Brent Childers used to believe gay people all had ‘a ticket to hell.’ But now he’s changed his views, thanks to his mother’s simple question
Sometimes in the course of a great struggle, you find unexpected partners. In the case of the struggle for LGBT rights, we have found politicians and celebrities in abundance. But we have only recently found allies in the heterosexual evangelical movement.
I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with one of those allies, Brent Childers, executive director of Faith in America (FaithInAmerica.com).
His group, made up of religious and activist leaders from many faiths, both straight and LGBT, have carved out a pretty big mission: "To educate the public about religion-based bigotry’s history and the harm it causes gay Americans."
That is a big goal, and it takes the work of a very dedicated group of people, including Brent Childers.
Brent recounted how he had often condemned gay people, using a few carefully chosen lines from the Bible. He noted that he had once told his own son that gay people had a "ticket to hell."
For years he heard that message in his church and believed it.
I asked him what happened to make him change his views. He said, "There was really no epiphany like people expect, no ‘ah ha’ moment when I suddenly changed."
Instead, it was a gradual change that started after a dinner with his mother. That night, he had been spewing what he later came to understand as bigotry when his mother asked him, "Do you think that attitude is very Christ-like?"
That simple question challenged his way of thinking, and when he took the time to examine his opinion closely, he began to recognize that "acceptance is the only decision a person of faith can make."
That acceptance brought Brent Childers a long way from his background as a self-proclaimed "Jesse Helms Republican" to executive director in an organization dedicated to changing how American churches look at LGBT people.
He claims he was guided by the "voice of Christ" and moved to a place of love, compassion and respect.
I asked Brent what he felt was the reason there was so much anger in the Christian right against LGBT people. He told me that he suspected it was just "fear of what they didn’t understand."
His organization seeks to reconcile LGBT people and people of faith and to end the prejudice, hatred and religion-based bigotry.
His group marched in the National Equality March carrying signs reading "Stop the Harm" and their numbers were impressive.
Perhaps his group can actually change a few people’s minds.
It seems like a heavy burden, but I suspect Brent sees it as a cross he is willing to bear.
Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 16, 2009.