An Epiphany, With Pride




An Epiphany, With Pride

Michael Coren's faith has taken him many places. This summer, for the first time, it will take him to Pride. Here's why.

Photo by D G from the Torontoist Flickr Pool

Photo by D G from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

Yesterday I tweeted something I thought fairly bland and innocuous: I plan to attend this year’s Pride parade in Toronto. Anybody who has followed my writing and broadcasting over the past two years shouldn’t have been particularly surprised. But my goodness, the reaction certainly surprised me. There were thousands of re-tweets, likes, follows and comments. There were, of course, the usual attacks and insults too, but 90 per cent of what I saw moved me profoundly.

A Newstalk 1010 colleague tweeted that she was crying with joy. I had no idea.

For many years I was known as a high-profile opponent of same-sex marriage and some of the aspirations of the LGBTQ community; I even won a major broadcasting award for taking the “no” side in a debate on the subject. I like to think that my arguments were never hateful, and I certainly maintained warm relationships with several gay people. But looking back, I almost certainly enabled hatred by giving an intellectual veneer to the arguments against equality. There’s no way of sugarcoating this. I was wrong, did wrong, wrote wrong, spoke wrong. I’ve apologized numerous times and although contrition can become laborious after a while, actions and consequences are as important as words.

I’m not going to play the martyr here, but after “coming out” in favour of equal marriage, particularly as a fairly prominent Christian journalist and author, I lost four regular newspaper columns, a television spot and all of my speeches; the bulk of my income. I was threatened, my children’s Facebook pages were trolled and they were insulted, I was accused of being an adulterer, a thief, a liar and of being blackmailed by my gay lover–I wish he’d tell me who he is! I’m not looking for any sympathy, but I have paid a price. That said, the discrimination and hate that I have encountered is only a fraction of what thousands of LGBTQ-identified individuals face, and the experience has given me more perspective.

The reasons why I changed my views are many, diverse, and complex. At root it was because and certainly not in spite of my Christian faith. Love triumphed over legalism, and the inclusion preached by Christ became far more important to me than the doctrines of a church. In fact I left Roman Catholicism and became a happy and content liberal Anglican. Beyond faith, however, was experience and maturity. I simply could not reconcile the joy and tolerance I saw in the gay community with the views I was supposed to hold. The more progressive I became, the more gratitude I received from gay men and women and the more visceral hatred from their opponents. It radicalized me of course; it could not do otherwise.

I now not only believe that equal marriage is a fundamental right but also a manifestation of Christian love and of the face of the living God. Of the 200,000 words in The New Testament a mere 40 refer to same-sex attraction and many leading theologians question the genuine meaning of those references. When it comes to the Old Testament it simply won’t do in the light of modern scholarship to accept the story of Sodom as referring to homosexuality; it’s a condemnation of rape, violence and rejection of strangers. There are around 20 further mentions of Sodom in Scripture itself and not one of them speaks of homosexuals. The handful of so-called anti-gay “clobber verses” in The Bible are deeply ambiguous. I could go on.

Actually I have, and have written a book on the subject. And all of the nastiness and the firings became irrelevant when the actor and author Stephen Fry, someone I have revered for years, wrote me one of the kindest and most supportive endorsements I have ever received.

So yes, I will be at Pride this year and will be, well, proud to be there. I’ll be speaking as well. Twitter is merely a social media device but genuine transformation is something much more significant. This isn’t about me but about how change, revision, and admitting to being wrong can solve not all but certainly many of the world’s problems. I can’t pretend the last two years have always been easy but I wouldn’t change them for the world. Oh, and as for cheating on my wife–I’m way too ugly.

Michael Coren’s newest book Epiphany: A Christian’s Change of Heart & Mind over Same-Sex Marriage will be released on April 26.