Part 2 of an interview with Tom Gilson,
Author of Critical Conversations:
A Christian Parents’ Guide to Discussing
Homosexuality with Teens
Christian parents need to be prepared to answer the myriad challenges teens might hear in today's increasingly pro homosexual culture. Why shouldn't gays get married? Who says gay sex is wrong? Does the Bible actually say there's anything wrong with homosexuality? Don't you care that kids are being bullied just for being themselves?
To start the discussion in Critical Conversations: A Christian Parents' Guide to Discussing Homosexuality with Teens (Kregel/February 27, 2016), Tom Gilson provides a brief history of the issues beginning with the sexual revolution of the 1960s. He explains how and why cultural attitudes have reversed on this subject in such a short timespan, leaving Christians scrambling for answers.
This is perhaps the most complicated and contentious issue Christians face in today's culture. Most churches are poorly equipped to handle it; parents are even less prepared. The good news is that parents need not have pat answers ready before they dive into conversations with their teens and preteens on this difficult topic. Learning together—parents struggling through these issues alongside their kids and leading them to biblical answers—has relational benefits.
Answers are important, though, so manageable, nontechnical answers to common questions surrounding this issue are provided, as well as a guide to further resources.
Q: Christians are often painted as being prejudiced and out of touch for their beliefs. Is there a way to speak truth about homosexuality without being perceived as hateful or homophobic?
There are actually a couple of questions that come before that one. Can we speak out about it without actually being hateful or homophobic? The answer to that is yes, certainly. We disagree with LGBT advocates, sure. But that isn’t automatically hateful or phobic. If it were, then they would also be automatically hateful and phobic for disagreeing with us. I don’t think they think that’s true of ourselves, and I don’t think that’s usually true of them, either.
The second question is whether we can speak out without being perceived as hateful or homophobic. I think in personal friendships we can often do this. In larger contexts, we’ll probably be perceived in all kinds of bad ways, and the best thing we can do about it is to make sure we’re living in Christian integrity no matter what people say about us. We can also make our case for our position respectfully, knowledgeably and with conviction. This book helps with that.
Back to the original question. Some Christians have unfortunately acted in hateful and homophobic ways. (I don’t usually like to use that term, but it does fit sometimes.) That’s a matter for increased knowledge and for repentance.
Q: Why is it such a popular belief that Christians hate homosexuals simply because they disagree with their lifestyle?
There has been an intentional, concerted campaign by homosexual activists to paint Christianity that way. This is not paranoia or conspiracy theorizing. It’s documented in their own strategy documents, which they have followed quite effectively. (I detail this in the book.)
Q: What are some ways parents can prepare their children for the possibility they could be bullied for their beliefs?
Kids need to be confident in their beliefs, and they need to see their parents living in confidence too. That’s the main thing.
It’s great if they can be part of a group of friends who share that confidence; it’s the best protection possible for them at school, and of course there’s a biblical principle of mutual support and encouragement involved there.
Q: How should parents coach teens on being wise in manner and timing when making a stand for their convictions? For example, when and where is the appropriate time and place?
It’s hard to advise on this from a distance. The more important thing, in my view, is for teens to have a solid, almost easy sort of confidence in what they know to be true. Then they can speak their convictions authentically when the pressure is off — in everyday conversation with friends, for example — or when the pressure is on, and their faith is being challenged. It’s a whole lot easier for any of us to assess a situation and respond to it appropriately if we’re confident in our ability to respond when the time comes.
Q: If you had to simplify your argument in support of biblical marriage into a few sentences, what would they be?
God gave us plenty of good reasons in both the Old and New Testament to know that he designed sex to be for a married couple, and that he designed marriage to be for a man and a woman. It’s in Leviticus, in Jesus’ teaching on marriage and all over the Pauline epistles.
Marriage between a man and a woman is good. It’s a comprehensive human good that supports the nurturance of children and the growth of strong communities. Because children come out of marriages (normally), marital love is an outward-looking form of love, in contrast to the inward-looking and comparatively self-focused “just you and me, babe,” form of relationship found in non-marital sexual relationships, whether heterosexual or homosexual. Children thrive in homes with a mom and a dad.
So there are both biblical and non-biblical (common experience) reasons working together to make the point.
Q: Describe the “Bible brush-off” and how parents can avoid it during discussions with their teens.
“The Bible says it. Believe it.” That’s the Bible brush-off. That’s not much help: You can’t command belief. (You can’t make a person believe by telling them to.) Parents need to help their teens understand how to know the Bible is true and how to know the Bible’s teaching is good too.
Q: What are the eternal and cultural implications for helping Christian young people understand this issue?
Let’s not be fooled here: The big question isn’t whether homosexual behavior or same-sex marriage is moral. The big question is whether Christianity is credible. Gay activists have tried to tear down Christianity’s believability. The more they succeed, the harder it will be for anyone to put their faith in Jesus Christ.
Q: What should parents do if their child has questions about his or her own sexuality or gender identity?
The first thing is, keep on loving unconditionally, no matter what – which is what “unconditionally” means. If that is at all challenging for you, find the support you need so you can do it – support that’s steeped in biblical grace and truth.
Don’t think you can go it alone! Don’t even assume your pastor is fully equipped to help with this issue. Rely on your pastor, yes, but find a Christian counselor with specific expertise in this area. Parents should spend time with that counselor, learning how to handle their relationship with their teen. If the teen will see that counselor (or a different one, equally qualified), that’s great.
Even before that’s set up, though, parents should gently seek to find out whether their teens have friends who are encouraging them to “explore” their sexuality. If so, it would be wise to set a firm and loving boundary between the teens and those persons.
If there’s been abuse (which is a factor in some, though certainly not all, such sexual questioning), then get the law involved — and again, a qualified counselor.
Learn more about more about Critical Conversations and Tom Gilson at