Just as I am,
Without one plea,
But that thy blood was shed for me,
And that thou bidd’st me
I come to thee,
O Lamb of God,
I come, I come.
--Hymn 693, The 1982 Hymnal
I don’t know how the music of the above tune goes, but I don’t think that’s what matters in this moment. It’s the page that I opened to when I was looking for something else in the hymnal. As always, my plan isn’t God’s plan…and clearly, this is the song I’m supposed to see this morning. Because this is the song that contains the central message for me today as I am reflecting on the journey.
Last night, an amazing thing happened. A movie about the family, religion, the Bible, and the love of God which can’t be contained and kept locked away was played in the setting of the Mickee Faust Club’s home in Railroad Square. We are talking about a theater company whose membership counts mostly atheists, followed next by pagans as the predominant religious background, showing “For the Bible Tells Me So”. This is the first public showing in Tallahassee of Daniel Karslake’s documentary…and it happened under the roof rented by a bunch of rowdy, raucous, adults who follow a woman wearing rubber rat ears. Jesus would have been proud!
I don’t know how anyone can watch this documentary, and not be moved. There are moments of struggle within families as they try to reconcile what Christianity has taught them about homosexuality, and what that means in the context of now knowing that a loved one, their child, is gay or lesbian. Some end with tragedy, some end in a neutral place, others come to love their children and work to fight for equal rights for the gay kids.
For me, consistently, the part of the film where I am unable to keep from crying is the minute I hear “Alleluia! Sing to Jesus” at Gene Robinson’s consecration service. My mother was there in Durham, NH, singing in the choir, as were many, many people who had been my church family as I grew up in Exeter. The music, the pageantry, and the memory of where I was in my own relationship with the Episcopal Church at that time, always come colliding into each other as I watch that scene. I witness the celebration of seeing a man I knew long before he became “the gay bishop” ascending into a leadership role in the church. Yet, I weep. I weep with that sense of homesickness. I would have wanted to have been there, seeing Christ’s love made manifest in the embracing of Gene as a leader. Instead, I was in Tallahassee, the Diocese of Florida, where, in 2003, there was no end to the daily denouncements of this momentous occasion in my native state. In anger and disgust with the editorial cartoonist for the paper, as well as some of the local “Anglican” clergy, I sent what’s called a Zing! into the Tallahassee Democrat:
“Southerners are so fond of saying how they don’t care how things are done up north, but southern Episcopalians seem to care a lot about the bishop of New Hampshire!”
At a time of joy for my home state, I was estranged from any kind of church family. And that is not a good place for a Christian to be. As noted by the Assistant Bishop of Florida in his sermon this morning, it is in the breaking of the bread and coming into communion at the altar that fosters us as Christians and helps us to keep our faith. I felt I had been kicked out of my Episcopal house by my family, and the “traditionalists” were telling me that I only had myself to blame.
I imagine that it is that same sense of separation, loss, and anger that touches every LGBT person who watches this film. I know as a lesbian who is Christian I watch this movie with a different sensibility than a straight person. As I sat with everyone in our darkened theater space, and heard the soft sobbing of people around me, and saw their faces after the movie was over, I could only imagine which parts were triggering the tears.
Maybe it was the Reitan family saying that if they could make their son straight, they would never do it after all they’ve come to learn and love about Jake and his community.
Maybe it was Archbishop Desmond Tutu remarking that he couldn’t imagine a God who would punish him for being black and not white, a God that would punish a woman for not being a man.
Maybe it was the sadness of Mary Lou Wallner who had to learn the hard way how homophobia leads to death.
Maybe they were feeling the same sense of cautious hope at seeing an otherwise conservative state become the one to make way for a gay man to guide the people on a path toward God.
Or maybe it was the exposure of what God is really saying to us, the gay community, in the scriptures: that we, too, are part of his plan for the world, and we, too, are loved. And the six or seven passages used and abused to separate us from that love are often times being applied to a 21st century understanding of homosexuality that wasn’t in the thinking of the apostle Paul…or wasn’t why God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.
In other words, Jesus loves me and other “others” and I know it because the Bible tells me so.
Just as I am,
Thy love unknown
has broken every barrier down;
now to be thine, yea,
O Lamb of God,
I come, I come.