This post is spurred on by this recent reply to my political blog post but really is because I’m completely exasperated by responses like this:
After locating your blog, (since I am becoming a blogger myself!!) I was somewhat disturbed with the language (abbreviated or not) and the downright rejection that appears here. I must say I had to agree with Allison, where’s the old Todd in all of this? I feel our family has supported you in everything and I have tried to understand, but not be critical and would hope for the same respect. I feel you have attempted to beat down good people and for what reason? Anyone who reads it must think you were a member of a truly horrid sect, is this what you want? I am just confused and bewildered with the tone and attitude portrayed here, that I have never witnessed until you chose this lifestyle. You know we love you and miss you dearly.
First of all: I am sorry for the occasional salty language on here (as if you’ve never heard bad language before from anyone in your family LOL) but I make sure it is not gratuitous. Yes, I, like many other Christians, even ministers, have been known to use inappropriate words but maybe you just never heard me use them (but don’t tell my mother). Just like I have always been gay but maybe you just didn’t know it. I was really good at pretending I was perfect. And straight. [riiiiiight.]
But let’s get to the real gist of your response.
You feel you have been supportive and tried not to be critical. I’ll give you that.
(I appreciate your card earlier this year—or late last year—asserting your love for me while informing me of your disdain for my choice; however I don’t understand why you would return Z’s picture when you were such an integral part of their early lives. I’m not sure if you were making a point by returning it or just thought I might need the picture? I wish you had kept it and have intended to send it back to you with a note.)
And…let me get this right…you feel like by reading my blog where I am telling the honest facts of my story, my experience, and my feelings about it that you—and the church as a whole—are being disrespected and beaten down?!!!
You, BJ, just like a couple of other people who posted on here, have attempted to make this ALL about YOU! Unbelievable!
In case you haven’t noticed, this blog is about ME. My walk. My journey. My experiences. Rejection from my standpoint. And occasionally, yes, responses to people who have commented. If you [in a general sense] make it about you or find your story in here somewhere, then so be it. If you [in the general sense] feel indicted, then that’s on you.
And let’s talk about these claims of “support” and hearken back to my earlier post about of abandonment and rejection that set so many people off (including you, apparently), even prompting one person to comment,
To say that we the Church with a capital “T” abandon your boys is spiteful.
Is it? Really?
Why don’t you pause and ask yourself whether D, Z, H, and d feel that support. Ask them if they feel rejected and abandoned by the church they grew up in. [Yes!Yes!Yes! I’m the one who overturned the apple cart, who set all this in motion!] Ask the boys how it feels for virtually NO ONE to call them (save MPD who tried and tried), to check up on them, to reach out to them in a very turbulent time in their lives. And then to go on basically as if they’d never spent their entire lives inside that building. How the parents of their friends—some of whom live in the same neighborhood we live in (!)—never ONCE have called to check up on them or invite them over.
How about you actually pick up the phone and call the boys and ask them if they feel “confused and bewildered.”
IMHO, I have to feel like this issue is part of is the pain that JB referenced in a post a few months ago:
Truth is, I am sitting here with tears in my eyes trying to hold it together in my office at work. I keep reading the comments over and over …. This whole thing is nuts . . . I keep thinking about that 19-year-old you are making reference to. I keep reading that word “abandoned”. I can’t even think of what to say. I keep thinking I am in some kind of dream (an extremely sad one) and any minute now I am going to wake up
In the churches’ attempt to show me how much they love me by turning its back on me–a very common coC interpretation of scripture–I guess in hopes that I would realize my lost nature and come crawling back (“oh and don’t get AIDS!”), they have acted less than Christlike, IMHO. Definitely not WJWD. (But the point remains: corporately, the church did not have to act; I left of my own volition.)
And let’s just get it out there: 3 of our 4 children have no desire to set foot back in that building. They feel abandoned and betrayed. In fact, #3 will NOT go and is very angry about it all. Part of that has to be out of the painfulness of the situation. But there’s much more to it than that.
[However, the good news here is that H has sought out his own faith and community and has become—in his family’s tradition—a very active participant and leader in their ministry, studies his Bible on his own, gets himself up for church, and works out his own salvation as best he can—even texting back from church camp, “Dad I know what I want to do with the rest of my life,” followed by “I want to be a youth minister!”]
Born out of their experiences, however, the older two feel like, and this is a direct quote,
They’re just a bunch of hypocrites.
And let’s ask Grace if she feels rejected when she comes to town and can’t get ONE of our “former best friends” to answer her call or even RETURN her call for that matter. Of course she’d never complain about this.
And, instead of picking and choosing your way through my blog as it seems like you did, did you read—with your heart—my comments about how I have yet to hear from the majority of the men whom I poured out my heart and soul to, who knew all along what I was struggling with and have since remained silent?! Seems those themes deserve sincere consideration over irrelevant concerns about my choice of offensive adverbs and adjectives.
What I’m writing about on here are just my experiences. If you (again, in the general sense) feel judged, maybe there’s something to it. And if you feel defensive, hmmm… is there a reason why? Actions speak louder than words.
