren't very outspoken and shy away from any type of attention. For years they have quietly educated themselves about their son and the LGBT community like responsible adults. My mom read the Bible four times in a row and bought every book written about Christianity and the subject of homosexuality. When she saw things were not getting any easier at her church regarding this issue, she decided to go against her passive character and let her community know exactly how they were making her feel.
In a very open and honest letter to the church, she suggested how true Christians should act towards the LGBT community. Her letter was so well received that another local church invited her to speak to their congregation, as it believed it was finally time to start a dialogue within the church. The following is the transcript from that speech. I am extremely proud of my family and especially my mother for the way she has handled herself in this confusing time in her life. To me, she represents a true Christian and what the majority of Christians believe today in the country.
Let me start out by saying that I am not a public speaker. As a matter of fact, this is the first time I have ever spoken publicly on this topic and I hope you will bear with me. Ever since I agreed to speak to you, I have asked for courage and I hope you will pray for me as I try to tell you what is in my heart.
I am here to share my testimony. Please know that I am NOT here to debate the issue of homosexuality. I would never do that because I do not have all the answers and will probably never have them in this life. The Bible warns of false teachers and I would never say anything that might possibly be considered false teaching. However there are some things I feel led to share that I know beyond a doubt are true and I will share those with you tonight.
First, I need to let you know that I have been a Southern Baptist all my life. I attended Sunday School and church as a child. I married a man with the same Christian principles as me and we raised our two children in the church as well. My husband is an ordained deacon, I taught Sunday School, sang in the choir, taught vacation Bible School, attended Bible studies and revivals just like most of you. Both my children were saved and baptized at an early age and two of my three small grandchildren have already been baptized. We are a Christian family with deep roots in the church and the teachings of the Bible.
Seven years ago, we found out that Lance is gay. We were totally blindsided and devastated because never in a million years would we have guessed it. Also, because it was such a public thing, the situation was so much worse on the family. I do not want to go into the personal details of that revelation, but I will tell you that the ﬁrst thing I did was fall to my knees and ask, "What would Jesus do?" I almost immediately knew the answer... love my son. And that is what I have done. Never once did I ever think about turning my back on him. Never once was I ashamed or embarrassed. My feelings were more of sadness and just sheer disappointment in life.
If you believe that being gay is a choice, then the rest of what I say will not matter. I do not know why, but even as a staunch Christian, I personally never believed that being gay was a choice. I never knew a lot of gay people, but the ones I did meet I felt compassion for because I could feel their pain of being rejected and my heart always went out to them. Even though I never did believe Lance chose to be gay, I did not accept it as quickly as my husband did. His attitude was "It is what it is." My attitude was "Yes, it is what it is but my God can perform miracles so I'm going to beg for a miracle to zap Lance and change him to straight!" And I did just that. I continued to love my son, stand beside him, and defend him, but for several years I continued to pray relentlessly for a miracle.
Well, Lance is still gay. However, I did get a miracle. It is just not the miracle I prayed for. You are looking at the miracle tonight. The miracle is that I learned to have unconditional love and compassion for my son and others in the gay community. I haven't marched in parades or spoken at conventions, but I do feel that God has led me to speak out concerning the church's role. My son is a Christian and wants to be able to worship, but he does not feel that the church cares about him and has pretty much disowned him as a fellow believer. There is something terribly wrong with that and I have to speak up on behalf of my son and others who ﬁnd themselves in the same situation. When I was a little girl, I went to a celebration with my grandparents on the courthouse lawn in Laurel. I was thirsty and ran to drink some water from one of the water fountains. My grandmother screamed at me to stop. When I looked at the
fountain it had the word "Colored" on it and she told me I had to drink out of another one. I was only 6 years old but I knew something was just not right about that. Just as my heart told me something was wrong that day on the courthouse lawn, my heart is telling me that something is wrong with the way the church treats those who are gay.
I could tell you many stories that gay young people have told me about how so-called Christian people have treated them but I will only share one. One of the young men told me that he was searching for God and visited a large church one Easter Sunday. He was enjoying the beautiful service and feeling so drawn to what he was experiencing.
Everyone was standing singing a hymn and when he sat down there was a note in his chair. It said, "You know you are going to hell." He told me that he never went to church again. I don't blame him, but to my knowledge, he has not accepted Christ and is lost.
When I found out Lance was gay, I dove into the scriptures looking for answers. The scriptures that kept jumping out to me were Jesus's warnings about judgment. The person who wrote that note should heed those warnings. Jesus says in Luke 6:37 "Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven." Jesus is telling us that we cannot lead others to him if we are judging and condemning them.
When I hear fellow Sunday School members, co-workers, politicians, and Christian people on TV and radio say negative, judgmental things about gays, I just cringe and it breaks my heart. Not only are the Christian community pushing away gays who are Christians, we are alienating those who are lost.
I believe with all my heart that Jesus would say to all Christians who are gay that they belong to him and that he loves them unconditionally. Jesus says in John 10:27-28, "My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand."
I feel like I am on a journey and it just continues on each day. I would like to share one ﬁnal revelation on this journey. Because I am such a tenderhearted person, sometimes my broken heart felt unbearable so I asked God to take away my tender heart. I don't know why I did this, but I looked up the word "tenderhearted" in the dictionary and it meant "having compassion". One day after that I read this scripture: "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any TENDERNESS and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love... Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ." (Phillippians 2:1-5) God's message to me was clear. If he took away my tender heart, I would no longer have compassion for others. If I did not have compassion for others, I would not have the attitude of Christ. I never prayed
that God take away my tender heart again. I believe the church needs to show that some compassion for everyone regardless of gender, regardless of race, and regardless of sexual orientation.
My favorite scripture has always been, "God is my refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1) I truly have found refuge in my Lord but I have to sadly tell you that I have not found refuge in my church. And neither has Lance and so many other Christians like him who want to be loved and accepted in a world that can be very cruel and hateful. I still attend church but admittedly with a heavy heart and with much anxiety. If I feel that way as the mother of a gay child, can you imagine the anxiety that a gay person sitting in my church feels? Once again, there is just something wrong with that.
It would take a book to tell you every little detail of my journey and all that I have experienced and learned along the way. I have tried to brieﬂy give you a testimony of the things God has laid on my heart. It is my prayer that we can all try to have a Christ-like attitude while on this earth. We, as Christians, must let the Holy Spirit lead us to ﬁnd ways to reach out to all people regardless of our differences because I truly believe it is the right thing to do. I am convinced that is what Jesus would do.
Thank you for allowing me to share with you and God bless you.
Follow Lance Bass on Twitter: www.twitter.com/lancebass