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The host of a popular Christian TV show comes out of the closet and finds his calling in the process.

The first time that someone called me "gay," I was in kindergarten. I was at a young, impressionable age, and I was new to being around strangers. One morning I woke up to go to school, and I remember that everything around me was very dark and eerie. I got onto the school bus like everyone else. When we stopped to pick up another person, the young boy who was sitting next to me turned and spitefully said, "You're gay!" This was the first -- but not the last -- that I heard those words and experienced that kind of hate.

In my heart I have always felt love and understanding for other people. I am a Christian, and I believe that God is the giver of unconditional love and my supreme role model. All I have ever wanted to do in my life is to promote love, understanding, and acceptance. As the host of the popular Christian TV show The Remix, I believe that my coming out to the public will inspire others to believe in the unconditional love that Christianity has to offer. People should not fear God, and people should not fear themselves.

Many religious believers condemn LGBT people by citing Scriptures from the Old and New Testaments, and I want to encourage others to study the Scriptures for what they really say. I believe that my presence in the Christian industry is a testimony to how times are changing. Love, honesty, and integrity are strong guiding principles that many Christians believe and follow, and these are the principles -- especially unconditional love -- I want to voice to those who are gay and struggling with their faith.

I have received hundreds and hundreds of responses about my coming-out. Most of the responses have been extremely supportive and have demonstrated God's unconditional love. Unfortunately, there have been a few negative responses as well, but I believe the positive will always outweigh the negative. For example, I received an e-mail from a 19-year-old man who came out to his parents the same week as my public announcement. His parents did not take it well. He was having problems coping with his parents' reaction, and he tried to commit suicide twice. This young man has shown me my path in the world: ministering to gay people who are having difficulty with their faith. I want to show them there is hope and acceptance in Jesus.

According to the Barna Research Group, 80% of churchgoers age 16 to 29 feel that churches are far too harsh toward gay people and that the church itself is hypocritical. This shows why many LGBT people are afraid to turn to religion when they need understanding -- people like the young man who contacted me. I want to give the church and its leaders, such as Pat Robertson, James Dobson, and Jimmy Swaggart, a chance to make amends for the many years of spoken hate, to weave their lives and words with the love of Jesus, and to unite all Christians under the banner of love and acceptance.

The message of hate is a relic of the past, and it should no longer be revived. I am calling on all Christians to pick up their crosses, remember Jesus' sacrifice, and love just as he has done. For that is all he did. This is not a call to love only LGBT people, but it is a call to love all -- the homeless man on the side of road, the prostitute with nowhere to go, the mother who drinks her days away, and the father who hits his pain away. I'm Azariah, and this is my call; this is my ministry.

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Azariah Southworth