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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. Rohan L. Ebanks

    Mr. Hitchens, you are my hero. I salute you.

    June 25, 2010 at 5:17 am |
  2. Christopher Hitchens

    Calling yourself a gay christian is like calling yourself a Jewish Nazi. You just might want to square your shoulders and own up to the fact that christianity has been one of the worst persecutors of homosexuals throughout history. Better learn who your friends are, and the christians sure as hell aren't your friends.

    June 25, 2010 at 3:39 am |
  3. Curtis D.

    Remember. It's not..."it is what it is" it's...it's what you make it.

    June 25, 2010 at 2:55 am |
  4. Amber

    I am a 20 year old Christian, and if I have learned anything being a faithful student at college it is that times are changing, and religions are beginning to modify as well. New age Christianity practiced by modern America will gradually transition. Thank you for writing this beautiful article!

    June 25, 2010 at 12:52 am |
    • Curtis D.

      I pray for the youth. For they no not what they say nor do. Being a "Christian" how do you plan on having a "New age Christianity practiced by modern America" with out changing the Bible?

      June 25, 2010 at 2:37 am |
    • Gil T

      The change of which you speak is like the wind. It changes. However, it is people's spin on the same scriptures they profess as their guide which changes, not scripture. Change for changes sake or for popularity ought not be mistaken as sound and without moral consequences both for society and individual.

      June 25, 2010 at 10:01 am |
    • Lisa S

      You must be beginning your Christian walk – PLEASE be careful what you study – God's Word does not change. It is the living Word, but you must not stray from its core messages. Satan lives and works in worldly ways.

      June 25, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
  5. TruthAndJustice

    Are you people kidding me? It’s not rocket science. There isn’t any way to misinterpret Romans 1:27, “Men, abandoning relations with women, were consumed with sexual desire for each other. Men committing shameful acts with other men, receiving the just punishment for their perversion.” Anyone who thinks the Bible even remotely suggest that homosexuality is an acceptable behavior has some serious reading comprehension issues. Homosexual is an unhealthy, self-destructive, sinful behavior. There’s no coincidence that STDs, promiscuity, domestic abuse, and mental breakdowns are significantly higher in homosexuals than heterosexuals.

    Of course, this does not mean that homosexuals do not deserve respect. Homosexuals are no worse sinners than anyone else. In fact, recent studies show that 97% of Americans will commit some kind of fornication or adultery during their lifetime. Homosexuals face the same temptations from sexual sins that we all do, just with a different gender. And, in the same way, homosexuals should be removed from the Church if they refuse repent from their homosexual behavior, just like anyone else who refuses to repent from whatever sin they are committing. Churches who tolerate homosexual are in rebellion against God, but so are Churches who portray homosexuality as the sole villains plaguing humanity.

    June 25, 2010 at 12:29 am |
  6. Gil T

    It does seem strange to speak of homosexuality, but not as do the scriptures. It seems equally strange to speak of a reconcilation with Christianity (a term coined by the world to refer to the faith that is in Christ Jesus) but never a reference to those same scriptures. Those scriptures believed by those same churches as being the authoritative word of God.
    This could as well be a metaphor for reconciling undocumented immigrants America as bonafide American citizens. Sure. It could happen. Si se puede. Shout loud enough, protest loudly, make accusations. Now, how well does that work?

    June 25, 2010 at 12:13 am |
  7. John Grell

    Hatred and ignorance have been around since the begining of time. LOVE is love. I would rather be a child of two loving gay parents who planned for me and brought me up in love and suppport then I would any of you self rightous hate mongers. Most of you are hiding your hate behind religion. Religion is NOT about hate. I pray often to God and I KNOW he loves me just the way HE made me. I pray for all of you that you! I pray that God takes hate from your heart and I hope He helps you understand that Love is Love. There are so many unloved, unwanted and uncared for children in our World that your energies would be much better used caring for them. THAT is what Jesus would do.

    June 24, 2010 at 11:43 pm |
  8. Leslie

    What a wonderful and heartfelt blog, Tony! As a Christian, over the years I wavered with how to reconcile what my heart tells me (acceptance of gays) with what churches tell us to believe/how we are supposed to interpret certain scripture. Now middle aged, I just don't stress it. I think that there are many more important issues that we could be debating and giving our time and attention, and that God is bigger-
    bigger than our fears, bigger than our limitations, bigger than our grudges, misunderstandings, injustices....His love encompasses all. Who am I to put limits on it?
    As a teacher, I am always thrilled to have involved parents who truly care about their children- not matter what their gender or orientation. Trust me that there are many parents out there- of all ages- who are not well suited to be parents. Just because a couple is heterosexual does not make them good parents, at all.
    I do not have all the answers to life's big questions, and that's OK. I will try to embrace loving people of all sexual orientations (not just tolerate), treat all with respect and integrity, and let God be the judge. It's time to stop wasting time on who's right and who's sinful (all humans) and look trust the Spirit of the Law, instead of tearing apart and taking out of context the letter of the law.
    ~ Go in Peace ~

    June 24, 2010 at 10:57 pm |
  9. easily annoyed

    Anyone who wants to raise a child with love and give them opportunities should be welcomed. But, this is funny......From an episode of Family Guy: Two lesbians standing at the counter of a sperm bank......"My partner and I would like to have a baby. Can we have a vile of sperm and an applicator that looks like Jodi Fosters knuckles?"

    June 24, 2010 at 10:29 pm |
  10. kary

    jesus asks ALL of you.he uses the word hate as a comparison in one's relationship with him and lesser things.he wants me to love everyone,but he is FIRST in my life.

    June 24, 2010 at 10:18 pm |
  11. Jeremy

    The "family values" of Jesus: Luke 14:26 – If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children,and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.

