January 31, 2006 5:49 PM
How to treat homosexuals?
Rethinking My Views About Homosexualityby Barbara Curtis
Oscar was the first gay man I knew well. It was 1973 and Iâ€™d just migrated to San Francisco from Virginia â€“ a hippie chick wandering in for a haircut, immediately charmed by all the things that made him different from any man Iâ€™d met before.
It stands to reason Iâ€™d be attracted. The gay scene was another cutting edge of the counterculture and I loved hanging out on cutting edges. Over the next few years, Oscar and I became good friends, at first just trading gossip and giggles, but eventually allowing our lives to become deeply entwined.
In 1976, when I left my husband, Oscar was there for me â€“ from decorating my new flat to staging my daughter Jasmineâ€™s two-year-old birthday party. When my decadent lifestyle landed me in the hospital, Oscar moved in and took over, then stayed when I came home to a long recovery â€“ cooking, cleaning, and taking care of Jasmine.
Eventually I came to spend most of my time hanging out with gay men, even had a couple of gay roommates as my life spiraled downhill through a series of drug dependencies. Romance was never an issue, as the gays I knew were not experimenting, not bi, but only into men. Many had come to San Francisco from the Midwest or points east to get away from their families and to live someplace where they felt they could be who they were. As I listened to their bragging and boasting, I could barely believe the way they lived their lives, with numbers of partners that staggered the imagination. Some had 500 or more a year.
My theory was that their sexuality represented the complete domination of masculine sexuality. Just as in their natural state men tend to be more interested in sex than relationship, and women put a greater value on relationship than sex, in San Francisco in the 70s the homosexuals I knew had virtually stripped sex of human attachment. They wanted sex without limits. And since women represented limits, they didnâ€™t want women.
In 1980, I left the gay scene in San Francisco, moved to Marin, then â€“ realizing the change I really needed to make was in me â€“ grabbed onto Alcoholics Anonymous to learn how to live without drugs and alcohol. Seven years of spiritual seeking followed before I became a Christian in 1987, along with my husband Tripp.
The next twelve years, consumed with learning and teaching my children what it meant to be a believer, I paid little attention to what was going on in the world outside Christianity. When I came up for air, it was a different cultural landscape. The cutting edge of the counterculture had become mainstream. Movies and TV shows with sympathetic portrayals of gay characters had made a choice once considered taboo - now just another lifestyle.
And often, they were the nicest characters in the show. Take the recent Queer Eye For the Straight Guy â€“ you couldnâ€™t meet five nicer, more helpful, witty and fun-to-be-with guys â€“ as though theyâ€™d taken Oscar and highlighted each wonderful part about him.
But the political landscape was bad news, with aggression and hostility coming from both sides: homosexuals aggressively seeking change and acceptance, and Christian groups organized to defend foundational truths.
Like other Christians, at first I was angered and confused by the new labels we had to bear: anti-gay, homophobe, bigot. Yes, homosexuality was undoubtedly a sin, but only a few fringe fanatics were running around with signs saying, â€œGod Hates Fags.â€
Most of us knew God doesnâ€™t hate fags, that He loves them, that if Jesus were here today heâ€™d probably eat dinner with them, challenging all of our prejudices. We knew we were supposed to hate the sin and love the sinner, but with regards to homosexuals, what exactly would that look like?
Around about the time these questions were nagging at my soul, I had an epiphany of sorts. Hereâ€™s what I wrote:NIMBY Now In My Back Yard
I wasnâ€™t ready for this so close to home. After all, I live in a rural, relatively unsophisticated town, boasting not a single shopping mall or pet psychiatrist, where people shop at Kmart and are thankful to have one. I thought we might remain backward yet a while longer â€“ at least until my children were all grown.
Still, weâ€™re only an hour north of the Golden Gate Bridge, and on weekends the freeway which slices our town hosts an ever-growing stream of upscale cars carrying two men apiece to the funky river resort towns another hour north. Noticeably distinct from local types sporting Ford pickups and hunting rifles, these passers-through are more inclined to BMWs and fancy bikes. With no women or children to provide for, they can afford it.
Sometimes on the freeway perched high in my own BMW â€“ BigMamaWagon â€“ I see them holding hands, looking a lot like two left shoes. At 65 miles per hour itâ€™s not so hard to shrug off.
But I wasnâ€™t flying down the freeway last week, just making a bank deposit. My teller was new, and breaking new ground at our bank â€“ four earrings, no less. As he typed in my transaction, my eyes grazed his name tag, then the walls of his cubby â€“ browsing for pictures of wife, girlfriend, kids, or pets.
