You are about to enter into a passionate discussion between two opposing and seemingly contradictory points of view: A Mother fighting to understand her son’s same-sex attractions and a "gay" man staunchly defending homosexuality and his right to live as he chooses. Reading Prayers for Johnathan is like eavesdropping into a very private conversation between Bridget and Soren. What unfolds are two dynamic personalities with diverse opinions about homosexuality. But more importantly, what shines through is a great openness and respect for one another.
Why care about the issue of homosexuality if it doesn’t seem to affect you or your loved ones? Well, just imagine some of the following scenarios:
Imagine you wake up one morning and you’re attracted to the same sex. How do you feel? What do you think? You pray to God, what’s happening to me? Please take these desires away. You pray this year after year, and yet, you find yourself still longing to be with someone of the same sex.
Imagine your child comes home and tells you s/he’s "gay." How do you feel? What do you think? You raised your child to be the best s/he could possibly be. You’ve poured your heart and soul into her or him. Sure, you’ve made mistakes, we all have, but you did your best. And, what’s more, you raised your child to know God and to know His Word. And now you feel betrayed. Why me? Is it my fault?
Imagine your son was beaten to death by some strangers, or worse, fellow soldiers or classmates. How do you feel? What do you think? Do you feel guilty for rejecting your child because of his same-sex attractions? What if it was you who had homosexual feelings through no fault of your own and were told it’s evil and so are you? What would you do? How would you feel about yourself?
Imagine your spouse breaks down in tears and says, "I can’t hide it any longer, I’m homosexual." How do you feel? What do you think after years of marriage and perhaps having had kids together? What does it mean? Was all this a lie? Were you just being used? What the hell is going on? I don’t understand.
Soren, hurt by his family and friends, serves as a mentor, teacher and security guard, giving to others that which he himself never experienced. As you read his profound thoughts and experience his powerful feelings, you will look into the eyes of a brave young man who will show you what it’s like to be "gay" today. Bridget will expose her mother’s heart over and over again as she reaches out to Soren for both understanding about the homosexual world and how to best love her son. Throughout their dialogue she reveals her personal torment over loving her son and not his same-sex attractions.
Through such an intimate exchange, your heart will be taken on a journey and don’t be surprised if your mind ends up miles from whence you came. Prayers for Johnathan is an encapsulation of both a parent’s maturation and a homosexual man’s longing for family. Take a chance, if you dare, and become part of Bridget and Soren's challenging dialogue.
It’s funny, as a man who came out as a homosexual to his family and friends in the 70s, and then came out straight in the 80s, I found myself siding with and relating to Soren’s confusion, experiences, insights, and search for identity and significance. As a husband and father of three children, I easily understood Bridget’s heartaches, love and dreams for her son.
You may not agree with all of Bridget’s and Soren’s opinions, as I don’t myself, but one thing you will agree with is how beautifully they demonstrate a willingness to listen and respect each others differences. Healing is a process, not a destination. Soren and Bridget allow us to participate in their journey as they learn about each other and themselves.
Even though these letters focus on understanding homosexuality, it could easily be related to any controversial issue: race, religion, gender, nationality. We all FEAR that which we do not understand (FEAR = False Evidence Appearing Real). We all defend ourselves against the unknown. Until we start to look through the eyes of the other, we will never truly understand what it’s like to walk in their shoes.
When English poet and priest John Donne was ill and believed himself at the point of death, he heard the local church bell ringing. Fearing his imminent death, he thought his friends had it rung on his behalf. Then he realized it was rung for a neighbor’s death. He then inscribed these immortal words for his Sunday sermon: "No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main--any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; and therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee" (Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions, 1624, Meditation XVII: Nunc lento sonitu dicunt, Morieris).
Those who judge homosexually oriented men and women as evil, and those who make disparaging comments about them, are the most wounded of souls. It is far easier to blame and hate than it is to listen and understand. Prejudice is a camouflage for low self-worth, fear and a socially acceptable way to ward off pain. Come into Soren’s world and see, as Bridget has, life through his eyes.
We have failed the men and women who have and do experience same-sex attractions. Especially those who call themselves people of God. Judgment without love is death to any child’s spirit. In reading about Soren’s life, I cried, I screamed. Born "gay"? You judge for yourself: his brother began having sex with him when he was 9 (oral sex and mutual masturbation); his father, an alcoholic, beat Soren and his mother and threatened to have sex with his sister (Soren’s mom kicked his Dad out when he was 6 years old); his mother was raised by very pained parents who divorced (the grandmother became the "town hooker" and Soren’s mom was raped at 14 by one of her mother’s "boyfriends"); his mother, who suffers from mental illness and paranoia, attempted suicide and Soren has been in "charge" of her medication and well-being for 12 years (she says she may kill herself when he leaves); he was condemned and beaten up by peers and others for having same-sex attractions; he hustled to make money to help support himself and the family; and he forfeited a tenuous belief in God when he was 14 years old after a boyfriend shot himself in the head (the boyfriend’s father was "a very religious man" and constantly berated his son by calling him a "sissy" or "Satan"; a year later the father shot himself).
Born "gay"? Scientific research and experience proves otherwise. As a psychotherapist who has helped many go straight (explore and experience their heterosexual potential), I know that there are many reasons for having same-sex attractions. I know that change is possible. People do not choose to have same-sex attractions, however, they can choose to change and come out straight. I did, and I’ve helped many others do the same. But going straight, or the desire to do so, should never be a prerequisite for unconditional love.
Men and women who experience same-sex attractions never asked for those desires. So what position do they play in the family, church and society? They are our blessing. They are the means whereby we come to know who we truly are. Do we say we believe in a loving God and treat those different from ourselves with disdain and disgust? Or do we learn to listen, learn to understa