Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Holy Spirit at Work

Last week, I wrote about what happened in my Christian Ethics class, but I didn't include the personal back story. Which has grown and -- after a remarkable speaker, last night -- blossomed.

A few weeks ago, I became good friends with one of my classmates. I'll call him George. George is a big, black, handsome man, about 50. He is gay. And he has lived a life, oh boy. A life of addiction and pain, but here he is, in seminary.

It was he who gave the presentation that led to the discussion about homosexuality. And it centered on the question -- would you hire someone gay to work in your church?

So, last week ... it wasn't just philosophical, this discussion. It was personal. He and I both felt so ... hurt.

My class is mostly made of black students. And for him, I think that's what hurt the worst. He wrote to me -- It amazes me how black folks especially, can discriminate against anyone. How they have forgotten what life used to be like in America ...

I shared some of this in an email with my father. He wrote back -- give me George's email. Last night, George told me that he received an email from Dad, explaining that he was 78 years old, and was raised to be a bigot and a homophobe, and his best friend now is a gay man and George, keep the faith. It was apparently quite a sweet email from the man who prides himself on being a curmudgeon.

My dad is cool.

Last night, before class, one of our fellow students whom I'll call Amy talked to me. The previous week, when students were saying, no, homosexuality is a sin, and they wouldn't hire someone gay, I asked, "Well, are you going to have a list of all the sins, during the interview? Are you going to go down it, checking off things?"

She had thought about that all week, she said. And isn't it interesting, she said, that with some things, we help the person into counseling or recovery services, and we're there to help them, but with others, we simply write them off. We chatted about that for a while. And about whether those same ministers would refuse to hire someone who goes shopping or watches football on the Sabbath. So she's thinking.

And then ... the biggie.

We had an amazing speaker last night. This guy is the real deal. If you want to know about someone who is walking the walk, doing the loving and leaving the judging for others, get his book. Right now. (You can also go to Bookfinder.com and pick up a used copy.)

His name is Rudy Rasmus and he wrote the book, "Touch." If you read O Magazine, you know him as the ethics columnist. For him, ethics is simple. Jesus told his disciples that the two most important things were to love God completely and to love your neighbor as yourself. So for Rev. Rasmus, when faced with a dilemma, he applies those issues.

"Sometimes, I miss," he said. "But I never miss an opportunity to love."

And how. His church serves the homeless, serves those diagnosed with HIV. Serves those struggling with recovery. Oh, and he serves wealthy folks, too, like Beyonce.

So, during the Q & A, George brought up the discusson last week. "Would you hire someone to work in your church who is gay?"

We do, said the reverend. To do otherwise would be discrimination. And he talked about love. And not drawing lines in the sand. And in the midst of all this, one of my fellow students, a male, got up and went over to George. And hugged him. And kissed the top of his head.

Sincere? I don't know. A group of students (including that one) huddled in the parking lot after class and judging from their faces, (and the fact that they abruptly stopped talking when I walked over) they were displeased.

We still have a long way to go. But keep the faith, baby. Keep the faith.


ms. kitty said...

It gives me hope too, LE. One of the things seminary is supposed to do is deconstruct everything we ever thought about God, church, religious, spirituality, and help us put it back together in a way that makes us actually able to serve others instead of just our own prejudices. Let's hope that's what is happening. Thanks for a great post.

jules said...

It is one of my favorites of the passages of the Christian Holy Book. Mat 22:36-40

Easily said but very difficult to do.

for a little clarity, you said the student who went up and hugged and kissed George was in the group of students talking after class?... and by the look of their faces... displeased.

I was a little confused by that. Were the other students chiding him for his actions? Was he showing a look of displeasure also?

good post. Julian

Lizard Eater said...

I was confused too, Julian. I went up to him and gave him a hug, saying, "That was really beautiful." He kind of grunted in a way that had me wondering ... oh, was that just his way of "shutting up" George?

The group just looked ... cynical. And pissy.

uumomma said...

This made me cry twice--your dad's response, and then the speaker's point. The pissy-ness may be their own emotional/cognitive pushback---knowing on some level that they aren't quite ready to do what Jesus did/said. I say it's their baggage, not yours. Keep your head up. If I was there, I'd kiss the top of your head, too.

Earthbound Spirit said...

You definitely have a cool dad, LE.

As for the group - It's also possible that there were other dynamics going on you were unaware of, that had the group looking "cynical and pissy."

OTOH, like Ms. Kitty said... In my seminary experience there have been times when something has happened in class that has been very challenging - and afterward I just wanted to hang with "my group" of good friends to process it, or ignore it, for awhile.

Kim Hampton said...

I'm glad the Holy Spirit is moving in your class and I know this is going to sound harsh but why were you, and especially George, surprised by the reaction of this class to the question of homosexuality?

The Black church is probably the most conservative church of all. On issues like homosexuality, gay marriage, abortion and most other contemporary social issues, 99.9% of black churches are going to to be more conservative than even the Southern Baptists. Poll after poll and study after study show that whatever political persuasion, African Americans are very socially conservative.

I pray that George doesn't become too disheartened but hope he knows just what an uphill battle he faces.

Lizard Eater said...

"why were you, and especially George, surprised by the reaction of this class to the question of homosexuality?"

Because to make the assumption based on a person's skin color and Christianity that he or she is an anti-homosexual bigot would make me a bigot, wouldn't it?

jules said...

I don't think it would make you a bigot. I think it would make you a realist. Not that I have the stats or anything (and I don't know of the study after study or the 99.9% that Kim references) but I think the statements she made could probably be found to be relatively accurate without a lot of effort.

I think what assumptions like that display is not bigotry but that folks like yourself (UU seminarians) as well as UU ministers have a long road of work ahead to teach all people; black, brown and white that it is ok to show compassion to all people... even homosexuals.

a kiss on the top of your head to you for the work you about to embark upon.

Nancy said...

I love that you are sharing what you are experiencing. This world and the people in it are so incredibly complicated.