Category Archives: Shari Johnson

Turning Around: A Mother (Shari Johnson) Embraces Her Gay Daughter

Listen to Shari Johnson, author of Above All Things interview with Sean Cole.

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On Mother’s Day, The Proud Mother of a Gay Daughter Celebrates a Presidential Stand for Equality

Shari Johnson

Author, ‘Above All Things: The Journey of an Evangelical Christian Mother and Her Lesbian Daughter’; 

On Mother’s Day, The Proud Mother of a Gay Daughter Celebrates a Presidential Stand for Equality

When I learned of President Obama’s support of same sex-marriage this week, my emotions ran amok — surprise, hope, excitement, joy — joy because the marriage of my daughter and daughter-in-law was recognized as a good thing by the highest office in the land. His stand supersedes politics. It should be a standard for all of us to follow — to lay down our opinions, prejudices, and judgments and do what is right.

I wasn’t willing to do that in 2004, when I received word that my daughter, Cholene Espinoza, was marrying her partner, Ellen Ratner. I had finally reached a point of grudging acceptance, two years after Cholene first told me that she was gay. Cholene was 37 at the time, and I had not had a clue. I thought it was the end of the world then, and now this! I had a terrible attitude about it. I wasn’t even sure I could attend the wedding; I just couldn’t picture it. A dear friend told me that if I didn’t straighten up, I was going to lose Cholene, and our relationship would never be the same. Imagine the position Cholene was in: She was risking our ruining the happiest day of her life by inviting us to the wedding, but if she hadn’t invited us, I would have been hurt and upset. It was definitely a no-win situation for her.

One morning, while driving to work, I was “talking” to God, and I said out loud: “What event could a parent be asked to attend that could be worse than this?” The answer came to my mind quickly: “A funeral.” I knew exactly where the answer had come from, and it shook me to my core. I related this to my son Chip during a telephone conversation. He was quiet for a moment, and then he said, “That’s interesting, Mom, because she has always thought you and Dad would rather she be dead than know she was gay.”

What kind of a parent would give their child that idea? I adjusted my attitude, and we went to Cambridge, Mass., for the wedding. I still had misgivings, but I was determined to make the best of it.

It was the December right after President Bush was elected to his second term. My husband and I are conservatives, and I was pretty sure there would be liberals there. I didn’t know how we would be treated. I shouldn’t have been worried. We were treated kindly and graciously. The whole weekend was magical. Ellen is the quintessential hostess and had a fantastic weekend planned for all the guests, but the one thing that absolutely astounded me was that God was there. Who knew that He showed up at gay weddings? One woman that weekend said to me, “I can’t really describe it, but it all seems so ‘spiritual.'” I knew exactly what she was talking about. There was such love there, the love that can only come from God.

On the night before the wedding, Ellen threw a birthday party for Cholene. At one point I looked around for my husband, James, and Mr. Conservative was sitting between two gay women discussing the history of the area. They had found their common ground. Isn’t that what it is about, finding a common ground with others who may not think like us, look like us, or act like us?

I heard much later about an incident that took place that same weekend regarding my grandson Chandler. My son Chip, his wife Lisa, their three sons, and their daughter were all in Cambridge. Chip was to take part in the Jewish ceremony by reading scripture, the boys were to be ushers, and their daughter Charli was to be the flower girl. Chip was an ordained minister in a very conservative denomination, and I was proud of him for placing the love he has for his sister above the opinions of others. Because all of Chip’s family was involved in the church, and there was no question of where it stood on homosexuality, there was a family meeting beforehand, and the decision to take part in the wedding was unanimous. However, as they were all getting ready in the hotel room the night of the wedding, out of the blue, 11-year-old Chandler said, “Well, this ought to be interesting.” Chip and Lisa exchanged looks that said, “Oh, no, here it comes.” Then Chandler said, “I’ve never been to a Jewish wedding before.”

Don’t you just love kids? What a great world this would be if we followed their example — such as the example President Obama’s daughters gave him that allowed him to see things differently.

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My Lesbian Daughter, the Bible and Sex


Published January 06, 2012 –

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Regarding Pastor Mark Driscoll’s Fox opinion piece, “What the Bible Really Says About Sex,” dated January 3, 2012, I agree with him on many points. There was a time when I agreed with him on all points.

I am an evangelical Christian who, I am sorry to say, used to be one of the “don’t-confuse-me-with-facts-because-my-mind-is-made-up” type of Christian.

My world was rocked to its core the night my 37-year old daughter called to tell me she is gay. Did I run out to find a gay parade to march in? No. It was a painful process for both of us.

In my beating on Heaven’s door, telling God He had to change her, He instead changed me. It seems that He was far more disturbed about my lack of love than He was about her homosexuality. I have had to rethink many things since starting this journey, including some things I knew (or thought I knew) about the Bible.

Pastor Driscoll shares “seven sex essentials from the Bible,” and I would like to address “3. Marriage is for one man and one woman by God’s design,” and “5. Sex outside of marriage is a sin.”

When I hear terms like “God’s design” and “Biblical marriage” I have to wonder who decides these things.

Our cultural adaptation of marriage has certainly evolved through the ages—had God not intervened, Joseph could have had Mary stoned to death for being pregnant with a child that was not his. (An engagement at that time was considered the same as a marriage.)

That is just one example—so many books could be written on the history of marriage. Yet we keep a death grip on the scriptures that suit us—and the translation of those scriptures becomes more a matter of tradition, opinion and convenience than the Word of God.

The hypocrisy of a Christian parent who shrugs her shoulders over one child’s “living in sin” and says, “What’s a mother to do,” but goes to pieces when she hears of her daughter’s homosexuality, is appalling. I was that mother.

If one can find anything amusing in all this, it is that those who are upset about sex outside of marriage are the same ones who are opposed to marriage equality.

The principles for heterosexual marriage are the same for same-sex marriage—love, commitment, faithfulness, loyalty, honor and respect. How can we deny that to anyone?

My daughter and her partner were married in 2004 and I couldn’t ask for a better spouse for my daughter, or daughter-in-law for me. However, my attitude traveling to the wedding was far different from my attitude on the trip home. God attends gay weddings. Who knew?

People have debated scriptures over the issues of gay marriage and homosexuality until they are red in the face—red because both sides are so angry.

When I asked a wise friend how she reconciled the scriptures with her daughter’s homosexuality, she said, “I can’t. So I just let God sort it out.” I took her advice and I learned things about God I would never have known if I were still telling Him what His scriptures mean.

If we spent as much time obeying God’s two greatest commandments, which are that we love Him and love our neighbors as ourselves, and less time policing everyone who is different from us, imagine what a world it would be.

Two years ago, after 39 years as a Christian who thought she knew the meaning of the scriptures and the mind of God, I asked myself a serious, life-changing question. What if I’m wrong?

Shari Johnson is author of the forthcoming book, “Above All Things” which will be published by Changing Lives Press in June 2012.

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