An evangelical couple whose gay son died of a drug overdose in 2009 partnered with a Christian, pro-gay, campaign in which they addressed the LGBT community, through a video released online last week, to affirm that their beliefs and convictions in being gay are not anti-biblical.
Seattle-based Rob and Linda Robertson contributed their video for the "Not All Like That" campaign (NALT), which is the faith-based version of the "It Gets Better" project. The campaign is spearheaded for Christians who say "we are not all anti-gay," while giving them a platform to tell gay people that they can be a Christian and still support equal rights for gays.
"The NALT project is an attempt to communicate to LGBT individuals, especially teenagers and young adults that the loudest, most widely heard Christian voices that proclaim condemnation of the gay community are not speaking for all those who follow Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior," Linda told The Christian Post. "We are not all like that. There are millions of us who see it differently, but for many reasons, we aren't the voices that are heard."
The couple's involvement with the project stems from the personal struggle they endured, as told in detail on Linda's blog, in dealing with their son, Ryan's, sexual orientation from the time he came out to them to the time of his death.
"He came out to me over Instant Messenger in 2001 when he was 12," Linda said. "We responded with love but also with what we felt was the 'biblical' response, and so [we] encouraged him not to embrace his sexuality, but to attempt to change it as so many other Christians had seemingly done."
She continued, "He was passionate about his own relationship with Christ, and so [he] tried for the next almost six years to follow what he thought God was telling him he had to do, that he could not be gay."
During the video, the Robertsons' recounted the efforts that they engaged in to "make" their son straight, including reparative therapy which Ryan embraced, but Rob says, "The short version of that is, it didn't work or end too well." Ryan left his parents' home and from then on, his estranged relationship with the Robertsons began, which prompted both Rob and Linda to change the focus of their prayers.
"Ryan felt completely desperate and hopeless, and left home angry with God and us and turned to substance abuse to numb the pain of loneliness and isolation" Rob said in the video. "Our prayers changed dramatically from, 'Lord, make him straight' to 'Lord, can we please see him again? Can we have a relationship again?'"
At the time, the Robertsons believed that being gay was a sin, but after their efforts to make their son not embrace his homosexuality failed, Linda says they began to believe that being gay was not anti-biblical.
"The direct voice of God spoke into our lives. We went through an 18-month period when we were completely estranged from our son; we didn't know if he was alive or dead. During that time, God got our full attention. We each heard the Holy Spirit tell us, over and over again, that He wanted us simply to love our son, and leave the rest up to Him," Linda said.
She continued, "We also heard the stories of other LGBTQ friends that God brought into our lives, and who bravely and vulnerably shared themselves with us, which changed us more than any theological argument or debate could ever have done. As we got to know their pain, heard about their journeys to reconcile their faith with their sexuality and were allowed to see their intimate, thriving relationships with Jesus, despite being gay, God changed our hearts and minds."
During this moment of transitioning their beliefs, the Robertsons were ready to embrace their son's homosexuality, and after a while Ryan returned home, at which point Linda says they had become fully accepting of Ryan's sexual orientation. However, he relapsed on drugs and after being in a coma for 17 days, Ryan passed away.
Now, the couple's purpose is to spread the message that Linda says she and her husband wished they would have given Ryan.
"The message that we think many LGBTQ youth need to hear is that they are loved and accepted by God exactly as they are. Many of them feel that God must have played a cruel joke on them, as if He created them with an orientation they didn't choose, and often don't want, and then condemned them for it," Linda said.
The Robertsons, whom are actively engaged in their church, are outspoken advocates for LGBT equality and are passionate about communicating their own message to gay Christians that God loves them exactly as they are, as evidently portrayed in their video for NALT.
"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," Linda said, in the video.
The NALT campaign was launched earlier this month with 30 videos, mostly from supporting Christians, including the Auburn Theological Seminary, Covenant Network of Presbyterians, Methodists in New Directions and The Evangelical Network.