A few months ago, David and I sat down for a conversation with a couple we met online. Tony and Michelle Peterson, co-creators of the #staymarried blog reached out to us, asking if we’d join them for an episode of their podcast. I have to admit, we were a little surprised—we had been reading their blog, and we loved it, but we had also gathered that they’re Christian.
The Petersons started their blog after a series of divorces in their close circle of friends left them feeling discouraged, wondering if their own marriage could last. “The reality of how fragile marriage really is keeps me awake at night,” wrote Michelle in their first post. “I know that if I want my marriage to last, if I want my friends to stay married, we can’t simply be hopeful and then shrug our shoulders when something bad happens. We need to arm ourselves, to get around people who care about our marriage, and to invest in one another.”
For various reasons, including family history and a struggle with depression, Michelle felt like the odds of having a lifelong, happy marriage, were stacked against them. As a gay couple in a world where many would actively seek to dissolve our union, we can relate. If opposite-sex marriages—with all the support, encouragement, and societal blessing they receive—often fail, what hope is there for same-sex couples who are left to fend for themselves?
David and I started this blog for reasons similar to what inspired Tony and Michelle. We care about marriage, and we want to see LGBTQ couples succeed. To borrow from the Petersons’ slogan, we want all of us to “beat the odds.”
The #staymarried podcast episode featuring us went live last week. It’s about an hour long, and it has us talking about everything from how we first met to the learning curve that came with doing life together. If you have an hour to spare, or a long commute, give it a listen.
Now, as I mentioned above, we’d gathered from reading Tony and Michelle’s blog that they were Christian—or at least that they had an extensive Christian readership. We were right. Michelle recently published A Couple’s Devotional, and they are moving across the country to both work at a church. Given this, I told them that I thought it was brave of them to interview us. I warned them that they would probably catch some flak. And sure enough, the response they’ve gotten from their Christian followers has been less than enthusiastic.
A number of people, across all social media platforms, have unfollowed the #staymarried channels in protest. They have also left comments, some of which are cliché (“love the sinner, hate the sin”) and others of which suggest that supporting David and me makes Tony and Michelle complicit in Satan’s work. As painful as it is to receive these comments, they hurt us even more when directed toward people we care about.
Privately, Michelle has faced even more scathing rebuke. She told me they wanted to publish the podcast before they start their jobs at their new church because they wanted to arrive “with all cards on the table.” They are allies, and they want to support and empower all marriages. They wanted people to know this upfront. I’m always in awe of people, especially within the church, who take these stances even when they have no skin in the game. I’m grateful for them. And it saddens me that they face consequences for simply being principled and loving followers of Jesus.
As Michelle shared with me in an email, “People ask me how I've reconciled what the Bible says with my support of the LGBTQ community. All I can say right now is that I haven't ‘reconciled’ anything other than my calling to obey God's command to love my neighbor. I recognize that God's love is not mine to withhold from anyone—His grace was a free gift to me and that gift is squandered when I worry about who exactly I should share it with. If it's not for everyone, then it's not for me either. I don't understand all of it, and I don't pretend to. But I am working on my part which is to love, and listening to the real experiences of others helps me to learn to love better.”
I couldn’t let some of the accusations leveled at the Petersons stand, so I decided to engage one of the commenters on the #staymarried Instagram feed. “I don't hate gay people!” the person wrote. “I desire freedom for them though. Freedom from bondage and unnatural same sex desires. God can deliver from such!” I commented back, encouraging him to get to know some Christian LGBTQ folks.
He’d written that “Through the anatomy of us humans and how we have procreated through thousands of years you can see that gay marriage isn't right.” I explained that marriage, as understood by Christians for centuries, is about much more than simple procreation. It's about kinship, about covenant with God, and about two people helping each other grow in ever closer relationship with Christ. And that is what David and I do for each other. We help each other be better servants of Jesus, better emulators of God. We seek to serve God, and obey God alone. We've sought the Holy Spirit's guidance and advice in all we do—including in our decision to enter into a covenant of marriage.
I have to hand it to this person. Their response to me was full of ideas. They suggested, for example that I “google and search for ‘freedom from homosexuality’ and ‘deliverance from homosexuality.’” They also recommended “a only liquid fast for a couple of weeks,” and that I “maybe take 30 minutes or more daily for a month ask Him each day to do this work.”
I’d like to explain to this person that my LGBTQ Christian friends and I have all spent much more than a month praying about this, and for longer than 30 minutes a day. I’d like to point out that reparative therapy involves more than googling, but that the documentation of its failure can in fact be found through just a quick search. It’s pointless, though. I know I’ll never convince anyone in a comments section. In the end, I choose to focus not on these anonymous commenters, but in the new friendships David and I are making with real people—with Christians, gay and straight, who choose to love like Jesus, who aren’t afraid to stand with the marginalized and stand up to the Pharisees.
Marriage is not for everyone, and it is absolutely not the end-all-be-all of life. Single life can be, in many ways, more rewarding than marriage. Still, I believe the work we are doing for those who do choose married life is worthwhile. Divorce is sometimes inevitable, and in some cases absolutely necessary (for instance, I don’t think God wants anyone to remain in an abusive relationship). But it is also painful, and in most cases I believe that doing the hard work of marriage can be a life-giving and growth-inducing endeavor. I’m glad we have people like the Petersons in our corner.
Photo by UrbanLightStudios used with permission through Flickr Creative Commons.
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