A Good Damn Dose of What They Really Think
By: Rev. W. Jeffrey Campbell, Houston, TX
On Friday night while attending the African American State of Emergency Task Force (SOETF) Gala I experienced a good damn dose of what some people really think. The SOETF is a conglomeration of agencies, churches and individuals who have joined together in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The gala is designed to create networking opportunities, to honor those who are doing the work and to allow time for structured discussion regarding the fight against HIV/AIDS.
This year the tables in the room were labeled according to the target audience that participants were either working with or a part of. Those tables included: Faith/Spiritual, GLBT (and yes, they were side by side), Women, Youth and Incarcerated. Each attendant was given a sheet of paper and asked to state how he/she felt the Task Force could better address the needs of their specific target audience. A panel of people was formed from each of the target audiences and I had the opportunity to represent both the faith-based community and the GLBT community. If you smell trouble, you are on the right track!
During the dialogue this comment was made from the audience, “the church needs to become more educated in regards to the GLBT community.” I was asked to address that comment. Before I said anything I made it clear that I love the Black church. Silly me, I should have known that would quickly be forgotten. I stated that I believed that the church did indeed become more educated in regards to the GLBT community and particularly noted that many people have and still do struggle in their journey because of the words that they have heard spoken in the church damning them to hell. My belief is that many times the wounds that people, particularly, black gay men experience, causes these individuals to make poor choices in the way they live out their lives particularly around sex. I spoke further about affirming churches (giving the definition that these churches are birthed to be welcoming and affirming to members of the GLBT community but are also welcoming to all people.) I challenged the church to become more educated and I challenged members of the GLBT community who attend affirming churches not to go into those spaces and cause havoc that destroys that which was built for them. I closed by saying that education breeds growth and if we don’t grow we eventually die.
I must say that it has been awhile since I have had this discussion in a diverse room. I guess I have been living in Wonderful because I need you to know that the good church people came for me like bulls to a red blanket.
Over the next 15 minutes I heard things like:
· “Yes, it is an abomination to God!”
· “It is no different than if I go out and sleep with a lot of men.” Her point was that being gay was the same thing as being a slut or prostitute…”It’s all sin!”
· “Sodom and Gomorrah!”
· “God didn’t make Adam and Steve!” This was from a preacher!
· Then my favorite, “But, I love you!” Like hell you do!
The other panelist, all of which were heterosexual, sat on the stage mortified! I sat patiently and waited for the microphone to come back to me. Several members of the GLBT audience had great rebuttals however the good church people were not hearing any of it.
As I sat on the stage I realized many things. First, I realized that these people that my same-gender loving colleagues and I work with love to work with us as long as we don’t say that we are okay with who we are and that God is okay with us. There was one preacher who we work with on a regular basis who was almost foaming at the mouth while he spoke about the Bible being the true word of God. Mind you, I never said I didn’t believe in God or the Bible, I said that I struggle with how the Bible has been misinterpreted. I guess for them that is saying the same thing. These are probably some of the same people who believe that Denzel Washington’s new movie, The Book of Eli, is an awesome movie because he was able to save the King James Version of the Bible in a near end of the world experience. I for one don’t believe that God will be trying to save King James’ version of anything at anytime. But, that’s just my take on it!
The other realization that I had was that the microphone was never coming back to me! Oh, but I thank God for technology!!!!! I looked out at the 30 or so members of the GLBT community who were in that room and realized that I had at least 10 of their numbers in my iPhone. Hallelujah! I sat on stage and pulled out my phone and sent the following text message to them: My brothers and sisters first I want you to know that you are not an abomination! Secondly, Sodom and Gomorrah is not about homosexuality it is about the lack of hospitality to strangers. I love you dearly and God loves you more!
I was hurting for each of my sisters and brothers who came into that room thinking that it would be a safe space for them. I was hurting for every person in the room who would not sit at the GLBT tables because they quietly live a closeted life and daily fear the possibility of being outed. I hurt for every parent who was in that room who has a gay child and heard those evil words being spoken. As I stepped from the stage having been given a good damn dose of reality from some good old church people in suits, ties, furs and gloves, I walked to every member of the GLBT community still in that room and said God loves you!
I’m troubled because I’m not sure that my words will be enough. The hurtful words that were spoken have been spoken over our lives for years and have taken deep root. The words, “God loves you” is hardly ever heard by a member of our community unless it is follow by, “It’s your sin that God hates.” To prove my point….I just received a text message from my colleague who organized the event. He has been out and proud before pepper was black. This morning this proud gay man, who sometimes gives us woman, is still hurt and angered by the comments that came from people that he works in community with. Once this article is done I have to call him and help him begin the process of repairing himself. I know he is not the only one. It feels like Haiti. So many lives damaged and not a clue as to where to begin.
I feel as though I’m babbling because I still am wounded as well. I suppose I should just close out with this……God is in love with you and your sexual orientation cannot destroy that love. God accepts you and your sexual orientation will not change that. You were created in God’s image and you carry the breath of God in you. Allow the love of this awesome God to consume you. Make good choices in your journey. Every chance you get take the time to tell someone else that God loves them too! Finally, stay buckled up because every now and then you will get a good damn dose of what some people really think. It’s just a part of the journey.
Until next week…ROTFL with WJC!
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org for further discussion.