Associated Press

Today is a bad day. Two powerful blasts of bad news damn near knocked me off my feet, coming as they did within minutes of each other. Two deaths, and an unfortunate connection.

A good friend of mine from high school passed away last night. We haven’t had much contact since graduating; we reconnected on Facebook not long ago and, in viewing our interactions there, I see that most communication we’ve had was his yearly “happy birthday” messages to me. Unrequited, I’m afraid.

Back in high school, he and some of the other guys used to go to youth group with me. They weren’t evangelical Christians like I was; they were raised in Catholic families and were fellow inmates at our all male Catholic high school. None of them really liked going to my church, I don’t think. It was too strange for them. I was too obviously evangelizing. But we didn’t have many friends outside of each other, and I’m sure that’s why they came.

My friend was bisexual. This all came out years after high school, and in the time since we reconnected he lived his life right out in the open on Facebook. He had some trouble with drugs and alcohol in those intervening years, too, but seemed to have it under control. Ultimately, from the time spent in the homophobic halls of an all male Catholic school, through the rest of his too-short life, I get the impression that due to the competing pressures regarding his sexuality, he was never comfortable in his own skin. He described himself, casually, as, “a lil bit of this and a lil bit of that.”

I don’t know what he thought about me after all those years of trying to “witness” to him, of being judgmental about petty teenage taboos like swearing and smoking. There is a lot I regret about the kind of Christian I was in high school. I can only hope he didn’t think I judged him still, or thought any less of him after he came out. I can only hope, but I’m not so sure.

Also last night, in Uganda, a country I visited while living in Kenya, another man, David Koto, died. He was murdered. Though the police are blaming his death on a robbery, those who knew him, and knew his story, are drawing the obvious connection between his death and the fact that his picture was recently featured on the front page of a Ugandan newspaper under the headline “Hang Them.”

He was gay.

Already, people are assigning blame for Koto’s death to the U.S. evangelical preachers who visited Uganda a few years ago and stoked the fire of anti-gay ire in the country, and to the groups in the U.S. that continue to support that cause. It has been widely publicized that after the evangelical preachers visited Uganda, hosting rallies and talks, some Ugandan legislators proposed a bill that would make hanging the penalty for a person found to be homosexual.

The extent to which the preachers who have been frequently accused by name are guilty of Koto’s death is unclear and probably immeasurable. But what is clear is that Christians, and evangelicals in particular, are guilty of demonizing homosexuals. We are told — despite Jesus’ example — that it is up to us to throw the first stone of judgment at those we deem sinners. In fact today, with unfortunate timing, Albert Mohler wrote, responding to Joel Osteen’s nearly forced pronouncement that he believes homosexuality is sin, that “those who express confidence in the Bible’s teaching” will have to make such a judgment.

But when we do this, we put an unbearable burden on the shoulders of our gay brothers and sisters. Even the most “love the sinner, hate the sin” believer among us is guilty. We have mistakenly labeled homosexuality as an unforgivable sin, a malfunction, a distortion, or a disease. And we are guilty of a million counts of making life miserable for so many people, and of making life unlivable for countless others.

I’m calling for an end to this life threatening judgmentalism. I’m calling for a moratorium on debates over what qualifies as sin in other peoples’ lives. I’m calling for a change in priorities, a shift back to what we should have been doing all along. I’m calling for love, acceptance, and a global admission that we have wronged so many people. Ultimately, I’m pleading with my fellow Christians to change, to make a marked transition from being the most judgmental and angry, to the most accepting and loving. From being the police of others’ morality, to the bearers of others’ burdens. Peoples’ lives, it’s clear, are at stake.

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About The Author

Jonathan D. Fitzgerald

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0 Responses to Two Deaths, and an Unfortunate Connection

  1. Matt S. says:

    Thanks for this, Fitz. It was a really beautiful effort, one I agree with wholeheartedly in both content and tone. I often wonder — and I say this not intending to cast judgment, but as a question I ask myself — how Christians come to the place where legalism and abstract moral principles, questionably extracted from Biblical proof-texts, completely obliterate our ability to see the real suffering of a concrete person. Putting aside all the arguments “for” or “against” homosexuality, as a posture towards others, as a way of seeing and relating to our fellow human beings, what you describe and critique is a complete abdication of the example Jesus provides in the Gospels. He always, always leading with love. I’ve always thought that hoary formulation, “hate the sin but love the sinner,” simply was a way of taking away with one hand what we give with the other.

    Thanks again.

