Sunday, February 26, 2012

The Waters of Baptism

Looking at the collection of readings for this Sunday in the Episcopal Church, I found myself humming the tune "Wade in the Water."   God enters into a covenant with Noah and his family after they'd survived the 40 days and 40 nights in the ark with the animals.   God lets them know he won't try to drown the human race again, and instead puts a "bow" in the sky... a rainbow... as a sign of the covenant God was making with Noah.  It makes me think, "If God doesn't love gay people, why did he put a rainbow in the sky?"

The first letter of Peter has the author drawing a parallel between the ordeal Noah and his family endured floating on the water in the ark for so long with the water we experience on our heads at the time of our baptism.  Water which, with a blessing, becomes a symbol of the same act that John the Baptizer would do with Jesus in the Mark gospel story.  Jesus goes to his cousin, John, and John takes Jesus into the river to baptize him.  In Noah's case, the waters of chaos and destruction were like a baptism of all creation as God had lost patience with the downward moral spiral of humanity.  The flood, in that sense, cleanses the planet.  For the author of the Peter letter, Jesus brings into the baptismal experience a cleansing of the sin committed by the flesh.   That may sound a little drastic for us in the Episcopal Church since we baptize babies.  What type of sin could they have committed with their flesh?  Is being human a sin?

I would say "None, and no," to those questions.  Too often, we get hung up on thinking that "sin" and "flesh" goes back to that dichotomy of "body=bad, spirit=good."  I don't think the body is bad.  And I don't think babies at age 3-6 months have "done" anything that is particularly sinful.  I prefer to see an infant baptism not as a way of necessarily washing away sin, but rather as a way for Christ to lay claim to a child.  This is the beginning of this child wading into the same troublesome waters that Christ found himself in as he navigated the world of his time.   And while a child in the 21st century may not hear a booming voice saying, "This is my child, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased," I believe they are surrounded with a cloud of witnesses who affirm them as new members of the community and pledge that this child will never walk alone.  Because Christ, both the invisible and the visible, is now with them forever.

And like Christ, they may find themselves bearing the symbol of baptism, and yet being driven into the wilderness to contend with the Tempter.   I have known what it is to be in a desert place with only the nagging of doubt, the lure of fame and fortune, and the promises of empty reward laid before me.  I have wrestled with the belief that God couldn't possibly love the likes of me because society (including the church) was feeding me a false gospel that my kind were not part of the kingdom.   I have had to listen closely to that small, still voice of God as the noise of others have tried to pull me off the path of following God's lead as I navigate the direction of where this spiritual journey is taking me.  When I had to make a decision about whether I should continue in journalism or follow my heart and go to massage school, I consider that a time when I had to pay attention to where God was taking me, and not where others expected me to go.   

Lent is very much like a baptism.  It's the time when we can gather ourselves in rememberance of our relationship to Christ who has been through the waters of baptism and into the desert himself, and continues to take that journey with us in keeping the promise that we are never alone.  We will never be drowned, and we will never go dry.  Like Christ, we are beloved.  And like Christ, we must go from that place of being beloved and surrounded by a cloud of witnesses into the world... with Christ.  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Bishop Yellow Belly Finds a Friend

Some time last summer, the No Anglican Covenant Coalition posed a challenge to the supporters of the AC to produce some kind of credible argument for why the Anglican churches should sign this document. No one volunteered. Perhaps because those who want the Anglican Covenant believed that there was no more reason to debate about it.

Well, since then, there has been a growing discontent over the AC. And just last weekend, there were votes by at least four synods in England NOT to sign. In fact, the number of "NO" dioceses has far surpassed the ones who have voted "YES". And that's when the videos emerged with members of the Inter-Anglican Standing Commission on Unity, Faith and Order touting the need for the Covenant. There is even one American in the group.

The videos do very little to address the concerns that have been raised about the Covenant and what it seems to do in terms of creating a new central Anglican authority... which would be a first in the 500+ years of Anlican history. But it did provide an opportunity to bring back the stalwart Covenant defender, Bishop Yellow Belly!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

"I Ain't Dust!"

On Ash Wednesday, many Christians will be entering churches and emerging with the sign of the cross, made with the ashes of burnt palms, on their foreheads.  They will have heard those heavy words:

"You are dust and to dust you shall return."