YES, as I have pointed out before on this blog, that church stood beside me through a lot of crap. [Maybe it would make everyone feel better if I listed all my other previous sins the church did stand by and how the church helped me financially so they can see what a good church it really is? Would that make you feel better? And while that was said with sarcasm this is not: I loved that church; I still do. It is the church of my LIFE—over 25 years! But a perfect institution it was not and I think we all know that as I have discussed that with many of you multiple times on other issues.]
I do not blame nor have I ever blamed the church for rejecting my lifestyle. They are simply living out their convictions. And I am writing about how it makes me–and my kids–feel. I actually believe there are a good deal of people who still love me but remain are conflicted about what to do with me. That they are unable to show it—as Christ himself would—is unfortunate, because you know what: THERE ARE A LOT OF SINNERS OUT THERE—not just us fags. And sister, we’re all sinners—the use of salty language being the least of our offenses—and we’re all gonna have to answer for how we treated “the least of these.” Self included.
(Grace would have had me leave out everything you just read and start here, but…it’s finally time to be honest.)
…what I have not blogged about enough—in fairness—is the positive experiences I have had along this journey.
I have not been bullied or confronted by a message of the damnation my soul surely faces for the decision I have made. No one has picketed our home or slashed our tires. No one has been ugly to the husband nor have I been inundated with phone calls and home visits trying to re-convert me. And no one has tried to run me off the road when I’m jogging. [Yet.]
People have treated my mother with so much compassion and kindness. (Yes, I was there with her when BJ called and offered to take her to the doctor. That meant so much to me.)
Over the past couple years, I have gotten 3-4 nice letters (one from BJ’s sweet daughter whom I still owe a response) and a couple emails, each asserting love for me (and most including the obligatory disapproval of my choices—gotta get that in).
That first fall, I got an unsolicited email from one “grandfather type” who I loved and esteemed:
I don’t pretend to understand the intensity of what you’re dealing with or why it drew you away from us. I know the struggle must have been gigantic and the choice a terrible one. Nor do I have any wise words of advice or wisdom. I wish I did. All I can say is that we miss you, and I’m sorry you’re not with us at church any more.
You are still in my prayers, and you know that we would love to have you back. I don’t know of anyone who has written you off or who would not welcome you if you turned back to us again. God still loves you, and so do we.
One elder made a gesture to check in on me. (Shame on me for not following up with him and his wife.) One other offered these words at the end of his email to me:
I know you have received a very difficult hand in the metaphor of a card game (life). And that you have suffered greatly. I also believe God is not responsible for anything bad. He wants you to be connected to Him and he wants you to have good things in your life. I wish you the best, and I want you to expect that. You are a good person–of that I am sure.
When I see people from church in town or at a school function, they either pretend they don’t see me or are polite to me and, if he’s with me, my partner too—the latter of which is very Christlike and so appreciated. At one of these outings, I got to hug and high-five JB&K’s children (who I know remain confused and hurt by the whole ordeal) which meant the world to me. [And, while the Princess was hugging me, she confronted me with “Why are you not married to Miss P anymore.” That was tough to face but bless her heart—she just kept on hugging me. (Gosh I miss all the little children! Their love is so pure!)
I have a handful of people from church who actively continue to extend their love and relationship with me (and my family)—one of them a man and his wife who I have a draft blog post about—who do not sit in judgment of me and this one particular facet of my identity. Who continue to offer me their acceptance and love and sustain their relationship with our family because it matters to them.
I wrote about the young man who’s now in college who took the time out of his life and own pain to come and talk to me about what had happened since I came out and how it had affected him and how he still loved me. Another of my “little sisters” actively sought me out on breaks between semesters and called and texted to try and maintain a relationship with me and let me know she still loved me, even going so far as to share her concerns and deep love for her gay friends at school. Just this week, I was just told about the response of one young man whom I will always love who just got married who told my mother about how much he always looked up to me and still loved me and wishes he could see me and for me to call him sometime. [Note to any of you who feel this way: I’m sorry for not reaching out to you and I would love to hear from you!]
Last year, after some prompting by Grace, I finally started a dialogue with the one man—perhaps my best male friend at the time—who had been alongside me on my journey the last few years and who probably feels just as abandoned by me as I do him. Here are some excerpts from his loving reply to me that I treasure:
I am glad you are happy. I hope that you are happy the rest of your life. That is a rare thing these days. You mentioned having a Christ-like attitude. I have always thought you had a Christ-like attitude. I think most people do. That is why so many people love you. I know you are the same person. We miss you.
I know you have felt betrayed by me. I know I could have done more for you over the past few years. I am sorry I didn’t do those things. Things are difficult now that you have made the decisions you have made. For one, I am not prepared to explain to my children why Todd lives with another man. I know that conversation will have to happen soon enough but I am not prepared for it now.
The whole thing is awkward. No one knows what to do, what to say, or even what to think about it. So no one does anything.