Sure enough, there was a wedding picture, a couple under an arbor abloom with pink. â€œDougâ€, smaller, younger, and clearly quite smitten, held hands with his new partner. Two tuxedos, no bouquet.
So now itâ€™s in my own backyard, once so far from San Franciscoâ€™s Castro District, formerly my stomping ground as a â€œfag hagâ€â€“ affectionately, a straight woman who hangs out with gay men, or in my case even lived with them. How did it happen? I can only say that when I walked in darkness, I walked farther than most. I thought it was hip.
It wasnâ€™t really. These PC â€œweddingâ€ pictures now gracing magazines â€“ and who knows? maybe lots of cubbies like Dougâ€™s â€“ are way different than the debauchery I saw in the late 70's. My guess is that among young gay men they are still the exception, rather than the rule.
The dominating force in the homosexual community I knew was unbridled, unfettered male lust. Bathhouses and places even more unspeakable offered access to hundreds of anonymous partners a year. Gays boasted of their records, outdoing each other and themselves in sheer numbers and types of perversion.
That was pre-AIDS, of course. And though that may have put a temporary damper on, the party seems once again to be in full swing. For years gays have been demanding a cure which will allow them to continue their very reckless behavior. Now in San Francisco they clamor for the reopening of the bathhouses, which were closed in the 80's to prevent the spread of disease. The Annual Gay Pride Parade continues to look like a descent into the torments of hell. Not at all the image conveyed in Dougâ€™s wedding picture.
Monogamy â€“ that was for dumb heterosexuals, or â€œbreeders.â€
Now Breeder Supreme, I wonder what Doug is thinking as he sifts through my bundle of checks â€“ article payments from places like Focus on the Family, Southern Baptists, the Salvation Army. Will he pigeonhole me as his enemy? Iâ€™m not. I want to ask him how he got here, where heâ€™s going. Iâ€™d really like him to know how much I care.
â€œYouâ€™re new here, arenâ€™t you?â€ I begin. â€œAre you from Petaluma?â€ I smile a lot, maybe too much. I hope not.
As a Conservative/Christian-Come-Lately Iâ€™ve had to reconcile what I know firsthand to be wrong with the â€œotherâ€ side with what I observe to be wrong with my own. Here is what I see:
We claim to love the sinner and hate the sin, but the problem of homosexuality and its destructive effects within our society has surely made it a challenge. Still, it canâ€™t be right for Christianity to be pitted against homosexuality as though it were the worst sin on parade. I recently heard of a pastor who resigned his position and filed for divorce to marry the also-inconveniently-already-married church secretary. His main complaint: his wife was too fat. Is his sin less than Dougâ€™s? Such hypocrisy makes our very specific outrage over homosexuality difficult for those in darkness to understand.
As though it were planned, I seem to wind up with Doug as my teller more often than not these days. He sorts through my collection of â€œenemyâ€ checks while we talk of the weather, the weekend, whatever.
Itâ€™s not that hard. I know more than most that a life can be turned 180 degrees. In the meantime I choose to be friends with Doug. Someday that may make a difference
Rethinking my position on homosexuality â€“ focusing on how God might like to see me behave â€“ made a difference for me and my family. It helped us see that no matter how passionately we oppose homosexual political gains â€“ particularly now with same-sex marriage â€“ we need to treat every person we meet with respect and kindness. With children involved in music and theater, weâ€™ve met and have ongoing relationships with many individuals who happen to be homosexual.
Itâ€™s our responsibility:
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ
and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that God was reconciling the world
to himself in Christ, not counting menâ€™s sins against them. And he has committed
to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christâ€™s ambassadors, as
though God were making his appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20)>
Two years ago, I saw Doug for the last time. Our family moved to Virginia, back to the old-fashioned values and traditions Iâ€™d scorned in my younger, unbelieving years. Now weâ€™re in an even smaller town â€“ so rural that our post office is a little cubby in the back of our teensy the-kind-you-only-see-in-movies general store.
On our tree-lined dirt road, graced with brick houses on three acre lots, the house two lots down was recently bought by a couple in their 80â€™s who went to town fixing it up, with contractors swarming the property like locusts. When the dust settled, I brought over a welcome basket to the two men whoâ€™d seen the same beauty in our neighborhood I had. Turns out theyâ€™ve been involved in theater all their lives and love to come to see my kids perform.
Where will our friendship go? I donâ€™t know. But I thank God for it, thank God for teaching me to love them, and â€“ acknowledging my complete helplessness â€“ I place all the unresolved issues in His care.
