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June 24th, 2010
09:02 AM ET

Reconciling homosexuality and Christianity

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.

- CNN.com Senior Producer

Filed under: Christianity • Gay marriage

soundoff (406 Responses)
  1. Erin Adero

    Shouldn't this article be called "Being Gay and Universalist"? I see no correlation between what the Christian bible says and what their church believes.

    June 24, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
    • gheezy

      probably because all religions don't make sense and are hypocritical.

      June 24, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
  2. Paula

    Thank you Tony and Gary for this insight into your world. The committment you have for eachother and for Nicholas should be a lesson to us all. The world is changing. The definition of a family has changed. Families can have a mother and father, two mothers, two fathers, one mother, one father. More and more grandparents are raising their children today then ever before. We live in a scarey world today and I find it harder to explain to my children about war and suidice bombers then it is to explain to my 7 year old that some families have 2 fathers or 2 mothers instead of one of each. My 7 year old understands that more than some of the people that have posted ugly comments here. I wish you and Gary and Nicholas only the best. You make wonderful daddies and Nicholas is lucky to have such a wonderful extended family to love him. I hope that one day you will wake up to a world that is as accepting of gay people as it as accepting of people who kill their spouses and beat their children. People should look around them and make a stand about those atrocities instead of wondering about whose gay and whose not.

    June 24, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Truth never changes.

      June 25, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
  3. Eric G.

    ............and a billion Chineese all said...............who? You would think there would be more religious texts in Chineese because they were the ones that could read and write back then. Even after the bible was written (by men), most people were not able to read it.

    June 24, 2010 at 4:33 pm |
  4. maggie

    I dont' know that love is immoral, but how love is acted out can be. The love children all believed they loved everyone they slept with in the 60's, since it was in the name of love does that make it moral to have mulitple partners?

    Just cause its in the name of love does not mean you should act on it.

    June 24, 2010 at 4:16 pm |
    • Eric G.

      I love my dog. Is that immoral?

      June 24, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
    • Curtis D.

      maggie...very well said...and that was my point to USN_Atheist. What people dont understand is that, I know of two girls who were molested by their step dad from the age of 3. They didn't know that it was wrong...they did not feel forced...it was the imoral act of the imoral person who to this day sitting in prison still confesses his "love" for those girls...but people like USN_Athiest cant see the connection of the imoralness of their actions...beiit gay or child molester...people like that will defend that.

      June 24, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
    • Eric G.

      Curtis D. Who decides what age designates a "child"? Who decides what is "molestation"?

      June 24, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
    • Curtis D.

      Depends greatly on what you do with that dog??? And...are you admiting something with your last comment???

      June 24, 2010 at 8:34 pm |
  5. Curtis D.

    Eric G. I guess you will find out when you get there.

    June 24, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
    • Eric G.

      Are you threatening me?

      June 24, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
  6. righteous-in-Christ

    @ Alexander – You can't possibly be more ignorant of the Word of God!!

    By you saying "Most Christians don't really believe in God or in Jesus, but in Paul and a book written by ancient people full primitive ideas. That's the problem. They are idolaters who worship a book, they are modern day Pharisees. I dare say that they would nail Jesus to a cross all over again if he were around today."
    Your ignorance has allowed Satan to deceive you in believing the book called the Bible was written by ancient people, as if these ancient people are lying about God! These ancient people saw Christ with their eyes, talked, walked, and traveled with Him. Also, you are forgetting that Christ said that He will send a Comforter "HOLY SPIRIT" to lead us into all Truth. After Christ returned to the right-side of the Father, these ancient people still heard from God and wrote the bible according the voice of God. The whole Living Word of God was inspired by the Spirit of God. You fail to realize that you are limiting yourself in Christ as to understand His Living Word. We, the Christians, are the people of God of this generation as well as the ancient were. By you making this statement only shows that you are grieving the Holy Spirit and not allowing Him to lead & guide you through the rest of the Bible. Open up your heart and your eyes...it is written, "Let he who have ears, hear what the Spirit of God is saying."

    June 24, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
  7. Curtis D.

    Eric G.
    how would God like that better? fact is...people try to imulate LOTR and harry potter more then Jesus...more then the oldest book in the world!

    June 24, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @Curtis D
      "oldest book in the world"?!?!?!? Wow. Not just wow, but "JUMPIN'JESUS ON A POGO STICK!" WOW. Ok, let's try this. Go to the library and check out Homers "Illiad". There are thousands of books older than the bible, even if Wal-Mart doesn't carry them.