One more thing . . .
I do think God may have made you this way. (This is for the lack of a better way to describe it.) I absolutely believe he had a hand in it. And the way you are made is beautiful. I am glad to see you finally accepting this.
God does love you. So do we . . . so do I. I don’t expect you to understand that that loving you means that I can’t stand with you in this decision. I cannot find joy in your happiness. I cannot celebrate with you. I can’t embrace the life you have chosen. This is more than just a decision for me. I can’t doesn’t mean I “won’t”. It means I can’t–I am not capable of being there for you in your new life.
So I am going to stand here on the shore while you enjoy your adventure–all the while praying that it doesn’t kill you. I will be here waving in the distance. I won’t leave. I will wait right here until you get back. But I can’t leave the shore and join you in the waves. I am not a good swimmer. And I am afraid of what is beneath the surface.
In the meantime, I will stand here on more stable footing praying that the storm doesn’t come.
Difficult words to read—even as difficult as our goodbye standing in my yard that September night—but I respect him for not giving up.
Recently, after a long silence, I emailed one of my sister-friends about a project we had become mutually involved and spotting her but not going over to say anything to her. Her replies:
I spied you too and came looking for a hug. I probably don’t deserve one but I wanted one anyway.
Let’s make a point to say hi next time. I love you and miss you.
You know I think things went off when some of us started trying to tell you what decisions you should be making. I have done a lot of soul searching since that time and I know I was wrong about a lot of things. [My son] and one of his friends were telling me the other day that they have a friend that they think might be gay and they want to be supportive of him so I told him that they just needed to make sure that he knows that they love him no matter what and when the time is right he will let them know. Those words came out of MY mouth and I knew they were true but all I could think of was you… And I told [him] that – not to be judgmental and try to decide how HE wants things to go.
One of my dearest little sisters emailed me a while back, after a long, awkward silence between the two of us prompted by my coming out. I hope she doesn’t mind me quoting her but her email is always in front of me on my desk and never far from my thoughts; completely relevant to this post, it is far too substantial and beautiful to not share:
So here I am sitting at home exhausted after a long Sunday of ministry and my thoughts keep coming back to you. I don’t know if I can eloquently say any of the conflicting emotions within me, but it’s worth a shot…you’re worth a shot.
As I am sure you know, the “gay” issue has been on the topic of all Californians the last several weeks. As I get more and more embarrassed of how Christians are acting (exactly opposite of the way that Jesus would) I am conflicted about how I handled the whole situation with you. You see, I openly support gay rights and the fact that yes, Jesus does in fact love gay people, so why have I been so affected by your coming out?
As I reflect on the turmoil that I feel regarding our relationship, I realize that maybe it wasn’t the gay issue at all. You were an (if not the most) influential person to me as my faith became my own; the strong Christian role model that challenged me and gave me so much insight on the world. Then in a weeks worth of events I felt like every experience or conversation we had ever had was a lie. (Me, overreact???) We were family who knew everything about each other until that rug was pulled from under me. Looking back, I understand why you did it–why you couldn’t have been open about it–but it still hurt. We all hurt. You shouldn’t apologize for who you are, or the fact that Christianity (as a whole) wouldn’t have supported you years ago and (to a degree) still wouldn’t today. (We aren’t ALL closed-minded!)
So, tonight it is my time to apologize. I apologize for my reaction and lack of support during your most difficult life choices. I apologize for not acting like Jesus would have through it all. I am sorry for the way that Christians act as a whole regarding homosexuality (really it is beyond embarrassing…if those picketers would only spend that time caring for the poor-be it in spirit or physically-more people would find Jesus).
I know that our relationship wasn’t built on all lies. I know that you loved our family all those years and we all still love you very much. I know that deep wounds won’t heal overnight, but here I am holding out my hand in hopes that someday these wounds will heal and they will just be a scar that signifies a time in life where God revealed himself more clearly to us all.
I love you and I pray that God is working deeply in your life
So these few examples (while to the causal visitor may seem like a lot) are the sum of my positive experiences with people from my past, who beautifully represent the Christ-like spirit of the people who assemble in that big red building. I regret not posting these experiences alongside the more painful ones.
BJ and anyone else whose sensibilities are offended by this blog: this is my blog and by definition, I get to say how I feel. I am not on here BASHING a church or any one person in particular. I am on here talking about my experience and how it has affected me and my family—knowing there are many other rejected people out there just like me. If, as a result of my story, other people judge the church I used to belong to—or Christians in general—then let your actions contradict the unsavory witness that occasionally shows up in my story. [Point taken: I sit here and think about, for example, all the men who cheated on their wives, for example, who after they divorced, I shunned. I am so ashamed of that behavior.]
So in conclusion, yes, this blog is about me. Todd—old and new, one in the same—is pissed and disenchanted with religion. But he is also happy and feels blessed and even experiences joy in his life!
Rest assured, Todd has NOT given up on God. His love. Or all Christians. And appreciates the love of those who are trying—in their own way—to just…