What’s it like to grow up gay when you’re the son of the former Vice President of Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority? Daniel Dobson knows. His father Ed is a leading figure in the national evangelical movement. Now Daniel, 28, has decided to come out and is speaking about his experience as a gay Christian.
“It’s morally right for me to do it,” Daniel Dobson told The Grand Rapids Press. “I feel I have something good to contribute to the conversation, something positive.”
Dobson says he knew when he was 13 that he was gay, but was afraid to tell his parents. At 18 he signed up with the Army and did two tours of duty in Iraq. During a firefight on his first tour, he turned to a notecard with a Biblical verse that his father gave to him: “The Lord has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” The verse gave him the courage to accept himself.
Two years ago, Daniel came out to his parents, telling them, “Mom, dad, I’m gay. And I still love Jesus. And nothing else changes.” His father’s response was a huge relief. Daniel recalls that his father said, “We still love you. And nothing else changes.”
Despite his pedigree, Ed Dobson has been far and away one of the most gay-friendly figures in the evangelical movement. After leaving Falwell to become pastor of a church in Michgan, Ed began to offer pastoral care to people with AIDS. When one parishioner worried that the church would be “overrun” with gays, Dobson responded, ““That will be terrific. They can take their place in the pews right next to the liars, gossips, and materialists.”
Ed, who is suffering from ALS, doesn’t think homosexuality is okay. But he says that his fellow evangelicals haven’t tried to live up to their “love the sinner” rhetoric.
“I have sat and listened to story after story after story from gay people of their journey and have cried with them and tried to listen to the awful pain they go through,” Dobson has said. “[It] hasn’t changed what I believe about the practice of homosexuality, but it has reminded me that ‘Whom you would change you must first love.’ Martin Luther King, Jr. said that. And in general, Christians have not been very good about loving gay people. Oh, they’ll tell you they hate the sin but they love the sinner, but I don’t see much love for the sinner.“
Daniel believes that the antigay rhetoric from conservative Christians does real spiritual harm. “Because of what Christians say about gays and lesbians, they don’t get to share Jesus at all. They hurt the kingdom and they hurt Jesus. What they’re saying cannot possibly be led by the (Holy) Spirit.”