I have often kept silence sharing my views on gender issues privately, sometimes it is hard to share opinions with the fear of being misunderstood.
I grew up in a very conservative country where for more than 17 years of my life, we did not have freedom of expressing our thoughts publically. All you listened, watched and read was controlled and manipulated by the military government. Growing up as an evangelical protestant in a catholic country was not easy. But during the years of dictatorship, the evangelical church was recognised politically and morally as a spiritual movement, yet paying the price of becoming conservative and pragmatic.
Therefore, issues of gender and the questioning of gender was deprived of dialogue and of constructive understanding that led to so many misunderstandings, opening the doors for all kinds theological theories, which in many cases were hard and deprived of love and pastoral care.
No one dared to talk about it, only those brave enough did it, sometimes, through comedy. I still remember a comedian who on national television observed that in most families we have an uncle or a cousin who is gay, but we don’t talk about it, we all knew this was true, but we kept silence because of fear. He was right!
I knew he was right because that happened in my own family.
I still don’t feel that comfortable about sharing my views on the gender agenda and all its implications for faith communities, not because of fear, but because I am seeking more understanding of the issues involved, I believe that this is mostly about identity.
However, one thing I am fearless about and that has to do with respecting the lives of those who define their lives according to their genders, class and religion. The love of life and love for everyone is a must.
We are commanded to love our God with all our hearts, souls and minds, and we are to love our neighbours as we love ourselves. When Jesus made that declaration, he did not put conditions in terms of gender issues, class, religion or even sins. His love is not conditional. If we are not capable of loving our neighbours, it is because we don’t know how to love ourselves. The apostle Peter who spent a lot of time with Jesus, understood this so well when he said that “above all, keep loving one another earnestly since love covers a multitude of sins.”
When an issue becomes personal, then, somehow you get the strength to let your voice be heard, so I am advocating for those who have been rejected, persecuted, misunderstood and excluded.
When you hear that “godly Christian” counselling was offered along the lines of “you need to change because if you don’t, you will be going to hell” then that is not spiritual counselling but spiritual abuse! When you hear the fear of being rejected within the community that you belong, fearing that they will not embrace you anymore, then we need to reflect deeply if we love our people and our neighbours well.
I had a friend who died of AIDS. I was taking time off from the M/V Logos 2, and I flew back home from Uruguay. I heard about his condition, and I went to visit him and pray for him as much as I could. On one of the visits, he told me that his friend, a Minister, said to him that he wasn’t going to visit him anymore because he didn’t want to be associated with him. Before he died, he dreamt with Jesus, he told me that on my last visit, we embraced and cried. He was not gay. My friend died peacefully.
When there is no understanding of the emotional, physical, spiritual and mental turmoil, then these very issues will lead to a deepening of fear, of rejection, lack self-worth and self-harm. It is so easy to judge and so challenging to embrace pain, rejection and exclusion. I genuinely believe that is where love is found.
We once were excluded from Grace because of sin, separated from the love of God, and now we have been embraced and brought near by Christ’s redemptive love. What if we start affirming the person and see them with compassion, as He sees them, this does not mean to approve of their decisions and actions. I love my sons and daughters, even if I don’t sometimes agree with their decision making. They come to me because I love them. I go to them because I love them.
I love my family and those within my family who have gone and struggled with gender issues I want to say how sorry I am that I have not embraced you earlier. Let me journey with you.