Gary Spino, left, and Tony Brown, right
Editor's Note: Tony Brown and his partner Gary Spino are featured in the upcoming CNN In America documentary "Gary and Tony Have a Baby," airing on CNN 8 p.m. ET Thursday. Tony Brown submitted this blog post on the importance of his Christian faith:
By Tony Brown, Special to CNN
As a child I was taught to believe in myself, in family and in God. To a confused adolescent struggling with his sexuality, that was easier said than done.
Being the victim of constant and severe bullying due to my perceived sexuality, I developed a strong aversion to organized religion. After all, every religious voice I heard in my youth - whether it was from the pulpit or in the news - told me that I was evil and that there was something wrong with me.
My heart said otherwise. As I later learned, so did God.
After feeling uncomfortable with my Methodist upbringing, I searched for meaning in a Christian organization called Young Life. We met once a week during my high school years and I thought that I had found a way to love God and have friends that accepted me at the same time.
But I wasn’t honest with them. Perhaps if I had told them that I was gay they would have accepted me, but I doubt it. The rhetoric was clear: if you weren’t heterosexual, you weren’t welcome.
So I hid my truth until it became impossible to hide anymore. Love is an amazing thing. When I met my husband Gary, I finally accepted that there wasn’t anything wrong with me all along. As a matter of fact, God wanted me to be happy and to accept love into my life.
What an awesome realization that was. For once I could simply be… No more pretenses or fear…
I was able to love myself, and in doing so, I found a path to back to my own spirituality, which had been dormant and rejected for so long.
That rejection was the terrible result of certain organized religions’ misunderstanding of gay people. And not just the exclusion that gay people often feel toward religion, but the rejection that their family members fell as well.
It cannot be easy for a mother or father who loves their child and their church to be torn every Sunday by sermons or homilies railing against the inherent value of his or her own family member.
We experienced this unfortunate dichotomy with my husband’s parent’s Catholic Church in Pennsylvania when they announced their support for an anti-marriage amendment to the state’s constitution. Gary’s mom and dad have always loved and respected my relationship with their son, but the conflict was there, and it was painful.
The good news for Gary and me was that we found a congregation that honored our family. Our first visit to The Fourth Universalist Society, a Unitarian Universalist congregation on the Upper West Side of Manhattan was remarkable. Our minister, Rosemary, said a prayer of thanks for the Connecticut Supreme Court’s recent decision to stand up for marriage equality.
Gary and I looked at each other and cried: we had never before been in a church that prayed for our equality.
We were home.
As a parent, I realize the value of community, which is taught so beautifully in many churches. Gary’s parents’ Catholic Church - their stance on marriage aside - is a prime example of just how successful community outreach can be. Gary grew up with a deep sense of pride in community and he will pass that knowledge and appreciation onto our son, Nicholas.
Our own church has many community outreach programs, including outreach to homeless gay youth, an often-overlooked population that needs community more than anyone I can imagine.
Whatever God means to you, however you define or choose not to define it, having a sense of spirit in your life, I believe, is essential.
I know that when I was without it, I was truly lost. When I found it again, my life took on a richer meaning that I hope and pray my husband and I will successfully be able to pass on to Nicholas.
As for those who do not understand my family, or perhaps have heard from their own religious leaders that my family is somehow threatening to their peaceful way of life, I hope that they will learn something from our story.
As my husband Gary says, people are far more similar than we are different. I believe that more and more every day.
We have since baptized Nicholas at The Fourth Universalist Society in the presence of a couple hundred friends and family. What a beautiful moment it was when Rosemary touched a rose in purified water that had been collected from each and every church member, then touched the rose to Nicholas’ eyes for the things he would see, his lips for the words he would speak and his hands for the deeds he would do.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house and in that moment, Gary, Nicholas and I learned what my mother and father tried to teach me when I was a child: believe in yourself, in your family and in God.
If you can do that, you can do anything.
I think I have come to a Conclusion. Sin is Sin. There is no way to get around the fact that we will love one another, and the sin is not the love, the sin is doing things that is sin. Sin is separation from god's plan, or will. we all fall short, thus we all must repent. I cannot ignore sin, and lie to you and tell you it is ok. I must tell you to repent your sin and follow Christ, if you don't I will have to ask you to leave the lord's house. Marriage is a bond of love to start a family. you can come back and get married when a gay couple has a child without outside help, It will never be a marriage bed without children reaped within the relationship. that is the sin. the sin is not the gay relationship, the sin is the marriage.
If I remember correctly, in the Bible Jesus was asked if the old rules still applied...and Jesus basically said if you follow 2 rules...love your god and do unto others as you would do unto yourself you were good to go. I think if Jesus came back he would definitely be hanging out more with the hatees rather than the haters.....he was just that kind of guy....
Ah, he may have been that kind of guy the first time around, when he was human and had a message, but the message has been given and he isn't going to return human. That's what the Book of Revelation states anyway, and when 'the lamb' returns, there will be blood, right?
I too was raised fundamentalist and by-the-book. Hellfire and brimstone. In my church it was all about being afraid of God's wrath and sin, but all around me in the church were hypocrites.
I think we all forget this – the foundation of almost every religion is the same. Well, except one, but I won't open that can of worms in this arguement. ;)
Treat people right, and live the best you can. That's what it boils down to. Respecting life itself.
I agree, falling back on the OT is silly. After Christ's death, the OT became history and archaic. I mean, seriously, if I saw a neighbor trying to sacrifice their son, telling me that God told them to, I'd kill them to protect the kid and God can deal with it. Stick that up your old testament and smoke it. Using old testament ways repudiates what Christ himself sacrificed for Christians that believe. I have to choose daily in how to act, but some choices are no brainers. That's because I have a moral obligation to save lives and help, and a mind God gifted me with that can *think*
I also do what the good book says. I study. I trust no man or woman's interpretation. I can see for myself. Mankind has ALWAYS skewed things to suit their needs. Why do you think some books of the bible were left out?
My salvation, like every one else's..is in my control ultimately. Let these people live and be happy. In my church, I was molested from 5 to 8, and even told people. It never came out until I told a cop myself. Religion isn't to blame, it is a sickness in a person's soul that makes them bad or wrong. Stop hating on religious folks, it's just as bad as them hating on gays. Like it or not, both exist. God isn't going to push anyone to the head of the Go-to-hell line because they made a commitment to one person. He judges you by the things you live and say, the things you do and don't do, the hurt you bring to others. I think any god would respect and love us more for being honest to who we are, than trying to live lies... like so many Hetero folks do day in and out, while patting themselves on their sanctimonious backs and saying, see, I do better. No, you don't, Sin is sin. Telling a lie is the same as sodomy, in God's eyes. The only unpardonable sin is Blaspheme.
In condemming others we condem ourselves.
We need to put a stop to this madness.
Here I will put it in perspective through the method of comparrison. In wondering if a person can be Gay and be a Christian, ask yourself these questions as well. Can a person be a Drug Addict and a Christian? Can a person be an Alcoholic and a Christian? Can a person be a Sex Addict and a Christian? Can a person be a Porn Addict and a Christian? Can a person be a Prostitute and a Christian? Can a person practice Withcraft and be Christian? If you lean more the answer of "no" than why should the question of can a person be Gay and Christian be any different or more difficult in aswering?
All I have to say is that sin will not enter heaven. Claim all you want too but if you don't live according to the Bible it will not work. You can't live as a gay and be a Christian it just don't work that way you have to be free from sin.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.