It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. For I verily, as absent in body, but present in spirit, have judged already, as though I were present, concerning him that hath so done this deed, In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. (The Apostle Paul to the Church at Corinth, I Corinthians 5:1-5)
Earlier this year, Evangelical Kim Higginbotham, a member of the Karns Church of Christ in Knoxville, Tennessee, wrote a blog post detailing her decision to give her wayward, sinful, Jesus-hating son over to the devil. Higginbotham wrote:
It has been said that in marriage, the pain and stress of divorce is greater than even the pain of losing a spouse to death. I believe the same can be said of breaking ties with your child. Unless one has experienced this kind of loss and grief, they cannot fully understand the depth of pain experienced by a parent.
Someone may ask, “Why would anyone break ties with her own child?” The answer is, “loyalty to Jesus.” Being a disciple of Jesus demands our relationship to him be greater than our relationship to our own family, even our own children (Matthew 10:37).
I pray that you never have to make such a sacrifice, but I also pray that you love the Lord enough to choose Him over your children. This is where we find ourselves. This is our life. Our oldest son has turned his back on the Lord, and in spite of all our attempts, he refuses to repent. Consequently, our relationship has changed. It cannot remain the same and be loyal to Jesus (2 Thessalonians 3:6,14-15; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13). Our contact with our son is now limited to attempts at restoration. We have no fellowship. We used to share holidays, regular phone calls and texts, family events, etc. but now, all that is gone. Our son has completely turned his back on everything he ever believed. He has no respect for the Lord or His church. He has chosen a life of sin rather than the hope of salvation. And because of his rebellion against God, we as parents must make a choice. Do we overlook his practice of sin and maintain our relationship, or do we withdraw ourselves from him as the Lord instructs?
I believe that the blood of Christ is more important that the physical flesh and blood that I share with my son. Unfortunately, my husband and I know the pain of “giving our child to the Devil.” Those words are sharp, shocking and grim, just as Paul intended them to be when he wrote them (1 Corinthians 5:5). Perhaps I am writing this is for myself more than for those who are reading. I have not seen my son in nearly two and a half years now and there are days that the pain is just as fresh as ever. Until now, I have kept this pain inside and shared with only a couple of my closest friends. I am not sure that a day has gone by that I have not shed tears. Sometimes it is a single tear and other days are gut wrenching cries of despair. I have pulled into my driveway with tears blinding my eyes, only to find myself literally screaming and wailing in grief. I’m devastated by our loss; his loss.
I feel desperation and hopelessness. I’m scared. What probably began as harmless flirtation with sin has now become a quicksand that pulls my son deeper and deeper toward Hell. Sometimes I feel jealous of other parents who have close, loving relationships with all their grown children. I feel embarrassed by what my son has done.
The fact is, I don’t know this person that I once thought I knew so well. Was I blind to things that I should have seen? I believed our relationship was so close. I adored this child. Was the love our son expressed to us all a lie? How does one go from being a respectful obedient child to flagrantly disregarding everything we taught him and everything that we stand for?
Mother’s day and Father’s day are so hard. While we used to receive the most precious cards and notes of love and appreciation, now any correspondence from him are filled with anger, blame, hateful words. Even worse are the sarcastic and blasphemous words used toward his heavenly Father.
Self evaluation, guilt, despair, fear….I have felt all these emotions. Who is a perfect parent? Who doesn’t have something that they would change if they could go back. Even so, I know that we were good parents. We loved our son, spent time with him, encouraged him, and taught him God’s word.
I don’t know what the future holds for our son or our family. What I do know is that God is faithful (2 Thessalonians 3:3). He will do what is right (Genesis 18:25). He will reward those who diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6). More than I could have ever understood before, I long for the promises of heaven, namely that God will wipe away every tear…there will be no more death, sorrow, crying, or pain (Revelation 21:4).
Heaven will be a place of great reunion with those who have gone on before. There is an old hymn that invites everyone to “come to the feast”. I just wish we didn’t have an empty chair at our table.