    There’s a passage I read a few months ago from the French philosopher Chantal Delsol, in her book The Unlearned Lessons of the Twentieth Century, that always comes to mind in these situations and conversations: “In order to care for, improve, and clear the brush away from what exists, we must keep in check our will to begin again ex nihilo, loving both existence and those beings who exist. That is, we must love them more than the products of our own minds.”

    Again and again and again: We must love them more than the products of our own minds.

  2. Keith R. says:

    I absolutely agree that Christians have made sexual sin in general and homosexuality in particular the worst possible offense. I don’t know whether this attitude is reactionary because our culture tends to make a lot of sex today or is derived from a general belief that this world is ultimately evil and our hope is to be taken out of it (one of the most common, and I believe pernicious modern Christian beliefs). But either way, it has severely damaged today’s church, and hindered our ability to serve the world. I don’t have any personal stories of people DYING because of this attitude, but my father had an affair, divorced, and remarried, and many Christians I know believe that he is no longer a Christian, although his daily life and world philosophy is at least (if not more) Christian than theirs. It seems too many Christians have realized that it’s both easier and more fun to damn each other than to save the world.

  3. When will we realize that we have no Christian duty to tell others who they can and cannot love? We must remember that Jesus accepted each person as and where that person was, without preconditions. This is the nature of the unconditional love we are instructed to show in the world.

    • Jim says:

      Mindfulsearcher, respectfully,… really? “Jesus accepted each person as and where that person was, without preconditions” Where do you read that? Jesus challenged everyone he met, not to be who they were, but with the need to be much more. He challenged the guy hung up on riches to sell everything, the proud to be humble, the weak in faith to greater faith, and all to follow Him. We do not need to be who we are, we need to be born again. John 3.

  4. Justpassiniton says:

    Sorry, but homosexuality is a sin and like other sins is forgivable. Stating this is Scriptural and does not take it out of context. That is the biblical position and thereby we have no authorization to change it with our own thoughts … it is not a matter of whether we like it or not. The Bible tells us who we can or cannot have sex with for a number of reasons … all really for our benefit here and spiritually taking in the consideration of eternity. But, it is necessary that we treat the person involved in homosexual behavior with compassion in how we talk to them and share the truth with them in love. Even though Jesus accepted the sinner where they were, He always told them to stop their sin and live righteously … “go and sin no more.” The nature of unconditional love “agape love” is not to leave the person in sin but to love and care about their soul enough to risk helping them to turn to Christ and live for Him in a biblical manner …

    • Penny says:

      I have loved ones who are living this lifestlye and it is very hard. I try to tell them that your choices today have severe consequences no matter what you do. I told them that walking with Jesus and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us and is a very important matter. The church I go to is the first church that shows how important it is to develop a relationship with God and not fear him or love him, OR ELSE. We can ONLY know what we are doing, thinking or feeling is wrong by the HOLY SPIRIT. We can’t wish ourselves well just because we are nice people. The HOLY SPIRIT SHOWS US THE TRUTH OF ALL THINGS. And I truly believe it is IN GOD’S TIMETABLE the the healing comes. I used to get very upset at people who would say, JUST TRUST AND GIVE IT TO GOD. I didn’t realize till Dec. 4, 2010 how deep in the dungeon I had built for myself was. I had the whole self-protection of a fortified fortress, the shark-type garments under my coat of armor. I was reading Healing the Broken Hearted by Joyce Meyers, when the Holy Spirit touched me so personally that for the first time, I felt, truly felt the Joy of the Lord. He removed my garments, literally. Twice, he touched me. Then later showed me, one touch was for the undressing of my garments and the second was protecting me and allowing healing to take place INSIDE while having a literal shield around me. It was like I had an invisible force surrounding me. So healing is a process and some may need to realize, the eyes of others may not be open, until they are WILLING to allow the TRUTH to be shown to them by the Holy Spirit, IN HIS TIME. Like you said, love the sinner, not the sin. If we shun the sinner due to the obvious sin, then we are judging. We would have to look at everyone differently then, cause sin is sin, despite the knowledge of others who witness it. GOD sees all, no matter if others can see it, cause the sin we do when no-one is looking is still seen by HIM. Healing takes place in layers cause if for some if it happened too fast at OTHERS speed and not GOD’s timetable, it may do more harm then good. Please keep my loved ones in prayer.

      • Cassie says:

        With all of the talk about “Leavers” on this site in the past few days, I think it is important to understand that this kind of talk (describing your daily emotional feelings in a Frank Peretti style) when mixed with the thinly disguised anger dressed up as love-speech that always communicates your non-acceptance, is pretty much the worst thing you can do,,, but is also what everyone expects. That’s Christianity today to the masses.

