When question gets too personal, gay friendly author wimps out on marriage
Why are conservative Christians so hell-bent on damning gays? What’s really at the core?
This week, Dallas Voice asked Cheryl Moss Tyler the question: "What’s the gay pea under the mattress?"
Tyler is a school counselor who used to teach special education at DISD’s Bryan Adams High School. She now lives in Nashville and wrote "And You Invited Me In," (Atria, $12.95), a novel about a conservative Christian woman whose gay brother is dying of AIDS.
On Sunday, Tyler returns to Big D for an author appearance at White Rock Community Church. She describes herself as non-denominational Christian, who grew up the daughter of a Methodist pastor and says she was raised "almost Fred Phelps conservative."
"And You Invited Me In" was inspired by her churchgoing landlord. He was dying of AIDS and desperately trying the ex-gay route. As his illness progressed, Tyler noticed that his congregation and its dozens of ministers had abandoned the man.
She was shocked. She says mega-preacher Ted Haggard is going through the same thing.
"Ted Haggard wants to keep his friends. Look around, Ted. Where are your good buddies now? Like George Bush — where’s he?" Tyler says. "I was raised with Southern values. When you’re a friend, you’re not just a fair-weather friend."
Tyler’s shock grew into an epiphany about "grace." And she started questioning her "zombie-like fundamental" beliefs and discovered that her church’s anti-gay "rules" were enslaving the congregation — that the rules are implanted, blindly followed and as strong as granite.
"You have to chisel away at the rules. Some of the granite is still there," Tyler admits.
Since Tyler was shaped by Fred Phelps’ theology, exactly what is that last bit of granite?
In 2009, same-sex marriage isn’t jibing with fundamentalism. Conservatives want to change constitutional rights so that gays are left with two options: abstinence, or pre-marital sex, which is considered sinful.
Tyler agreed and said if her daughter brought home a guy who wasn’t her husband, she wouldn’t allow them to sleep in the same bed.
What about gay marriage?
Tyler has attended a same-sex wedding and says she found nothing offensive. And she says gay marriage could never weaken the union she shares with her husband.
What if "And You Invited Me In" was transposed to Tyler’s own life? Let’s say Tyler’s daughter switched gears and had a female partner. And let’s say her daughter is dying — and her last wish is to have Tyler revive her "daughter of a pastor" grace and become an ordained minister to solemnize the daughter’s same-sex wedding.
"Well, I don’t know if I could become ordained," Tyler said.
Well, anyone can. Just ask The Universal Life Church. Even Tori Spelling is a minister who’s performed a same-sex marriage. Plus, gays are already being married in churches under the eyes of God.
Wouldn’t Tyler do that for her own child? A child on her deathbed?
"I haven’t been asked that question before. I’d need to breathe that in and sleep on it," Tyler said.
So Tyler slept on it. But by the following morning, I told her I needed an answer because her daughter had one foot in the grave. But Tyler didn’t answer. Instead, she sent an e-mail that she had asked her children about same-sex marriage. And Tyler’s kids said they unconditionally loved their mom. That’s it.
Sorry, Cheryl. Your child died — an unmarried lesbian. You didn’t fulfill her last wish. And you couldn’t explain why. Keep chiseling.
SUNDAY WITH CHERYL
On Feb. 15 at 7 p.m., Tyler, pictured, speaks at White Rock Community Church, 9353 Garland Rd. • 214-320-0043
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition February 13, 2009.