I won’t try to do deep exegesis in every blog post on LGBTQ inclusion. It’s equally worth our time to step back and be reminded that people are people and their stories do mater. I’d also remind us to be mindful of our own stories. Be mindful our own stories? Oh yes, we all have our stories.
It’s time that gay Christians are heard telling their own stories.
It’s time they are allowed to tell their own stories. I’ve noticed, and in the past have been guilty of, a need that many straight Christians feel to frame (and kinda highjack) the stories of their gay brothers and sisters. And when we do that we almost always frame their stories in a way that excludes wholeness, health (spiritual or physical), faithfulness and sincerity. So we use categories that make huge assumptions and use generalizations that do harm. We talk of the gay agenda, the gay lifestyle and we speak from assumptions that a persona’s sexual orientation is always a conscious choice. We speak of assumedabuses in childhood and will seek someone to blame for the gay person’s orientation, yet that framework just doesn’t hold up under scrutiny.
Here are three stories that I want to ask you to engage… I just today saw the video from a new, Perrin, who courageously shares his story of faith and sexuality. That’s his picture at the top of the post. Please hear him out and take him at his word about his journey of faith and sexuality.
Justin Lee is someone I have named before, a brother in Christ who grew up conservative Baptist, and had to struggle with his faith sexuality. His book Torn is amazing and I highly recommend it. Justin tells his story in a sincere, gracious and compelling way. He wasn’t abused as a child and tried for years to find a way out of being gay. His story of faith and sexuality is valuable to straight Christians and needs to be heard. Justin is the founder of the Gay Christian Network and has many videos on the GCN YouTube channel.
Matthew Vines is the amazing young man who founded The Reformation Project and has written the book God and The Gay Christian. He also grew up in a conservative Christian home and was not abused. I think he’s done a great job in telling his story and helping advance the conversation we need to have about how we read and interpret our scriptures. Matthew has videos available on his YouTube channel as well.
Even as I share these links and names, I have a lump in my throat. Please, don’t go troll them or say un-Christlike things on their media feeds. As the biblical writer James encourages us, let’s “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because our anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” Let’s all seek to learn and listen, and seek God’s righteousness without anger.
Before Ferguson becomes old news in the wake of a more recent death or similar narrative to the sad loss of Michael Brown’s life, I want to ask just one thing of my beloved friends and neighbors who are not African American: Please, start listening and validating your African American neighbors’ stories, fears and feelings.
It’s time for us to fully hear and validate the narratives from our African American sisters and brothers across this country. We have to listen, to hear the fear and to hear the pain, and we must accept it. It can be such a blessing to be heard, and such a hurt to be ignored.
When something like the death of Michael Brown occurs, the fatal police shooting of an unarmed young African American male, we begin to hear the multitude of voices saying that this is status quo for their neighborhood. They say that this just part of being black in America, that it’s their fear for their own children, and that it’s just another white man killing a black man. We need to listen to these voices.
I resist listening because to do so is painful.Another armed white man has killed an another unarmed black man, and won’t face any charges, because that’s just the way it is in America. As a white man I cringe and want to look away, to “listen away” if only I could. I want it to not be true. I want it to be wrong. I want to deny the voices. But to deny the words, to ignore the words or to argue against the reality of my neighbor’s fear, pain and frustration, is to add insult to their injury. In fact, it’s worse than insult. It’s further injury.
It’s painful to validate the pain of my neighbor because I must then help carry it. I will sometimes do this for people I know and love, say the people in my family or my closest friends… but to carry the pain of a stranger? To carry the pain of a stranger, a pain that is also an indictment of me and the so near and present history that has been a huge part of me being who I am, and where I am, and what I have? That’s hard for me, a white man.
And yet, listening is exactly what I need to do. I have to listen and believe in the person speaking. I have to validate their story. I must value and give dignity to the experience of my hurting neighbor. If I cannot hear and value my neighbor, then I cannot speak to and journey with my neighbor. I will have already taken from them the value of their presence.
We all need to be heard and validated. When our African American neighbors speak, they must be heard. When their stories are told, we must welcome them to share. And when we are shamed by their words and begin to feel the hurt they are sharing, we must carry it with them. This is the only road to the future.
When our African American neighbors speak of their fear of raising children and the specter of death from police shooting, we must listen. When they speak of fearing the police, we must listen. When they speak of being misunderstood and harassed by white law enforcement, we must listen. When their story is painful to us, we must pay the price of listening.
There’s no way forward other than giving the dignity of thoughtful listening, and the validating worth of being heard. We cannot simply choose a side and hunker down with our arguments in our better neighborhoods and hope for compelling distractions to ease our disquiet… at least until the next shooting.
There are many narratives, and they must be equally heard. The Ferguson narrative is not the only African American narrative of contemporary America, but it is an authentic and valuable narrative that needs to stand alongside the other stories of being an American today.
There are also streams of experience that cut across the many narratives. We won’t begin to find a way forward between communities and their police forces as long as we ignore the real fear, the real pain and the real distrust engendered by histories of abuse, injustice and neglect.
A new narrative comes from our collective pain over the past and present, our redressing of wrongs and our belief in one another. When white Americans quote “black-on-black” crime statistics and point to the background looting that so often accompanies the peaceful voices begging to be heard, we do a deep injustice to the future, theirs and our own.
We cannot just say that we want to move forward. We have to be fully present now.We must trustworthy listeners. Although there is a goodness in attempting to be “color blind,” I’m afraid the weakness of that idea exists in it’s refusal to validate the divergent stories and experiences of different colors.
So, I’m trying harder than ever to listen, and I ask you to as well. Seek out the stories. Let the voices have their say and be heard. I ask you to want to better understand. Toward that goal, I’m reading Black Like Me at the moment. What the heck, I grew up in Texas and didn’t read this in school!? I grew up a few miles from the author’s home town and never heard of John Howard Griffin!!! Come on, Texas! I only know of him now because my dear friend David Gerard, who is African American, mentioned him in a poem I’m going to share in this post. David is also a musician, a poet and a gracious soul.
Years ago I was affected by reading Nathan McCall‘s Makes Me Wanna Holler, a book of pain that forced me to hear someone’s story that was so very different from my own. It was hard to read and I wanted to argue at times, but his story needs to be heard and understood.