teenage-brave

A teen's response to “I'm Christian, Unless You're Gay” inspires and confuses

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Last November, blogger Dan Pearce posted a controversial blog post titled “I’m Christian Unless You’re Gay,” and it’s been causing controversy ever since.

By his own admission, Pearce is “not religious” but has “sought out religion” in search of truth. He found that every major religion includes admirable admonitions for people to be kind, compassionate, and merciful to one another. Yet too many followers of too many religions look for loopholes in these clauses, and Pearce offered a theory explaining why:

In truth, having a religion doesn’t make a person love or not love others. It doesn’t make a person accept or not accept others. It doesn’t make a person befriend or not befriend others.

Being without a religion doesn’t make somebody do or be any of that either.

No, what makes somebody love, accept, and befriend their fellow man is letting go of a need to be better than others.

The post continued:

What I care about is the need so many of us have to shun and loathe others. The need so many of us have to feel better or superior to others. The need some of us have to declare ourselves right and “perfect” all the freaking time and any chance we have.

And for some of us, these are very real needs.

But I will tell you this. All it really is… All any of it really is… is bullying.

When Pearce published this last November it inspired a huge response from the online community. He published multiple follow-up posts discussing the “powerful responses” his original post inspired.

But the furor eventually died down, only to be revived on April 2, when Pearce posted “A Teen’s Brave Response to ‘I’m Christian, Unless You’re Gay.’”

Pearce wrote: “I received the following email today …. this response was so powerful, I couldn’t not share it with you all. It was from a woman who simply called herself, “One proud mom.””

The posted letter is allegedly from the mother of a 15-year-old boy with an unusual homework assignment: read Pearce’s original post and write a 500-word essay about what it meant to him.

The mother reportedly claimed: “I confiscated it from him and told him he wasn’t to do anything with it till I had a chance to read it first. And then I got madder and madder as I read it as I felt like it was a direct attack against our beliefs and our Christian religion and that it was promoting homosexuality, a practice that around here is a huge ‘sin’.”

Forbidden to write his homework essay at home, her son went to a friend’s house to write it. Then he emailed his mother to say he wouldn’t come home until she read the essay first. So she did—and she learned something about her son. The story apparently went like this:

“I am gay and only my one friend knows so far. ... I have never felt so alone. My mom and dad always are being angry about gay people and talking about how they are bad and going to hell and they also always talk about how all the gays should be shipped off to their own private island or something so that the rest of us could live God’s commandments in peace. …

“So I go home and I tell my mom to read this handout you gave us and she got so mad at me and started going crazy about how evil gays are and how all of this was just the devil spreading his work and everything else she said. But this time I just got mad myself and I got so mad because I suddenly realize that this is the woman that my whole life made me go to church where they talk about love just like the writer said but she and every other person I pretty much know just hate so many people especially gay people.”

But the story in Pearce’s letter had a happy ending. His mom apparently read the essay, realized she loved her son, renounced her homophobic ways, and started urging her church friends to re-think their own opinions.

Or did she? The letter is a heartwarming story of love triumphing over bigotry, but skeptics on the Internet find the story might be too good to be true. Blogger Jon Christian wrote about what he called “A [Fake?] Teen’s Brave Response” to the story, and noted:

“As compelling as the message of the email may be, it doesn’t read quite right – sort of like a cross between a Sarah Palin transcription and the Hallmark Channel. Of course, I’m sure there are people who write like that, so that’s not much of a criticism. But something else is much more suspicious.

“Accompanying the post was a photograph of a smiling young man. I did a TinEye reverse image search on the image and found that it was a stock photo from 123RF.com, originally snapped by Danish photographer Yuri Arcurs, which has actually been used commercially on several occasions.”

That photo also rang a false note among many on metafilter. Commenter Nomyte said, “I am as sympathetic as anyone to the plight of GLBT youth, but I found the letter cloying and even scripted.... Second,  IWTF is up with the male model's picture that accompanies the story? …. Does the reader need a visual aid for what a gay 15-year-old looks like? Hint: most of them don't look like models.”

On the Motley Fool’s discussion forum, another skeptic mused: “[I]t seems unlikely that many teachers would choose the described essay for an essay topic. Largely due to the nature of the essay discussed: in places where discussions of Christian values might be tolerated in public schools, the discussion of homosexuality would likely be a firing offense, and places where homosexuality would not be a firing offense, classroom discussion of Christian values would be walking the line.”

But others chose to focus on story’s message rather than worry about its authenticity. The Institute For Circular Reasoning blogger said that Pearce’s post “presents a clear picture of how easy it is to hate what we don't know.”

The controversy over whether the letter is real is unlikely to be resolved unless the anonymous writer comes forth to identify herself. Yet perhaps that very skepticism underscores the need for Pearce’s original “I’m Christian Unless You’re Gay” post.

Why else would the notion “A mother loves her son, even if he’s gay” inspire such deep skepticism?

Photo via Single Dad Laughing