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David R. Henson

Views & Voices

Amendment One and an angry lament of a native son

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I am a native son of the Deep South, born and bred in the land of cotton, Christianity and conservatism.

As a native son, I soaked up the homophobic culture in which I lived just as I soaked up a love of college football, the smell of fresh mown grass and cut wild onions on Sunday afternoons and July thunderstorms beheld on the back porch with iced cold sweet tea.

But I know now what I did not then. I know that I had friends who were gay, lesbian and bisexual, and I know that those friends overheard hate speech, cloaked in piety, fall from of my mouth as if it were righteousness. They heard me use the word “gay” as a pejorative. They heard me speak with confidence of how God condemned homosexuality. They heard me joke that God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve. They heard from me what they heard from everyone else in the South and what they heard tonight in North Carolina.

The abomination here is the church sign.

I’d like to apologize to them all, because I am sorry, and I humbly repent. But let’s be honest. Right now, as the state of North Carolina codifies hate speech into a constitutional amendment, apologies don’t begin to cut it.

As a native son of the Deep South and of North Carolina, tonight, I am ashamed, and angry.

I am ashamed for being too understanding of my homophobic brothers and sisters in Christ, knowing personally just how difficult it is to unravel the hate that can be instilled by the Christian faith. I am ashamed for being too tolerant of intolerance and hate. I am angry that the moral arc of the universe has been so misshapen by so-called Christian morality. I am angry that our churches, by and large, have stood for spirit of the world — the spirit of sin, death and hate — rather than the spirit of God — the spirit of love, creation and just societies.

I’m angry that we’re still having this conversation.

And I am angry that the land I love — that I have loved — is now the last place I want my two sons to experience their childhood.

See, it took more than a decade to overcome my own homophobia, and I would spare my children from living in place where such hate and exclusion is not only accepted, but applauded as godly. Even after I became convinced that condemning LGBT+ persons was not supported by Holy Scripture, I still held onto an emotional reluctance — embedded deeply within me by cultural conditioning — to embrace same-sex couples.

It wasn’t until I left the South and joined a playgroup with gay and lesbian parents that I felt the final bindings of hate release, that I could emotionally as well as intellectually affirm equality for all humans, regardless of their sexuality.

It wasn’t until I interviewed couples remembering with fondness the February weekend they dashed off to San Francisco to finally have their relationships recognized that I saw the genuine romance in LGBT relationships. It wasn’t until I listened to those same couples mourn the rejection of their relationships at the ballot box that I understood the fundamental inhumanity of heterosexists. It wasn’t until all this that I finally realized “they” were no different than me.

Mostly, though, tonight I am angry that the vote in North Carolina doesn’t surprise me one bit.

Actually, anger doesn’t begin to describe it. I am angry to the point of rage, which is better than the alternative of despair, I suppose. I am enraged that the land of my mother and father has been turned into a den of robbers that break into people’s bedrooms and relationships, cover it in hate and steal away human rights.

Angry enough to overturn tables.

And, as a Christian, I think it is time to admit who bears responsibility for atrocities like Amendment One and all other anti-LGBT legislation.

It’s Christianity.

I might want to say I’m not like those Christians over there who stood for Amendment One and other such legislation. But they are my brothers and sisters in the faith, no two ways about it. I might want to say those Christians don’t represent what Christ stood for. But I bet they would say the same thing about me. I can try to split hairs and divide the Christian community so I don’t have to think about the hate my faith tradition has spawned and let loose in the world like a legion of demons.

But I can’t say any of that with a shred of integrity.

Tonight, Christianity is to blame. To say otherwise would be a lie.

So, perhaps, on second thought, while saying I’m sorry might not be enough, it might just be the only thing to do tonight.

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23 more reader comments:

  1. Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 7:12am
  2. for the first time in my life I’m ashamed to be southern! I’ve traveled this nation far and wide, defending the misconception of southerners being ignorant. Boy have I been wrong!

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 7:18am
  3. I know that exact feeling Charley.

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 7:21am
  4. I feel ya Charley

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 7:23am
  5. My one word response: California.

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 7:23am
  6. I want you to realize something you wrote an insipring peice Ill grant you that!but now I will make you realize something else I know of my self I can not speak for others but I hope I do!I for one have never ever had an ill feeling nor thought toward another human being all my life even with facing bullys and bigots as a child and young adult I never harbored any kind of anti-hatred. I co existed I took the tuants in stride! but here you are with your magical revelation you have changed your attitude toward LGBT people all though I am greatfull you have changed your view and stance on LGBT issues you still had hatred in your heart where most of us had only understanding for one another and a willingness to change the hearts and minds through peacefull dialog while bigots have only one view to hate with all their “rightious” might again I applaud your present view and thank you!

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 7:26am
  7. *Charley Hall- That’s why I’ve done my best to try to be everything that’s the best of Texas, and none of the worst.
    I just wish there were more people like you around here; it’d make my job quite a bit easier.

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 7:38am
  8. Christianity vomits there hatred on there own State !

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 7:39am
  9. Erin, you are exactly right. It wasn’t a magical revelation, though. It took a lot of patient people probably like yourself who had nothing but understanding who helped people like me come to place where I could let go of that hate. I can’t imagine the kind of strength it must take to coexist with the taunts.

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 7:41am
  10. This was one of the most amazing articles I have ever read.

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 7:46am
  11. Please do not continue to allow these hate mongers to be classified as christians, they are not. Christ NEVER condoned such behavior, EVER. They do NOT, in any way what-so-ever, follow the examples of christ. They are NOT christians.

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 7:50am
  12. Fuck that bullshit, they ARE christians.

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 8:00am
  13. What happened to free speech? Christians and everyone else is entitled to it!

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 8:11am
  14. christians in name only.

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 9:09am
  15. As a Canadian, I am so sorry!

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 9:16am
  16. As a native Texan …. I am also appalled and sickened by what people do under the name of God! I one read somewhere that God prefers a loving accepting atheist over a hateful judgmental christian. I can’t say I agree more. I can’t help but feel, as a Christian, that God is ashamed at the hateful stones of judgement that his children are hurling at one another. Gay Rights is the current civil movement. One that is destined to bring about the same surge of emotion and political change that the civil rights movement for the people of color did in the 60′s. We have a long way to go but the wave has started and I am so very proud to be on the side of love, understanding, acceptance and unity!

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 9:32am
  17. I totally agree with you. I still live here and I am also very ashamed.

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 9:34am
  18. Phoenix. more appropriate words for those haters were spoken by jesus. lets see pharisees saducees hypocrites den of vipers is all a more realistic term than christian

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 11:01am
  19. anyone who calls those haters christians please back it up with facts showing the fruit of the spirit because i dont see it

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 11:04am
  20. Proving, once again, that hate is the only human emotion that can be taught, and that the world cannot be so clearly defined by the Scripture.

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 1:06pm
  21. Exactly what constiutes hate speach. Is it that I stand opposed to anothers Ideas or beliefs or that they stand opposed to mine? What EXACTLY IS IT. If a person believes I am wrong and says so it that it?

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 4:38pm
  22. If I am told that God does not condone homosexuality and that I will go to hell if I dont repent is that hate speach? Really what is it?

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 4:40pm
  23. How about when I wanted to smoke. Gees I had been for many years. All the sudden I had friends and even business telling me it was wrong and I couldnt do it. Was that hate speach?

    Posted on Wednesday, May 9, 2012 at 4:42pm