Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Dear Rev. Johnston,
I am writing you in the early hours of the morning because I cannot sleep. I have awakened three times feeling the Lord calling me—or rather convicting me—of my silence and ordering me to write to you. I know better than to ignore the Lord. He will pester my conscience until I do His will. So, here I am writing you against my human judgment and need for sleep.
I will not use my full name, because I do not know what you would do with it. I am an attorney in the KC Metro area who serves mostly Hispanics and Spanish-speakers—again, in an answer to God’s calling in my life. I was baptized at age 9 and have been a good Baptist since that time. I am an active member of my church and attend regularly with my fiancee of two years. In May, we will be married by my father, a Baptist minister of at least 30 years.
Standing by my side as best man will be my brother, an excellent grade school teacher currently teaching at an English-language non-denominational Christian international school overseas. He has always been there for me when I needed him, has been by biggest cheerleader throughout my college years at a Baptist college and throughout law school. He continues to give me moral support and encouragement from overseas as I volunteer for other issues of God’s calling in my life—continuing education for high-school dropouts, creating middle-income housing in blighted neighborhoods in the urban core, volunteering for a free “Ask-A-Lawyer” day for an interfaith organization that provides temporary housing and job placement assistance to the homeless, and organizing congregations across the KC Metro area on issues of racial and economic segregation and social justice.
My brother was baptized at age 12 or 13 by my father, as was I. While he taught in Kansas for several years in a low-income school district, he taught Sunday School and played piano for his church nearly every Sunday. While overseas, he continues to be active in a Christian support and accountability group as he continues his walk with Christ. My brother is also gay.
My brother revealed this to me over e-mail while I was in law school because he was afraid of what my reaction would be over the phone or in person. And honestly, I used every—and I mean EVERY—argument and authority in the Bible, in law, and in philosophy to convince him not to be gay. If there was any logical or Biblical argument that could have changed his mind, I would have already discovered it.
His revelation was a shock to me at first. I was at first somewhat angry—why was he “doing” this to me and my family? I thought this kind of thing could ruin my father’s reputation, would break my mother’s heart, might make it more difficult for me to attract a good Christian woman to marry, and threatened to shatter the close family unity we had. For two years, I held his secret to myself, which required deflecting inquiries by my mother and reporting back to my brother whether or not the folks were getting suspicious. It was a very heavy burden to bear.
After two years of arguing with and praying about my brother, for whatever reason, I Christ gave me His peace that passes understanding over the matter. None of my theological opinions had changed, but my fears had subsided. And I was frankly tired of dancing around the white elephant in the room with my folks. The right thing for my brother to do was to tell them himself when he came back on vacation one summer. I knew that my family would need my support on all sides, so I insisted on being there.
My brother told my parents separately, and the differences in their reaction were compelling. My mother was understandably upset. She stated that this is not what she and my father had taught us—which is true. She also tried to convince my brother to change; I believe she suggested going to “treatment” and then marrying a “recovering” lesbian so the two would keep each other accountable. In retrospect, I cannot imagine a more dismal and depressing life for my brother, as such a partnership would be based only on trying to “kick this homosexual thing,” and not on love, respect, friendship, common beliefs and common goals—all the things that bind my fiancee and I together in addition to God-given physical attraction. Nevertheless, my mother’s response only made my brother more defensive and more combative. It was an angry and somewhat hurtful confrontation, but as I told my brother, not all that surprising. My mother gave me the argumentative and combative side that serves me so well in court. That’s just how she is, God love her.
My father’s reaction was completely different. Now working as a hospice chaplain, he simply smiled and told my brother that he loved him and had wondered for some time when my brother was going to tell him. My brother cried and I think I cried too. The experience was amazingly like experiencing and realizing the grace of Jesus for the first time. In the same way, here was my father telling my brother—sure, I know you are not perfect, but you are my son, and I love you anyway, unconditionally. My father’s reaction, just like my mother’s, was not all that surprising. My father gave me the ability to listen, to empathize, to have compassion, and to see people as God sees them—as God’s children who are loved despite all their flaws. That ability has served me well in my law practice and serves my very well in my relationship with my fiancee. That’s just how he is, God love him.
So, that’s how it happened, and it’s been over a year since my brother told my parents. I was afraid that it would fracture and destroy my family. Thanks be to God, it did not. I was afraid that it would ruin my father’s reputation. Obviously, it really never could have. I was afraid that it would break my mother’s heart. She’s still not happy about it, and continues to collect materials about treatment and individuals who say they were “cured” of homosexuality, but she still loves my brother very much. I was afraid that it would keep me from finding a good Christian wife. Of course, it did not.