      June 24, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
    • USN_Atheist

      @ Eric G. – checkmate!

      June 24, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
  8. Curtis D.

    USN_Atheist
    would you say same thing to a child molester?

    June 24, 2010 at 4:06 pm |
    • USN_Atheist

      Not sure what you are replying to but will try to answer...

      A child molester does what he does for control, s_ _ ual gratification or what he/she perceives as love. The child is an unwilling participant – that is not love or a mutual relationship.

      June 24, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
  9. Curtis D.

    for people that say they believe in God and Jesus...the Bible is the oldest rule book known to man...and most every law gets broken and people say its ok to do that...i dont get it...is it ok to drink and drive? Where are family values these days? gone! just like that elementry school passing out condoms to first graders and school says partent cant stop them...one corruption after another.

    June 24, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
  10. USN_Atheist

    Love is immoral??? Two humans raising a child together is the work of satan? I don't see it that way myself. Care to explain?

    June 24, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
    • Eric G.

      Satan must get alot of overtime. He gets the credit for an awful lot of stuff. That must be one hard workin' devil. "WORK OF SATAN!!!!" I wonder what he pulls in, after taxes? Would Satan have to pay taxes?

      June 24, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
  11. Curtis D.

    lucca...they are not adopting an unwanted baby.

    June 24, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
  12. Lucca

    Lucca

    If Jesus, were to come back today, I wonder who He would judge to be blessed with love in their hearts, two gay men or gay women who offer love and compassion to have children of their own or adopt children no one wants? Or would Jesus choose the man and the false Sayers who use the bible to justify their hatreds and lack of caring for children? I think He would choose the gays. After all He created them! People need to look into their hearts and try to see the goodness in others who care for the unwanted, not the hatred and bigotry that exist today.

    Lucca

    June 24, 2010 at 3:54 pm |
    • Jefe

      He would choose those that love, for they have an open heart and the ability to care. It doesn't matter, gay or straight. All that matters is love.

      June 24, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
    • Angel

      You insult Jesus. Jesus Christ died for your sins. Sin. There is such a thing as sin. When you go against God, you are committing a sin! God made Woman for Man!!! "male and female created he them"

      June 27, 2010 at 2:09 am |
    • Jason

      @ Angel

      God made woman for man? So, before women what were the men doing? Oh, each other. So what if Jesus never died for our sins? And uh, please tell me what 150# man can stay nailed to a cross and not fall off?

      July 11, 2010 at 5:22 am |
  13. Annie

    Bravo to CNN for making Gay in America staple to your website. Congrats to Gary and Tony on your new baby! I know that 50 years from now when my grandkinds are in history class they'll have as much trouble comprehending the laws against gay marriage that (hopefully) we all faced comprehending the laws allowing slavery.

    June 24, 2010 at 3:17 pm |
  14. Lynne

    I think your lives are wonderful and beautiful. Others in this wide world should be able to say they live as well. Bravo to you, your faiths, and your family!

    June 24, 2010 at 3:06 pm |
  15. Curtis D.

    I think it's funny that CNN won't allow my post...Hebrews 10.26

    June 24, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
  16. Brandon

    Look, All you bitter and rebellious people can be as angry as you want to be with GOD and challenge him but you shall lose. And you can even come up with slick "loopholes" to scripture but you still can not change GOD. You know what you are doing.

    June 24, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
    • Curtis D.

      Brandon, There are no loop holes. Just people who try to add or take away from the words of the Bible...for those who do should read the last two verses of Revelations.

      June 24, 2010 at 2:49 pm |
    • Eric G.

      @Curtis D.
      Shouldn't they read the whole thing? By just reading selected passages, they might take things out of context. I would recomend reading "The Lord of the Rings". It flows much better and is not as "preachy". Your god must have liked LOTR better too because it won more Oscars than "The 10 Commandments".

      June 24, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
    • Lynn

      @ Curtis and Brandon...Of course. Kinda like they added and subtracted scriptures for justifying the enslavement of Africans in America. Oh that's right, they just made it against the law for blacks to read and marry back then, and convinced them it was God's will. The KKK is a professed Christian organization doing God's will, right?! And God forbid we break down the Apostle Paul's proclamation about women should be able to speak in church or lead a church. Hmmm...but it's okay for her to lead a household while her conservative Christian husband has affairs all week and picks up his stones on Sunday.

