Saturday, April 22, 2006

The worst kind of hurt

I just had a conversation with a friend who found out her mother had prayed that if being gay was a sin, that the Lord would take this daughter before she had drifted too far from God (yes, as in "take this daughter" out).

GCB at This Gay Christian's Blog writes about his Beau and the phone call he recently received from his parents:
And among it all comes the proclamation that, among the church gossip and woe-is-me’s about their so-called wayward son, his mother is praying that the Beau and I would have unsettled lives.

This is in line, though more blunt, with my own mother’s proclamation that “God will never bless me.”
A commenter on the above entry related the following:
I know the feeling. My mother sent me a letter saying that she used to (before I came out) pray that I’d find the right woman to marry, but after I came out, she prayed that I would never fall in love (with another man)...So, I remember well the ‘punched in the guts’ feeling of knowing your mother is/was praying against you.

Stephen Bennett (ex-gay superman who claims to be completely heterosexual) recently had as a guest on his podcast the mother of a lesbian. She read this from a letter she sent her daughter:
I pray that your spiritual eyes will be opened and that you will see God's truth. I'm grieving because you are missing all the blessings God has in store for you. He can't bless you. You will never have real joy, happiness, contentment and peace as you continue to live in this gay lifestyle. You may think that you are happy right now, but that will not last. Real joy and happiness only comes when you walk in God's truth.

I'm sure that not only does she believe that God can't bless her daughter, she is actively praying for this as well. And no, this is not my mother (although it easily could be; I've heard my parents pray similar prayers and I've no doubt they are praying these prayers for me right now).

Some prayers or messages gays receive go way beyond the "I hope your life is hell because you are a sinner" type of prayers, though.

(Rev.) John Smid, Director of Tennessee's Love In Action has been quoted in the past as saying, "I would rather you commit suicide than have you leave Love In Action wanting to return to the gay lifestyle. In a physical death you could still have a spiritual resurrection; whereas, returning to homosexuality you are yielding yourself to a spiritual death from which there is no recovery." (You can read more about the validity of this quote with comments from LIA survivors here).

One early LIA (California) participant, Jack McIntyre, successfully commmitted suicide. His note states, in part,
I must confess that there were things in my life that I could not gain control, no matter how much I prayed and tried to avoid the temptation, I continually failed.

It is this constant failure that has made me make the decision to terminate my life here on earth.

If I remain it could possibly allow the devil the opportunity to lead me away from the Lord. I love life, but my love for the Lord is so much greater, the choice is simple.
[the entire letter can be found in the comments section of this XGW post and additional references can be found here and here.]

When talking to Soulforce Equality Riders who had just been to BYU, they related that one sentiment they'd heard frequently in Mormon circles was that it was better to be dead than be gay.

I really do agree with Soulforce on this issue. This kind of language and these kinds of prayers (especially when related to the child/person in question) do constitute spiritual violence/abuse. There's no other way around it that I can see.

People who pray for God to take out their kids, make their kids lives miserable, and then proceed to tell them about these prayers, are committing a form of abuse, and in my opinion, it's the worst kind. Judy Shepherd has been quoted as saying that "Church hurt is the worst kind of hurt." And parents invoking God against you is one step above that, in my opinion. That, and the implicit lack of unconditional love leaves a wound that may never be healed.

Mary Lou Wallner, whose daughter committed suicide in 1997, has said, "I committed a hate crime. I didn't love my daughter unconditionally."


  1. My parents originally told me they'd be praying that my partner and I (we were dating at the time) wouldn't find time in our schedules to see each other. I was working odd hours in a call center, and it was difficult to find time--and knowing that they wanted it that way was very difficult.

    Now they don't say things like that, though I know where they stand--they are even beginning to talk about Liz and ask questions about our life together. They'll never be PFLAG parents and never accept my beliefs or my life, but at least I feel that they are being more consistent in demonstrating what they consider to be "grace" towards a "sinner."

  2. Oh my, Christine, yet another poignant, thorough, heartwrenching piece from you. Thanks again for wading through difficult stuff.

    I was active in a PFOX email list several years back (beginning in 2000).

    The other members and moderators were skeptical at times about my motives for being there. Especially in my early weeks/months there I often responded to new members, acknowledging their hurts or fears about their glbtq kids' lives and telling them their family would be in my prayers.

    Sometimes the same folks expressed surprise or shock when they found out that I was there as an openly gay man, and yet neither as an anonymous spy nor someone who was seriously considering an ex-gay path.

