This is for a mother in North Carolina.
She wrote in response to a recent column of mine that criticized conservative Christian groups for newspaper ads attacking gays. She wants me to accept that God exists and "does not make mistakes. He does not make a person gay."
"People like you," she writes, "make it easier for my son to convince himself even more (that) he is gay. My son is 25 years of age, good looking, personable, friendly, popular, witty, college-educated and a very confused young man who has allowed Satan to rule his life right now. You cannot convince me deep down in your soul (that you don't) know this is abnormal."
She closes by saying that she'd love to hear from me. Well, here's my answer.
Dear North Carolina Mother:
Thank you for writing. I appreciate your concern, but don't worry. God and I talk all the time.
But then, it doesn't matter much what you think of me; I'm just a guy in the newspaper. It does matter what you think of your son.
It sounds like you did a great job raising him. I imagine that you kissed a lot of skinned knees and tended more than one fever. And I imagine, too, that some nights before you went to bed, you looked in on him as he slept, small and unaware, and maybe touched his hair, breathed his scent and loved him helplessly.
Now there's this. And you're frightened.
But you know what? Your son probably is, too.
I don't know about "confused," though. Indeed, this might be the first time in his life that he isn't confused. The first time he's ever been honest with himself and those around him about who and what he is. And if everything that came before was a lie and this is finally the truth, will you deny it, and pretend it doesn't exist? Will you reject him as a "mistake"? Or will you still love him helplessly?
God makes no one gay, you say. In other words, homosexuality is something one chooses.
Here's my question, then: Why? If being gay means carrying a secret that sits on your heart like stones, if it means being reviled by preachers, rejected by family and ridiculed by strangers, if it means living with the fear that someone might take from you your career, your child, your very life, why would a person freely choose it?
Oh, I know that being gay has become chic in recent years. But gay people were with us long before that.
And I'll grant that science has reached no conclusive verdict on the origins of homosexuality. On the other hand, I don't recall "choosing" to be heterosexual. Do you?
As you see it, your son is a victim of satanic wiles. Yet the same Bible that is interpreted as forbidding homosexuality also forbids adultery, the disrespect of parents and working on the Sabbath. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think you'd be as upset if your son's sin was that he mowed his lawn on Sunday afternoons.
But is God truly that selective? Does he somehow prefer Sabbath-breakers to gays? Or isn't it true that none of us is perfect and that all fall short of grace in some way or another?
So many people claim to know the mind of God, but the funny thing is, everyone who invokes his name seems to be thinking of something different, something that speaks only to personal feelings or fears. For one guy, God is the bringer of wrath, for another, he is a booster for the home team, and for still another, he is the force that makes the bus wait when you're running desperately to catch it.
For me, he is a silence heard above the cacophony of the world, a blessed quietness that spills inside, a stillness that slips over you with the stealth of twilight shadows.
We choose the God we need, Mother.
If I were you, I'd choose the one that allowed me to meet my child where he is and love him helplessly, still.