“I have a dream that my four kids will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character,” Martin Luther King Jr, Aug. 28, 1963
Like most of you, I read this famous speech in history class back in high school. It struck me then as interesting, but at the time I was living in a community that was rural, white and straight (to our knowledge). We understood economic differences, but that was the extent of diversity in our town. It was a good town, don’t get me wrong, but it was a sheltered town. So I didn’t really get it — the speech, I mean.
I had my first black friends in college, where I also dealt with the new-to-me concept of bi-racial couples. I remember that concept pushing my comfort zone, and of feeling the need to double-check for the bible’s approval. Seriously. I’m not proud of that, but in the late 1980’s, nearly 30 years after MLK Jr’s spoke of his dreams, that’s how it was. At least in my neck of the woods. It still amazes me to think that wasn’t that long ago.
My family moved to Dallas in 1999, and there we truly experienced diversity for the first time. Our neighbors on one side were Mexican, and on the other were Jewish, so we ate some seriously good backyard tamales, and my kids learned to play dreidel. My husband worked in a small office, and all three of his co-workers were gay. I know it sounds cliché, but we went to some killer Halloween parties! It was a shake up for us, but in a very positive way. We got to know them, and we loved them all, quickly learning to embrace the differences and recognize the similarities.
Back in Oklahoma now, we once again live in a bit of a bubble. So imagine my surprise, when now, more than 50 years after Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a dream” speech, I share his sentiments in a very personal way.
I, too, dream a dream that one day my son will live in a nation, in a world, where he will not be judged by his sexual orientation, but by the content of his character. A world in which ignorance is ended and the love of God envelops us all. I’m struggling with the realization that christianity is the main roadblock to that dream becoming reality. I am a christian. I love God, and I love my fellow Christ-followers, but I’m battling disillusionment. As a christian, when things go really wrong in your life, your community really helps get you through. So it’s staggering to realize that very same community of God-loving people is now the biggest obstacle to my son’s love and acceptance for who he is. And all in the name of God.
Racism has deep scriptural roots. The truly religious Southerners believed their slave-owning lifestyle to be completely justified by the bible. And anyone who disagreed was just ignoring verses that were obvious and weren’t real christians.
Sound familiar? Have a conversation with a christian about homosexuality, and these are the exact concepts you will hear.
I know racism isn’t dead, to our society’s great shame, but (to my knowledge) Christians no longer quote scripture to support racial bigotry. And there is plenty there to support. Both old testament and new testament speak to how slave owners should treat their slaves, and how slaves should respect their owners. The bible never condemns slavery. And yet christians today realize the insurmountable impact the culture of the times had on the various writers, and they recognize Jesus’ instructions on love are timeless. That God doesn’t support modern-day slavery or racism. Yet christians are unable to see that same love applies to homosexuality — a topic which is far less addressed in the bible than slavery. People of various races and people of various sexual orientations are all born as they are. And neither having a different color skin, nor being attracted to certain people, changes in the least what’s inside a person. What the content of their character is.
I don’t believe christians are bad or evil. My family and my son have been shown a lot of love and support from our own christian community since he publicly came out, but it’s always with limits. And with an undertone of judgement. I know they have a sincere desire to obey the word of God to the best of their ability. I do, too. But we need to be careful not to make the current translation of the physical word of God of greater value than the eternal spiritual Word of God that we have living inside of us.
So now I have a dream. My dream is that one day my son be able to legally have a happy family of his very own, and that his family will be loved and supported not just by the world, but by the christian world. By his christian family and friends. By his christian community. And they he will be able to serve his God in the manner in which God leads him to serve, with no roadblocks.
Turns out I actually grew up in a more diverse small-town community than I realized. Skin color can’t be hidden, but attractions can. Several childhood friends have reached out to me on this journey, and have shared their own homosexuality, or that of a relative. Hearing their stories, I know my son’s world is already a better place than it was 20 years ago, or even a mere decade ago. And I’m grateful for that. But it’s not enough.
“I still have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream — one day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed, ‘we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal,'” MLK Jr.
To that end, I’m not just going to dream. I’m going to fight.