    I would explain that I didn't consider ex-gays or conservative Christians to be my enemies, that in fact my kids were growing up most of the time among people with perspectives like theirs. But, if I were an evangelical Christian whose kids were being raised in a Hassidic Jewish household (or pick any other family stretched across diverse ethnic/religious backgrounds), being a good dad would include trying to understand and be able to connect with people in that other background. And there was much I didn't understand about the details and complexities of what my kids might be hearing and learning about glbt folks.

    Since I wasn't there to convince anyone of anything, I tried to avoid starting antagonistic discussions. But, the first time I heard a discussion around "Do you pray for bad things to happen to your 'struggling' child?" I was taken aback... The possibility hadn't occurred to me.

    As I recall, there was no unanimous response. Praying for bad things clearly wasn't the response of some in the group, but when I said something about struggling with that concept -- I couldn't pray for bad things to happen to others in the group, for example, just because I disagreed with them -- the response was very animated by a few who defended and/or promoted the praying-for-bad-stuff approach.

    Some of the arguments seemed to be religiously-based -- "God will use our prayers for good" -- and some based on the 12-step approach to addiction -- "S/He won't get help until after 'hitting bottom'".

    My partner Dale committed suicide a few weeks later, and when I told the group I got sympathetic and supportive responses. Some references to Dale were brought into conversations much later, sometimes prompting me to speak to his humanity, his spirit, his faith, and his struggles.

    I don't remember hearing explicit suggestions that perhaps Dale was better off dead (but I also try not to retain ugly memories). I do remember pushing back firmly when it was suggested that, in the wake of Dale's death, God must be calling me to something different (like an ex-gay life). I suspect there were times that people felt constrained from speaking their minds fully.

  3. It saddens me deeply that there are christians who would pray for bad things to happen to anyone, much more even to their own children.

    I am a christian and I cannot think of a single time Jesus suggested doing this. In fact, he was usually doing the opposite of asking God to take someone out, or hold back blessings. Jesus hung out with people from all walks of life, he ate meals with them, and loved them.

    It also saddens me that some parents of gays and lesbians think their own sin is less sinful, less important, less bad than any sexual sin. I'm not trying to call gays sinners here, just putting this in the context of a christian who thinks being gay is a sin.

    I really don't see how a person who doesn't believe what they are doing is a sin, can be compared to a christian anyway!

    But say a gay is a christian, and doesn't believe what they are doing is sin, how is this different than me committing an act of sin that God hasn't revealed to me as sin? There is no humanly way we as christians will ever be totally rid of committing acts of sin until we die. Once we know we are sinning, it's our responsibility to try to stop. But until then, even if those around me suspect I'm sinning, they typically don't bash me over the head with it. They would more likely lovingly approach me and gently tell me where they think I'm sinning. I might disagree, I might ponder it, pray, read the bible,etc.. The process of me being convicted of my sin could take weeks, months, years. In the meantime, no one is picketing against me, calling me a destroyer of family values, keeping me from church, etc... see where I'm going with this?

    Why do christians think it's okay to torment gays this way? I've been mulling this over lately and feel as though God is crying out "These people (gays) are my children too!"

  4. What makes this even harder is that the parents involved are victims as well - victims of a legalistic, fear-driven system that tells them that their children are going to hell, and that if they really love their kids they'll keep them at arm's length and pray and speak against them in the name of "tough love."

    Not that it changes the reality of the pain these parents are causing in the name of God, but imagine being manipulated into believing that the only way you can show your love for someone you care deeply about is to make their lives as miserable as possible.

    The devil's having a field day, all right - just not the one most Christians envision.

  5. It's astonishing to me when I read stories like this, but it doesn't surprise me. When I recently spoke with old friends back in east Texas, they had no desire to speak with me unless they were preaching AT me. I had stopped being a human and had become nothing more than a target.

  6. e, that's a great point. As a parent, I really can't imagine much more a painful existence than believing I would have to express my love for my children by pushing them away and wishing ill will towards them because they are sinners. Satan is SO sneaky, isn't he?

    And Steve, that's another thing I just don't understand. So many christians are duped into thinking this kind of behaviour (preaching AT an person viewed as an object instead of interacting with them as they would anyone else) is what God wants.

  7. I feel they're putting limitations on God - "he cannot bless you" - ? Can't he do anything?

    How sad, to believe life and love has such limits, and to deny themselves loving their own children! Surely, that cannot be God's will, that they pray for their children to be "taken out"?