To My Conservative Christian Family: A Response To The Orlando Shooting

Hispanic boys praying in church
Hispanic boys praying in church

Dear Conservative Christian family,

I understand, because I've seen it on your faces, that people like me leave you feeling confused, and possibly even disgusted.

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, like a good Christian, what they had done and hated that I had to watch.

And like you, the one thing about my disposition that I didn't want to be true was my attraction for men. But as I dashed into adolescents my attractions surfaced. My body became my enemy. In many ways, I am as much a part of you, as I am the LGBT+ community.

I've seen through Facebook, twitter, and various article online, that many conservative Christians are asking one question: "Why are we being blamed for the Orlando shooting?"

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 shooters, the rapists, the boys who punched me in the park, or the uncle who called me a 'fucking faggot.' Homophobia, at its core, is hatred that changes the way LGBT+ people value themselves.

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, intrinsically, as their heterosexual neighbor.

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 children], the system of homophobia is working through you.

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.

I know internalized homophobia well.

When I discovered that I was bisexual, I immediately believed God was going to kill me, an eternal life in hell.

Can you imagine what that felt like for me, a 12 year-old who loved God so deeply?

Homophobia taught me:
I am less valuable than a straight person.
I am not clean emotionally, romantically, or spiritually. I am a perverted boy.

Homophobia literally distorted my self-worth. I hated myself.

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, so I prayed for God to kill me. And when God wouldn't, I reached for suicide.

You see, when you use 'Love the sinner, hate the sin' to make yourself morally peaceful while loving a 'sinner' like me, you'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."

But it doesn't stop there. The mindset of 'Love the sinner, hate the sin' has tricked even you.

Love cannot be in cahoots with hatred. For example, how can you love me and hate my Hispanic skin at the same time? In this light, your claims of loving me (while hating how I love) feel like a sham. I know you mean well, but do you remember what genuine [unconditional] love feels like?

Contrary to many of your beliefs, open and affirming ministers are not passive figures that have brought a new problem into the Church, namely a weak theology that validates homosexuality.

The problem has been in your churches for decades. It's in your sanctuaries and its metastasizing violence outside your walls. The problem is a silent machine producing the willingness to hate.

For instance, 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.

Or when you say you love me, and yet you defend bills that deny me total equality, socially and politically. Your sentiments sounds like love, but look like hatred shrouded in conditional acceptance.

Is it possible that you've blurred the distinction between tolerance and unconditional love?

I feel foolish for trusting you this long.

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. You often criticize us for building shade that allows us to withstand your demoralizing heat.

Where else are we to find true, unconditional love if its not in the arms of the same gender? 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.

Many of us in the LGBT+ community are not asking you to abandon your religious values, like many of you are asking us to drop our sexuality. We're simply asking for camaraderie.

We are all part of the same family at our truest core. Can we work together? Can we participate as comrades in the healing process?

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.

Can you help us build a world without 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 brother in Christ,
Isaac