Let me be clear. I still have mixed feelings and beliefs about homosexuality. I don’t believe it is God’s will for anybody to chose homosexuality, but I’m not entirely convinced anymore that it is a choice for most. I haven’t really decided whether my brother was born gay or chose to have a relationship with a man, but I don’t think there is any choice in the matter for him now. He is in a monogamous relationship with his partner (also a Christian) of about two years and has never really shown any doubt or any signs that he would or even could ever change. He continues his walk with Christ as best he knows how, assured that God knows he is not perfect, but loves him anyway unconditionally. Far from being deviant or tortured as some would portray individuals in his situation, he is very happy, very loving and he is very much true to himself and God being gay. Having known my brother all my life, and now that time has passed from the initial shock, I find that it’s not all that surprising. That’s just the way he is, God love him. And I do believe that God loves him. And I love him very much just as he is
I have read over the last several months of your role in the political effort to pass an amendment to the Kansas Constitution to further ban gay marriage, which—as I learned in law school—is already illegal in Kansas. I saw you prominently featured on the cover of The Pitch Weekly with the headline—in reference to the infamous protests of Rev. Fred Phelps of Topeka—“Ministers Hate Fags Too.” I read the latest article in the 9/21/04 issue of the Kansas City Star regarding your organization of a series of “pastor policy briefings” intended to encourage pastors to get involved in the political process. So, I figure you are exactly the person qualified to answer some of the questions that have been nagging me for months:
First, of the two very different reactions of my parents above, which was the more Christ-like? My father’s approach did not condone homosexuality in any way, but it certainly was loving and has bound our family together. I am convinced that my mother’s approach, although well intentioned, would have left my brother trapped in a miserable and loveless marriage, which would eventually have been doomed to failure after many years and possibly a few children. At some point, my brother would not be able to continue being someone he simply is not.
Second, if my brother and his partner move to Canada, (which is, in fact, exactly what they plan to do) and if they decide to get married as a same-sex couple there, how will that marriage harm my upcoming marriage? My fiancee and I will still love each other and be committed to each other just as much. My brother, in fact, would be living the Christian example of marriage that my parents gave us as best he can. He would probably be an example for other homosexuals to commit to a single, life-long, monogamous partner, rather than the reckless irresponsible existence which many feel is their only option at this point.
Third, what empirical basis do you have for the assertion that allowing same-sex marriage or unions would destroy the institution of the family? I would agree that no-fault divorce has seriously harmed the institution of the family in America. I would agree that absentee fathers are a great cause to the decline of the American family, and a cause towards almost every social ill that plagues America today. I would agree that raising children in poverty, crime, and racial segregation has weakened families all across the nation. The harm that these three phenomenons have inflicted upon the family in America is well documented and undisputed. Yet, I have not seen you nor your allies organize for a change in the law or the state constitution to ban no-fault divorce, absentee fathers, or raising children in poverty, etc. Why not? And why are you not pushing to elect candidates who are committed to fight against these very real threats to the family? Don’t you care? Aren’t these issues important enough? These issues have been destroying our families and our society for decades now. More than 50 percent of marriages end in divorce now, and that has nothing to do with same-sex marriage.
Fourth, what are you doing to communicate that even though you find homosexuality to be sinful and morally reprehensible, that there is no justification for hate and violence against homosexuals? Frankly, this is a real concern for my brother, and it is one of the reasons I think he may never return to teach in Kansas. And that’s just wrong. He’s a great teacher (and no, he doesn’t “teach homosexuality” in the classroom or anywhere else) and he should be teaching children in Kansas, not overseas or in Canada. Will not your campaign embolden non-Christians who would do evil against homosexuals by giving them some kind of moral justification for hate-crimes?
Fifth, have you ever met an openly homosexual Christian? Do you know any or are you friends with any? Are you willing to meet with any and ask them honest questions about their belief or their life?
Sixth, what are you doing to counter the perception that Christians are simply hateful people? I am sure that it is not news to you that many non-Christians have that kind of perception of our faith when they hear or see pastors like yourself or Fred Phelps so vehemently oppose homosexuality.
Seventh, what are you doing to protect your church and others against losing their 501(c)(3) status? It is clear—not subtle at all—which candidates you support and you are using the Church as your podium. Also, as you well know, demographic studies show that Protestant Christians now only comprise 50 percent of the American population, and within a few years, will cease to be the dominant religious group in America. How do you avoid the perception that rather than caring about the well-being of the nation, the political efforts by Rev. Jerry Falwell and others like yourself is really about power, i.e. trying to institutionalize into law the power Protestant Christians have had in our society over the last 225 years? I don’t have to tell you, Reverend, that that is the perception, and it is the single largest contributor to the Church’s increasing difficulty to reach and witness to non-believers. Frankly, my brother, as an openly gay Christian, has been an unlikely witness to many foreign non-believers simply because of who he is.
