I am pleased to launch the first episode of my new podcast, The Question with Zachary Stiles. My guest on today’s podcast is Marsha Good, mother of Lucas Good.
For more information on today’s topic, please visit the Funeral 4 Lucas website at funeral4lucas.wordpress.com.
Zachary: Welcome to the inaugural episode of The Question with Zachary Stiles. My name is Zachary Stiles and I am a queer activist, journalist, and blogger based in the Lower Mainland of beautiful British Columbia. The purpose of this podcast is to ask questions. All kinds of questions. Questions that matter to you, that matter to the LGBTQ community, that matter to all marginalized people wherever you are listening from. If you’re listening, thank you for being here. You are a part of asking these questions with me.
I was not planning for my first episode to be… this, but after a surprising email exchange here we are. If you’ve been following my work before now, you will know that I broke the story of Lucas Good, a wonderful 14-year-old boy who sadly took his own life earlier this month. Of course, this was followed by the horrific news from Lucas’ parents and his church that there would be no funeral to honour this precious child, for the very simple reason that Lucas was gay. It seems completely unbelievable and yet here we are. Of course, being the person that I am, I absolutely could not just stand by and do nothing in the face of this injustice. I started to organize, and as I did, amazingly, other people began to emerge who wanted to organize with me. The Funeral 4 Lucas, or F4L, movement was born to respond to this horrible tragedy. With the help of Berenice Chalmers who we are so grateful to have support us through the power of the Internet, we held a mock funeral in front of Lucas’ church, Shepherd’s Mercy Church. That brings us to today, and I can hardly believe this but I am here on an online call with Marsha Good, mother of Lucas Good.
Marsha: Thank you for having me on your inaugural episode, Zachary.
Zachary: To be clear to everyone listening, I did not ask you to come here. You reached out to me.
Marsha: That’s correct.
Zachary: Why is that?
Marsha: My husband and I, as well as our religious community, have been very cruelly attacked in the media since your report, so I wanted the opportunity to respond and stand up for what I believe in.
Zachary: You know, Marsha, a lot of people who are going to listen to this, don’t believe in what you believe in. They may have no intention of even caring about what you believe in.
Marsha: I know that.
Zachary: So then don’t you think that coming here, saying some nice things about what you believe in, that that’s just going to be a futile exercise at the end of it all?
Marsha: Well, the truth is still the truth whether or not anyone ends up convinced by it.
Zachary: The truth is still the truth. Is that from the Bible somewhere?
Marsha: It is not. But in my favourite Bible verse from my favourite book of the Bible, in John 18:37, Jesus says, “for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth.” So I am here to bear witness unto the truth today. And whether or not your listeners would like to listen to it is up to them.
Zachary: Well, at the very least, I can appreciate your boldness in speaking with me today. Let’s get right to the question that is on everyone’s mind – why? Why would you refuse to hold a funeral for your own son?
Marsha: If you consider a funeral a time to mourn and remember the person who was lost, I did hold a funeral for Lucas. Privately. In my heart.
Zachary: But publicly, you and your church denied a ceremony, which is a smack in the face not just to the memory of Lucas but to anyone who has lost someone to suicide or even homophobic violence. Basically saying that in life we push you to your death with our homophobia and bigotry and after death you are not even afforded the basic dignity of a funeral service.
Marsha: That would be a very critical interpretation of our personal and private religious choice.
Zachary: Well, when it affects others in the community, it’s no longer so personal or private.
Marsha: It was personal and private until you reported on it.
Zachary: No… no, no, no… do you- do you believe that the suicide of a young LGBTQ person affects only their parents and no one else? Because other people-
Marsha: I don’t believe I consented to my son’s death being reported in the first place.
Zachary: Well, Marsha, you should know then that as a queer activist and journalist, my role is to bear witness unto the truth, and the truth is our community lost a precious young queer soul, whose troubles can be traced back to his family environment and his church.
Marsha: I didn’t persecute my son. I’m not a monster. I honestly had very little awareness of Lucas’ feelings until there was the note that Randy found.
Zachary: Randy being…
Marsha: My husband and Lucas’ father.
