Then Minchin changes the lyrics: “I love Jesus, I hate faggots,” he sings. “I love Jesus, I hate faggots.” The crowd stops singing along. Minchin looks up from his guitar, pretending not to understand what the problem could be.
“What happened? I just lost you there,” Minchin says. He makes a halfhearted attempt to get the singalong going again before giving up. “Ah, well,” he shrugs. “Maybe these are ideas best shared in churches.” Those ideas — loving Jesus means hating gay people — are proclaimed in Christian churches and on Christian television and radio broadcasts. The combined efforts of the Family Research Council, the National Organization for Marriage, “The 700 Club,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Westboro Baptist Church, and countless conservative Christian activists, preachers and politicians have succeeded in making antigay bigotry seem synonymous with Christianity. This can cause a lot of heartache — with sometimes devastating consequences — for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children born into fundamentalist or evangelical Christian families. Such was the case for Jeff Chu, the author of “Does Jesus Really Love Me? A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America.” Chu is an accomplished journalist who recently married his male partner. But Chu’s mother, a devout Baptist, didn’t attend her son’s wedding. She still cries herself to sleep every night, Chu writes, tormented by the certainty that her gay son is “lost.” As a child, Chu adored the song “Jesus Loves Me.” But does Jesus love him now that he’s an openly gay adult? Chu has his doubts: “There are still moments when I wonder whether my homosexuality is my ticket to hell.”