Rev. Johnston, I know you are a busy man, and you probably have no desire to be side-tracked by one semi-anonymous letter. However, I would appreciate a response to these questions when you get a chance. Being the son of a preacher, I also know that letters like these can be great material for a sermon. That’s your prerogative, I suppose, and for that reason, I am not including my full name. I have heard even other pastors trashed—and I mean trashed—on local Christian talk radio because they supported a moderate Republican candidate instead of the pro-life Republican candidate. I’m not saying you would attack my character instead of respectfully addressing the religious and policy questions I have raised, but we both know some people who wear a cross on their lapel unfortunately would have no problem doing so.
I look forward to your response. Thank you for your time and consideration of this letter.
In Christ’s Peace and Love,
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
1. Eunuchs were not always made, some were born.
Matthew 19:12"For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.2. Eunuchs were outsiders, not accepted into regular society.
He who is able to accept this, let him accept it."
Commentary:Jesus' remark (see above) about celibacy is graphic and would certainly seize the attention of Jewish listeners; Jewish people did not allow eunuchs into the covenant (Deut 23:1; though compare Is 56:4-5; Tannehill 1975:136-37). Although some sectarians in the wilderness may have preferred celibacy, mainstream Jewish society regarded marriage and childbearing as solemn responsibilities (Keener 1991a:72-78). A metaphor of such shame and sacrifice testifies to the value of the kingdom of God for which anyone would pay such a price (Tannehill 1975:138-40). By embracing both shame and temporary self-control, Joseph to a lesser extent models the nature of this demand (1:25; compare 1 Cor 7).
3. Eunuchs hung out with fabulous ladies!
Esther 2:3"Let the king appoint overseers in all the provinces of his kingdom that they may gather every beautiful young virgin to the citadel of Susa, to the harem, into the custody of Hegai, the king's eunuch, who is in charge of the women; and let their cosmetics be given them.4. But it was okay because they were just friends!
Esther 2:14 in the evening she hath gone in, and in the morning she hath turned back unto the second house of the women, unto the hand of Shaashgaz eunuch of the king, keeper of the concubines; she cometh not in any more unto the king except the king hath delighted in her, and she hath been called by name.
Wisdom of Sirach 30:20. "He sees things with his eyes, and groans, like a eunuch embracing a girl groans."The context is about how a rich man who is ill is worse off than a healthy poor man, because his illness makes him turn off to the good things in life like food.
Wisdom of Sirach 20:4. Literally, "A man who exerts justice by force of arms is like the desire of a eunuch to take a girl's virginity."I take this to mean that in both cases there is an internal contradiction or paradox.
(Although the writings known as the Apocrypha are often not included in Protestant Bibles, they were translated and included in the original King James Bible of 1611)
4. Eunuchs will be part of God’s kingdom, despite being outside the mainstream culture.
Famous Biblical Eunuchs:
Isaiah 56 Salvation for Others
3 Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say, "The LORD will surely exclude me from his people." And let not any eunuch complain, "I am only a dry tree." 4 For this is what the LORD says: "To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant- 5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off. 6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD , and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant- 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer."
Potiphar, the Egyptian official who bought Joseph as a slave (remember the P’s wife who hit on Joseph? Unsatisfied, unfulfilled perhaps?).
The killers of Jezebel;
The black court official Ebedmelech, who saved the prophet Jeremiah from the dungeon;
The court officials of Nebuchadnezzar who raised Daniel;
The servants who plotted against Esther's father and the other servants who exposed the plot;
The court official from Ethiopia whom Philip baptized;
The military leaders from Israel, Judah, Assyria, and Babylonia.
eu·nuch n. A castrated man employed as a harem attendant or as a functionary in certain Asian courts.
A man or boy whose testes are nonfunctioning or have been removed.
Informal. An ineffectual, powerless, or unmasculine man.
[Middle English eunuk, from Latin eunchus, from Greek eunoukhos : eun, bed + -okhos, keeping (from ekhein, to keep. See segh- in Indo-European Roots).]
eunuch·ism n. Word History: The word eunuch does not derive, as one might think, from the operation that produced a eunuch but rather from one of his functions. Eunuch goes back to the Greek word eunoukhos, "a castrated person employed to take charge of the women of a harem and act as chamberlain." The Greek word is derived from eun, "bed," and ekhein, "to keep." A eunuch, of course, was ideally suited to guard the bedchamber of women.
Source: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth EditionCopyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.