    Probably haven't heard that one – not something you'd hear in Church on Sunday, but it is in the Bible.

    For all of you Christians out there, do you hate your family? If you do, thats great! Jesus loves you.

    If you don't hate your family, you are violating the Bible, and will go to hell.

    Christians, how do you reconcile this? I'd love to know.

    June 24, 2010 at 10:03 pm |
    • Curtis D.

      Read psalm 1: 1-6...God does say same sex relations is a sin and those people are...ungodly, scorned, wicked...what does that verse say about that?

      June 24, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
    • Curtis D.

      try...Psalm 1:1-6

      June 25, 2010 at 2:44 am |
    • Randy

      Jeremy –

      The passage you speak about is saying that God is first, your family is second. As Christians who study the bible, we know this, and accept it. We do not put our family above God.

      I'm quoting this, because I agree with it and there's no sense re-writing the same thing:

      If our love for our parents interferes with worshiping and obeying God properly, we do not genuinely love Him. Matthew 10:37 shows that Christ refers to those who place their father or mother above God in obedience and reverence; this is idolatry. The time may come when it is no longer necessary or right for us to obey our parents. Even so, we should never cease to honor them. Honor indicates a high respect for their worth, high esteem, and reverence. Without this, we cannot properly revere God. Just as our parents corrected us, so also God corrects us. As a result we honor and respect our parents, which is a shadow of our subjection to the Father.

      June 25, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
  12. Miss Thing

    Don't be sidetracked by gays adopting...you should really be worried about our diabolical plan to take over the world! Soon we'll have programming on television consisting of nothing but "Wonder Woman," "The Bionic Woman," "I Dream of Jeannie," "Designing Women," "The Golden Girls," and movies with Madonna, Jessica Lange, Liza Minnelli, Cher, Judy Garland, and anyone who was in "Steel Magnolias!" Mwahahahahaha

    June 24, 2010 at 9:57 pm |
    • Chrys

      Miss Thing, thank you for briging a little intelligent humor here. The constant re-hashing of tired old arguments has gotten really boring. And I hope Stewie and The Brain (hmmm...mixed metaphor here?) will be adopted as mascots. "What are we going to do tonight? Same thing we do every night: Try and take over the world!"

      June 25, 2010 at 6:25 am |
  13. NoReligion

    I don't know what the big deal is. If the gays want kids, let them make all they want. Let nature have the final say, that's what I think.

    June 24, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
  14. J. Scott

    Why do Christians have to be such narrow-minded, self-righteous idiots? I don't give a damn what anybody's doing in the bedroom as long as it's consentual and between two adults. Worry about your own lives, people, and stay out of other people's business. Honestly, you haters are fighting a losing battle. Shut up and deal. Gays have been here and will always be. You're not going to make us go away, nor are you going to stop our eventual fight for equal human rights. If I am fine with being a Christian and gay, what is it to you? Don't tell me you're trying to "save my soul." It's already saved. Next.

    June 24, 2010 at 9:37 pm |
    • Curtis D.

      If you are gay...then who would you be saved by... The God of the Holy Bible condems same sex relations....You can't change the Bible because it doesn't fit what you choose....... sarcastically speaking..."I'm a murder and I'm a Christian... I'm a saved murder...I know the Bible says it's not ok...ok lets go murder some more...lol I can get away with it because I rewrote the Bible to suite my perversions"...yeah...right...NEXT! I pray for you.

      June 25, 2010 at 2:49 am |
    • Chrys

      You couldn't have said it better. And for all the paranoid, self-absorbed people who think that gays are "trying to cram their lifestyle down everyone else's throat", well, from this perspective you're doing exactly the same thing: trying to cram your own beliefs down everyone else's throats. For ghod's sake, all you homophobes deal with your own sexual insecurity, and you'll miraculously find that these things won't bother you one iota.

      June 25, 2010 at 6:29 am |
  15. kary

    the fact that you use the phrase "everyone sins" as an excuse for behavior,says that you acknowledge your behavior as sinful.i sin ,but i don't say my sin is "ok".it is sin,just as yours is sin .to continue in a sin i know is wrong is to live without repententance (to turn 180 degrees around)therefore i live in a lost state.flaunting my sin is unforgiveable and a slap in the face of God1

    June 24, 2010 at 9:35 pm |
  16. Marty

    Twisting The Word of God is of Satan. Hence "You Will Surely Not Die, but become as Gods"-Satan twisting God's Word which was if you eat of that tree you shall surely die.

    June 24, 2010 at 9:27 pm |
  17. John

    Puke, the love was manifested on the cross. Your half way right, but you ignore Jesus who spoke of hell more than anyone else in the Bible. Sins take people there, that is why he died on the cross. It is not a piece of jewlry, is if the bloodd for our salvation. Stop the touchy good feeling crap and get to know him.

    June 24, 2010 at 9:20 pm |
  18. John

    Wake uo!!!! Hell is real!!!! Sin takes you to hell. Wake up!!!!

    June 24, 2010 at 9:17 pm |
  19. Roberta DiBisceglie

    Beautifully said, Tony! God is love. We all deserve to be treated with dignity, respect and kindness. Some of us are "different" from the status quo; this does not erase our right to pursue a way of life that others may not choose. Nor does it give others a license to abuse us physically, verbally or legally.

    June 24, 2010 at 9:15 pm |
    • Curtis D.

      Jesus is all about love and so is God...but only to His children who follow him...for those who say they follow Him but their action say other wise...God can and promises vengeance on those who disobey him..."The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of love and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you." Ezekiel 25:17

      June 24, 2010 at 9:43 pm |
  20. Alert Citizen

    Does Jesus allow trying out girls before getting married?

    June 24, 2010 at 9:14 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.