Zachary: So you’re saying you didn’t know Lucas was gay until after he already passed, when you read this suicide note from him.
Marsha: Lucas was a very private person. For example, he never wrote a blog. Instead he had a journal, a physical notebook. He never was someone who was particularly openly expressive about anything. He just was a very quiet boy. He only ever had a few friends. Nobody really ever knew what was on his mind. So I never knew how he felt in the first place, so it would have been impossible for me to then go out of way to persecute him.
Zachary: But that doesn’t absolve you from responsibility. The negative messages Lucas would have heard in the home or in the church could have been the reason he didn’t want to open up to you.
Marsha: We don’t share negative messages at our church. We share the truth and love of Jesus Christ. Those messages only sound negative to people who are absolutely determined to follow some other path.
Zachary: Would you include LGBTQ persons as people who are determined to follow some other path?
Marsha: For the most part, yes. If they are not pursuing Jesus’ plan for us.
Zachary: So then would you include Lucas among those people who would recognize the messages coming out of your church as negative messages?
Marsha: Lucas loved Jesus so much.
Zachary: That doesn’t answer my question.
Marsha: You know, everyone has inside of them some kind of weakness, some kind of propensity towards sin. We’re human. We all have something. And for Lucas that propensity was homosexuality. He had guilt that he couldn’t handle that drove him to ultimately take his life. I’m sure some of that guilt was the Holy Spirit telling him to follow a better way, but most of that would have been Satan and our culture telling him there was no hope for him, telling him that if you’re homosexual, that’s just who you are, and as a result, you can’t follow God’s plans for you. But myself, our church… we offered hope every Sunday.
Zachary: Okay. Hold on. I want to take a second to just… confirm with everyone listening that I absolutely condemn every word you just said.
Marsha: I did not expect us to see eye to eye on this.
Zachary: But of course, people are going to ask, why are you even giving her a platform. The reason I agreed to give you this platform is frankly not because I am interested in you or your brand of religion, although I do recognize that for you, that was your whole agenda to be here and so I am in some way responsible for whatever insanity you are now able to dump onto everyone listening today. But there’s more to this. For me, the reason I agreed to do this is because I am interested in remembering, and even more that, in celebrating Lucas. I am interested in helping all of the children, all the teenagers, who may be in a similar position as Lucas. And I want people to understand the religiously-motivated homophobia that a young person like Lucas would have to endure, and once we understand how serious this is, we can then begin to respond to it in our communities.
Marsha: I think branding the word of God as “religiously-motivated homophobia” exposes a very antagonistic attitude towards Christians that you have.
Zachary: Your son died, Marsha.
Marsha: Nobody is more aware of that than me!
Zachary: And it will be foolish to think that there are not others right now in Lucas’ shoes who could be days or weeks away from making the same choice he did.
Marsha: You still don’t understand. That’s exactly the reason why our church does what we do, to share truth and hope with those people that there is a better way available.
Zachary: If Lucas could respond right now, I’m sure he would say your better way doesn’t work.
Marsha: You don’t get to decide that for him. You don’t get to decide what he would and wouldn’t say. If I could go back and make some things different, I would make things different, so that he could be here, so he could understand how much his mom and dad love him, and want the best for him. But we weren’t… I wasn’t capable of reaching him before it was too late.
Zachary: Do you believe your son is in Hell, Marsha?
Marsha: I don’t want to talk about that.
Zachary: The content of the sermon presented by Pastor Howard Lake this Sunday- the sermon which was held in lieu of a traditional funeral- based on that sermon, one could assume that you and your church would believe that someone like Lucas is in Hell right now.
Marsha: God alone knows everything. Not me. God alone knows.
Zachary: I see. Well, I do want to thank you for offering this opportunity to speak with you. And I hope that my listeners feel like they learned something about this situation. And if you are at all moved by this, please visit the Funeral 4 Lucas web portal, at funeral4lucas.wordpress.com to learn more about how you can add your voice to this conversation. That’s funeral, the number 4, lucas, dot wordpress dot com. Until next time, you’ve been listening to The Question with Zachary Stiles. This is Zachary Stiles signing off.