  5. Ferratusco says:

    John, your words mean a lot. Vance loved you and all his friends unconditionally. He was always so happy to re-connect with each and everyone of you. My family and I really appreciate this article. Thank you for keeping a beautiful memory alive. – Genevieve & Anthony

  6. Joshua Keel says:

    Fitz, I really appreciate your attitude and desire for believers to start living the love of Jesus instead of just talking about it. I agree with you and acknowledge my own guilt. I have a question, though. In the story you reference about casting the first stone, Jesus says to the woman, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” I understand from this that Jesus didn’t condemn her (in any sense of the word), but he did acknowledge that she had, in fact, sinned. How does that fit in with your thoughts above? What responsibility, if any, do we have to agree with the Scriptures as they show us the things God doesn’t want his sons and daughters to be a part of?

  7. Jim says:

    While agree with some of your supposition… that we have made this an “unforgivable sin,” which it certainly is not.
    But what then is “acceptance?” Is it a determination that homosexuality is okay? That it is not sin? How many verses of scripture would we have to black out to get there theologically?
    I have never understood the language of acceptance. I could no more “accept” homosexuality as I could someone who is involved in any other sin as a lifestyle. Jesus said: “go, and sin no more.” That message would fly in the face of homosexual acceptance. Wouldn’t it?

  8. Joe Carter says:

    The Ugandan police say that the murder fits the pattern of a string of other crimes in the area and that the main suspect is someone who lived with David Kato. Of course, John dismisses that with a wave of the hand since he knows that what really killed the man was the rhetoric of some U.S. evangelicals. In his mind Kato is a martyr for gay rights. Whether the facts fit that interpretation matter not a bit.

    Why let a good tragedy go to waste when it can be used to denigrate orthodox Christianity, right John?

    Also, was your friend’s death in any way related to his homosexuality or was that also just a convenient fact that you needed to tie into your narrative? Your title says that there is an “unfortunate connection” between the two deaths. What is the connection? So far there is no evidence that Kato’s death had anything to do with his being gay. Did your friend’s? The deaths are certainly unfortunate, but is there really a connection? Or is it just that you see two human beings who have died and the primary thing you care about is how you can connect their sexual orientation to your pet agenda?

    You should be really proud of yourself, John. You manage to exploit two recently deceased people in one blog post. That’s quite an accomplishment.

  9. Joe Carter says:

    (Sorry, I realized as soon as I hit send that I should have used “Jon” rather than “John.”)

  10. Johnc says:

    ‘Love the sinner hate the sin’ That’s the only substantial misquote you can take from the rest of this utter BS. Maybe if you tried to hide your pro-homosexual agenda a little more or come out already you could get an audience.

  11. Paul says:

    The police arrested Kato’s lover for his murder. Every sinner is required to repent of their sin before God. The Apostle Paul identifies lesbianism first as an example of the degradation of sin. The problem with the phrase “Love the sinner, hate the sin” is that God still sends the sinner to hell and not the sin.

    So why are evangelicals focusing on this issue, simple because the GBLT community is forcing the issue, several federal MP’s are seeking community opinion on gay marriage, Lady Gaga latest album “Born this way” is almost the voice of this generation and the church must respond biblically.

    The question I think you are asking is how? The problem is the GBLT community is aggressive, intolerant and scream homophobia at any comment. Hence I see Christians now backing away and fearful to even raise the topic, with fear of being targeted. The Bible still calls all sinners to repent.

  12. Liz says:

    The problem can be that we try to limit God’s grace and ability. By grace, I mean the power to break strongholds in our lives. Homosexuality feels innate because sexual development is influenced from such very young ages. It is difficult to give churches more help in understanding these issues because of often vicious opposition. But there are many of us who have identified as homosexuals but now have our identity in Christ. Our voices are suppressed because we stand as evidence that God can ask us to walk in ways that are often not natural to our humanly developed inclinations and God can also give us the power to do so. I am someone who was once lesbian but now live in Biblical freedom, having my identity in who God has created me. I have been free of my old labels for more than twenty five years. I have met many along the way just like me, men and women who once identified themselves as gay and no longer do. Most just want to get on with their lives and their marriages and family rather than put their testimonies out there because labels such as ex-gay can attract more venom and hate and attack from every side than we ever knew in our old lives. Please pray some of us have the courage to tell our stories because without them, there is only one side being told. Compassion demands that we know God is able to transform us, not leave us feeling condemned. Compassion holds to truth because it leads to eternal consequences. Love would not let us entertain potentially dangerous delusion.

  13. Tim says:

    Hey Jon, I too have followed Kato’s sad demise and the demonising that has occurred since.