Ash Wednesday is a tough love day in the calendar.  Words of the penitential Psalm 51 reverberate off the walls to remind us that today, we are low and lowly before God.  Coming on the heels of Mardi Gras or Shrove Tuesday where we've partied hearty and lived life up to its fullest, we are brought back down to earth, to the dust. Because we are dust and to dust we shall return.

But one of my favorite people in the community of St. John's Episcopal Church has steadfastly said, "No!" to Ash Wednesday and its guilt-tripping practice of the imposition of ashes.

"I ain't dust!  I am a child of God!"  says Rev. Lee Graham, the rector emeritus and one of the wisest men I've met in Tallahassee.

I was interviewing him as part of a church project, gathering some of the more recent history of St. John's and its topsy-turvy travels down that bumpy path of schism and rebuilding in the last decade.  As a priest, Fr. Lee has stood on the battlefield of segregationist Alabama in the 1960s, dealt with the hue-and-cry over women and prayer books in the 1970s, and is one of the few Episcopal priests in Tallahassee who openly preached on the need to include the LGBT community in the church and to recognize the LGBT struggle for equality as the next civil rights struggle.  He used to preside at the noon day Eucharist on Fridays where it was my pleasure to serve along side him as a Eucharist Minister.  At 91, he has finally fully retired in large part because his eyesight has been failing.  But bad eyes have done nothing to dull his mind.

"I think we ought to have a demonstration on Ash Wednesday. People ought to have placards that say, 'We Ain't Dust!' "   I didn't interrupt him as he went on, fingers drumming on the table top.

"Dust is the most useless thing in creation." he said.  "Even dirt will raise a crop, not dust.  The church says to me, 'You are dust,' I ain't dust: I'm a human being. That's not dust.  I'm a baptized Christian.  I'm a child of God.  For the church to say to me, 'You are dust.  You ain't nuthin'.  You're like a hound dog!' is not only degrading to me, but to the Church.  I think the Church should be embarrassed.  And to add, 'and to dust you shall return.'  The second of the last two lines of the creed are we are going to eternal life.  This (dust) is just patently false.  It's crap!"

It is particularly crap to a man who has been ministering to his friends and neighbors in his retirement community.

"When I was having service out here, I refused to do it.  I got some oil, chrism.  That's what we got at baptism.  And so that's what I would do for these people here that are clinging on to life.  And I'd tell them, 'You are a child of God.'"

Then he looked at me.  "What do you think?  Do you think you're dust."

"You know, I hadn't thought about it."

"You're just gullible.  You need to think about your faith."

We laughed at the exchange, but he'd made a good point.  I had become complacent instead of questioning.

Our conversation did leave me thinking about this practice that happens every year as the set up for a penitential time.  The history of Ash Wednesday traces back to practices of the early church where the 'notorious sinners' were set apart and had the sack cloth and ashes treatment until they publicly repented of their sins, whatever they were, and then could be integrated back into the community.   Today, the Episcopal Church doesn't make such a demand of those who have sinned.  If it did, the buildings would likely stand pretty empty for the period of Lent.  But it has incorporated the practice of doing the imposition of ashes on the forehead.  And, depending on who is doing it, you either get this indiscernible smudge or this massive cross.

As a child and teenager, I didn't like the imposition of ashes because it usually was something we'd do in the middle of the day, and then I'd have to go back to school and deal with the other kids wondering why I had dirt on my face.  I would try to pull strands of my hair down so as to cover the thing.  I didn't like the attention.  It was not a "teaching moment"; it was something that separated me from my peers which I was already experiencing estrangement as a tall athletic girl.

As an adult, I have been able to handle the weird looks I get after Ash Wednesday service.  But I also would find a bathroom and wash the black cross off my forehead.  It has nothing to do with being ashamed of being a Christian.  But it has everything to do with my belief in how I show that I am Christian.   Ashes on my forehead?  Or paying attention to the people around and standing right in front of me, and engaging them in eye contact to confirm, "I see you, child of God, and fellow traveler on the planet"?

It's interesting to note that although everyone expects to be marked with ashes on Ash Wednesday, the 1979  Book of Common Prayer makes that part of the Ash Wednesday service optional.   If a church should so choose, they could forgo the imposition of ashes, and stay strictly with having everyone kneel and recite Psalm  51 and the Litany of Penitence.   Plenty of time to reflect on where each of us are at this time of the church year.

And what might we reflect on?  As Fr. Lee says, you might think about what it means to be a child of God.

