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Dealing with family
Jul 10, 1998

Dear Rev. Pieters,

My brother is very close to death, and we don't think it's more than a few weeks now. The rest of my family is Christian, conservative, and opposed to his gay lifestyle which they consider definitively anti-Christian. Although they are very warm and loving to my brother now that he's sick, they often tell me that they fear his "heart is not right with God." I have told them that this is the person he is, and that he doesn't feel he needs to "repent." But I fear that they will try to get him to do it so that they can feel confident he's in heaven. What can I say to them to make them understand, and to hopefully prevent this kind of stress on his final days? I know it would mean a lot to him if they could accept him before he goes.

Response from Rev. Pieters

Yes, it would be great if the rest of your family could accept your brother as he is. Having seen this situation many times before, I know that there are no easy solutions, and no guarantees that this will happen.

Nevertheless, you could tell them that there are many Christian people who believe that God loves gay people just the way God created them. Even more effective, perhaps you could bring some gay Christians to your brother's bedside to help you through this time, and to present a different perspective and attitude for your family to see.

Call your local Metropolitan Community Church (MCC), or some other gay/lesbian-friendly church, and explain to them the situation. Ask for someone to visit your brother, and to meet your family. You might be surprised what an impact this could have.

One time when I witnessed a similar situation, the MCC folks simply gathered around the bedside of the dying man, right along with the rather homophobic conservative Christian family. When the family saw the active faith of these lesbian and gay Christians, when they saw how the MCC people prayed and sang hymns and supported the dying man, it changed some of their minds. I remember the brother of the dying man saying, "I'm surprised to find out you really are Christians too." A real healing happened for many present that day, including the brother with AIDS.

Whatever happens, remember that you cannot control others' minds, hearts, and feelings. You can present the evidence of God's love for gay/lesbian people (and it's all around!), set a good example yourself, and pray for your family; but it's up to them to open their minds to God's loving acceptance of all of us. You will be in my prayers.



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