“When my information changes, I alter my conclusions. What do you do, sir?”
- John Maynard Keyes
Dear Young Jane,
I still love you just as much as I love me today. You did a great job with what you had, you built amazing friendships, some of which continue to this day. You’ve always done your best to love and embrace others without judgment. You’ve come a long way down some very bumpy roads and lived to tell the tale.
And believe me, I remember how hard it was. I remember how hard I tried to make it work, I really do. You try to convince yourself every day that it’s okay; being gay is wrong, but you can still love gay people fully and completely. All the venom thrown at your religion over that topic is unwarranted because you love them fully just like Jesus would.
Except you don’t.
I know you try. It’s an impossible endeavor, but you believe you are up to the task. You have very close, very dear LGBTQIA friends that you work very hard to love even while maintaining this belief that a fundamental part of who they are is a sin.
But there is always that distance. As much fun as you have, as many deep conversations as you participate in, there is a constant wall, a constant nagging in the back of your head reminding you that you can’t fully accept everything about them.
Some might say that’s a personal problem, that they’ve been more effective. They might say its a problem of perspective or immaturity. They’re not wrong. And that’s okay.
I still remember the day you found out about the high suicide rate of gay LDS teens. You tried to ignore it, to say it was just the result of awful people who didn’t know how to love people they “disagreed” with, that it was depression, or a misunderstanding of the gospel, or horrible parents…
You did everything you could to wick away the fact that your own belief on the matter was the problem. It got to the point where when people would ask you “how can you believe that there is a ‘wrong’ way to love another human being?” you would respond, “I don’t know. It’s what my church believes, but I don’t like it.”
I’m here to tell you, Young Religious Jane, that it’s not possible. This is hard to hear and even harder to say, but you simply can’t fully love someone who is gay while believing being gay is wrong any more than you can love someone who is Italian while believing being Italian is wrong. You’re taking a fundamental part of who they are and tell them it is unacceptable. You’re wonderful at putting yourself in the shoes of others: would you believe a person who purported to love you but said that it was wrong to be a woman? Or that it was okay to be a woman as long as you didn’t “act in womanly ways?”
Soon, your church will coin the phrase “same-sex attraction.” Don’t buy into that either; it makes the problem worse. Would you accept it if another religion said that black people suffer from “altered skin pigmentation?” or that people with blue eyes suffer from “genetic eye discoloration?” No, of course not. Because it makes it sound like it’s wrong, like it’s a disease. Like they were born wrong. How can that be right?
I know you feel a lot of pressure – from church, family, friends – but changing your mind on this matter is easier than you think. See, the LGBTQIA community doesn’t need everyone to accept their actions, choices, or behavior. None of us expect that, do we? They need what you and everyone else gets every day from most every person we meet: acceptance of who we are as a human being, the person we’ve been from birth; we can certainly screw the rest of it up from there with little effort!
You can give that to them (and to yourself) quite easily. It doesn’t have to be drastic. The areligious and former religious often make the mistake of pressuring you on this topic as much as your beloved religion does. They talk as if we you must give everything, as if they want your testimony, for you to fight for the LGBTQIA community, to shout it from the rooftops.
You don’t have to.
It’s enough to stop fighting for it, Young Religious Jane. It’s enough to have one less voice talking about the “gay agenda”. It’s even enough to shrug and say “It’s what my church believes, but I don’t like it.” instead of trying to justify it.
Just stop justifying it. There are many greater uses for that brain of yours.
You will come to find that the strongest members of the LDS church that you know now actually believe strongly that the church is wrong in their view of gays. They have an individual power you haven’t cultivated yet; a power that makes their relationship with God even closer and more intimate than yours. Just wait; someday they’ll show you.
You don’t have to let go of everything else to embrace your LGBTQIA brothers and sisters. Keep the good and give yourself space to embrace what you know is right.
You don’t have to stop being religious
You don’t have to leave the church
You don’t have to change anything else in your belief system
You don’t have to start marching in parades or posting rainbows on your facebook profile pictures.
You don’t have to stand up in church and proclaim your disagreement
You don’t have to argue about it with your friends
You just have to reach inside and let go of this out-dated idea about the LGBTQIA community that, frankly, is doing you plenty of harm too. Imagine how freeing it would be to accept your gay friends and neighbors exactly as they are, no holds barred? Remember how that idea used to make you want to dance? But you thought it wasn’t an option. It is. It is an option, and you don’t have to give up anything.
Changing your mind doesn’t have to change anything else. It can be just between you and God. That’s where every spiritual relationships begins anyways, isn’t it?
Believe me, I understand your pain. I remember it so well, I often wonder if I have PTSD (haha..ha..ahem…). You will eventually leave the church altogether, but for now, you can do this. You can be you and believe what you think is right without losing what makes your relationship with the church so precious. It just takes one small step forward.
Trust me, you won’t regret it.
– Old Crotchety Jane