Dear Conservative Christian family,
Being the son of two pastors, I was taught to love the sinner, but to hate their sin. The first time I saw two men kissing I hated what they had done and hated that I had to watch.
As I've read through Facebook, Twitter and various article online, there are many conservative Christians, asking one question: "Why are we being blamed for the Orlando shooting?"
I fear that conservative Christians are being lumped in with the homophobic shooter, ISIS and religious radicals because, to the LGBT+ community, these are the groups who maintain the system that produces homophobia.
I'd like you to understand that homophobia is not only demonstrated by the shooter, the boys who punched me in the park, or the uncle who called me "faggot." Homophobia, at its core, is hatred that changes the way LGBT+ people understand their value.
Homophobia, at its core, is hatred that changes the way LGBT+ people understand their value.
The true effects of homophobia don't exist on the external surface where crime is committed. They rest in the fabric of the human soul who has been taught that they aren't as good as their heterosexual neighbor.
You see, the blossoming of homophobia is violence, while the root system is the cultural/religious mindset that's comfortable branding an entire group of people as relationally inferior, spiritually immature, as well as socially and sexually deviant.
When the messages of your churches and the sermons you clap for; when the messages you deliver as our parents, leaders, and well-intentioned friends negatively shift the way we, people of the LGBT+ community, feel about our version of love, our relational offering, or our position in this world [as God's beloved children], the system of homophobia is working through you.
And I know this is not your intention.
I also know internalized homophobia very well.
When I discovered that I was bisexual, homophobia started to teach me:
I am not clean emotionally, romantically or spiritually. I am a perverted boy.
My body was my enemy.
So, I did the right Christian thing: I hated my sin. But when your "sin" is loving, your left with no option but to hate your entire self.
As a diligent Christian boy, I knew God was going to kill me -- an eternal life in hell.
Can you imagine what this feels like for LGBT+ people who loved God so deeply?
The voice of the shooter, the same voice we project onto God, had made its way into my self-dialogue, "Kill him!"
I needed to avoid the once-and-for-all mistake of loving a man (and the peril for which I was doomed). I began praying for God to take my life before I made an irreversible sin. And when God wouldn't, I reached for suicide.
When your "sin" is loving, your left with no option but to hate your entire self.
You see, when Christians use "Love the sinner, hate the sin" to make themselves morally peaceful while loving a "sinner" like me, they're giving ordained permission to and normalizing the same hatred that burgeoned in the young shooter's heart and fueled my desperation for suicide. Both the shooter's disdain and my self-hatred developed over time -- starting with a small religious seed of instructions: "...hate the sin."
And maybe the shooter was committing suicide.
It is possible that the shooter was attracted to men. Out of a religiously infused self-hatred, was he projecting his internalized homophobia onto others as a means of ending his accumulated self-disdain, permanently?
What if this religiously induced hatred causes unbelievable distortions in the self-understandings of all LGBT+ people -- even unto death?
What are our religious slogans doing to humanity?
But it doesn't stop there. The mindset of "Love the sinner, hate the sin" has even tricked those of us in the church.
Love cannot be in cahoots with hatred. For example, how can you love me yet hate my Hispanic skin? In this light, Christian claims of loving me (while hating how I love) feel like a sham. I know conservatives Christians mean well, but please remember what genuine [unconditional] love feels like.
The problem has been in our conservative churches for decades. It's in our conservative sanctuaries and its metastasizing violence beyond our walls. The problem is a silent machine producing the willingness to hate our neighbors and our own personhood.
Love cannot be in cahoots with hatred.
I feel the small seed of hatred at work when you ask me to block you from seeing my kisses. Or when I am welcome in your conservative churches, yet kept from sacraments like communion and marriage.
Conservative Christian sentiments sounds like love, but look like hatred shrouded in conditional acceptance.
Is it possible that we, the Church, have blurred the distinction between tolerance and unconditional love?
I feel foolish for trusting you this long, and I am part of you. Can you imagine how my non-religious LGBT+ neighbors feel?
The painful set of circumstances is that "Love the sinner, hate the sin'"is a moral cornerstone that insulates you from the body of people who have been emotionally and spiritually burned by your iron.
Without our sanctuaries, where would you have us turn? Thank God for open and affirming churches, our cohesion as a gay community, and sanctuaries like the Pulse.
I truly understand how "hating sin" feels like it could produce religious stability or moral certitude. It's imperative, however, that we acknowledge that the hatred of mankind -- our hatred -- is causing death, not life. It's producing separateness, not communion.
Many of us in the LGBT+ community are not bullying you into abandoning your religious values. We're simply asking for camaraderie.
We are all part of the same family at our truest core, so can we work together? Can we participate as comrades in the process of healing? It will take us time, but we have to start now.
Please, help us build relational and religious paradigms free of hate. If we can accomplish this side-by-side, we could very well eradicate the divisions that keep us attacking one another. We may even save lives.
Your Hispanic, bisexual brother in Christ,