The NALT Christians Project is excited today to feature an incredibly moving video submission from Rob and Linda Robertson of Seattle. Hundreds of thousands of people are familiar with the Robertsons’ story of their gay son, Ryan, “Just Because He Breathes: Learning To Truly Love Our Gay Son,” which went viral after Linda posted it on Facebook in January. Linda explained that, as Evangelical Christians, they loved Ryan the way they had been taught was right, saying that “we said all the things that we thought loving Christian parents who believed the Bible, the Word of God, should say.” Over the years, the Robertsons encouraged Ryan, who was a committed Christian, in efforts to change his sexual orientation, so that he could live in accordance with their faith. As time went on and prayers and desires to change were rendered fruitless, Ryan finally decided to leave everything — his family and his faith — behind, as he had internalized the message that he wasn’t good enough for God, and that he had to choose between his faith and his truth.
Unfortunately, during the estrangement, Ryan became an addict. Meanwhile, Linda and Rob were learning what had gone wrong, how the sort of love they had been taught by anti-gay clergy had ended up wounding their son deeply, teaching him to hate his sexuality and, by extension, himself. When Ryan came back looking to get clean and reconnect with his family, they embraced him with open arms and spent the next ten months teaching each other about love and grace.
The story took a tragic turn ten months later when Ryan made what Linda refers to as the “classic mistake of the recovering addict,” by spending time with old friends who were still using. He shot up heroin one last time, which led to the overdose that took his life. In Linda’s words, “what we had wished for, prayed for, hoped for — that we would not have a gay son — came true. But not at all in the way we had envisioned.”
Since then, through their grief, Rob and Linda have committed their lives to working with the LGBT community and within the church to change the anti-gay climate that all too often creates stories like their own. They work for healing and understanding in the hope that other families won’t experience such tragedy as a result of anti-gay religious teachings that rip families apart and engender alienation and self-hatred in far too many LGBT people.
Linda and Rob are participating in this project in hopes that their video will touch the lives of any and all who need to hear the message that Christians are not all “like that.” At the end of their video, Linda directly addresses LGBT Christians who are agonizing over whether there is a place for them in their faith, saying that “if you’re wondering whether there is a place for you in the kingdom of God, we want you to know that the kingdom of God won’t be complete without you.” We also share the hope that, through their video and so many others, NALT Christians around the world will not be timid, but rather stand with Rob, Linda and so many others to boldly proclaim that they, too, are Not All Like That.