Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/4/2016 (1295 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
As Confucius said, "Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change." Obviously, the people of Manitoba took his words very seriously. But elections and politics aside, being open to personal and ideological change is vital if we’re to build a better country and a better world.
Change for the sake of change is flippant. Change due to genuine thought and authentic reflection, however, is profound. It is the lifeblood of a vibrant culture and, dare I say, a living individual.
It’s something I came to realize as my new book, Epiphany: A Christian’s Change of Heart and Mind Over Same-Sex Marriage, is published this week. For years, I was known in Canada as an opponent of the LGBTQ community, and while I was never deliberately hateful, I know I caused pain — and for that, I am immensely sorry. My reversal on the issue came about two years ago after a series of events and experiences left me with no option.
I am not alone, of course. Manitoba premier-designate Brian Pallister had a long history of opposing same-sex marriage but now says he has "evolved" on the issue. He’s not specific, but in my case, I spoke out on television and in print about the grotesque persecution of gay people in Uganda and Russia and confidently expected conservative Christians, my community, to support me. Instead, I was criticized, even condemned. The culture I had championed seemed to unwrap before my eyes, and instead of love, I saw the contrary.
Let me stress that I do not for a moment believe every evangelical or Roman Catholic to be homophobic, but I have to say I was shocked by what happened when I dared to publicize anti-gay oppression.
It radicalized me and forced me to explore more deeply the aspirations of gay Christians in particular, and the wider gay community in general. I met dozens of people, read everything I could find, listened, watched and prayed. Yes, prayed.
As one of the media’s go-to guys for criticism of same-sex marriage I was suddenly looking through the tunnel from the other end and saw a startlingly different image. It was as if my vision was suddenly clear, a metaphorical 20/20 without the aid of an optician. Moral conservative to social liberal, a hero of the Christian right to someone invited to speak at Toronto’s Metropolitan Community Church, what is, to a large extent, the city’s gay church.
I’ve spoken to gatherings of thousands of people over the years and have never been nervous. Now, as I made my way to this church, I was unsure of the reaction. How would the congregation of queer parishioners react to me, previously one of the most outspoken opponents of equal marriage? I feared being booed, I feared icy silence. But what actually happened? Love. Acceptance, a standing ovation, forgiveness. Later, in private, I wept. Tears, perhaps, not for the day but for the years missed.
Not everybody agreed with me, of course. In the weeks and months after my decision became public I was subject to a series of firings and dismissals and a campaign of lies about my character and falsehoods about my family I did not think possible in a civilized, polite society.
But I survived, just as we all survive change even though we might fear it, are scared of its newness and strangeness and prefer the cosiness of what was to the crisp shock of what might be. This fear, this anxiety, is what leads us to attempt to silence other opinions and to feel threatened by people and ideas that challenge comfort zones and long-held beliefs.
I remember one particular day when my wife was in Europe and I was alone in the house. It was a bad day for abusive emails, and sometimes even my thick skin begins to bruise. For some reason, I went to my bookshelves and the first thing I saw was the timeless tale of personal discovery, A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens.
Scrooge opens his window after a night of ghostly encounters and asks the boy on the street what day it is. "Why sir, it’s Christmas Day, of course." Thank God, it wasn’t too late. And you know what, it never is.
Epiphany is published by Random House/Signal. The author’s e-mail is email@example.com.