Well, let’s start with the pretty one first!
Today I’m thinking about the role tension involved in being The Vicar to some people and to others the devil incarnate. Or an avenging angel.
It’s not only strange, since I’m one person and not two; it makes me re-examine my responsibilities. Am I doing my job correctly?
Maybe not; maybe I should be all Maria all the time, and keep quiet about the abuse of Gay people in church and society. I haven’t decided yet.
Because of that prayer site I run, maybe I have a public image I ought to protect. Twice a day I put up Bible lessons and prayers, accompanied by art and a bit of commentary. If I would leave well enough alone, I’d never face a controversy. People could come – millions already have – and receive comfort, instruction and strength to get through their day, trying to be as good, and feel as good, as they can.
This isn’t an unworthy goal. I like giving people encouragement and support. I like helping them relate to God and find their place in the cosmos.
The really nice thing about religion and all forms of spirituality is that we benefit from the questions, struggles and answers other people have come up with about what it means to be human.
The great thing about Christianity is that it offers a loving, noble and heroic role model in Jesus Christ.
I like heroes, don’t you? I’ve known a few, male and female, and they’re people I want to emulate.
As a Gay guy I love male heroes. And as a Gay guy I love women who are strong and good.
But heroes are made because they fight Evil. From Jesus Christ and Desmond Tutu to John Wayne and Superman, heroism becomes clear to the rest of us by the protagonist’s courage, skill and compassion as fighters.
Yes, Sojourner Truth, you’se a woman all right! Can’t nobody say you ain’t a woman!
Myself I don’t feel heroic much (and certainly not by playing The Vicar). I’ve done some things I’m proud of and lots I’m ashamed of too. I don’t think Jesus is enlisting the rest of us to be heroes, so much as showing us what to do if and when evil confronts us. “No greater love hath a man than this, that he give up his life for his friends.”
Then there’s the other side of my personality and value system: the mouthy one who’s verbally aggressive with Gay-haters. I’m not really Baby Jane, but I must look that way to them.
I don’t care how they see me, I care that current and future generations of LGBTs not be persecuted by self-proclaimed Christians and the politicians who suck up to them.
I’ve been a Gay activist since I was 22, marching in New York’s 4th Pride Day, when no one else from my seminary dared to show up.
I know that the best way to win fairness for persecuted people is to stand up and speak back to the haters. To call them out; to fight back.
Times have changed and my roles have too; I’m not the activist I used to be, but I still engage the fight sometimes. Today I’m involved in a flame war online, resulting from Indiana politicians’ efforts to abolish a license plate for the Indiana Youth Group. (I’m trying not to keep running back and forth to The Indianapolis Star website to see the homophobes’ latest replies. I mean really, we should all have better things to do.)
Plus I have an essay, right on my prayer site, suggesting that all Christians should pray about whether God loves or hates Gay people. It’s one essay, on a different page, away from the prayers; a reader has to click to see it.
This essay has garnered more comments, pro and con, than any other entry on the site.
What I’ve learned is that there are opponents of LGBT people who spend their time trolling websites like mine, searching for sites where they can expound their arguments. (Note: my commenters are by and large respectful, not hate-filled. They disagree with me but maintain a basic recognition that LGBTs are human beings, at least.) People like that need to get a life – which is why I’m not on The Star’s website right now.
I can hear in my head all the reasons why it’s okay for me as a Christian to speak out sometimes; prophetic witness is a calling of a saint. And I don’t really intend to cut back on what I say; in the secular world no one knows me, so I’m not doing any harm. Maybe I do a little good, though probably not much; public shouting matches aren’t very entertaining.
I know I will continue to defend Christianity from its fundamentalist highjackers. That’s one thing that gets my goat, when fundamentalists presume to speak for God, when all they’ve got is their interpretation of some sayings from antiquity. Mainline Christians have done a miserable job of protesting Pat Robertson’s pronouncements, and someone’s got to speak up.
I don’t feel I have to protect the Daily Office crowd from my views on this issue; a few people come there because I express my views, and I want to make them welcome. My biggest evangelical impulse is to tell GLBT Christians to come home; the churches are better now and mine in particular is learning to be their suffering servant.
But I probably yap too much, and that can be bad too. The last thing I want is to drive a soul away from the prayers.
Ministers have to do a balancing act, and it isn’t easy. I feel for the bishops, priests and deacons who have greater responsibilities than mine. Churches need to offer comfort to hurting people, as well as to afflict the comfortable. If ministers lean too much one direction or the other they tip over. (They need to Stand Firm!)
What I’ve decided to do is to withdraw from certain other minor controversies in the Church, because people don’t need to hear from me about everything. An example: a priest-friend posted recently on Facebook about St. Joseph, Mary’s husband and Christ’s Dad. I was a little troubled by the suggestion that Joseph was his adoptive father (Mary was a virgin, of course), so I piped up. Another priest called Joseph “the patron saint of stepfathers,” and I don’t think that’s right either. God bless adoptive fathers and stepfathers, but I wouldn’t put Joseph in those categories, and I said so. Pissed off my friend the priest.
I need to learn when to speak up and when to keep quiet. Joseph doesn’t need me to defend him, even if I think those priests were going overboard.
Queers, though, do need defenders, so I’ll confine myself to them. I don’t have to enter into every church controversy there ever was or will be. No, I don’t think the Anglican Covenant is going anywhere (it was DOA the day it was released). No, I don’t think the Anglican Communion is something we must save at all costs. Yes, I’m opposed to spending millions of American laypeople’s money on a useless Lambeth Conference. No, I don’t think we should canonize the author of “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” even if she popularized Thanksgiving.
But so what? Nobody died and made me Mr. Opinion.
Could we have a song now?++