"If that's so, I better be thinking about me for this Lent.  Am I living like a child of God?  Am I getting ready for heaven?"

Those words, and the challenge they pose, are more weighty than telling us that we're dust and to dust we shall return.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Let Us Rejoice and Be Glad in It!

Wonderful news out of Great Britain for those of us in opposition to the so-called Anglican Covenant.   Four dioceses meeting this weekend have voted against adoption of ++Rowan's plan to "unify" our fractious Communion.   You can read the a synopsis HERE, or take a look HERE if you want fuller details on the votes.  At last count, there are now ten dioceses in Great Britain that have voted against this document, double the amount that have voted in favor of it.  That doesn't take in the reactions from parts outside the British Isles.  Objections to the AC run from feeling that it is putting too much power and central authority in the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury and other members of the church hierarchy to a the simple statement that we don't need another covenant.

I have always contended that it is the nature of our relationships in the Anglican Communion that we are not always going to get along.  To want to force us into something that has never been part of our history seems wrong and foolish.

My hope is that as more clergy and laity say, "No" to this proposal, Archbishop Rowan Williams will get the hint and ask to withdraw the silly thing rather than continue to watch it get slapped down as "unnecessary."  I hope for this.... but I likely won't see it.

Good work by those in the No Anglican Covenant Coalition in England to educate why this document is flawed and needs to be put to bed.  Well done!

Friday, February 17, 2012

My Manner of Life Should Include Marriage

Please watch this video. And then take a moment to pause before reading on...

This act of civil disobedience illustrates the growing level of frustration felt by many of us in the LGBT community about the laws that legislate love.  We are tired of being treated like second-class citizens.  When we go to another jurisdiction to get married and come home, we are still viewed by the law in our home states as "roommates."

My partner and I did a similar protest as this one three years ago.  It was around Valentine's Day and we went to the Leon County Tax Collector's office to seek a marriage license.  We didn't have nearly the gathering of LGBT people with us that day.  But we did have some who witnessed what happened.  We sat and waited our turn, watching an African-American couple, who appeared to be the same age as our relationship, file the necessary paperwork and turn over the check to get their license.   When it was our turn, the clerk took our papers and stared at them.  She looked up in all seriousness and said, "You know we can't do this."  Another clerk came and stood with her, arms folded across her chest, as we explained why we wanted to get married.  We did not chain ourselves together, but we did press our case.  The county official, naturally, kept explaining that the law prohibited us from getting married.  We told her we knew that, and that we object to the law.  We asked her if she would stamp "Denied" on our application.  She said she didn't have the type of stamp, so we made one of our own.  Because that's what it feels like to have an official of the government tell you, "You know we can't do this."

In Washington state this week, the Governor has signed a bill allowing the likes of me to get married.  The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently overturned Prop 8, the anti-marriage law.  And in New Jersey, a bill to legalize marriage equality is going to Governor Chris Christie.   Sadly, Christie is vowing to veto the legislation, Prop 8 supporters are planning to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court, and a referendum battle is coming to Washington state to place marriage equality before the voters of that state.  The see-saw fight over the civil right to be married continues.   Pundits from the left and the right will yackity-yack on television about the issue.  Political action committees from the left and the right will use the issue to raise bucket loads of money.   And you can bet that Presidential and other candidates will be sure to weigh in with their very considered opinions.

And what is the effect of all this attention?   Speaking strictly as one gay person living in a state where my "manner of life" prohibits me from getting married,  it hardens my heart.  I watch ads on TV or see posters at events with the blushing bride in white and her handsome man in a tuxedo waiting at the end of the aisle and it stings.  It is a reminder of what the voters of Florida did on November 4, 2008, when nearly 61-percent cast a ballot that said, "You are not like us; therefore you do not deserve this civil right."   Is it any wonder that on the day after, November 5th which the British celebrate as Guy Fawkes Day, I felt rebellious?

Friends say to me that in their hearts and minds, me and my partner are married.  Others want to assure me that God knows we are a couple in the same way that our hetero brothers and sisters are joined in matrimony.     I appreciate these sentiments, but unfortunately they do not negate the cold, hard fact that under the laws of this state and this country, my partner and I are merely roommates.   Roommates do not have the benefit of joint health insurance.  Roommates do not have the benefit of social security.  Roommates are strangers under the law; not a recognized family of two.

