Parents of LGBT often find themselves stuck between what they perceive to be the love of a god and the love for their children. Their story is similar to that of an Iraqi migrant and a husband. He wanted to be a father. He encountered the living God or so he claimed, an encounter that transformed his life and that of his household.
He believed in this true and living demanding God whom he had met. He loved God and God loved him. His God, the one he believed in, had words of poetic promises. Abram, son of Terah believed in the faithfulness of these promises – God’s word, though these seemed to be fulfilled painfully and slowly.
He saw many around him worshipping all sorts and forms of gods, or their own selves and their petty wants. As he travelled from country to country he witnessed all sorts of rituals, many of these horrifying, such as that of killing one’s own offspring as a sacrifice to a capricious god or another. Utter foolishness, Abram thought.
The God he encountered promised him a child, and not any child either. This promise meant a lot, he was already in his old age; he desired children all his life but had none. On the other hand those around him killed sons and daughters to please their gods or whatever. God’s promise was fulfilled; Abraham, the man of peace had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac, and six more sons later on.
However, he had to part from the first son and his Egyptian mother. This was deeply distressing for all of them. Families are always complicated affairs and painful matters for the heart. But Isaac, his other son, from his beautiful but rather shrewd wife was the fullness of God’s promise, or so the story tells us.
Abraham’s joy was struck once more. This time round, by his true and living God who seemed to be different from the other gods so far. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son to this living God as proof of his love. Can you imagine Abraham’s disappointment? After all, this living God was not different from the rest of them. Maybe he was the foolish one after all.
Were all his beliefs about this ‘other’ God an illusion, as many of his neighbours, friends and those he met during his travels warned him about? Were they right and he simply fell prey to delusions? Abraham’s heart and soul must have been tested to their core. He had already experienced the terrifying darkness of God but this request was something else altogether.
So here they are on God’s Mountain, the one he Himself cruelly indicated. Isaac is tied and Abraham is ready for the kill, out of zeal for this beloved God. All of his life seems to be a failure from this point of view; this God suddenly seems to have become as brutal and violent as the rest of them. Isaac, is resigned to his destiny, to this violent will of this whatever God his father loves so much. And yet he is the one who is going to get killed because of this strange love affair.
And yet, this God does reveal himself as unique and ‘other’ once more. He rejects human sacrifice and presents himself to Abraham as the God of life and not of death. Theologically we find the fullness of God’s revelation in this second command and not in the first one, though the first demand is present and tested Abraham’s heart.
Many Christian parents (and similarly other parents belonging to the monotheistic religions), whose children are lesbian, gay, transgendered or bi-sexual may find themselves in similar places and spaces as Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac did. A man following and worshipping his beloved true and living God, the head of a household (very patriarchal more or less), and father of two sons and more. At some point it seems that his two sons are going to be destroyed by the will of this God, or his wife Sarah. So much violence suddenly erupting, threatening to destroy his dreams and desires and all that he had committed to and believed in. But the true and living God reveals himself to Abraham and his two sons as the one who does not destroy human beings but offers them life and blessings in abundance.
Some parents of LGBT people out of this zeal-love for God reject or harm their own children for being gay or transgender. They might believe that they are pleasing Jesus by doing so. They forget that the fullness of revelation in Abraham’s story is found in God’s second command and not in the first. The fullness of revelation is found in Jesus’ resurrection-in-forgiveness and not in vengeance, as theologian James Alison reminds us over and over again. And yet God did test Abraham’s heart and his relationship with Isaac. Similarly parents of LGBT persons are tested.
Often, many LGBT persons find themselves in a similar place as Isaac; tied and silenced by the impending violence. Resigned to a destiny of a lifeless life, bound by the violent will of a god who claims to be the god of love, demands love and yet demand destruction at the same time. Some LGBT persons are believers themselves and like Isaac may not see another other way out. Some others may act violently towards themselves, towards their own sexual desires for love of God, parents and extended kin or friends, to fit in, not to be excluded. Maybe, to avoid violence from their loved ones, so they act it out on behalf of others, themselves.
Others may find themselves like Ishmael and his mother Hagar, on the run, hiding out. Fearing and yet resigned to their own destiny as well; that of being destroyed by the will of some vengeful righteous person. Like Ishmael and Isaac, LGBT persons all over the globe are finding out that the true and living God is not found in destruction, violence, vengeance or murderous-sacrifice. The true and living God is found in the delicate gestures of love. A love that is able to move the person beyond his or her own self, beyond the fears and barriers that others may place before him or her. A gentle love that liberates the person from the violent zeal for God, because killing for God (others and self) is a violation of that same loved God himself. What God rejects is in fact all forms of violence and hatred; He finds pleasure in loving relationships wherever these may be.