Sometimes hope comes wrapped in tragedy. Such was the case when Alabama peanut farmer Nathan Mathis stood outside a political rally in Alabama last night holding a photo of his daughter Patti Sue who took her own life in 1995.
With obvious guilt and deep sadness, Mathis confessed that he had condemned his daughter for her sexual orientation. He was simply acting in the ways of his church-heavy community’s social norms, but he made no excuses.
In a warped sense of godliness, many families and churches shame and shun their children with same-sex attraction or gender identity concerns rather than providing much-needed love and nurture. Or they demand unproven and unhelpful ways of “fixing” the person whose real need is support.
American evangelicals have blood on their hands. They specialize in selective, over-sized condemnation of these innocent persons while turning a blind eye or even offering support to clearly evil attitudes, intentions and actions.
It is amazing what so-called Christians will accept and what they will reject — in order to retain power and advance an agenda of cultural dominance with little or no self-examination.
It’s all part of a sick reduction of Christian fundamentalism (now present in and well-branded as American evangelicalism) to primarily political opposition to equal rights for LGBT persons and equal access to medical abortions, along with racial, ethnic and religious discrimination.
Condemnation seems is the favored tool of enactment — often making one’s conviction a higher priority than preserving an innocent life.
Mathis’ sad but hopeful message was summed up with his tearful affirmation that his daughter was not “an abomination.” How tragic that such a refutation is needed by a parent of a child created in the image of God — and that it had to be directed toward the very people who claim the name of God revealed in Jesus Christ.
To those who advance such condemnation: Keep your tiny quilt of isolated and misapplied Bible verses to yourself if you want to excuse and continue these abetted tragedies. But don’t expect those of us who know better to follow or to be silent.
Such unrighteous condemnation pales in comparison to what the Bible elevates us to be and do. The crux of the Bible is that God is love. That’s a defining biblical affirmation.
Likewise, Jesus said the greatest of all the laws are to love God with all one’s being and one’s widely-defined neighbor as oneself. And the Apostle Paul affirmed that love is even greater than faith and hope.
There is simply no justification for withholding the love that would keep a young woman with same-sex attraction from feeling so hopeless and condemned that she would take her life.
And God knows it is way past time for preachers and politicians — and those who follow them in misguided ways — to stop contributing to the deaths of such young people by bombastic, religious/political rhetoric disguised as biblical truth.
Now, finally, to those on the receiving end: if you are a young (or not so young) person who experiences such condemnation from your family and/or church, please know that there are many of us eager to embrace you in the name of Jesus — who loves you most and is not represented by such ugly, hateful condemnation.