I am somebody.  I demand full equality right here, right now.  When I hear that chant on this video in all its fury and demand, I get it. We are reaching a point in this struggle where many of us who have been standing on this battlefield for love are getting fed up with the foot dragging.  My "manner of life" should include marriage.  Period.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Born to Give


Today is my 44th birthday.  (loud cheering and applause) Thank you, thank you.  No, really, thank you.

I am thankful on this day not only for my life, but for the many friends and family who make living  especially sweet.  As I drove to the tax collector's office today to get my driver's license renewed, my phone rang.  It was my niece calling from Connecticut to sing, "Happy Birthday" to me.  It was such a treat and not something I expected and totally worth the call while in traffic.

Birthdays are the days on the calendar when we are expected to receive.  People are expected to be nice to the birthday girl or boy allowing them to have their cake and eat it, too.  This avalanche of nice, for some of us, can be a big challenge.  We are more used to meeting demands and have become conditioned to act from a place that it is better to give of one's self rather than to receive.  "Receiving" seems decadent and selfish and just plain wrong.  But knowing how to accept kindness, love and gratitude is not a virtue to be dismissed.  If we give of ourselves all the time, without being open to receiving, then we will become depleted.  And once depleted, what is there left to give?   Like a lot of things,  I think this comes back to balance and being in right relationship with others.  When I consider my relationship with God, it is definitely one of giving and receiving.  God has loved me and beyond measure and without me doing anything to deserve it.  This love is freely offered.  And because of it, I am inspired to give love back; thus through the receiving, I become more giving.

Traditionally, I have encouraged friends and family to use my birthday as a time to make donations to causes that help the LGBT community in our continuing efforts to attain full equality.  I have thrown parties and encouraged people to donate whatever they would have spent on a gift to any number of groups.  I get tremendous joy out of surprising organizations with the news that they are getting a chunk o' change from Florida.  I call them my "Birthday Beneficiaries," and they are delighted.   For me, the pay off is in knowing that someone living somewhere else and facing obstacles based on their sexual orientation or gender identity will possibly benefit from services provided from these organizations.  They will be given shelter, or support, or the affirmation through humor that they are not in this life alone.   As I have said at other times on this blog, the incarnation of Christ in today's world is when we stretch our hands out to grasp the hand of another so they know somebody sees them and won't leave them behind.

 Past Birthday beneficiaries have been:

If anyone has a yen to make a contribution to one of these organizations, I encourage you to do so.  And enjoy that feeling of making a difference in the life of someone else.

From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.

Happy Birthday to me!  Pass the love around!




Thursday, February 9, 2012

Is That the Same Church?

I saw that someone had posted a note on the Facebook page for the PFLAG meeting.  It was put there by a priest who saw that the meeting was happening at St. John's Episcopal.

"A PFLAG meeting at St. John's?  Not the Tallahassee I remember."

Yes.  A sea change has occurred at the old Episcopal church on North Monroe, Calhoun and Call Streets.

It wasn't that long ago that the rector of St. John's would devote two Sunday sermons... a part one and part two apparently... on why homosexuals were the scourge of the earth, or at least the church.   Gays were the diseased appendix in the body of Christ that needed to be removed.  And the Episcopal Church was clearly going to hell for refusing to perform the operation to rid itself of this organ.  His vitriol was felt beyond the walls of the building making its way into the newspaper and on the television news.   And those of us who were on the outside sensed that we were to remain on the outside.

He is no longer at St. John's.  There was a schism and he took 1/3 of the congregation and most of the vestry with him while leaving the church with $400,000 in debt.

Many priests and ups and downs later, St. John's has arrived at a new place, particularly for the LGBT community.  And one of those new places is the presence of PFLAG on the second Thursday of the month.  The group has been meeting there for almost three years.  It's not widely known among the congregation that there is a gathering of parents, families and friends of lesbians and gays because there is still a tension over how "non-church" groups can alert the church population to their  existence.  But there are many people who do know we gather there, and say, "Yay!".  The current rector, for one, was pleased to see that there was a PFLAG group meeting at his church.  We happened to be celebrating our two-year anniversary the night that he and his wife had come to town to interview.  He saw our meeting sign on the door, and he was glad of it.

And the good news is spreading.  Visitors are feeling the warmth of our growing inclusion.   Just this week, I met a gay couple who had been searching for a church that would be a good fit for them.  They were raised Roman Catholic, but don't want to go back down that route. They saw me at a mixer for the LGBT rights group, Equality Florida.  And in another one of those moments of, "The last thing I expect to hear at a function with gay people is...", one of them turns to me and says,

"You go to St. John's.  You sing in the choir, right?"

