What Christmas Means for Traditional Family Advocates

Every Christmas, I am reminded of how insufficient our Christ-centered holidays are.  On Bill O'Reilly's show we get consternation about a "war on Christmas."  Many FOX News viewers worry about the tireless push by secularists to turn the day into a December recess between World AIDS Day and Anderson Cooper watching the ball drop in Times Square.

But what if public venues acknowledged that the holiday was about the birth of Jesus?  Would we be closer to His truth?

Did Jesus do anything other than be born and die?

Long before atheists strived to eliminate Christ from Christmas decorations, the two Christ-centered holidays, Christmas and Easter, had already taken on a consumerist and shallow countenance.  Unfortunately, the narratives surrounding Christ on both days make Him passive, even to Christians; He is a cooing babe or a stoic martyr on a cross.

How can either the newborn or dying Christ hope to compete with the vitality and jolliness of Santa Claus or the empathetic dynamism of a gigantic fuzzy bunny?  Obviously this crucial figure's life and birth are important, but I wish we had more days to think about the many events that filled Jesus's life between His beginning and end.

My pick for a Christmas line we don't often associate with Christmas

Perhaps this year, more than in most years, the oft-overlooked passage I find important is John 15:13.  While I've often seen this passage translated from the Greek as "there is no greater love than this, to lay down one's life for a friend," I like to translate as closely as possible to the original:

Greater love than such a man, has nobody; when he places his psyche down for the people who are dear to him.

Psyché means soul and "butterfly."  It is different from other words for "life" and distinct from pneuma, or "breath," which is sometimes used as the soul.

To lay down your soul in this sense means a great deal -- not merely the obvious sacrifice of risking harm to oneself to save others, like a fireman or warrior, but also the less celebrated sacrifice of giving up one's comfortable way of living.

Following this quote is the important follow-up clarification: "Those dear to me are those who do as I command them."  One must put God and His mandates first.

Does John 15:13 mean anything to me in 2013?

These words meant a lot to me when I went to basic combat training for the U.S. Army.  While my military career never took off, I still wrestled the way many soldiers do with the problem of killing.  Would God forgive me if I had to kill?  John 15:13 eased my conscience.

John 15:13 has come to be much more valuable to me this year, since 2013 was a stormy time for advocates of traditional family values.  While I am not, as many in the gay press have alleged, an "ex-gay," I am a lifelong bisexual and the son of a lesbian.  I spent my teen years and twenties immersed in the promiscuous world of gay sex.

While I still include myself in the LGBT acronym, I am in a faithful marriage to a woman, which is crucial because I love my wife and also because we have a daughter together.  On most days, deep down, I want to enjoy the privileges and comforts that this fortunate life has provided to me, and stay out of the culture wars.

But I can't hide and be quiet, because John 15:13-14 reminds me that God has ordered me to stand up for what is right on behalf of others less fortunate than myself.  To know and see what is wrong, what is cruel, what is harmful, especially to the innocent, is to be subject to God's mandate.  We must do as God commands and bear witness so that others can be led out of darkness, as I was, and as others have.

Bearing witness does not mean always confronting the LGBT lobby.  Certainly there are plentiful abusers who are heterosexual to be taken to task.

But my burden is unique: it is the gay world whose crimes I saw, and that world that I must face with a sense of compassion for the vulnerable among us who might be crushed by its callousness.

Why does it have to be so hard?

This year, Justice Anthony Kennedy drank the ligbitist Kool-Aid and decided that the only reason people have for opposing homosexual marriage is "animus," while a steady flow of conservatives genuflected to the monolithic gay lobby and cashed in with their metrosexual friends (not to mention a sweet little pick-me-up from Paul Singer): John Bolton, Jon Huntsman, Rob Portman, etc.

Then, of course, came the string of mangled quotations from Pope Francis, which involved the pope asking people to stop talking about homosexuality -- either to condemn it or uphold it -- and instead talk about bringing love to the needy, with the predictable result that that the pro-gay media (I repeat myself) talked about nothing else for months in a chorus of  "The pope loves the gays!  The pope loves the gays!"

At Christmastime, those of us who can see the truth about these gay issues face multiple conflicts.  The world believes that we are full of what Anthony Kennedy calls "animus."  We are increasingly pathologized as haters or else criminalized as the purveyors of discrimination.  Our politicians surrendered us for thirty pieces of silver from the Human Rights Campaign and Paul Singer long ago, while religious leaders either cave, as did most Methodists and reform Jews, or else cut ties to us to save themselves the bother, as have many Catholic and Anglican leaders.

The LGBT lobby has been ruthless about intruding into all our relationships both personal and professional to indoctrinate people in its sexual ideology.  It doesn't matter that this ideology of biological determinism and sexual abandon destroys gays themselves, as well as the people around them who feel the fallout from their depression, sexually transmitted diseases, eating disorders, anxiety, exploitation, sexual assault, domestic violence, and suicide -- all the trademarks of a gay world that has been decaying from within while its self-appointed lobbyist overseers bicker with the outside world about same-sex marriage.

The more resources the LGBT lobby has shifted from reforming gay culture to erecting a façade of suburban marital normalcy that precious few gays can ever really obtain, the gloomier and unhappier gay people have become as individuals.

Yet to bear witness on this topic is relentlessly painful.  The LGBT lobby has warped my relationship with students, my relationship with gay friends, my relationship with the press, my relationship with bosses at the university, my relationship with readers, and saddest of all, my relationship with my own family.  My relatives, all well-intended liberal devotees of the New York Times, will believe what Frank Rich or Maureen Dowd writes about gays before they believe me, their own brother.  Of the large brood fostered by our sprawling family tree, only I knew of my mother's sexuality from early on and viewed her partner as a second mother; not coincidentally, only I ended up coming out as queer and living a queer life.

"Let's agree to disagree," they say, when the topic of Governor Brown's signing a ban on ex-gay therapy comes up.  "That's how you see it, but not necessarily how it is," they say, when I tell them about the epidemic of homosexual rape in the military, something I witnessed firsthand because I was the only one who served in the armed forces.  "My gay friends tell a different story," they say, when I try to open up about what really happened between 1984, when I was first introduced to gay sex at the age of thirteen, and 1999, when I fell in love with the woman who would become my wife.  "You've always been one to exaggerate."  And at last, on the issue of our own mother, "I don't feel comfortable talking about this."

To bear witness and speak honestly means, sometimes, having to feel pain at the hands of people you love.  In a time of chocolate cookies, fireplace stockings, and wrapping paper, I wish that John 5:13 didn't remind me that these are among the things that God expects us to surrender if it means we must speak a truth that others do not want to hear.

It is written in Exodus, "Honor thy father and thy mother."  Family advocates must hold these lines close, and soldier on.  Love can keep us going, but we must eventually reconcile ourselves to an existence where even love can be part of the psyché we have to give up in order to do as Christ commands us.  Tactics matter, I suppose.  Share some eggnog and change the topic; drive home to Los Angeles and see the deep blue sea stretching calmly out to the horizon.  Remember that all the fellowships and courtesies in this life are borrowed from God and nothing that He has promised never to take away.

Christmas does not mean only presents, candy canes, and pageants.  It also means laying down what is most precious to us, to do as we're commanded.

Robert Oscar Lopez edits English Manif.