The following is an excerpt from We Love You, But You’re Going to Hell by Kim O’Reilly. It’s a featured Speakeasy selection, and there are still limited review copies available for qualified reviewers.
Coming Out to Myself
My process was not overnight. It was deeply personal and spiritual. In fact, I had for some time been looking at the 9th Commandment from a different perspective than most. “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” I chose to focus that on myself, asking whether I was bearing false witness against myself AND others if I wasn’t honest about who I was. My struggle was about integrity, being true to myself, looking at the scriptures, talking to God.
I spent seven years in that endeavor. Nothing quick, nothing rash, nothing to prove. I’ve read the Bible several times since childhood. I re-read and studied the scriptures that my father and my church quoted to prove homosexuality was an abomination and a sin. I read every conservative anti-gay book, article, brochure that I could get my hands on. I also read all of the liberal, pro-gay material I could find. To be honest, I didn’t find either side convincing. I questioned the harsh, Biblical interpretation including historical and cultural contexts. On the other hand, much of the argumentation for the rightness of homosexuality was so secular and often anti-God or Bible. So, I prayed – dramatic as it sounds – unceasingly!
I have had a loving personal relationship with Jesus almost all of my life. I talked with Him. I was sure of my salvation, my walk with God, how I walked through the world, how I was raising my sons. I felt assured of God’s love and blessings. My life exhibited that. How then could I be asked by a loving God (according to the belief of my friends and family) to give up my sexuality? I saw loving, monogamous sexual expression as a gift from God. Was I really being asked to choose between God and my sexuality?
The Journey with my Father
By the time I told my father that holiday, he had already heard about it from a family friend – weeks before. It was a small town of 22,000 in Middle America – and I had recently begun dating a well-known local businesswoman.
My father sat on the board of an anti-gay religious group the year before, spearheading opposition to a Human Rights ordinance. The ordinance stated that gays and lesbians could not be discriminated against in housing, education, and employment based upon their sexual orientation. My father preached that citizens would be forced to hire or work with homosexuals against their own belief and comfort level. An example given: a straight fireman being forced to sleep next to a gay man. He might be subjected to harassment or molested. Even at that time a year before coming out, I challenged my father saying there are laws in place that protect against harassment and molestation. And those are unfair stereotypes attributed to homosexuals. The woman who would later become my partner, spoke on behalf of the ordinance at many city council meetings. With heavy anti-gay positioning it did not pass.
Needless to say, my coming out, and also dating a woman who had publicly opposed my father, did not initially bode well for our relationship. He wanted to go toe-to-toe with me on the scriptures. I have always had a deep respect for my dad and his knowledge and studying of the Bible. He was faithful and true to his belief and his reading of the Word. I understood that. We went over each scripture. This time he wouldn’t agree to disagree. He didn’t speak to me over the next 6 months. It was my mother who finally spoke up and told him that regardless of his belief I was still his daughter.
We were cordial, eventually no tension, and my partner was accepted at family events. Still, my father would take me aside on occasion to share materials such as, “Is the Homosexual Sick or Sinful” by Dr. Jack Hyles. An excerpt from this booklet: “The question is raised as to whether the homosexual is a sinner or a patient; whether he is sick or sinful, whether he should be pitied or scolded, whether he should go to a doctor for treatment or a preacher for conversion, whether he needs the medical journal or the Bible, whether he needs counseling or repentance, whether he needs a clinic or a church. The Scripture is plain in answering, “Is the homosexual sick or sinful?”
After moving away to take my first university position, my dad wrote letters emphasizing that homosexuality was an abomination to God, was punishable by death in the Old Testament, and can be cured. He continued to write and send materials over the years – all in love, with concern, and urging me to change.
A deep love between us – the paradox: he loved and respected me, but didn’t approve of “my homosexuality” and feared that I was going to hell. Walking and talking through that is what brings me to writing this book. Many gays find themselves in the same dilemma, but haven’t experienced that love or any degree of acceptance from their parents or family members. The journey with my father culminated in a meaningful encounter the last time we were together a few months before he unexpectedly passed away.
The two of us were at his sister’s home in Oregon. My father and I carved out a day to visit his old stomping grounds where he grew up. He wanted to talk before we left the house. He had been thinking about it for some time and wanted me to know that he had wrongly been judgmental of me. That he needed to leave any judgment with God. He tearfully asked me to forgive him.
I remember so fondly that day – for so many reasons. Here was my father, a conservative fundamentalist minister at 78 years, asking that I forgive him for judging me. His beliefs and interpretation of the Bible remained intact. He didn’t want to come down on the wrong side of judgment, or as judging, and thankfully shared that with me while he was still alive.
I know I am blessed to have had that kind of relationship with my father. I am also fortunate that I’ve had a loving personal relationship with God. I didn’t struggle or take on the disapproval and condemnation I received from my father and others over the years. A condemnation that was well-meaning and expressed in love, but nonetheless, condemnation. It is a double-edged sword – love and condemnation. We Love You, But You’re Going To Hell. I sincerely, and without pointing fingers, address that dichotomy throughout my book. So many Christian gays and lesbians have been damaged by that well-meaning love – expected to change their orientation, leave loving relationships, remain celibate and single, never to marry.
Praise for We Love You, But You’re Going to Hell
“Kim is not accusatory in any way, she has compassion for all viewpoints and invites us to investigate with an open mind. I cried several times reading this book, in sadness, in shame, in happiness and in deep love. Tank you, Kim. You touched my heart.”
—Five Start Reader Review
“Dr. O’Reilly has done an excellent job of combing research into bible verses as well as core beliefs of Christianity to make this book incredibly informative and educational. The non-confrontational look enables any kind of reader to tackle this book, making sure no one is kept out of the conversation.”
—Five Start Reader Review
“Dr. O’Reilly does an excellent job of presenting passages from the bible and sharing Christian views in a light that creates conversation and strives toward healing and acceptance.”
—Five Start Reader Review
About the Author
As a Christian, and the daughter of a conservative evangelical minister, Dr. Kim O’Reilly is uniquely positioned to write this book. She cares deeply about the divisions she sees in churches today over homosexuality. She grew up in the Midwest and trained teachers in a College of Education. Her firm, Intercultural Solutions, prepares businesses, churches, and schools with strategies to address conflict and division. Kim is dedicated to fostering mutual respect and bringing people together.