(Wrong.  I explained I'm a Eucharistic Minister which looks like the choir by our vestments, but definitely is not the chorus of angels.)

They had come to St. John's.  It happened to be the Sunday of our annual parish meeting.  There was one service, with all these people crammed into the pews.  And then there was a parish photo.  A couple at the church who are active and outgoing people noticed these gentlemen strangers.  They welcomed them in, and insisted that they needed to be in the photo.  That act helped make these guys feel like they were part of a family.

They asked me more questions about St. John's, the clergy (they were very excited to see a woman presiding at the table!)  They wanted to know what our beliefs were about the Eucharist and the meaning of the body and blood.  I gave them my interpretation from being a cradle Episcopalian with four years of EfM and continual curiosity:  we accept the host and wine as body and blood of Christ made real for us when we take it into our bodies with faith and thanksgiving for the sacrifice he made on our behalf.

"I like that," said the one.  His partner smiled and nodded in agreement.

We could have gone on further, but were interrupted in that moment.  As I left, I encouraged them to come back. They said they would.  The worship had felt comfortable, the people had been friendly, they now know that I'm a Eucharistic Minister and an active member, and they wanted a church home.  I left the conversation feeling blessed to have shared such a moment.  My church home, once such hostile territory to the gay community, was now seen as a church where one can be gay and Christian and no one will deny your place at the Lord's Table.

This is what happens when the incarnation of Christ becomes present in today's world.  When the members of the church, in concert with our clergy, put forth a welcome that is active and inclusive.  This is how the kingdom grows and becomes more like heaven on earth.  And it is good.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Hate is Unconstitutional in California!

Marriage Equality rally 2010. Photo from PBS Newshour.
"Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples," Judge Stephen Reinhardt, 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The National Organization for Marriage is vowing to appeal the ruling.   Let 'em try!

 Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
 But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.--Amos :23-24 

Amen and Amen and congratulations, California!

Searching and Finding

This past Sunday, there were certain phrases from the Scripture readings that jumped out at me.

From Isaiah it was these phrases:  "he who sits above the circle of the earth... He does not grow faint or weary, his understanding unsearchable...He gives power to the faint and strengthens the powerless."

From 1 Corinthians, the word "free" as in "I make the gospel free of charge" hooked my attention.

But the biggie of the day was in Mark's gospel.  After healing Simon Peter's mother-in-law who, upon having the fever taken from, began to serve, Jesus departs in the dark to go pray.  Meanwhile, news of his healing touch is spreading and everyone wants a piece of this Jesus.  His disciples go looking for their missing rabbi and when they find him, they say, "Everybody is searching for you."

Everybody is searching... for you.   My mind took off with this phrase, how it might be applied in our every day lives.  What are we searching for when we are searching for Jesus?  Is it comfort?  Is it power?  Is it validation?  There are those who say they find Jesus on the golf course. Is he a hole-in-one or the ball that lands in the pond?

Searching for Jesus has led me along a very odd, wonderful, mysterious path.  I have found Jesus in unexpected moments: in the kindness of a person who notices that I am troubled and stops to talk to me.  Or when my cat trots around the corner to greet me at the door.  Or when I see the bright big eyes of  child looking at me from the other side of the altar rail and I smile at them to acknowledge that "I see you!".   Jesus is in the homeless man who sticks his head into the shelter kitchen to thank the cooks and servers for a plentiful turkey-and-fixings holiday meal.   Jesus is in celebratory moments and times of heartbreak.   It's like a riff off that song by The Troggs: Love... Jesus... is all around us.

So how do we miss that?  I think we miss it when we fail to stay in the present moment and instead let the "things" of life cloud our minds with to do lists, and plans for the future and reviewing our past.  I think we miss it when we mistake our institutions and those who run them, both religious and secular, for God.  They are not God or Jesus and do not get to sit in the judgment seat, even if they think they do.  I think we miss it when we don't live our lives with authenticity.  How can you see Jesus in others and in creation when you can't recognize the Christ in yourself?

The exciting part to me of that line in Mark's gospel was the response Jesus gave.  Upon hearing the disciples say, "Everybody is searching for you," Jesus answers, "Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do."

