“They call us ‘Homophobic’! I ain’t scared of no queers! They are the ones going to hell! They should be scared!” That was the line shouted by my red-faced, Independent Baptist pastor from behind his sacred pulpit nearly fifteen years ago…
Let me first back up even more to my childhood. Born in 1977, I was primarily raised during the 80’s. It was a time when there were no obviously gay characters on regular TV and “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straights had the lyric “that little faggot with the earring and the make-up” playing on the radio. The 1980’s saw the end of the golden age for those who wanted a primarily gay-free pop culture. Outside of the correlation made between the outbreak of HIV/AIDS and homosexuality, I don’t remember many other references to gays by the media during my childhood.
I didn’t have any inherent dislike of gay people growing up. Though, being called a “fag” or “queer” by a peer was considered highly unfavorable and generally started a fight. Even though homosexuality wasn’t a primary topic of conversation during those years, when it was mentioned, it was always a negative thing and typically spoken of with disgust. “Queers” were people you had to watch out for. They were the kind that messed with little boys. I don’t recall a single correlation of homosexuality with anything less than evil in daily life or the media until I was in my teens. If I’d grown up somewhere other than Indiana, that may not have been the case. But, my childhood was during the 80’s and I was a Hoosier.
I didn’t know anyone who was outwardly gay in school until I was a senior and one girl came out as a lesbian. I did not know her well, but I did give her a ride home from school once. Even with all the negativity toward gays growing up, I had no dislike for gay people. Or rather, since I didn’t really know any, I didn’t dislike the idea of people being gay.
I remember the TV movie “Doing Time on Maple Drive” in 1992. Jim Carrey was in it and played the alcoholic brother of a young, closeted, gay man. I really liked that movie. After watching the movie, I recall asking myself, “Am I gay?” I didn’t feel gay, but I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time either. After a day or two, I concluded for certain that I wasn’t gay. Shows like that make you think and ask deep, uncomfortable questions. That’s one reason why conservatives don’t want shows like that on TV.
A guy in his mid-thirties, Walter, was the first gay person I actually became friends with. He was a prep guy in the kitchen at the country club I worked at part-time on the weekends my junior and senior years of high school. He was a nice guy and was always joking around. Once, I had a mishap in the kitchen and exclaimed, “Damn! I almost poked my eye out!” Walter told me that it would be horrible if I lost an eye, because my eyes were pretty. After that, my other busboy friends nicknamed me, “Pretty Eyes.” It wasn’t meant to be a derogatory name. They weren’t making fun of me because a gay guy thought I was cute. It was just a funny nickname… kind of like how we called the sous chef, “Spider.” Though, I don’t know how he earned that moniker.
Walter was a cool guy and was very kind to everyone. I once got upset when a drunk wedding guest at the country club was joking about gays within Walter’s earshot. I could see that it hurt his feelings and that bothered me. There was another gay man that worked there for a while. He was the head chef and was a jerk. I learned that being gay doesn’t make you act one way or another. As is the case with all types of people, regardless of ethnicity, color, creed, or sexual orientation, you are in charge of your own character and behavior.
It wasn’t until I became a Christian and started really caring what the Bible had to say that I found out gays actually were evil after all. I got “saved” the summer after I graduated high school and later began attending a fundamental church when I was nineteen. At my first church, they didn’t talk a lot about gays. Most people were nice. They loved gays, but just despised their sin like you were supposed to. Only after the pastor left and that church dispersed did I end up in a church that really hated gays in a comprehensive fashion.
The only other congregation I knew anyone at in the town of Mooresville, In. was Victory Baptist Church. I’d been to a revival there and it seemed lively. As a newly married couple of twenty-one, my wife and I started attending Victory and quickly made it our official church home. We remained members there for several years and I also did some ministry. But, the general disdain for gays was more than obvious. They weren’t “gays” anyway. “Gay” means happy and gays are actually miserable people, so we were told. They should only be called “queers,” “fags,” “Sodomites,” or other similar terms.
The ideology was an uncomfortable fit for me, like a sweater two sizes too small. But, I was a young, impressionable man. And the most important thing was that they had “Bible” on their beliefs. The Bible DOES say to stone homosexuals in the Law. Jesus DID validate the Law of Moses. Paul DID write that those who burned in lust for the same sex were worthy of death. Not only that, but those who supported them deserve condemnation as well. I didn’t particularly have anything against gays, but my God did. I didn’t want Him mad at me, so I accepted that ideology for a span of time.
Let me give you a “through the looking glass” view of what it’s like to be in that place dogmatically… you say you aren’t “homophobic” because you aren’t afraid of gays in a one-on-one way. (I mean, they’re sissies right? So they can’t beat you up.) Yet, you are terrified of their impact on culture at large. The idea that the traditional, fundamental voice may lose the cultural microphone in America is unspeakable. Any one getting to speak a positive word publicly for gays equals persecution of you personally. The “Gay Agenda” is evil, anti-God, and wants to steal your Christian liberty in America. That’s what the fundamental pastors say anyway. You outwardly express that you “hate the sin, but love the sinner.” Though, you quietly despise the sinner too. They are an abomination to God. You can’t love God AND love those who implicitly spit on His Word at the same time in any genuine or uncondescending way. You won’t even allow yourself to enjoy watching Ellen on TV. (Our pastor always referred to her as, “Ellen Degenerate”.)
In the end, the pastor’s racism got to me more than his homophobia. The New Testament, for the most part, disagreed with his racism. So, I talked to him about the racism issue privately. After being called an “Antichrist,” I left the church. But, the condemnation of gays followed me out the door in the Bible tucked under my arm.
As I grew in maturity and compassion over the years, my “too-small sweater” convictions became ever tighter and more uncomfortable. To be clear, I was very compassionate toward gays prior to adopting Biblical dogma about homosexuality. It took my religion to numb my natural instincts for some years. I did not hate or despise gays during those next few years. I actually had quite a love and understanding that I had to forcibly repress in order to align with the Sacred Text. The final nail in the coffin for the negative convictions I had embraced toward LGBT individuals came in 2012.
One day when I was messing around on Youtube, I saw a video post titled, “Same Love.” I had no idea what it was, but I clicked on the link.
I watched that video which now has well over 1oo million views when it was a new post gone-viral. I was sitting alone at my laptop in the house. I don’t recall where my family had gone that afternoon. The words of that song, the story, and images were exciting a part of my human conscience that I had turned off for over a decade. It actually made me cry. I think I watched it several more times right after. But, even though it moved me deeply, I wasn’t bold enough to share it on my Facebook wall at the time.
I had already been wrestling with my faith and beliefs in general for some months. But that song was a sniper’s shot directly to one specific conviction that had to be confronted and done away with. Since then, I have allowed myself to fully break free from ancient and repressive dogmas. My natural instincts to love other people, regardless of sexuality, exist unhindered. I am actually ashamed of the quiet and disingenuous spite for homosexuals that I carried for those years. It wasn’t a preeminent thing in my life. Yet, it did exist. It sat deep under the surface, but ready to be activated when occasion called for it. That is sad. I apologize to the LGBT community for my lack of insight toward homosexuality during that stage of my life. I am sorry for not lifting my voice for your freedom in our culture earlier. I will now.
There are moments and events that can be a tipping point for things in our lives and in our culture. But for me, I will never forget where I was the first time I heard the song, “Same Love.” Many thanks to you Macklemore, Ryan Lewis, and Mary Lambert. Much love to you. –Luke Austin Daugherty