This is my church newsletter article for this week. Since so many people have seen my photo on social media in said shirt, I thought others might be interested to read this as well.
I went to the KnoxPride parade on Gay Street this past Saturday. I wore a T-shirt that said, “Free Dad Hugs or Free Pastor Hugs.” It had a cute little rainbow elephant wearing glasses in the middle. While everyone’s comments to me have been overwhelmingly positive, I know it may have raised eyebrows with some of you. I always prefer to be direct, so let me state the reasons I was there.
My youngest daughter came out to me about 5 years ago. She cried hard telling me she was gay, but did not want to be. I do not intend to debate whether this is biological or a lifestyle choice in a few paragraphs. I will be happy to speak with anyone in depth regarding my thoughts on this in another setting. My point with this article is to tell everyone what I did at that time was embrace my daughter and tell her I loved her no matter what.
A few years later, I read about a man who went to a similar parade and held up a sign that said, “Free Dad Hugs.” He was overwhelmed by the response of those who took him up on his offer. They were primarily young people who had been disowned, kicked out or otherwise rejected by their own families because they were gay. We can debate at length whether being homosexual is a sin, but there is no question in my mind that discarding your own child absolutely is. This is why my shirt said “Free Dad Hugs.” I wanted to share with anyone who needed to hear the message they were still loved as a child of God.
With the climate in our own denomination making LGBTQ folks feel less than fully accepted, I also wanted to remind them they were people of sacred worth as it still says in our United Methodist Discipline. The tipping point for me was this former officer and so-called preacher here in Knoxville calling for homosexuals to be executed. That is so far from the Gospel of Jesus Christ I can hardly put it into words. I wanted everyone to know he does not represent me or Christians in general. This is why my shirt also said, “Free Pastor Hugs.”
As far as that elephant goes, my glasses wearing daughter loves and collects anything to do with elephants. That’s what Dads do.