Available exclusively on PositiveLite.com, I respond to a lengthy email I received days after starting this blog and weeks after finding out I was HIV-positive.
Click here to read the email from my former youth pastor and my open letter responding.
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Dear Josh, well done for replying to your former pastor, but I would suggest you dont cut ties with him because that will lead to another ignorant roaming the street and inflicting more harm on people. And bear in mind, not all victims of his discrimination would be strong enough to face it the way you have done. But your strength would be even more productive by continuing to engage him and by your life, he’d come to understand his mistakes for the judgment.
He offered to talk, I would assume that you know the same Bible he picked and mixed, and from the same Bible, you can teach him to understanding. It may take time, but as the Bible says, “let your light so shine before men…” So through the light you shine, your former pastor may come to the true knowledge of life.
Few things to remind him, the same Bible repudiated and discriminated lepers, but Jesus embraced them. And the same Bible few chapters and verses apart did say, “you must not eat pork” then “homosexuality” and also that “disabled people cannot be pastors” including eye problem, etc. (Lev 11:7; 20:13 & 21: 17). Possibly, your former pastor wears glasses.
I will not ask you to cheer up as your courage is one to admire already. Unfortunately, if there is heaven, it seems to me you wont see him there at this speed… But please, do not cut him off for the love of Christ; he need saving!
My best wishes
It’s heartbreaking when someone that seems to care about you shows it in a very hurtful, non-loving manner. Everyone needs someone to blame and it seems that your former pastor finds peace or reconciliation in blaming “the sin” of homosexuality and “un-confessed sin” for the reason of contracting HIV. It also seems that this pastor is venting and projecting his frustration, hurt, pain and brokenness of watching his brother suffer onto you and is masking this with misunderstood scriptures and ignorant church tradition. This isn’t fair, isn’t correct, and it must have been very painful to read. My heart breaks for you. And yes, he left out a great number of people that have contracted HIV by no fault or choice of their own. He forgot to mention that “African-American women account for nearly 60 percent of all new HIV infections among women and 13 percent of new infections overall” (http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/TCTT2012PressRelease.html) or that 1 in 4 babies could be born HIV+, if the HIV+ mother doesn’t receive proper treatment (http://www.americanpregnancy.org/pregnancycomplications/hivaids.html).
He’s incorrect that “God’s Word doesn’t change”. However, he was correct when he said that God hates sin. So much so that He sent his son to die for us. God changed the rules and His own “Word” when Jesus came to the Earth during a time when divorce and infidelity were punishable by death; when He healed on the Sabbath; when he turned over the tables in the temple; when He preached peace and love instead of vengeance and justice; when we no longer had to shed the blood of doves and bulls to cover our sins because Jesus did that for us. We can play the misused scripture game all day long and I hope that he’s able to read this letter written to Dr. Laura in response to one of her gay-bashing broadcasts to fully understand the damage that he’s doing when misusing scripture: http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/drlaura.asp. One of my favorite questions from the letter is, “I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as it suggests in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?”
Ultimately, it seems that he’s confused church tradition for biblical truth. And you’ll continue to get “hate mail” until “the Church” stops hiding behind the “at least I’m not gay” sermons, excuses, shame games and rhetoric that masks “their sins”. It’s inspiring to read that you forgive him. Because forgiveness and mercy are what truly heal. And all we can do is love where there is hate, teach where there is ignorance, and forgive where there is spite. It’s deeply moving to see you use your situation to help educate and encourage others; when so many people could easily use it to just play the victim. Keep fighting the good fight with love, mercy, and forgiveness.
I’m standing with you-
I’ll probably get into trouble for quoting these words(especially out of their original order), but they helped to save my life and feel that they are very poignant to this situation, so I feel that it’s necessary to do so:
“If you are a fag, you have been told over and over how sinful you are. You have heard nothing but sermon after sermon laced with anger and hate from all sorts of preachers and pastors and angry smug bastards who somehow have become jury and judge-letting us all know of that long and painful road we will have to trudge. That road to perdition. But if you can remember, sin isn’t such a daunting thing. It just means (literally) “missing the mark”. In missing the mark, we are not hitting God’s perfect plan–the idea he first intended when he created man. Hell, Adam missed the mark right out of the gate. But the bottom line is this: WE ALL miss the mark until our dying day. And truthfully, the very people who keep screaming at us about our sin are missing the mark in a thousand different ways. The difference is, they are not gay.
So it has to be hard when we have to witness the self-righteous sinners who don’t struggle with being gay (yet they struggle with other things) as they tell us over and over that if God is truly powerful, if God is really God, then why don’t we have enough faith to allow him to set us free. And they are giving us this mouthful, while they over-eat, or are coveting a brand new kitchen or the lavish addition to their large house, while they pass the homeless man and look the other way–gossiping about their neighbor…who happens to be gay.
Despite all the signs and sermons, both live and via satellite, that claim that the hottest fires in hell are reserved for godless sodomites, I think we may all end up a little bit surprised when we stand before our God naked on that final day. Although some claim it will be the prostitutes or perverts who receive God’s harshest wrath- and others, like myself, believe cruel and pious pastors will be tormented in an eternal fiery bath- I now realize the greatest peril awaits the most horrific criminal of all-and that criminal could be me when I judge anyone at all. As much as I like to pummel the religious right for being so prideful, arrogant and almost certainly missing the point, I realized I have no right to point my finger at anyone that I deem to be pious, proud, and sickeningly judgmental and religious–because I am all of those things and more. Judge not, that ye be not judged.
I am sickened when I think about how many beautiful sons and daughters have been discarded, damaged, and destroyed by the scriptures that are misinterpreted and fired as deadly missiles at God’s sons and daughters–those that were already bleeding and in pain and left for dead along the way. Those who once held so much promise now live lives steeped in quiet shame.
Together, we can choose to forgive all those who may have personally brought us pain. And realize that no matter if those crimes were committed under the banner of God’s name–His heart is broken by injustice and He offers us real healing in His warm embrace. And God-sized tears are streaming down this Father’s face.
For us to authentically move forward in our journey, we will have to rise to a new place—we will have to become bigger than those who hurt us, bigger than those who judge us, bigger than the pain. Jesus had a new message–it was a message not of rules and laws and dictates, but a message of unconditional love and grace.” -James Langteaux
Well done Josh, I know where you are coming from. My own father is a Southern Baptist Pastor so I can imagine we received some of the same comments and judgement. After 4 years of fighting this ignorance since I found out, I know that prejudice and bigotry are a long way from being abolished, but hopefully we will see some form of acceptance in our lifetime.
It never fails to surprise me the courage that some people (like yourself) have in sharing their most personal thoughts and experiences for the benefit of others. I dreaded reading that letter, knowing I guess where it was heading. Your response was just perfect. I hope he has heeded your word and not made contact again. You have enough to deal with without the haters. Love J x