More than a few readers of this blog know the pain of having a child choose a path that is harmful to them. Higginbotham refuses to name her son’s sin, saying that the particulars don’t matter; that she would have turned her son over to Satan regardless of the sin. I know she wants to desperately convince herself (and others) that she is an equal opportunity banishment parent, but the “feel” of her article suggests to me that her son’s “sin” is sexual in nature — perhaps he is an out-of-the closet homosexual. (My “feel” was correct. According to Tim Rymel, Higginbotham wrote her diatribe on the day of her gay’s son’s wedding.) Regardless of the specifics, whatever the sin, it was worthy of her son being cast of out the family. Of course, Higginbotham puts the blame squarely on her son. He’s the one who sinned. He’s the one who chose to live a life contrary to Higginbotham’s interpretation of a bronze age religious text — the inspired, inerrant, infallible Christian Bible. He’s the one who loved the wrong person. He’s the one who married the wrong person. IT IS ALL HIS FAULT! screams Karen Higginbotham.
Higginbotham’s post is a sad reminder of the fact that many Christians, when forced to choose, will choose Jesus over their family. Zealots willing to abandon family members over slights to their beliefs find justification for their anti-human behavior in the Bible:
If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)
Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:34-37)
My oldest son went through a divorce a year ago. While the reasons for his divorce are many and his alone to tell, one reason I can share is that his ex-wife loved Jesus more than she loved her husband. If forced to choose between her husband and Jesus, the big-hunka-love Jesus wins hands down. A lot of Christians think similarly. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. He is the one true God, the savior of the world. He is, metaphorically speaking, better in bed than any flesh and blood person could ever be. Jesus is the perfect boyfriend, husband, and friend. No one can measure up to Jesus. Thus, when the Karen Higginbothams of the world find their love for Jesus challenged by maternal instinct and familial connection, they cast aside Satan’s temptation and run into the safe embrace of the man with all the moves, Jesus, the Christ.
Sharon Hambrick, a Christian woman who blogs at Sharon’s View, had this to say about Higginbotham’s banishment of her gay son:
Recently I became aware of a Christian mother who is bemoaning the loss of her son to the quicksand of sin that is taking him inexorably to Hell. Turns out he’s gay and Mom cannot even deal. In fact, she used the occasion of his supergay wedding to release a blog post in which she details her agony. You see, son’s gayness means she can never ever see him again. Because Jesus.
Jesus says (apparently) if your kid goes all gay on you, you have to yell at him all the time, or at the very least litter the house with “Gay Blade” Chick tracts when he comes over. Which he doesn’t. Because Chick tracts are gross and porny.
“I pray,” this mom says to her readers, “that you never have to make such a sacrifice, but I also pray that you love the Lord enough to choose Him over your children. This is where we find ourselves. This is our life.”
It’s their life not to be pleasant to this adult man who happens to be gay. No, they must lob Gospel bombs at him. Also, crying a lot is required. All the time and everywhere, but most especially it’s necessary to publish a hate-piece about his gayness on his wedding day. Awkward!
Speaking of choosing your children over Jesus, what does that even mean? Does that mean we won’t hang with our kids if they take to drinking? Or will we turn our backs if they are preggers-sans-marriage? What if they embezzle? What if they speed? Of course not, you judgy thing you! Not just any sin will do. It’s just the creepy gay sins that break the ties that bind, amirite?
Cuz, seriously, gay sex is so gay, she can’t even.
“In spite of our all our attempts, he refuses to repent.” What this means is simply, “He won’t stop being gay, so we’ve washed our hands of him,” which allusion doesn’t pull up images of Pontius Pilate with her, no one knows why.
I wonder if this dear lady has read any of the literature. Any of the testimonies of tormented gay kids who strive with all their hearts to please God, who beg God to make them straight, toggle the hetero-switch, fix them. No one gets fixed. Gay people stay gay same as hetero people stay hetero and bi people stay bi. You is who you is, all your parents’ “attempts” (translate: screaming, hauling you to pastoral counseling, various invasive therapies) notwithstanding.
What Mom should do here, of course, is realize that her son is an adult, adult enough that one of the 50 states granted him and his husband a marriage license, and she should treat him like any other adult with whom she comes in contact: with civility and pleasantness. There’s no need to be super-duper-closies, but by the same token there’s no need to vomit your sobbing broken heart all over the internet on your son’s wedding day. Why not just send a card?
“We have no fellowship,” Mom continues. “Fellowship” is a churchy word that indicates hanging out. They used to hang out. Now they don’t. Cuz son is too gay for words. They don’t even text! He’s so gay she can’t even trade emojis with him!
“Now any correspondence from him are filled with anger, blame, hateful words. Even worse are the sarcastic and blasphemous words used toward his heavenly Father.” Aside from your syntax freaking me out (is correspondence plural?), I have an inkling of an idea why he might be angry. For starters, he was the perfect child—he sang harmony with you in the kitchen, for crying out loud—and you tossed him out for being who he is.
