Rona never knew that Jamie, the favorite of her four sons, was gay. When he came out she was crushed. Within six months Jamie died of HIV/AIDS. Being gay was at variance with Rona’s religion. She simply could not bear the thought that she and Jamie would be separated in the hereafter. Fortunately Rona’s minister was comforting, telling her that today even many theologians disagree with some of what the Bible says.
Dr. Robert E. Wagner, a California psychotherapist and ex-member of the clergy, explains that the Bible should not be taken literally. Though it does include historical facts, it is also a mythological tale that talks about institutions and ideas that have changed with time. Slavery, for instance, was accepted for millennia, yet people came to see that it was wrong. Polygamy and evolution are other examples. Since time immemorial, politicians have used outdated practices for their own purposes. In addition, people are reluctant to change their beliefs because they are afraid to abandon ideas and structures they are used to.
Wagner recalled his very Catholic and totally asexual home. Sex simply was not discussed. “Today theologians debate concepts related to love, celibacy and sexual orientation. I firmly believe that God loves every gay person. The Catholic Church indeed is slowly changing its attitude towards gays. In 2013, during a press conference held when newly elected Pope Francis returned to his native Brazil, he said that ‘If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?’”
All over the world, major religions struggle with the question of how to treat gay members of their community. By now their unified front of rejecting gay practitioners has cracked. Most Christian denominations have “gay-affirming churches” or “welcoming” churches. A quick search of the Internet reveals that there are 7458 such establishments (even in Texas). There are also numerous books that discuss the subjects of religion and homosexuality. You may wish to read Coming Out, Coming Home: Helping Families Adjust to a Gay or Lesbian Child, by Michael C. LaSala, PhD.; Calling the Rainbow Nation Home, by Rev. E.T. Sundby; or Gay Christian 101 by Rick Brentlinger.
Since the gay liberation movement occurred during the 1970s, an increasing number of synagogues accept gay practitioners. Even though I am a secular Jew, I took great comfort in the Saturday services offered by B’nai Jeshurun in Manhattan while my son was struggling with his HIV infection. During these early days of religious intolerance, that temple offered a yearly Seder celebration for people suffering from HIV/AIDS.
In spite of the increasing religious tolerance, your particular place of worship, your fellow practitioners, or most importantly, your inner self, may reject the fact that one can be gay and still be saved. It may take some time sorting it all out. You may wish to discuss your own reservation with your own religious mentor, or with your local PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) group. You may not need to. Human beings have a remarkable ability to adapt to change. In the end, your child’s behavior as a caring, ethical person will triumph over doctrinaire considerations.
Until recently, some rigid congregations recommended that gay people attempt to change their sexual orientation by undergoing psychotherapeutic treatment (revisionist therapy). This is a silly idea. Even the American Psychiatrist Association, which for much too long viewed homosexuality as a mental disorder, now considers this type of treatment nonsensical and useless. Being gay is increasingly seen as a trait people are born with.