Three months ago, while I was busily putting 50,000 words of a novel together during National Novel Writing Month, a curious thing happened. I’d recently started The Ladies Who Write, a group of women authors who get together to write, discuss ideas, hash out difficult plot problems and other things. Because of the nature of the book I had just finished writing, The Boxer Rebellion, I had outted myself as a lesbian to them. One night, just before last Thanksgiving, I was gathering my things to leave a meeting when one of the authors, Renae Edwards, asked me, “Why are gays pedophiles?”
The other day I was bemoaning my lack of ideas for this blog. She suggested I do an interview with someone who had once held prejudiced views concerning homosexuality and has since changed her mind. I thought that was a wonderful idea. Here are author Renae Edward’s responses to my questions:
First of all, Renae, thank you for doing this. I know it’s probably not easy for you.Hello Genta. Thank you for interviewing me. I want to take a moment to catch your readers up on a little about me and why I agreed to this interview. In 1994 I met a nice woman who I began studying the Bible with. A year later I was baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness. The next 18 years I tried to be the model Witness and kept my thinking in line with what I was taught. Four years ago my second son told me he didn’t want to be a Jehovah’s Witness and that crumbled the remaining support structures of my desire to continue being an active Jehovah’s Witness.I am not blaming my sons for my decision to go inactive. Though I felt and feel that there are many good qualities about Jehovah’s Witnesses and that they come much closer than some churches to following the Bible, I realized that no matter what religion, church or sect, they were all based on someone’s view of the Bible. Each view being different, but most not necessarily wrong.I also grew tired of being told that I needed to spend more time out in service –going door to door – and less on trying to write my fantasy novels.So, after eighteen years of looking to others for the shaping of our opinions, Ayron, my husband, and I stepped back and began making our own decisions. I spent a lot of time on the fence the first couple of years after leaving the Kingdom Hall, but I find myself becoming more opinionated and firmer in my opinions.
Based on your first question to me, I’ve put together a list of prejudiced statements. Could you tell us if you’ve ever believed any of the following statements?
I never believed that all gays were pedophiles, nor that all pedophiles were gay, but I was of the impression that both were choices that needed to be fought to be a good Christian.2. Gays are damned to Hell.No, but here is the twist. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t believe in Hell. We are taught that Hell actually means the common grave. Ecclesiastes 9:5 is the main scripture used to explain the belief. “For the living are conscious that they will die; but as for the dead they are conscious of nothing at all…” Jehovah’s Witnesses believe and I still do also that when we die we are dead until Jehovah God decides to resurrect us all as stated by Acts 24:15 “and I have hope toward God, which hope these [men] themselves also entertain, that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.”3. Gays are, or will become, diseased and doomed to die early.No, I do not believe all homosexuals are or will become diseased because they are gay. I do believe that some lead reckless lifestyles by refusing to use proper protection and that has lead to a higher incidence of AID especially in the male gay community. But the same can be said of needle using drug users and young heterosexual adults who can’t comprehend dying yet and also choose not to use proper protection.4. Gays cannot be monogamous. They all have multiple partners.Here is where I show what a shallow thinker I am. It never crossed my mind one way or the other. My thought process stopped at 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 10 “What! Do YOU not know that unrighteous person will not inherit God’s kingdom? Do not be mislead, Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men kept for unnatural purposes, nor men who lie with men, 10 nor thieves, nor greedy persons nor drunkards, nor revilers, no extortioners will inherit God’s Kingdom?” I honestly never gave a thought to how homosexuals hooked up. It was a sin and that was that.5. Gays want to recruit straight people, to turn them into perverts just like themselves.I never believed that gays could recruit straight people. We come back to I never thought about it that deeply. I do remember my last step father worrying that my mother’s gay friend was checking him out. I used to think that was funny.6. Gays choose perversion, walk willingly into sin, and they must pay.There was a time that I believed that being gay was a choice and I clumped all gays in the same category or pedophiles. Both acts were wrong and it was a sickness that needed to be fought. I have grown and no longer believe it is a choice and I no longer lump the two acts together.7. To support gays in any way, even to tolerate them, is to defy the word of God and flout His teachings.Even as an active Jehovah’s Witness I didn’t believe that way. I did believe