I have been engaged in a debate on another blog with a young man who asserts that any parent whose son tells them he’s gay, if the parent loves him, must show him the empathy that is at the heart of the Gospel of Jesus and support him in living a gay lifestyle. Obviously I disagree. But the question still remains: what should a parent say to a son who tells them he is gay? Here is my answer to the question:
“Empathy” is not at the core of Jesus’ teachings; love of God is. What did Jesus say was the greatest commandment? “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” Therefore, loving obedience to God is the first rule of Christian life. If I were a parent and this were my son who just told me he was gay, I wouldn’t love him any less! He is still my son and I would still die for him. But at the same time, any parent who loves his child can never counsel the child that in his situation it’s okay to disobey God. The loving thing for a Christian parent to do is to promise to help his son in any way possible to carry the cross that has been laid on his shoulders and be faithful to what God has clearly taught. Let’s imagine it this way: suppose the son was not gay but instead was a homely young man that no woman has ever found good enough to love. He knows his appearance is so horrible that the chances of anyone loving him for whom he is are slim. The son did nothing to cause or deserve his homeliness, but there it is nonetheless. Does his father, in an attempt to show empathy, tell him that there really is nothing homely about his appearance, that he’s just as good looking as the most attractive of Hollywood heartthrobs, and that therefore he should go out and demand everyone admit that he’s good looking? Of course not. Or does he say, “well, since no girl will have you and you have the right to sex, go find a prostitute- here’s the money!” Absurd! No, if he truly loves him, he tells him the truth and helps him deal with it. Perhaps he might tell him not to despair, that there may yet come a girl who will love him for the person he is, but he doesn’t give him a false hope by telling him she will eventually show up. Instead, he would prepare him for the life outside of marriage that he will end up living and show him how happiness can be found there just as much as in marriage. We as a society are so caught up in the concept that sex is the key to happiness and that everyone needs good sex to be happy and has a right to it. That does a tremendous disservice to scores of people, including those who are perfectly straight but simply have no desire to marry or never met the right person. Marriage does not possess the monopoly on happiness. I am celibate and chaste and am enormously happy with my life. Ultimately, we can never find true happiness until we are living a life that reflects the image and likeness of God, in whom we are created. If my son were gay, I would counsel him not to continue to try to convince God and the Church that they have erred in saying that homosexual activity is sinful (which is never going to happen and is a lie), for that would only set him up for a lifetime of struggle against God in a battle he will never win. Instead, I would tell him to prayerfully ask God how He wishes him to serve Him and how to use his condition to do His will. Only that would bring my son happiness.