I remember meandering through the magazine aisle at my local grocery store to look at design magazines. To be honest, it was an excuse for my closeted self to ogle the muscle-bound bodybuilders covered in sweat, wearing next to nothing. What was not to love?
My eyes traveled to a handsome, preppy, all-American looking guy who had unbuttoned his collared shirt, revealing a perfectly chiseled body looking me straight in into my eyes. Aaron Schock was on the glossy cover of Men’s Health with the headline, “America’s fittest congressman.” That was in 2011.
Since then every gay man’s gaydar started beeping, seeming to alert of an approaching homosexual hunk, but there was a catch: Aaron Schock is a Republican. In recent years, various rumors began spreading (which Schock denies), and photos started circulating of him at gay clubs and music festivals shirtless, making out with other men.
Fast forward to 2020 and Aaron Schock posts a statement on Instagram leading with the confession “I am gay.” Needless to say, this did not come out as a “Schock” to the gay community (pun intended).
In his story, he recalls speaking to his mother on the way to her house, in an attempt to come out to her. News and images broke of his time at Coachella and he was asked to turn around and go back to LA. “I wasn’t welcome at home for Easter” Schock recalls.
He speaks of his struggle with his family: “To characterize some of these conversations with my family in general, it’s fair to say it has not been a case of instant acceptance and understanding. What I had to share was unwelcome news to every single person in my family, out of the blue in some cases, and was met with sadness, disappointment, and unsympathetic citations to Scripture.”
His statement turns a little sour when he doesn’t explicitly apologize for what many democrats view as support for some anti-LGBTQ policies. Instead, he states that “no one gets to choose when we learn our lives’ big lessons”, and asks for both sides to be understanding and respectful. He then points to McCain, Hillary, and Obama claiming that he aligned with their position against marriage equality during his time in office.
He finishes off saying that “As for my family, I still get occasional emails trying to sell me on conversion therapy, but recently at our relative’s wedding, my mother told me that if there is anyone special in my life, she wants to meet them. I’m optimistic about the future and ready to write the next chapter of my life.”
Still, there is a lot of anger and feelings of betrayal from the queer community for his views on gay marriage while in office, and what seems like a lack of a sincere apology. The queer community is conflicted.
So how could LGBTQ+ Christians respond?
To answer that question for myself, I would have to look back at a time in my life that was extremely difficult. I was attending a large pentecostal Romanian megachurch in Phoenix, Arizona. I was living a double life where I was involved heavily in the church, while after services I’d sneak off to the gay bars to meet men.
I hated myself for having “same-sex attraction” and thinking that I was bound for hell if I didn’t change. I was the closeted homo that was against the “gay lifestyle”.
I was the guy that said “hate the sin, love the sinner”, who smiled politely and said that anyone who isn’t a real Christian is going to hell, even if they consider themselves good people. I was caught in a darkness of the mind, heart, and spirit that only those who grew up gay in a conservative church truly understand.
One Sunday after church service, members funneled out from their pews into the narthex where some church members were piously clutching clipboards and pens. People congregated at each person to add their signature. As I approached I was asked to add my signature to “save the sacred institution of marriage” so that it can only be defined as between a man and a woman.
As a good Christian, I did my duty and signed it.
There. God will surely see that I’m on His side. Maybe He’ll change me after all and not send me to hell.
Needless to say, my life, faith, and my consciousness has changed dramatically since then. Now I’m happily married to my amazing husband and have a blog dedicated to helping LGBTQ+ Christians bridge God and gay culture.
Perhaps, that is why when I read about Aaron Schock, I see a part of my story in his and my heart sinks.
It sinks in sadness because I understand where it all came from. I understand the self-hatred, the religious and political manipulation, the darkness and the lost sense of self. There was little to no one to confide in or look up to. There were hook-ups but no lasting relationships. Crushes but no understanding of what love meant.
If the queer community throws stones at Schock for not being liberal enough, and if the conservative community throws stones at him for being gay, who will give him the “safe space” people are always talking about?
How can he grow and evolve?
I’m reminded of a story where Jesus saw a man and a woman caught having sex.
The guy got away free, while the moral majority dragged the woman into the street to an influential man asking him what they should do to her. She was accused of adultery.
But no know one knew for sure how everything went down.
The crowd all began grabbing rocks and stones of different sizes to kill her when Jesus said: “Let the one who hasn’t sinned, throw the first stone.”
The men’s hands fell and they all left, leaving the woman lying huddled on the ground. The man asks her where her accusers are. She looked around and said that there were none. He then responds, “I won’t condemn you either. Go and be whole.”
Who are you in this story?
Are you like Jesus that showed empathy, compassion and ultimately freedom?
Are you the one huddled on the ground getting ready to be stoned to death?
Or, are you the one holding the stone ready to strike one of your own?
What I’m saying is that it is totally understandable to feel mad, frustrated, disappointed, and betrayed by Aaron Schock. He abused his power. He weaponized his self hatred and fear to hurt individuals and the LGBTQ+ community. And that was wrong.
As Christians we can’t begin to hurl digital stones at Aaron Schock. We have to find a way to love this neighbor as ourselves, and to love our “enemy” regardless of how difficult it may be.
As Jesus said, “Let he/she/they who are without sin cast the first stone.”
*This post was updated 3/25/2020