    But I wonder if the howl against ‘evangelical christians’ (whatever that means, since it is such a broad term – myself I prefer a simpler term, but I’m yet to invent it :)) is part of the persecution that Jesus says his followers will experience.

    Interesting to compare our reactions to this kind of thing to those of the persecuted church. One brother has famously said, don’t pray that the persecution stops, pray that we’ll stay faithful. I think this is the pressure point in this issue.

    And to aid us staying faithful to Christ (without going into a Christian ghetto or a eremitic retreat) we need to be alert to what the whole of the bible says.

    So here is my challenge, where does the bible say ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’? If I’m right, it is a quote from that noted son of a prophet, one M. Ghandi. It doesn’t really convey the bible’s teaching, no matter how much we want the bible to this sentiment.

    just a few thoughts…

  14. Murrayd40 says:

    My heart goes out to all my sisters and brothers in the Lord who get caught up with condemnation and judging of others. Where is the basis of our belief.Is it not in Jesus who told us to love our brothers as ourselves.We must learn to love ourselves first before we can love our brothers, otherwise that love is a lie.I had to learn that.
    I was bought up in a evangelical christian environment. As far back as I can remember I had a tendancy toward a same sex relation ship. I was not taught or coerced into that life.I was not preyed upon by some deviant. it was just the way I was. With the churches outlook on homosexuality I found that I started to feel that there was something really wrong with me.I hated myself and even came to a position of thoughts of suicide. I made a feeble attempt of slashing my wrist. Thanks to my Jesus I am still here today 50 years later.

    I left the church and like the prodigal son went up to the city to the high life. Like the children of Israel I wandered in the dessert 5 years longer than their 40 years. In all that time God still had his hand on me.

    He led me back to himself through a loving church group that loved me as I was, no condemnation. They showed me that I could love myself and in doing so I was able to love my brothers and sisters with that unconditional love

    I found through reading his word God loved me through Jesus his son.

    My favourite Psalm.(I love the Psalms) is Psalm 139

    God created me with a purpose in mind. He was intimately involved in creating me. No mistakes were made when he formed me (verses 13-16).

    God is in ultimate control of my life. Every day of my life was recorded in a book before I was born (verse 16).

    God knows me in my deepest places. He knows me so well that even before I speaka word, he knows what I’m going to say (verses 1-4).

    God surrounds me. I can do everything in my strength to avoid him, but he’s always there. Even in my darkest places, God is with me (verses 5-12).

    If there was one idea that summarizes this psalm, it’s the word “love.” Yet, notice that the word never appears in the text.

    I have learned to live a life now completely in Gods hands.

    I still consider myself of same sex orientation. I would lie if I said I was not.Like Paul who tells us of his thorn in the side this I consider a thorn in my side to keep me humble and to rely on God to Help

    Like the hymnwriter Horatio GatesSpalford said

    My sin..O the bliss
    of the glorious thought
    my sin not in part but the whole
    is nailed to his cross
    and I bear it no more
    Praise the Lord praise the lord O my soul
    It is well with my soul

    May the unconditional love of God shine out from me

    God bless

    • Paul says:

      Murrayd40 you have been on a challenging journey . Like the Apostle Paul, yourself, myself and everybody, we all have to resist the different attraction to temptation to sin. Do I consider myself to be an adulterer, even though I have never committed that sin physically, but in my mind that is another thing!

      Would I call myself and adulterer, no, I would call myself a sinner saved by grace. Are the temptation still present: yes and constant. But I must acknowledge that I have hypocrisy within me.

      All Christians sin. All churches are blind to some of their sins. None of us is in a position to claim our theology is true because of the quality of our lives. Truth is grounded in God’s word, not our works.
      While it is true that “you shall know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16), it is not true that you shall know their theology by their fruits. Our capacity for hypocrisy is great.

      And Jesus can say even of the Pharisees, “Practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do” (Matthew 23:3). And Paul says, concerning some heartless, pretentious evangelists, “Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (Philippians 1:18). The fact that the devil makes himself an angel of light does not mean there is no such thing as an angel of light. Ongoing, unrepented sin signals a false claim to faith. But the hypocrite may hold many true doctrines.

      In fact, that’s what hypocrisy means. One generation is blind to some implications of their faith. Other generations are blind to others. One ethnic group is blind to one thing. Another social group is blind to another. All of our traditions and concepts, can be deeply tainted.

      We must always be like the Berean believers examining closely the word of God moving from milk to meat.
      Thank you for sharing your journey! May we all live with an awareness of our total dependence on God’s mercy and may we all discover afresh the awesomeness of His majestic holiness.

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