"They want a piece of this healing love?  Let's go give it to them!  For this is what I came out to do."

Jesus comes out.  Jesus goes out.  Jesus doesn't sit still, but shares the gospel free of charge.  So, what are we doing?   

Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Contract Raises Questions

The cast of "The Contract" by James Webb.  Webb , in foreground,  played Pastor Daryl.

The divide between gay and God.  For so many in Christian churches, that divide seems to be alive and well.  And it is that dualism that is the subject of James Webb's play, "The Contract".   Webb is a graduate of Florida A and M University, and to the theater department's credit, they decided to put on this production at a time when that campus is facing increased scrutiny after Marching 100 drum major Robert Champion was killed during a hazing incident.  Champion was gay, and rumors are that this hazing turned particularly violent in part because of his sexual orientation.  Whether that will ever be proven and whether anyone will ever be held accountable is all up in the air.   The "gay angle" has been somewhat looked at mostly by the campus newspaper.  But the whole incident has raised questions about being gay and black on the campus.  When you add Christian into that... it becomes really wiggy.

In the play, Pastor Daryl has what he calls "an affliction".  His wife Deborah insists her husband is NOT gay, but a bisexual even though their relationship is clearly a business arrangement for the purposes of a Birmingham megachurch.   Paul is a young graduate student recruited by Deborah to service her husband.  She makes Paul sign a contract.  And she spends the play trying to enforce this contract, manipulating both men, and determined to be the one in control.  As she notes to Paul, an avid chess player, "the queen has the power on the board.  All the rest are pawns."   Paul asks questions, and pushes Daryl to consider the double-life he is leading by pretending to be straight as he leads a flock of thousands in his church.  Daryl remains conflicted and finally yells it out that what he fears is hell.   The pastor has internalized everything that had ever been said or done to him in the church and can not reconcile his homosexuality with his Christianity.  And so he tries to keep them apart, having Paul as his New York City play thing and very far removed from Birmingham.
Meanwhile, Paul, who really hadn't spent much time in church, has become curious about the Bible and finds such gems as the story of David and Jonathan.   Of course, this is one of the passages from 1 Samuel that a lot of us queer Christians are keen to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest.   And we are always told by the scholars, the priests, the theologians, that the kind of bonding those two men had was purely platonic and not at all sexual.   I find it fascinating how quick some are to "explain" David and Jonathan's relationship while insisting that other readings condemn me.   Paul repeats things that Daryl has said about God in an effort to make the man see the light that he can be gay and Christian.   At long last, Daryl does realize that his sexuality is a gift and not a curse.  But not without paying a heavy price.

Such is the truth of being authentic.   And in achieving authenticity, the character Daryl finds himself closer to God than he ever has been before.  No statement could be truer of what it means to be in relationship with God.  Hell, for Daryl, was trying to compartmentalize a piece of himself as if he could hide that from the all-knowing God from whom all our desires are known and from whom no secrets are hid.  In many ways, all the characters come to know a peace at the end of the play.

As interesting as the story line was, I found myself also taking in the audience in this intimate performance space.  Before the last lines were said, at least five people had walked out, one quite loudly popped up from her seat and stormed off.   The young woman next to me had to sit separately from her friend.  She was so upset by the subject matter that at intermission, she turned to her friend and begged her to go.

"I got work tomorrow, and I gotta go to church and repent of this sin!"
"They weren't really kissing.  This is a play!" her friend answered.

The girl started crying.  She had been so looking forward to this play all day, but she had no idea what it was going to be saying about black church leaders.  She pleaded with her friend to please let her go and sit in the car.  Meanwhile, as the lights went down, I noticed that the couple that had been on the other side of her had already left.  Perhaps they, too, had become uncomfortable.  The two girls stayed... almost to the end.  But they couldn't hang on long enough to see how this story would resolve itself.

Those of us who did stay gave the performers a standing ovation.  It was a very risky, touchy topic, and I appreciated the willingness to bring more light into the darkness of the down low and hypocrisy of the church, particularly the black church which has carried a megaphone into the megachurch pulpit to call gay people an abomination even though their choirs, ushers, and sometimes deacons and pastors are as queer as a three dollar bill.

For that young woman, and the others who felt the need to leave, perhaps they don't have ears to hear or eyes to see what is right in front of them.   But their attitudes show that there will be those who will turn their backs rather than to consider the Christ that resides in all of us.  Even us gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender ones.