I remember it like it was yesterday. I was 17. I remember the awkwardness, the sweaty palms, and the way I had to force sound past the knot in the back of my throat to raise my voice to my Dad for the first time in my life.
Standing up to your parents is hard enough in private conversation, but what if your dad was a famous conservative Christian radio host?
I’ve lived in Birmingham, Alabama, nearly all my life. Southerners are known for our faith, family, and football. We’re extremely patriotic, we love country music, big mud tires, the elusive white tail, Robert E. Lee, and Ronald Reagan. Southerners have typically been considered to be a close-knit group, and we love sweet tea about as much as we love our Mamas.
What we don’t like is anyone who goes against the grain. We’ve been doing things the way they’ve always been done for a very long time. We don’t believe in questioning anything written in the Good Book. And if you go against what the preacher says, bring up too many doubts or concerns, you just might get the left foot of fellowship. Probably served you right.
Bless your heart.
And I haven’t met a Southerner yet who doesn’t know Rick and Bubba, Birmingham-based (infamous) conservative Christian talk radio hosts. You either love ’em or hate ’em.
Knowing we came from the same world, I can’t imagine what Brandi Burgess, daughter of Rick Burgess, must be feeling now that she’s come out of the closet in such a public way. In her internet confessional for AL.com, Brandi says:
The story my father tells is one of a lost lamb, covered in shame. In his public musings, he speaks of my sin. Without my consent, he uses me as a cautionary tale.
For the past three years, my father and I have been debating God’s stance on homosexuality. It started with my Instagram post at a Pride parade: a picture of a mother holding a sign saying “I love my gay son.” I got a text demanding its removal: “How dare you compromise my platform!?”, “Remember who you represent.”, “Are you a gay?”
When platforms are chosen over our children, I believe the heart of God shatters. I can only imagine how the spirit of this young woman has been crushed. Year ago, Rick Burgess lost one of his children in a tragic drowning accident in their family pool. In this article, he confessed to his wife that he has panic attacks and cannot go in the ocean since the accident. It seems to me that after losing one child, a father would do everything possible to cherish every moment with his remaining children. Isn’t close-knit family one of the great characteristics of a conservative Christian?
“I told you before and I’ll say it again you’re my daughter and I will always love you. But I love you enough to tell you the truth. I’m not going to come up with some version of love that really isn’t love at all, that pats you on the back to justify you all the way to hell.”
And for my LGBTQ brothers and sisters, what advice would you give to Brandi, as she begins to own her story publicly and live out her truth? How does one move forward after being shunned by their family? When your dad says things like, “You think you’re so mod, so special. But you’re nothing. You’re typical.”, what do you do? Where do you find hope and acceptance, when you don’t feel welcome back home?
Where do we go from here? When politics and platform are chosen over kindness and love, how do we get back to decency? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below. And please play nice.
This is one more reason why the 30-Day Kindness Challenge matters so much. Will you join me? The challenge starts Monday morning. I’d love to have you join me in making the world a better place, one person at a time. Sign up here. And if you want to be a part of the exclusive Facebook group, just click here.
Check out more of my LGBTQ articles here:
*This post also appeared on The Huffington Post.
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.
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