Dear Evan Hansen
Four themes that apply to every gay Christian
“Dear Evan Hansen” is a powerful movie, on many levels. The story is not about Christians who are gay. But the movie’s themes of being marginalized, being in a relationship, deceit, and acceptance certainly are.
Background. The actual storyline of Dear Evan Hansen is about a socially anxious high schooler (i.e., Evan Hansen) who writes a letter to himself as part of his therapy. Evan’s letter is stolen by Connor Murphy — a deeply troubled teen who then commits suicide. Conner’s parents assume the letter was from Connor to Evan, and they befriend Evan as one of the family. Evan then builds a false story of friendship between Connor and himself. The story initially results in much recognition for Connor and Evan — two social outcasts now thrust into fame and adoration. However, the charade tragically backfires, and Evan is left with the predicament of whether to be truthful or not publicly.
The movie magnificently portrays four universal themes.
As a gay Christian, I easily relate to each of the themes. As a coach to thousands of Christian men who have same-sex attraction (SSA), I believe that each of the four themes applies to every gay Christian. Read on, and I will explain why.
More importantly, how do we best show the necessary love to each gay Christian — a love that was elusive for both Evan and Connor?
Being Marginalized. Both Evan and Connor were marginalized men who were outcasts from the mainstream. Un-befriended. Unnoticed (Evan) and disdained (Connor). Evan laments that he would not be missed if he stopped breathing [great song!].
There were plenty of marginalized people during Jesus’ era. Such included the physically challenged, the homeless, the poor, the hungry, the demon-possessed, the outcasts of mainstream religion, and the sinners. While the Jewish society viewed them as castaways, unclean, and deplorable, Jesus viewed them as precious. Jesus was most likely to be found hanging around the marginalized of his culture. The religious leaders of His culture regarded Jesus as a “friend of sinners” — and someone to be silenced and, if necessary, executed.
Today, members of the global LGBTQ community are paradoxically marginalized by Jesus’ Church. Gay Christians are often viewed as “sinners” (even when they remain sexually chaste). Their sexual identity is challenged (i.e., many Christian denominations consider it a sin to have a Christian call himself “gay”). Gay Christians do not receive the same privileges as straight Christians. This form of social injustice applies across all Christian churches that hold a traditionalist view of the bible.
Indeed, there is a special loathing of gay Christians by many traditionalists. Don’t you believe me? Well then, try this experiment: call yourself a gay Christian and then see how the straight Christians respond to you.
Being in a relationship. Evan Hansen was in a relationship with none of his peers. Socially fearful, he talked only to his therapist and his mom — no friends, no ties. Connor Murphy was anti-social — treating those he encountered with meanness, literally pushing people away. Both men felt a vacuum, an existential gnawing within their soul as if to scream: “No one cares about me. I am a nothing!”
Jesus certainly knows that “it is not good for a human to be alone.” To fix this malady, Jesus creates humans to be in communion with others. Such community is, of course, all that has ever been for Yahweh God, Jesus the Messiah, and the Holy Spirit. A community of three, yet with three different relationships between them. Jesus and Yahweh are in a relationship; so are Jesus and the Holy Spirit. And so is the Spirit and Yahweh. Being in a relationship is an essential part of thriving.
Humans become attracted to particular humans — seeking out that “special one.” Typically, we date that special person. And often, the dating becomes exclusive. Eventually, the two become one — through marriage. This pattern is the “blueprint” of being human: being in a relationship with others. Even those men who choose celibacy need to be in a relationship with other people. If you don’t believe me, ask any priest!
And being in a relationship is not only healthy for straight people.
Gay people also experience attraction to certain others of the same sex. Gay men hope for a friendship of mutual vulnerability, affirmation, and trust. Such gay company often leads to a desire to become an exclusive couple — and sometimes leads to gay marriage.
One might conclude that being in a relationship with a special person is part of God’s plan for humanity — for straight and gay couples alike.
Deceit. In the movie, Evan Hansen creates an entirely fictitious relationship with the deceased Connor. Evan first tells Connor’s parents that he and Connor had a deep friendship. Evan’s deceit, however, also carries over to the entire high school. Evan is asked to eulogize Connor. Evan’s speech goes viral, and the school engages in a huge campaign to raise money for a memorial park for Connor. Suddenly, Evan is the champion of this project — and he must continue his grand deceit.
Lies. Lies told to keep alive a false legacy.
Such is also the case for many gay Christians.
I know of scores of gay Christians who publicly pretend to be straight and are silent about their SSA. Their silence is often out of fear of being rejected. Some of these gay Christians keep secrets from their wife; others never inform their adult kids. Others are professional men who hypocritically strut as pillars within their holiness denomination.
And the tragic reality is that, in many cases, being truthful would indeed result in losing their family or profession.
Even worse is when the gay Christian engages in deceit — outright lying about his sexual identity. I am personally aware of hundreds of gay Christians who said they had changed their sexual orientation, and now they are straight. Such men are called ex-gays. For over 40 years, such deceit was perpetrated.
And deceit and authenticity do not make good partners.
Acceptance. The movie ends with Evan choosing to be authentic. He is set free from all of his deceit. He can — finally — accept himself. And, of course, his confession of the false story results in many people shunning him. Except for this time, something is very different for Evan. His full authenticity allows him to discover his true friends. Those who accept him — exactly as he is.
And that type of relationship — being found to have dignity and accepted for exactly who we are — is priceless.
Lovers of Jesus who happen to be gay discover their need to hide their true identity around the time of puberty. Today, the harshest group in America regarding the condemnation of gays are, sadly, the Christians. This reality, of course, is not to say that there are no Christians who treat gays with dignity and equality. However, the typical gay Christian comes to expect straight Christians to ask invasive questions about his sexuality, plus have his faith in Jesus challenged by those within his church.
So, imagine the relief whenever a gay Christian encounters a straight Christian who wants to understand all about his life — and accepts the gay man exactly as he is!
If you are a straight Christian reading this sentence, let me assure you that gay Christians are well aware of your biblical worldview. Such gay Christians have typically studied the subject of God and homosexuality much more intensely than the majority of pastors! Therefore, gay Christians do not need more bible proof-texting.
Rather, the gay Christian hopes you will listen and understand his story — and then treat him with basic human dignity.
Jesus understands my story. All of my shortcomings, weaknesses, and mistakes. And Jesus is aware of all my deceits. Jesus fore-knew all of these faults before I was conceived.
And yet, with this complete understanding, Jesus stands beside me — reassuring me that He will never leave nor forsake me. Never.
And in Jesus, I enjoy the priceless relationship: to be fully known and fully loved — exactly as I am.
Dr. Mike Rosebush has a Ph.D. in Counseling Psychology. He is a retired Licensed Professional Counselor who has mentored thousands of gay Christian men.
You may want to read a short synopsis of his story here.
Today, he provides friendship support to gay men across the U.S. and can be contacted via Facebook.
You may read his many other Medium articles here.