A new Australian reality show called Bride & Prejudice centers around people engaged to be married, but whose parents disapprove of their relationships. Last night’s episode featured a heartbreaking scene with Chris, a gay man, who flew from Florida to Queensland to invite his Jehovah’s Witness mother and “traditionally minded” father to the wedding.
They said no. They couldn’t do it. Even when Chris gave them an ultimatum that rejecting his partner meant rejecting him, too, his parents felt it would be better to cut their own son out of their lives.
CHRIS: We’re getting married in a month’s time…
(Father) GEOFF: [Laughs]
CHRIS: … and I was coming to see whether you guys would come.
(Mother) YVONNE: Well, Chris… um… you know I’ve got very strong beliefs on that situation. So, um, for us, that’s not an option.
CHRIS (to father): What are your beliefs?
GEOFF: Basically the same, different reasons.
YVONNE: We love you, but we really don’t want to be part of that. And we’d like you to respect that. And I know that’s probably hurting you, but if you’re honest, you would’ve expected that.
CHRIS: Yeah… So you think it’s worth sacrificing your relationship with me because of your beliefs?
YVONNE: I don’t want to get into an argument with you.
CHRIS: It’s not an argument; I just need to know. I need to know because over the past 18 years, I have not called on you when I’ve needed you, and it would be really good. It would be really nice if you could be there.
YVONNE: I can’t. Okay?
CHRIS: Well, that’s disappointing.
YVONNE: Yeah, I know, I know…
CHRIS: You can choose all of me or you can choose none of me.
YVONNE: Okay. Well, if that’s the way it’s gotta be, then that’s the way it’s gotta be.
CHRIS: Okay. Cool…
YVONNE (to camera): I’ve got principles that I’ve lived by my whole adult life, and I’m not going to change them just because of how he wants to live his life. I don’t want that in my life, and that’s not going to change.
Afterwards, Yvonne offered her son a hug before he left. He didn’t accept it. I’m not sure I could either. Why embrace someone whose love for you is conditional? Why embrace someone who would cut you out of her life because you made the decision to love someone her God disapproves of? Why embrace someone who would choose mythology over her own child?
While the show makes it look like this is purely about anti-gay bigotry, make no mistake that Jehovah’s Witnesses also cut their children out of their lives just for not being Witnesses anymore. That’s the sort of power religion has over some people: It makes them choose between their cult and their blood. If your kid isn’t a part of your faith, they must be abandoned — just to teach them a lesson in the hopes they’ll come crawling back.
Former Witness Lloyd Evans adds:
The wider public needs to understand that the beliefs that Witnesses have pummelled into them from childhood very often lead to otherwise decent, compassionate, intelligent people doing deeply inhumane things, such as ejecting a child they once cradled as a baby — a child they claim to “love” — over a mere difference of opinion.
In this instance the shunning is due, at least in part, to one couple’s homophobia. It is notable that the aversion to gay people who refuse to suppress their sexuality is shared even by a man thus far not indoctrinated by Watchtower.
… the truth is, the pain and heartache so clearly evident on Chris’ face is shared by countless individuals who find themselves at odds with their Jehovah’s Witness upbringing. You do not need to be gay or lesbian in order to experience the crippling devastation of having your mother or father turn their back on you, as I can personally attest.
All you need to do is stop being a Jehovah’s Witness.
Heartbreaking stuff. If reality TV can expose these religious beliefs to a wider audience, more power to it.