Sunday, March 05, 2006

Honoring with the truth

What does it mean for an adult child to honor their parents?

It's a question I've pondered many times.

Diana recently commented on my post about Transamerica and said:
I know families that are like that [the family in the film] from the support group I go to, the parents just don’t understand, but will support their child no matter what. But unfortunately, I also know some parents who have never spoken to their child again.

Drew, at This Gay Christian's Blog, writes about this experience he observed:
"When my Beau came out to his parents, they paraded the fact in front of every family member; forcing him out of the closet with a hot firebrand rather than letting him tell his story appropriately and timely. It set off a three week marathon of every family member coming over to tell him how selfish and wrong and cruel he was being and that he was going to hell.

I know other people who have been completely cut off by their parents (mostly good, Christian parents), merely because they came out to them. I remember one guy on writing that unlike the stereotypes furthered by ex-gay ministries, he'd had a great relationship with his dad, until he came out. Now his parents won't communicate with him except to send him sermons or Bible verses.

Some people I know have endured so much abuse from their parents that it becomes a matter of emotional survival to remove themselves from their families and move on.

And yet for many of us, the verses "Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long..." are tattooed on our brains. In Leviticus, I think there are more death penalty warnings for cursing your parents than there are for homosexual sex.

It seems many Christian parents think being honored and obeyed is a right they have. A Biblical mandate. I can't remember how many times I heard my parents recite "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. 'Honor your father and mother'--which is the first commandment with a promise--'that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.'" from Ephesians 6. Of course, the only problem with quoting scriptures to your kids is eventually they might start quoting back the verses that follow them up - such as, "Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord."

You would think my parents would have been proud of my Bible recitation skills (and usually they were, just not with Ephesians 6). In fairness, I did get my Dad to laugh a couple times with being able to one-up him with scripture.

Anyway, in pondering this, I realize the commands about honoring parents sure made sense in ancient times. Then it was important to ensure that communities stayed together. The bonds of family were often the means for its survival. But that's not how things operate in the here and now. Babies have babies, parents abandon and abuse their kids, or dump them because they don't meet some standard of heterosexuality or "normal" gender expression. Kids are kicked out and adult children are shunned or shamed for something they can't change. Children and their parents end up on opposite sides of a culture war and parents often put what they believe and what others will think of them before their feelings for their own children. Some parents behave in horrible and dishonorable ways.

I am sure that like many parents of glbt folks (especially those from Evangelical/Fundamental Christian circles), my parents do not see me as especially honoring, and certainly not obedient. And if I were to honor them in the way that they wanted, I would be trying to live as a very unhappy ex-gay right now, desperately hiding my true orientation from the world. Living a lie and dying inside every day. Quite honestly, I probably wouldn't be alive right now. How is that honoring to them?

My parents are the ones who taught me to always tell the truth. And now I am telling the truth about my life. Being truthful. Living with authenticity. Extending love and courtesy toward those I disagree with (yes, even those in ex-gay circles).

My parents raised me this way. They raised me to be honest. They were the ones that raised me to forgive my enemies and pray for those who persecute me. They taught me to stand up for what I believe, even if it was unpopular. Maybe living with truth and integrity is the only way I can truly honor them, even if I can't give them what they want.


  1. I've said the same about my parents: they taught me to value the truth, and now they're reaping the results.

    They didn't necessarily appreciate the irony, though.

  2. In biblical times, thy father and thy mother had a 50% chance of being dead by age 30, so it was sort of imperative to squeeze every last bit of wisdom out of them before they moved on to greener pastures (or caused the pastures to be greener, as it were). In those days, the village elders were fairly likely to be people we would consider too young to hold important positions in our society today.

    So it's really hogwash when people seek to impose biblical imperatives on civil society. Not only have times changed, but those very biblical imperatives have morphed and changed over time. And not only have the texts changed, but the various official interpretations of the texts have changed based on the political will of the various religious sects over time. For a school paper I once identified a change in the official Catholic translation of Leviticus 18:22. The 1978 version said (paraphrasing, but the key words are the same) 'Thou shalt not have commerce with a man as with a woman. It is abomination.' The 1992 text said "Do not have sex with another man. God hates that."

    My dad grew up in a town where the pentecostal church he attended as a child was at holy war with the pentecostal church across the highway. The only belief they held in common was that the Catholics were certainly going to be the first ones lined up against the wall when Armageddon came. The world view of the fundamentalist is that everyone is going to Hell but the people who believe exactly as they do. And since we live in a world with hundreds of varieties of fundamentalists, they can't all be right. It's either the case that only one of the fundamentalist groups is right and everybody's going to Hell but them (and who gets to decide who is right?), or it's the case that they are all wrong. I vote for the latter.

  3. Mike, great point about the early death rates and how different societies were back then.

    Christine, beautifully written post, clear, thoughtful and insightful. Thanks for sharing this.

  4. Mike, great point about the early death rates and how different societies were back then.

    Christine, beautifully written post, clear, thoughtful and insightful. Thanks for sharing this.

  5. In a way I was lucky, both of my parents passed away before I came out. My brother and his family have been excellent, I couldn’t ask for a better family. They have been totally accepting, they have giving me a shoulder to cry on when I needed it like now.

  6. My fundy mom keeps enclosing these bible verses in cards, and they all have to do with God appointing me as a prophet...

    The weird thing, as queer ppl, I believe we are prophets. Doesn't it seem ironic? She believes of course that I will become a heterosexual married woman who is a prophet someday, I'm guessing, and totally misses how being queer speaks volumes in society.


  7. BTW - that comment was meant to correlate with the comments about our parents teaching us to be truthful, and here we are being truthful, but it's not the truthful they wanted.

  8. I've read stories of horrible childhoods, and not just in the gay community, but the straights who were raised in the most disfunctional homes imaginable, involving physical, mental, and sexual abuse.

    And it's hard to say to one of them from such a background, that the Bible says you must "honor your father and mother..." and etc.

    But, at the very least, if one wants to reconcile their interpretation of the commandment (and this is a commandment, not just some ordinance, or statute brought about after the fact to weed out idol worship from male temple cult prostitues) one can still honor their parents for giving them life. Without them, we wouldn't be here.

    Little comfort to some I suppose, but if the need should arise, honor them for the fact of giving you life, then move on.

    The Bible also teaches that if you listen to a fool, then you are a bigger fool! Prov 26:6? If your parents are fools then... :::shrug:::

  9. My mom pulled this on me when I was younger; I replied always that the command was to honor my parents, not to be a doormat or not live my own life. I'm sorry you have to think about this. *hug* I hope your parents can come to an understanding. It can't be too soon.

  10. Hmm. As a mother of five, statistically I've got at least one gay child :)

    They're very young still, but I truly believe that all I want for them is that they'll be happy. I can't see how they can honour me or my hubby by living a lie?!

    Hopefully, when they're older, they'll be accepted whatever they are!

  11. BTW - I'm dead impressed with you, you took my test (and you're one of my newest bluddies) - and got 80 per cent! How did you do it...