You’re the loser here, you realize that, right? You missed his wedding, and you’re going to miss his children, his successes, his hopes, his dreams. He would have participated in your family memories if you’d been kind, but you weren’t kind. You decided God didn’t want you to be kind. You decided Satan was at your beck and call to “take over” the life of the son you birthed out of your own body, and you made the call.
I mean, seriously. What kind of spiritual clout do you imagine you have: “Yo, Satan, my son is gay. Can you whack him around a little?” Seems Satan is a little too busy these days to deal with your son, or maybe he’s waiting til after the honeymoon. And anyway, why are Christian people talking to Satan? What is up with that?
“Self-evaluation, guilt, despair, fear . . . I know we were good parents. We loved our son, spent time with him, encouraged him, and taught him God’s word.” Yeah, sure, and good job, Mom! But this isn’t about you. I think we’ve covered that.
“I don’t know what the future holds for our son or our family.” Oh, but I do. He’s going to be fine, and you’re going to be fine, and what is keeping you from being fine together is your insistence on being separate, on being unwilling to talk, on hating his gayness so much that you refuse to see the sweet, caring son who adored you and sang harmony with you in the kitchen.
Your belief that God wants you never to see your son again unless he stops being gay (he won’t), is what keeps you from peeling those potatoes with him ever again. Keeps you from hearing that infectious laugh. Keeps you from making those memories.
The empty place at your table is there because you haven’t invited him to sit there, and frankly you don’t get to now. Unless you put out two chairs and say, “Come, both of you. We love you and want you in our lives.”
Many of us raised in Evangelical churches were told by our pastors that the family of God (the church) was more important than our flesh and blood families. We were told that our church families would stick by us through thick and thin, unlike our non-Christian family members who distanced themselves from us over our resolute, unwavering stand on the Word of God. Sinners are the problem, not us, we were told. Chosen by God, Christians are lights in darkness, voices that shout to the rooftops and mountains the good news — Jesus Saves! What former Evangelicals learned, however, was that their church family’s love was contingent on them believing the right things and living life a certain way. Break this pact, and your church family will divorce you quicker than it took uber-righteous Karen and Steven Higginbotham to throw their gay son into the gutter.
I walked away from Christianity almost nine years ago. In doing so, I lost most of the relationships I had with Christian friends, family members, and colleagues in the ministry. I quickly learned that the people who were going to be there for me no matter what were my wife, children, and a handful of dear friends. Sadly, in Higginbotham’s son’s case, not only did he lose his connection to the church of his youth, he also lost his relationship with his Christian family. In other words, he was thrown overboard, coming to rest on a barren, forsaken island. The good news is that instead accepting that this was how things had to be for him, Higginbotham’s son forged new relationships with people who love him just as he is. And that’s the key, isn’t it? Loving people as they are. Accepting differences. Learning that there are boundaries in relationships; one of which is that who has sex with whom, where, when, and how is not our business.
Karen Higginbotham has set her house on fire, and she blames her son for having to do so. If only he had met a nice Evangelical church girl and married her, all would be well. But, no, he is gay, so he is to blame for all the familial turmoil. Until Higginbotham realizes that she, not her son, is the arsonist, there is little that can be done to repair the parent-son relationship. Until Higginbotham is willing to admit that she is wrong, she will remain estranged from her son. Such an admission would mean her admitting that what Karns Church of Christ and her minister husband believe and teach is wrong. Rare is the Evangelical who is willing to admit that her beliefs are harmful. The Bible is what stands between Higginbotham and her son. If she truly loves her son, she will tell Jesus to return the Bible to the dusty back catalog shelves of the library. The Bible’s teachings on sexuality are out of date and out of touch with modern understandings of gender and sexuality. Gays are here to stay. Out of the closet, they have no intention of returning to a closet that is every bit as dark and void of love as Karen Higginbotham’s mind.
It’s up to Higginbotham to repair the broken relationship with her son. I hope she will do so. If not, it looks like Higginbotham’s son is willing to say goodbye to Mom and Dad, choosing to embrace and love those who have the capacity to love him for what he is, and not what they want him to be.
Higginbotham’s husband, Steve, is a preacher at the Karns Church of Christ. You can read his sermon on homosexuality here.