[It's probably fair to tell you that comments on this site are moderated, so for anyone who's tempted to blast me - before you waste your time, please know I will delete without reading any personal attacks. I am a sinner too, and my point here is to impress my fellow Christians with the fact that we are all sinners - some of us lucky enough to be saved by grace - and that we are to treat everyone with compassion and kindness. No sin is worse than another.
If there are gay people reading this, I hope you don't feel patronized, but that you might in some small way begin to appreciate the very real dilemma faced by Christians living in a culture that is demanding we not be simply tolerant (which most of us are are) but that we sanction what for us is just plain wrong. Please know that most of us are well aware that we sit among wrongdoers at church each Sunday - and that we have plenty to repent of ourselves.]Love,
Thanks so much for posting these articles.
Posted by: paigeu | January 31, 2006 6:53 PM
As a non-Christian who grew up in San Francisco, I would be very interested to hear why homosexuality incites such a particularly passionate response from Christians. I am guessing the bible says it is wrong and that it is better for men and women to have the complementary marriage God intended, and to have kids.
But I have never quite "gotten" why this issue carries so much more weight and passion for Christians than most issues of sin. I'd love it if you wanted to articulate the destructive effects you mention homosexuals having on our culture. I feel like your worldview makes this a pretty obvious question, but from my worldview, I can only guess at some of what you mean, and what I can guess isn't enough for me to really understand the Christian passion about this issue.
Thanks for your article, Barbara.
Posted by: Gen | January 31, 2006 7:54 PM
Barbara, I'm a long-time lurker finally coming out of the woodwork. I read many blogs, but none that I enjoy as much as yours. You make me think and laugh, a wonderful combination these days! Thank you for speaking up for truth AND love--there's so little of that these days. God bless you.
Posted by: Shannon | January 31, 2006 10:38 PM
Having been a music major and an employee of coffee shops for many years, I've been acquainted with many gay people as well, so I appreciate your thoughts and experiences. That truth and love thing can be hard to balance at times. I've always been bothered by Christians who label gay people as "sodomites" as I've seen some bloggers do lately in relation to this controvery. I figure that I wouldn't call a real person that to their face, so I shouldn't anywhere else either.
Posted by: Anne | January 31, 2006 10:52 PM
I used to work somewhere I eventually dubbed "Sodom and Gomorrah". DH told me once if God told me to run I better do it and not look back. Trust me it was THAT bad! In the whole company the person I was closest to and trusted the most was a lesbian. She was genuine and real. She was lost and hurting. She told me that I was the first church going person who'd been close to her. She said usually they snubbed her or were all happy to her face and then snarled her to pieces behind her back. She knew how I felt about her lifestyle, but she also knew how I felt about her. She asked me one day if Jesus loved her even though she was gay. I took great joy in telling her all about the people Jesus used to have dinner and long conversations with. I told her about how He loved Peter even though he knew Peter would deny Him. The hardest part about leaving that job was losing touch with her. We email each other occasionally and I have already invited her to the adoption party I'm planning for my children. When I left she thanked me for showing her who Jesus really was.
Thank you for your article!
Posted by: Julie | February 1, 2006 11:26 AM
- Here via Rocks in My Dryer...
and had to de-lurk to say that I loved this post...it is rare that I have read something so well thought out and inspirational.
Posted by: blackbird | February 1, 2006 7:04 PM
Been thinking about your questions/comments all day and intend to offer my thoughts- when I have more time! Maybe later tonight or tomorrow morning.
Thank you for having the courage to address tough issues- and for doing it so graciously.
Posted by: gendifrank | February 1, 2006 10:15 PM
So refreshing to read this post. I reluctantly posted my views on this issue just this morning. I found you via "Rocks in My dryer" and saw this. Of course had to read since it has been so fresh and heavy on my mind as well. Thanks for this post!!!
Posted by: momrn2 | February 1, 2006 11:36 PM
This was a great post for me to read. This issue is particularly difficult for me -- my ex-husband is gay and we have a son together. He wants our son to think homosexuality is acceptable and just the way a person is made. I want our son to understand that he can love his Dad without accepting his sinful choices. It's very complicated. And it is made more complicated by the fact that I am not completely healed from the hurt my ex inflicted (and currently inflicts, actually) upon me, my son and my family. I admit that it is hard for me to be as compassionate as I know I am required to be if I want to truly follow Christ, but I am working on it. Thanks for this article.
Posted by: jessica | February 2, 2006 3:55 PM
Thank you for this article. It truly helped me to see what I needed to. From a small town myself, and going to a church that is not so "tolerant". Now I know, I am not being a bad Christian.... I am being a good neighbor and loving all men and women, as He intended.
Posted by: Kimy | July 6, 2006 10:03 PM
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