CNN’s Don Lemon, guest hosting for the Joy Behar Show, followed up his inspiring conversation with a transgender panel by exploring Christianity’s view of being gay. His conversation featured Randy Roberts Potts, grandson of televangelist Oral Roberts, and Jay Bakker, a New York City-based pastor.
The conversation took on a personal tone, established by Lemon’s first sentence, “It’s usually not easy to come out as a gay man, I know.” Lemon publicly came out in May. The tone was of two men sharing the experience of being public figures who have come out. Potts has only recently started speaking out publicly about his family and experience growing up and coming out.
A major portion of the conversation centered on Potts’ family. His grandfather, Oral Roberts, was a high profile Pentecostal televangelist. He is credited with bringing Pentecostalism into the American mainstream. Additionally, he was a pioneer of televangelism and founded a university that still bears his name.
Potts was not the first openly gay member of the Roberts family. His uncle, Ronald Roberts, died by suicide in 1982, only six months after coming out. Potts discussed the pressure that he received from his family, even before coming out, partly due to his uncle’s death. After Potts came out to his family, he lost most contact with them.
In this video, Potts reads a letter to his Uncle Ronnie:
Potts described feeling compassion for his family, because of the theology of fear that was taught to them.
“I feel like they`re trapped in…a lot of fear. I think they really are legitimately afraid that I am going to hell. And they are too scared to look beyond that. And so it hurts me, but I also feel badly for them to be trapped or feel trapped in a place like that.”
Fear was also a prominent theme in the follow-up conversation with Jay Bakker, pastor of Revolution New York City and son of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker.
Bakker said that Jesus’ actions and teachings always pointed clearly toward expressing love and hospitality, and spending time with people who need more grace. He remarked that the Christian church has, over its history, completely reversed the teachings of Jesus, setting up restrictions and disassociating with whole populations.
Bakker noted that now there are more and more LGBT-affirming churches, but it is still a struggle.
“I almost went bankrupt when I said I love everybody. You know, this wasn’t a popularity contest. This was just me following a deep conviction. And it all came from understanding god’s Grace and god’s love, you know. They say—I’ve always had people say, you know, Jay, too much grace, it’s a slippery slope. And it is a slippery slope to loving everybody. I’m glad I got to slide on down it.”
GLAAD is grateful for the faithful witness of both Randy Roberts Potts and Jay Bakker. We encourage other people of faith to share their stories as well. The witness of people of faith who are both LGBT people and allies is an important part of increasing acceptance and advancing equality.