Sunday, October 16, 2011
Awards and Honors and God: Oh, My!
Well, actually, I think of it more as I'm the representative of a winner organization.
The Family Tree, the local LGBT Community Center, presented me with an award for my work in starting the local PFLAG chapter, and for being so out and willing to be a voice for equality in our area. When I received word of the award, I was genuinely shocked. As I told the crowd Friday night, I do what I do because it's who I am. I am a person who has always been concerned about justice and wanting everyone to be treated fairly. And I love getting together with the PFLAG group and watching parents and others emerge from their shells to become active in seeking equal rights for LGBT citizens. It's a lot easier to do justice work when there are others with you!
I never said a word about God in my remarks. This is not because I don't believe in God, or somehow think that I am doing this life by myself. On the contrary; I am reminded of God's presence in my life constantly. But I'm a New Englander, and it isn't customary for us to make overt expressions of our faith, especially in mixed company. There were some others who received honors who did make mention of being "blessed", which I appreciated hearing, and acknowledged the truth in that statement. All of us are blessed. All of us are loved. All we have to do is believe it. As I said, for me, I try to show Christ to the world in how I live, and move and have my being. This has always been for me the appropriate outward and visible way of being a Christian.
And it is the one that tends not to repel or offend other people.
But while I tend to take the more subdued approach, others are more willing to use a megaphone. Such was the case with one award recipient, who stated repeatedly that everything this person had comes from God. At the first mention I thought, "Wow! That's wonderful." But when it started to become a repeated mantra, I began to sense the growing discomfort in the room. There were heavy sighs coming from tables behind me, and shifting in chairs.
I was sitting at a table with my friends from the Red Hills Pagan Council, some of whom get a little tired of the male image of God as the default in society. When our recipient repeated the line about all comes from God and added a "Some of you don't want to hear that!", one of the blind members of the Pagan group said quietly and with innocence, "Why would you say that?"
Perhaps that was said because that has been the experience of those of us who profess a faith in Christ within our queer communities. Quite often, we are ridiculed and chided by our peer group for associating with "the enemy." We are forced to defend ourselves from those who think that our Christianity means that we are the enemies of reason or certainly reasonableness. All Christians have, in the minds of some, been lumped together in the camp of hate-filled, Bible-pounding, bigoted jerks. We aren't, of course. And it is very painful to have people who you otherwise enjoy being around make your life miserable when it comes to faith in God.
And yet, I have not given up on those friends. I am grounded in my faith, and it gives me the strength to remain standing in places of pleasure and pain in life. And even some of my most ardent "anti-religion" friends see that. And they puzzle over it.
Like I said, I don't feel the need to always use words to show the light of Christ that shines from me to others. I prefer it to happen in places like a PFLAG meeting where I am witness to people changing and softening their hearts, so that they can make a contribution to the struggle for justice. I thank God for that privilege. And I thank the local LGBT community for the recognition of that work done by PFLAG.