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Responding to gay son who hates God
Sep 30, 1997

My son is 26 years old. He's gay and recently diagnosed with aggressive, accelerated strain of AIDS. He is a victim of sex-abuse by a Catholic priest as an adolescent. He has been isolated, shunned and damn near destroyed by his church and "friends." He was raised in a conservative Catholic home. Thanks be to God, we are beyond all that. Now, he blames God for "playing a dirty trick" on him by making him gay, hates God for all the pain he has endured and doesn't think God cares about him anyway... How do I reach him?

Response from Rev. Pieters

You are in a tough situation... at a time when your son needs his faith as a survival tool, he is rejecting it because of his experience of uncaring, fearful, and ignorant church folks. Back in the early days of AIDS, some physicians said that we in communities of faith have more to offer persons with HIV/AIDS than they do. For some people who have an aggressive strain of HIV, this may still be true. But some communities of faith are letting their fear and hatred get in the way of the services they could be providing to those who are suffering.

Sometimes it helps to see a difference between religion and spirituality. Some say that religions are institutions of organized spirituality. One can still have spirituality and faith, without being a part of a religious body. But for many people, there is still a need to belong, a need to be connected to a community which focuses on spiritual issues. You may have to do a bit of "church shopping" to find such a community where you and your son can find support for your challenges.

It seems that your son may be "throwing out the baby with the bath water." While he is fully justified in his anger and hurt over his treatment by a Catholic priest and other church people, it might help to point out to him that they do not represent all Catholics, or all Christians. There is a great deal of diversity among Christians. There are diverse attitudes towards homosexuality among people of faith. Many believe that God loves lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, and transgendered persons unconditionally. An excellent discussion on the subject of homosexuality and religion is available at http://www.ufmcc.com.

There are also many who believe that AIDS is not a God's punishment for gay people, or any group. The assumption that God uses illness as punishment has been refuted over and over again, but still some people hang on to old fears and prejudices in the name of religion. Please read "HIV/AIDS: Is It God's Judgment?" here at The Body.

Please assure your son that there are many churches who will not ostracize and stigmatize him because of being gay or having HIV. There are many communities where lesbians and gay men openly worship God together, rejoicing in the love with which God has blessed them. The local Metropolitan Community Church or Dignity chapter would be a good place to start your church shopping.

I hope that you are connected with your local Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (P-FLAG). There you will meet other parents who have faced the same kind of struggle you are experiencing in reconciling their spirituality and their experience of an uncaring religious community. Perhaps through P-FLAG you will find a congregation where you will feel at home. You can become a model for your son of how faith can help you cope with life!



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