      July 5, 2010 at 2:28 pm |
    • Lynn

      correction: "women should not be allowed to speak in church."

      July 5, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
  17. Joel

    Saying a thing does not make it so.
    Thinking a thing does not make it so.
    Feeling a thing does not make it so.
    Believing a thing does not make it so.
    That which is, is.
    That which is not, is not.
    This is the beginning of wisdom.
    Pray we do not see it's end.
    – Gnostic motto

    Overvaluing of belief is a real problem. Literalist religion can not see the forest for the trees.
    Step back a bit and look at the big picture. If different groups claim to have a hold on truth, but the only thing they can bring to the table is a belief, that's simply NOT ENOUGH.
    Stop over-valuing belief and begin to see everyone as the same (as all the spiritual masters of the world have taught!)
    There is no one true religion, especially Christianity. Please study the history of Christianity to understand that the current literalist factions of Christianity (there are thousands of different versions of Christianity by the way) and all of the literalists say THEY are the only churches with the full truth – BALONEY!

    The only value in Christianity is in it's METAPHORICAL teachings about the unity of life and in it's STORY of how we can transform ourselves from ONLY living at the base level of human survival and predation on each other and this world to rise above and actually LOVE each other as though the other IS US.
    Christianity is not the ONLY way to do this. In fact, in it's current literalist form, Christianity is pretty ineffectual in helping humanity to transform. Just look at the posts on this board.

    C'mon, LOVE IS LOVE, so snap out of literalism and realize that Christ is a consciousness, a state of awareness of the interconnectedness of ALL of life. You can not hurt another without hurting yourself. In the same respect, you love yourself through loving others and you love others through loving and caring for yourself.

    Way to go Gary + Tony. Much love to you!

    June 24, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
    • Jefe

      How prophetic, thanks for sharing.

      June 24, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
    • Jarred Evans

      You either trust GOD or your don;t whiich is it> make your choice now, he willl not wait for ever!!!

      June 26, 2010 at 9:19 pm |
  18. RandyM

    I think CNN is making a grave mistake, I have been watching CNN for years for the current updated news, but everytime I turn the TV to Cnn and see Gary and Tony and their gay lifestyle which is not recognized in the US or my religion, I get sick and switch the channel to a real news reporting channel and most people i talk to feel the same way that CNN has lost their way and their values.

    June 24, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
    • Wayne

      Randy, I'm going to take it that you also change the channel everytime you see a story about divorce and multiple marriages since that's not recognized by most religions either. Unfortunately it seems to be running rampant within the christian world. But of course it's become so commonplace that it's no longer seen as a modern day "sin". How hypocritical. I'm always amazed by the way the church "decides" which transgressions are alright and no big deal and those that are "big, eternal salvatlion losing sins". I guess we can use the bible to fit whatever we believe.

      June 24, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
  19. Jose

    wrong, wrong , wrong, wrong, the Bible says it's wrong, your body tells you it 's wrong. Man was designed to be with a women no matter what you do or how you think or feel you can't change this fact. No matter how many surgery you have no matter how many people you convince. At the end of the day you are still a man. Doing things that you were not designed to do. I don't hate, you do have a free will. Are you willing to bet your eternal life that you are doing the right thing. Fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. He is against it, he has wriiten so in his word and destroy a city for it. I pray all gay people find the truth one day.

    June 24, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
    • Brooklynny

      Its your bible, you live by it!!

      June 24, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
    • Brooklynny

      Yes, Yes and.....Yes!

      June 24, 2010 at 2:06 pm |
    • Wayne

      Jose, based on what you believe I take it that you're aware that every eternal soul is doomed since the bible also says lying, cheating, stealing, impure thoughts, coveting your neighbors wife/husband, debauchery, fornication, smokers, gamblers, murderers, "borrowing" things from work, people with tattoos (which is defiling and many others are all sins. Based on this list alone, I'd have to say that 100% of us down here don't have a snowball's chance in hell of making it to heaven.

      June 24, 2010 at 2:11 pm |
    • adrian

      Good thing God forgives Wayne so we all have a chance.

      June 24, 2010 at 3:38 pm |
  20. cnp

    what gays do is disgusting. if they want to take their activities outside the home, then they should be willing to accept what happens. way to go cnn, thanks for your gay crap.

    June 24, 2010 at 12:57 pm |
    • Wayne

      Oh, I get it. All is OK and permissible as long as it's done "in the house".

      June 24, 2010 at 5:45 pm |
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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.