A reader writes me a wrenching email. Money quote:

I don’t know if you realize how terrifically murky the waters are for well-meaning Christians these dayshow to speak the truth in love, when the media increasingly defines our truth as hate. I’m sure I’ll be confronted with many more outings in the future, and I’m sure some will respect my beliefs and others will brand me a bigot. But if "bigotry" is the price to pay, then I will have to pay it, because the cost of abandoning my principles is incalculable.

The question for me is: what principles? If it's the principle of Biblical inerrancy, then it requires an explanation for any number of other questions that so many evangelicals seem indifferent toward. If it's the principle of natural law, then I make my case in the first chapter of Virtually Normal. But I understand that some evangelicals really do want to maintain legal proscriptions against gay relationships, while affecting tolerance in everyday life. Does that make them "bigots"? Not all of them, I'd say. Just reasons for us gay people to explain ourselves a lot better. Anyway, here's the full email:

Recently, one of my friends from a foreign culture came out to me. Even though he’d talked about dating women before, I’d long suspected he was gay. So after I feigned surprise for a few moments, he then asked a series of questions: “Does this mean we can’t be friends? Can we still sit next to each other at the movies? Is this awkward for you?” etc.,

He admitted that I was the first, straight American male he’d come out to, and he was completely oblivious to our culture’s protocol on straight/gay same-sex friendships.

I assured him as vociferously as possible that our friendship was still intact and strong, and that, yes, of course, we could go to the movies together. “I worked at an art gallery on Market Street in San Francisco”, I told him and then we laughed.

What made the exchange more poignant is the fact that I’m an evangelical Christian who believes homosexuality is wrong. He knew I was an evangelical Christian, and for some reason, chose to test the waters of tolerance with me. Later, I was on the phone with my sistera Christianist if ever there was oneI told her the story, and she immediately asked if I’d told him homosexuality was wrong   

“Of course not,” I answered, “Do you think, at one of the most difficult moments in his life, I was going to turn it into a nightmare?” I stood squarely for my friend and against my sister.

And yet, my conscience neither condemned nor condoned me for not speaking out.

This is the dilemma for many evangelical Christians. We are passionate about Biblical inerrancy and strongly believe Revelation when it says that those who practice homosexual behavior will not be allowed into heaven. And yet we are also (some of us, anyway) passionate about “speaking the truth in love.” For us, the Bible is the Truth and from that standard everything flows.

You yourself, obviously, have a moral set of values that informs everything you believefrom your passion against torture to your passion for individual freedomand we also have a moral set of values that we cannot abandon or else we will have compromised our metric for truth. Many of your conservative friends have no doubt pressured you to accept or tolerate “advanced interrogation techniques”; no doubt, you’ve considered some of the moral ambiguities surrounding these techniques, because while the techniques themselves may not be ambiguous, the context in which they’re used and the purpose for which they’re constructed may sometimes cast a pall of uncertainty.

And yet, against this, you have stood firm and unwavering in your fundamental, moral conviction that torture of any ilk is wrong. Some would likely accuse you of sacrificing our lives for the lives of admitted killers. Some would accuse you of being un-American. And with each accusation, you likely bristleI’m passionate about America to a fault, I’m passionate about security, about preserving innocent lives. And while you might be tempted to compromise, you cannot.

We evangelical Christians are in a similar position. Every time we condemn homosexual behavior, liberal elites accuse us of desecrating the spirit of the very one to whom we claim fealty. Christ was loving, tolerant and open! They would say. Yes, but Christ also said he came to bring division and that he would pit brother against brother. Christ was both loving and firm in conviction, and as followers of Christ we’re to imitate his example.

That is why it’s difficult for me to know how to respond to my friend who outed himself. I want to love him purely without compromising my moral imperative to speak the truth. And in a media climate that is increasingly equating tolerance with promotion, it has become very difficult for evangelical Christians to tolerate without appearing hateful.

I’m for gay marriage, I’m for gay rights, I have many gay friends and bristle when my Christianist friends mention “They were gay, but really nice” or “He is gay, but seems like a great guy”, as if homosexuality is somehow incompatible with any other virtue.

But I cannot keep from standing on the ground to which my morals are attached. And so, on some distant day, once my friend has realized I still love and care for him, I will also have to tell him what my religious beliefs dictate concerning homosexual behavior. To stay silent would be to live as morally compromised a lie as those who choose not to come out of the closet.

I don’t know if you realize how terrifically murky the waters are for well-meaning Christians these dayshow to speak the truth in love, when the media increasingly defines our truth as hate. I’m sure I’ll be confronted with many more outings in the future, and I’m sure some will respect my beliefs and others will brand me a bigot. But if "bigotry" is the price to pay, then I will have to pay it, because the cost of abandoning my principles is incalculable.

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