Friday, September 16, 2005

Build a Bridge and Get Over It!

Last night I went to one of the groups at the Gay & Lesbian Center in our city. All the guys wrote one question on a paper and put them in a central pot. Then the moderator chose a question for the group to talk about. After everyone who had something to say finished, we went on to the next question. I hear that the questions and discussions can be pretty raw at times - depending on the questions that the group happens to put in on any given night. Tonight, a few of the questions were things like "What's the importance of masculine figures in the gay community?" or "What's the importance of a gay role model?" Two interesting ones were "Can you be bought and at what price?" and "Have you ever considered changing yourself to be straight through an Exodus-type program?"

Tonight I went to another group at the Center. There was a small handful of men and it was more of a free-flowing group where each person could talk about whatever they wanted to talk about. In context to my story, I naturally shared the role of faith in my life and how it relates to being gay and "coming out". This sparked an interesting and natural discussion about religion, faith, spirituality, and the Church's hostility towards gay people. It was obvious that one person in particular was very much hurt by the Church and so he naturally went into the "self-justification of why he doesn't listen to anything related to Church or religion" mode. It's funny how some people go on and on about why they don't like Church as if to preempt any attempts by the Christian to proselytize them. The conversations were rich and fresh about spirituality though - not everyone was hostile towards God, but everyone agreed that they perceive alot of hostility from the Church towards them.

It was actually pretty typical to hear the hostility towards programs like Exodus. The perception of the Church as a whole is pretty much - Exodus - that all the Church wants to do is change them into being something they're not or to convert them into being straight. Isn't it funny that rather than being known for their love, Christians are known for their unacceptance? For some people, converting to be a "Christian" means converting to be "straight". Not gonna happen. Whether or not the Church as a whole is unaccepting of gay people or not, the important thing is that this is how the Church is often perceived by them. If the Church is going to be effective in connecting with the gay community at all, they are going to have to shift their attitude and approach. They are going to have to really demonstrate sincere love and an interest to build a genuine relationship (minus the agenda).

I've been in the middle of alot of these conversations. It's quite unnerving at times. Some people in the non-Christ-centered gay community are just as hostile towards the entire Church as some people in the Church are towards the entire gay community. Both sides have their extremists. The real connections occur when a gay person is willing to quit blaming God for numb-skull fundamentalists and when Christians quit looking at gay people as dirty targets in need of fixing, cleaning, and conversion. From what i've seen so far, that's when the conversations take place and relationships are established - then nurtured. The "Hot Zone". As a friend of mine often says, "Build a bridge and get over it!"

Here's something really interesting that I thought of at tonight's group and even posed to the group. Is creativity a consistent attribute within the gay and lesbian community? This is not a theory of mine - it's just a thought that really intrigued me. Are gay people naturally creative? Not just with decorating and color and art necessarily. But are gay people naturally creative in some way? - home decor, artwork, poetry, writing, building, drama, architecture, etc. Is it something built into the fabric of how we were created? I've often wondered, outside of sexual orientation, what does it mean to be gay? Could creativity be a common characteristic? Are gay people more creative than straight people? Is creativity within the gay community something biological or sociological? Do gay people just demonstrate creativity more easily because of an inherent desire for an outlet to express what society pressures them to repress? Is there something about gay people that allows them to see things differently? Can gay people envision things in their minds easily? I'd be interested to see if there were any studies done on this.

Not that this means that anyone is better than anyone else. But i was just thinking that if creativity was a consistent attribute throughout the gay community, then it could mean that they have much to offer within the Body of Christ. If there's anything the Church could use right now, it's creative expressions of genuine worship. How wonderful would it be for the Church to embrace the creativity of Christ-centered gay people and to see that straight people can learn alot from them? Now there's a possible bridge that could be walked.

He does, after all, use the lowly, meek, and outcasts right?

6 comments:

geek_boi said...

Eric,

I've definetly been on the "anti-God" side of the fence. When you grow up with people telling you that God hates who you are, it's easy to grow up and hate God. Its easy to think that the God you were raised with is the only god who exists...

As per creativity: I dunno. I'm certainly creative -- always have been, too. I would say that there probably is a connection, but I can't say exactly where or why.

In the genes, maybe? ;-)

*Christopher said...

Eric,

I'm very sympathetic to the hurts religion, and in our culture, Christianity can inflict. The question really is of one's own relationship and responsibility for that relationship with G-d.
That doesn't mean healing happens all at once though. And I know, I've seen some rather bad expressions of Christianity in my lifetime. Being a presence of love is the most likely way to open hearts on both sides of the divide.

I think we do have certain creative tendencies, and that is one of our great gifts to the Church. Why that is? I don't know. Doesn't matter really, it seems we like and know how to do things beautifully.

Eugene said...

If the Church is going to be effective in connecting with the gay community at all, they are going to have to shift their attitude and approach. They are going to have to really demonstrate sincere love and an interest to build a genuine relationship (minus the agenda).

Well said. I've been trying to communicate that to some friends of mine. Some of them get it, while others are still caught up in the "we must conquer all the sinners" mentality that's turned the church into an unsafe place for so many people.

But at least a few of them are starting to get it. Build community, love unconditionally, and trust God to tell people how they should live their lives.

*Christopher said...

Eugene and Eric,

Where I differ with this is we are Church as baptized members of the Body.

Mark said...

Isn't it funny that rather than being known for their love, Christians are known for their unacceptance?

Funny ironic, perhaps. I'm more saddened by it.

Eric said...

"Where I differ with this is we are Church as baptized members of the Body."

Christopher -

There are several questions that arise from your statement: What is the function of baptism in our salvation? If we're talking about baptism by water, what about baptism of the Holy Spirit? Is baptism a mark of "membership" into the Body of Christ? At what point is a person's name written into the Lamb's Book of Life? Is it the moment of personal decision in one's heart or is it the moment of participating in an outward ceremony? Is there a wooing involved where Christ gradually draws a person near to Himself? Is that person a part of the Church even if he/she is in that process of following Christ but has not yet become baptized?

I do believe that there is a distinction between those who are a part of the Church and those are not. But does that distinction effect how we ought to relate with all people? In my opinion, no.

We are called to love God and to love our neighbor. Our neighbor includes both those who are a part of the Church and those who are not.

The problem occurs when we decide who our neighbor is and who we want to love.