Thursday, February 13, 2014
“My son wants to marry his partner,” the woman said.
The pastor sipped from the teacup she’d handed him. Eight years ago she’d told him her son was gay.
“Help him change,” he’d advised her then. “Look into conversion therapy programs.”
He grimaced, recalling the next time he’d visited the woman. Her eyes were red, and she shuddered as she described the electric shock treatments, the nausea-producing drugs given simultaneously with homoerotic stimuli. After her son left the program, he’d felt more alone and alienated than before he started it. He’d even considered suicide.
“Pray for him,” He’d told her then. “Love the sinner but hate the sin.” The words rang hollow now.
Like many Walla Walla area pastors and priests, he’d denounced gay marriage from the pulpit.
“It threatens traditional marriages,” he’d thundered. “Gay sexual behavior is a lifestyle choice, rooted in a depraved desire to experiment.”
But after studying the research, he now believed that sexual preference was biological, hard-wired in our brains. Conversion therapy programs not only didn’t work, they could cause irreparable harm.
Conversion therapy had been denounced by every major medical and mental health organization in the U.S.
The pastor rubbed the bridge of his nose. How could he admit he was rethinking his beliefs? Church congregations loved unity; they hated conflict. The sheep looked to the shepherd for guidance, and he’d been eager to give it. Like other pastors, he liked to be in control.
Lately he’d been questioning a core Christian belief, that only people who accept Jesus can know God and go to heaven. But would a loving God abandon most of the world’s population?
No, he’d concluded. 1 John 4:12 says if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is perfected in us.
What if — he winced, for this thought was blasphemous — what if our religious beliefs don’t matter? What if God wants all people to work together to make the world better, Christians alongside atheists, Jews alongside Muslims?
Why, there would be no need for church hierarchies. He could be out of a job.
The woman was looking at him expectantly.
He cleared his throat and said, “Give him your blessing. Tell him you’ll welcome his partner as a beloved son-in-law. Tell him I’d be honored to perform the ceremony.”