|PFLAG-Tallahassee group with playwright and actor James Webb in the black T-shrit.|
Unlike my previous experience, when the play was done in the black box theater, the audience at this last performance were engaged, and not enraged. Moments in the play, and different statements coming from the characters, made some people shake their heads or mumble out loud, "Don't do it!" or "Girl??" or whatever. But nobody, at least that I could see or hear, stormed out of the theater or worried at intermission about their own souls for witnessing this play.
There has been a lot of difference in the world between the first time I saw this performance at the end of January and this past weekend. And I think some of that also gave the play a slightly different feel for me. Since President Obama's endorsement of marriage equality on national TV, there has been a tremendous public shift in the dialogue, especially coming from the pulpit of black churches. On YouTube, there are more examples of black preachers endorsing the President. Polls are showing that the attitudes of black voters on the question of marriage equality are softening from the hard-line stance that it is an abomination to a more "live and let live" attitude. Even on my own Facebook page, I am watching with interest as black community leaders go toe-to-toe with those who are reeling from this announcement from the President and reminding their brothers and sisters that it wasn't that long ago that the majority of Americans didn't think blacks should have equal rights or be allowed to marry the person they loved.
And the media has discovered that there is this other trinity that exists in the world: Black, Gay and Christian. National Public Radio has done reports about the presence among us of such Christians, and the New York Times this past weekend ran an article about a black gay church in Harlem. Is this really anything new? No, it isn't. But since the President has made it OK to talk about it, lips are opening.and tongues are speaking. And plays, such as "The Contract", are cracking open the doors of the churches and allowing more light to enter.
I have felt pain for my gay brothers and sisters in the black church. I have heard them talk about their difficulties and fears about coming out in an environment that has been so openly hostile. Many of them have given up attending church, figuring it is better to just have whatever relationship they're going to have with God without the grief of being amongst the hateful ones on a Sunday morning. And still many more have internalized the hatred they've heard from the pulpit and believed the b.s. that God doesn't like "their kind." In turn, they have brushed off God, so they can enjoy being gay. Those same scenarios exist for whites raised in the church as well.
I will say it again, and again, and again: God is Love, and Love does not reject love, same-sex or opposite-sex. When two people share a mutuality of love for one another that is not forced or coerced, then it is a human expression of the love God has toward all of creation.
May that love continue to spread, and may the churches, both black and white, grow up further into Christ and the understanding that we are all part of this vibrant, diverse, and beautiful body.