that some people were bad association. And the Bible says at 1 Corinthians 15:33 “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.”I remember using this quote on my sons when they hung with a person that I felt was encouraging them do things that I felt were wrong, like smoking, stealing or being mean to other people.8. It is possible to love the sinner, but hate the sin. But the sinners better wake up and stop all that sinning because until they do the Lord’s judgment will lay heavy on them.At the beginning I mentioned that we all see things differently, that is true even for Jehovah’s Witnesses. I took to some verses more so than others.1. John 6:4 “God is love”2. Luke 6:42 “How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, allow me to extract the straw that is in your eye,’ while you yourself are not looking at the rafter in that eye of yours?” Hypocrite! First extract the rafter from your own eye, and then you will see clearly how to extract the straw that is in your brother’s eye” I always felt I had plenty of rafters in my own eye.3. And finally Matthew 7:1 “Judge not, that ye be not judged…”9. Children who are exposed to gays are more likely to become gay themselves.No, I don’t believe and never have. I did at one time lump pedophiles and homosexuals together and feared letting my boys around my one step brother because he had been molested as a child and it was never clear if he was gay or not. All I knew is I didn’t want him around my children. Please know there was a lot more involved. He was always strange and a little off and after what I went through as a child it is amazing I trusted even my husband alone with my boys when they were little.
10. Civil Unions is enough. Marriage is just a word – one kept strictly for straights.I believe that as we in society accept that homosexuals should be able to have the same rights as heterosexuals, then yes, they should be able to marry, definitely in a civil union, but if they want to get married in a church that is a fight that the individuals will have to take on with the churches of their choice. Just as I believe it is right for gays to choose to express their love, people in churches have the same right to disagree.
11. The idea of gay sex is icky, gross, disgusting, etc…This is a bit of an unfair question. There are certain sex acts I think are icky and gross no matter who does them!Renae, have you changed your opinion about any of those statements? What happened, and why did you change your mind?I no longer lump homosexuals and pedophiles in the same category. Homosexuals are usually two adults or young adults choosing to be together. Pedophiles force children whether they be of the same sex or not. And I don’t care what anyone says any child under the age of 16 cannot make a truly informed choice even if they think they can.I also know what the Bible says, I have read it through several times, but I have taken from it that God is love and I need to mind my own business and let him have the final say. I personally think if we all did a little more of that the world would be a better place.You are a mother with grown sons. What do you think you taught your boys, when they were growing up, to think about gays?I know what I taught them. I taught them what I have said here today. In our family we always emphasized love. We tried to keep the lines of communication open and when I watched the Canadian show “Degrassi High” and it hit on a subject that I felt I needed to talk to the boys about, I did. Yes, even homosexuality. I admitted my confusion about how I felt and the suffering portrayed on there by the one young man who was gay.How would you have reacted if one of your sons had come out to you as gay a five years ago, and how do you think you’d react if one came out today?I would have been devastated at first. I was a Bible toting Jehovah’s Witness. I can say with a certainty that would have been how I felt. My response would have been to accept them. I had to do that when my eldest son moved in with his then girlfriend. I didn’t stop loving him then and by Jehovah’s Witnesses standards he was living in sin.Now, I wouldn’t blink an eye. I would meet the young person they chose and would like them based on their personalities as I have my sons girlfriends.What advice would you offer to those who still believe any of those statements above?I can’t give people advice. I mean I can, but I can’t expect them to take it. We each have to make decisions for ourselves. Whether a person believes in God or that we came from a primordial soup that got zapped just right, we, as humans, have the ability to choose. They must choose what kind of person they want to be. I want to be loving, kind, and friendly.Is there anything else you’d like to add?Thank you for interviewing me and allowing me to show that we all change and grow. Some would say I have grown for the better others not, but what I know is that there was a time I needed the strict confines of being a Jehovah’s Witness and the firm guidance that the Bible provided. Now I feel that I am a better person because of what I learned, mainly to “Love your neighbor as yourself”. I know I don’t want to be judged because of my sexual preferences, religious choice or the color of my skin. I want to be judged for the person I am, the actions I take and the kindness I show others.