Six years ago, I was traveling the west coast of America while on tour with my band. On a welcomed day off in sunny Anaheim, CA, I found myself at a small diner off of a dirty state highway advertised to cook traditional southern cuisine. Alongside of the buttery grits, bacon, hash browns, and fried eggs I ordered, was one of the tastiest pieces of cornbread I have ever eaten. Crunchy on the edges, soft and moist in the middle, the way cornbread is meant to be. As a native of North Carolina, I found this meal was home on a plate. While eating, I received a phone call from my dad. I was a little surprised as it was quite late back on the east coast, but I answered the call anyways. So it began.
This was the time in my life I watched as my father traversed a path of genuine solitude. Keith Jenkins, an American Christian pastor of 22 years and husband for 26, came out as a homosexual. The news really didn’t bother me, but the treatment he received from other Christians was appalling. Over the days following his announcement, the national Assemblies of God council stripped my father of his pastoral credentials. Decades-long friendships with those from several churches instantly crumbled before him. Religious family members, immediate and extended, completely disowned him. When he reached out for love and comfort, they simply turned their backs and shut their doors. He was on his own.
Additionally, he was made out by many to be an immoral, unnatural man. Sadly, this is common, as many homosexuals today struggle to feel welcome in many environments, religious communities being the main culprit. In a Gallup poll in 2010, for the first time a majority of Americans, 52%, called homosexuality morally acceptable, while 43% said it is immoral. It’s pleasing to learn that the outlook of this nation is slowly changing, but the amount of time it has taken to do so is mesmerizing. The American Christian community should reevaluate its views of homosexuals and focus on projecting the love and acceptance on which it claims to be founded.
The truth of the matter is we are all judged from the time we are born until the moment we die. This is an inescapable aspect of human nature. However, judgment can breed division, and, in some cases, transcend opinion to become hostile and even hateful. Sadly, homosexuals often receive this hostility from many individuals who self-identify as religious or spiritual. They are told their sexual lifestyle is submerged in sin, and they are therefore destined for eternal torment. This message is generally grounded in the biblical interpretation of Bible verses such as 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Romans 1:26-28, and Leviticus 18:22 which reads, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” (The Holy). Many religious individuals think this means God does not approve of the sexual lifestyle of homosexuals, and consequently, they begin to oppose the homosexual individual. However, as a projected symbol of love and compassion, I don’t conclude God is not meant to represent such a message of intolerance. Christianity preaches that for one to be holy one must operate with Christ-like behavior. That’s to say, Christians are to exemplify a person who was kind to murderers, beggars, prostitutes and even rapists. If people such as these were deemed worthy of the compassion of Christ then I’m challenged to find reason in ostracizing homosexuals on the grounds of sexual lifestyle.
In addition, I often hear the argument from religious individuals such as world-renowned Christian Evangelist, Billy Graham, that homosexuality weakens the traditional family structure of father, mother, and children. Recently quoted in USA Today, Graham states, “The Bible is clear that God’s definition of marriage is between a man and a woman.” (“Billy”). This is believed by many religious individuals to be the most sacred and beneficial form of a family. However, I find this concept to be false. In reality, the structure of a family is in constant metamorphosis. Consider death. When members of a family die, another must adopt the physical and emotional roles of the deceased member, which in turn changes the familial structure. The situational support one gets from a brother may one day need to be replaced with the support of a mother, father, sister, etc. A single mother will raise her child alone for an indefinite amount of time, alternating between the roles of both female and male figures when appropriate. To suggest that any one situation alters this structure more than another is founded in ignorance, and needs to be reconsidered.
It’s commonly believed amongst the religious community that homosexual life partners cannot experience the same happiness or romantic love as heterosexual life partners. As a married individual, I find these two emotions are intimately connected, and ultimately govern the success or failure of such a relationship. According to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, as of 2011, 44 American states reported an average divorce rate of 53%, and this number has been steadily rising for several years (1). Given that these statistics don’t include homosexual marriages, as same sex marriage was still not legal in the U.S. in 2011, this tells us that over half of heterosexual life partners in America are not in happy and satisfying marriages. This is sad of course, but it also means that homosexual couples have no logical reason to model their love and happiness after today’s heterosexual marriages. A reevaluation of the emotions we share amongst one another may in turn be something from which we may all benefit.
One such emotion is love, and the Bible is quite clear that Christians are to project this more than anything else. A New Testament passage from the King James Bible states, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (The Holy). Here, Christians are called upon to love their neighbors regardless of differences. Yet the lack of acceptance offered to homosexuals from many religious establishments today is exactly the opposite. I do find it unfortunate that some individuals feel uncomfortable empathizing with someone or something they find to be immoral. However, I would expect a command from the God of the Christian community to be of higher priority than one’s discomfort in acting obediently.
In addition to many religious individuals’ moral discomfort in accepting homosexuals is a belief that it is unnatural. These people do not consider homosexuality to be a genetic characteristic, often proposing it as a reversible trait in need of being altered. However, this is simply not true. Marlene Zuk, professor of evolutionary biology at the University of California, writes in Natural History magazine that there are many documented cases of homosexual activity amongst insects such as butterflies, spiders, beetles, locusts, wasps, bees, dragonflies, etc. (Zuk). Additionally, Canadian biologist, Bruce Bagemihl, has documented over 300 species that indulge in same-sex activity ranging from male anal penetration by males to body rubbing and fellatio (Bagemihl). Considering just a few, of many, examples from the natural world around us, it is easy to see that accusing homosexuality of being unnatural is purely speculation. Claims such as these reflect on people’s desire to block out that which is different and undesirable. This is a viewpoint held by many within the religious community. Since Christianity teaches that its followers are to be above worldly thoughts and actions, I find it has a moral obligation to welcome and embrace the homosexual community.
I must admit it took the circumstance of my father coming out as a homosexual for me to give serious consideration as to the struggle he and others face for simply being gay. The phone call from him while sitting at that diner in California truly changed things for me. While talking, he expressed his concern over the effect this may have on my brother and my view of him as a father. I was shocked. Despite the loss of so many friends, much of his family, his career that was longer lived than me at the time, and his marriage of 26 years, he was only concerned about being a good parent. I assured him he had nothing to worry about in regards to my view of him as a parent, and I think he believed me. Since he became open about his sexuality, Keith Jenkins seems to be a much happier man, despite the initial repercussions. He is an exemplary parent, a determined individual, a valuable member of society, a friend to the undeserving, and an overall kind person. If the American Christian community modeled itself after such an individual, it may find itself in fact more Christ-like.
- Bagemihl, Bruce. “Is Homosexuality Unnatural?” New Scientist 198.2661 (2008): 5. Print.
- “Billy Graham backs N.C. anti-gay marriage amendment.“ USAToday.com. USA
Today, 5 Mar. 2012. Web. 15 Nov. 2014.
- The Holy Bible. King James Version. New York: American Bible Society, 1999. Print. Rev.
- United States. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “Divorce Rates by State: 1990, 1995, and 1999-2011.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2011. Web. 9 Nov. 2014.
- Wyatt-Nichol, H. “Sexual Orientation and Mental Health: Incremental Progression or Radical Change?” Journal of Health and Human Services Administration, 37.2 (2014): 225-41. Web. 3 Nov. 2014.
- Zuk, Marlene. “Same-sex Insects: What Do Bees–Or At Least Flies–Have to Tell Us About Homosexuality?” Natural History. Nov. 2011: 22. General OneFile. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.