An open letter to my brother Bob in Heaven:
My dear brother. Wish you’d have seen it. Two men. On stage. Not any old stage. A stage afforded to candidates for president. Lighted by cameras of every major television network.
Introduced by his husband, Chasten, Pete Buttigieg tells supporters he is withdrawing from the race. Everyone watching believes this young man will be back.
People standing. Applauding. Two men, married to one another, hugging. Kissing. Happy and gay. Telling everyone they love each other. Comfortable with who they are. Who God created them to be. You should have been there.
A few days ago, a young boy boldly asked this candidate to help him tell the world he was gay. “Thank you for being so brave,” the boy said to Buttigieg during a rally. “Would you help me tell the world I’m gay, too? I want to be brave like you.”
Accepting, loving parents were at the boy’s side. The crowd cheered. Applauded. Cried. The gay man running for president said, “I don’t think you need a lot of advice from me on bravery. You seem pretty strong.”
Bob, you were strong. With enduring love, you navigated a judgmental, condemning, ignorant world.
This is a different world than the one you left 14 years ago. People who love each other are no longer denied the right to marry as you and Lee were for the 25 years you shared your lives and loved one another. There are openly gay and lesbian people serving in Congress. LGBTQ people flourish in business. An NBA superstar went public with his pride for a transgender daughter.
More churches welcome and affirm the LGBTQ community.
Oh, there are still haters. Our anti- gay rights president awarded the Medal of Honor to a homophobic radio talk show host. Some politicians still bring ridicule on vulnerable targets, gays among them. Most troubled are preachers who cling to their abusively literal interpretation of select Bible verses.
These are people about whom Jesus could have been talking when he said, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” I’m not so magnanimous. I know the pain these people caused you, pretending Jesus never said, “Love your neighbor.” So, they rally their followers to go to courts, legislatures and city councils to deny gays and lesbians “life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.
Remember that day I told you I was leaving my law practice and go to seminary? Still brings tears to my eyes remembering your reaction to the news. “So, that means you will have to reject me?” Until that moment, I had not realized what you had long known, how much damage anti-gay Christians had done in the name of God.
In my years as a pastor, I’ve seen parents reject children, brothers reject sisters, sisters reject brothers, grandparents reject grandchildren because of the way God created them.
I remember you were summarily fired from a job you held for many years and did well. Fired because the boss learned you were gay. Sadly, that’s still legal. We are working on it, but there are faux Christians claiming their “religious freedom” allows them to deprive an LGBTQ person of their livelihood because of who they are.
But, dear brother, there is a painfully slow awakening. Happily, “the times, they are a-changin.” My children, who knew you, and my grandchildren, who, alas, did not, represent younger generations who do not get it. They don’t understand racism, misogyny, religious bigotry or homophobia.
My grandchildren, for example, know a girl born in a boy’s body. No one had to explain anything to them. She was their friend. And so, now, is he. There’s a reason the Gay Pride symbol is a rainbow.
Your daughter, Nicole, wrote a poem about you. She said, “My father was gay. He was also happy.” Your happiness was contagious and lives on. It was present in the smiles of Pete Buttigieg and his husband as they kissed on that big stage.
Rodger McDaniel lives in Laramie and is the pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne.