Thursday, May 22, 2014

Somewhere between R.E.M. and Jack Twist ...

Most Sunday mornings, dragging my sorry ass toward church suspended between R.E.M. (big fan in the 90s) and Jack Twist --- "Losing My Religion" and "I wish I knew how to quit you" --- I do a little meditating on the topic, "what the heck is this all about?"

Alternatives: Sit at home in a sunny chair and enjoy a Wallace Stevens kind of  "Sunday Morning" --- or take a walk.

More and more people, gay and straight, are doing some variant of those things --- and it's probably a good thing. If nothing else, it scares the bejesus out of here-to-fore complacent pew polishers. Preachers, priests, popes, et. al., too.

It's especially easy for someone who's gay to leave religion behind. We learned long ago that the church was wrong about us, and if it was so dramatically wrong on this count, well .... what else? One thing flows logically from another.


But then, in light of court decisions this week extending to same-sex couples the right to marry in 19 states now, I got to thinking about the role people of faith have played in that. And in other advances for people of differing sexual orientation.

Not in the beginning, back when I was a kid. Not at all. Gay people were motivated by fury at injustice when they began to stand and fight (1969's Stonewall is the usual landmark), not faith. There were no Christian allies then.

When the AIDS pandemic threatened to kill us, Gay people in a very real sense saved themselves and each other by organizing, demanding action --- and acting. There were very few Christian allies then. No church wanted us; Many Christian families threw their gay children away.

Then those brave activists told the rest of us --- stand up and be counted. And we did in increasing numbers, gradually emerging from our various closets: Business associates, neighbors, sons, daughters, cousins, brothers, sisters, parents, aunts, uncles, movie stars, preachers, politicians, fellow parishioners and friends.

It wasn't easy, but it began to have an impact. Even in churches. And now we have allies who are people of faith --- not by any means in all of the church, but still of great significance. And they are a real force today in what MLK Jr. called the bend toward justice.

And that's good for us --- and for them. They are better people, and better Christians, because of it.


But there's so much fear left --- not as much these days among LGBT people (although it's still there), but among so many self-defined Christians. Pull apart "homophobia" --- not a universally popular term because of its sketchy etymology, but a useful one --- and you get "homosexual" and "fear of."

Far too many Christians still are terribly afraid that if they take that great leap of faith and merely love, they'll lose control; be forced rethink the attitudes and fear-based convictions of a lifetime. That they'll no longer be able to impose order by conjuring up a threatening external "other." That they'll no longer be able to divide creation in to "saved" --- and not --- and feel better about themselves. That they'll actually have to listen to Jesus and not to Calvin --- or his equivalents across the historic Christian spectrum.

Gay people threaten complacency, and for those who find comfort in complacency --- we are a source of fear.

In that sense, the church remains a mission field where the need is far greater than it ever was in those old-time mission fields where the word had never been preached; a place, instead, where the word really hasn't been heard. And LGBT people and their allies can be missionaries by their presence.


That's one reason to drag a sorry ass to church.

But also because you run into shining people now and then of various ages and predispositions who give evidence of being called to faith and they need welcoming and inclusive communities in which to flourish. So it's important to foster and help maintain them.

The church is a sorry thing these days, and badly frayed --- and it is by no means essential, nor is its future assured --- but there's still tremendous potential in it. For those who love, gay and straight alike. And yeah, I guess, listen to and follow that guy Jesus.

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