Edward L. Kelly Jr, a former pastor, writes about his change of position on marriage equality.
In the early 80’s when I began my preaching ministry, I wrote and ranted that not only was homosexuality a sin, but it was an abomination and any civilization permitting it to flourish would perish. I went one step further and declared, “The only right a homosexual has is a right to the gallows.”
My Theocratic Theology
In my theocratic theology, there was no room for marriage equality. To be honest, I was a bigot and took great pride in my intolerant views. Now, that is not to say that every Evangelical Christian who opposes same-sex marriage is a bigot, but I was. I held to a very strict legalistic-literal interpretation of the Leviticus laws.
I did not wake up one morning and exclaim, “Well, today I think I will support same-sex marriage.” It actually took two decades for the Lord to work at removing the blindfolds from my heart and mind. I call it a slow evolutionary metanoia: a very slow process of minute changes.
I was born and raised a Roman Catholic and like so many Catholics in the 60’s, I stopped attending Church after Confirmation. Then in 1975, a Charismatic Lutheran introduced me to the idea of a “personal relationship” with Jesus Christ and after a six months of Bible reading and prayer I had a transcendental encounter which transformed my life. Yet, what began as a simple encounter with God soon lapsed into a very legalistic-condemning faith. My studies led me into the extreme Fundamentalist camp of Christian Reconstruction/Dominion Theology.
It goes like this: America is a Christian nation, founded upon Biblical law, and we need to restore this law to America. Every believer is called to bring every aspect of life — economics, law, health, politics — into conformity to God’s law, specifically the Old Testament laws.
I now consider this theology one of the greatest threats to religious liberty and gay rights in America today.
Looking back there were many influences to my “conversion” out of bigotry: reading outside my theological box, educational courses on Biblical interpretation and modern methods of historical and literary criticism, the Catholic influence, the prayers of my wife and getting to know homosexuals.
As a pastor in 1993, someone gave me a book written by Pope John Paul II, and I was very impressed with his emphasis that every single person was created in the image of God and has dignity, and there are rights stemming from that dignity. That idea was the beginning of a theological revolution in my life. I was so impressed I began to study the Catholic faith, and in 2005, I turned in my Protestant ministerial credentials and returned to the faith of my youth.
Knowing Gay Professionals
At the height of my anti-gay rhetoric, I did not go near homosexuals. Yet as my theology began to change, God brought several gay professionals into my life. I was impressed with a registered nurse who was so professional and empathetic with his patients.
Then, about two years ago, I was having a difficult time finding a good barber in our small town. My wife suggested her hair dresser who I knew to be gay. Well, with some reluctance I went, and now he is not only the only barber I will go to, I also consider him a good friend. Yet, I must add that the most powerful weapon we possess to tear down these walls of religion discrimination is that of prayer.
Treating everyone equally is something that cannot be divorced from faith. I do not think I can call myself a Christian unless I am intimately involved in what Jesus was intimately involved in: social justice. I also consider my work writing and speaking for same-sex marriage an overall work of “personal penance,” a distinctive Catholic view that I need to make up for all the evil things I did and said against gay people.
My Life is Proof–God Changes People’s Hearts and Minds
Yet I am hopeful about the future for my faith tells me that God is waiting to “come down” with divine justice (Isa 35). My life is proof God will change people’s hearts and minds.