Loving Others Without Sacrificing Conviction
By Pastor Tom Anderson
Caleb Kaltenbach was two years old when his parents divorced. Both his mother and his father then entered into same-sex partnerships. Caleb’s life was immersed in loud, proud and boisterous LGBTQ activism. His parents shared custody and Caleb spent the week with his father and his partner and the weekends with his mother and her partner.
Both his parents were university professors.His mother was politically active and did not believe in babysitters. She took Caleb to gay pride parades, bars, clubs, parties and political rallies. Her spiritual journey went from Catholicism to Buddhism to Wicca (Witchcraft). She emphasized to Caleb that Christians hated gay people. Caleb’s observations of Christian protesters at the parades he participated in seemed to confirm this. He wanted nothing to do with Christianity.
Caleb’s father did attend a church that focused on political issues while neglecting the gospel message of the Bible. Caleb didn’t have many friends growing up because of his unstable home life and the discomfort other kids felt about his parents.
As a sophomore in high school, Caleb decided to attend a student Bible Study group. His purpose was to gather evidence to discredit Christianity. He had never read the Bible and did not even know there were two Testaments--Old and New. But he attempted to disguise his ignorance and join in the discussions. What he discovered was that Jesus was not at all like the Christian protesters he had met. Caleb fell in love with Jesus, confessed his faith in him and was secretly baptized for fear of what his parents would think. When his parents found out about it, they grounded him.
Caleb now found himself in a very strange place. He had been an insider in the LGBTQ community and now he was an insider in the evangelical Christian community. He grew up believing that Christians were out to hurt gay people but found his stereotype exploded. His new conviction was to embrace the gospel teaching on marriage and human sexuality. He attended a Christian student conference and while there he experienced a call from God to enter the ordained ministry. His parents disowned him and shunned him.
Many people debate the possibility of accepting a person without approving all their thoughts and practices. But for Caleb this was not a theoretical discussion but a personal struggle. He fought hard to keep his relationship with both his parents. He told them that because of his faith he actually loved them more now than ever before. His parents were convinced that because Caleb didn’t agree with their sexual practices, he could not accept them. They quizzed him intensely about his beliefs and laughed at his answers. Undeterred, he continued to spend as much time with them as he could.
After attending Bible College and seminary, Caleb started serving as a pastor in Dallas. Miraculously, his parents began attending his church separately. His mother’s partner died and now both his parents were living a single life. Both of them came to Caleb in their own time to reveal that they had confessed Christ as Savior and Lord. His mother now leads Bible Studies in her retirement home. Ironically, Caleb remembers his father listening to Pastor Chuck Swindoll on the radio and ridiculing his messages--now they are both attending Swindoll's church! When Caleb asked them what made the difference in their journey to Christ they said it was the experience of Christians treating them well.
I draw three lessons from Kaltenbach's astonishing story: Hope is real. The Bible is true and love is the way.
Kaltenbach has written a remarkable book, Messy Grace: How a Pastor with gay parents learned to love others without sacrificing conviction. He blogs at https://www.calebkaltenbach.com/