Saying I’m Sorry, Pt. 1: What I’m Sorry For

At the end of 2012, the popular website Buzzfeed posted a list titled “21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity.”  (There really are some great pictures featured here, so if you haven’t seen it, or if you haven’t seen it for a while, I strongly urge you to take a look.  I dare your soul not to be touched.)  The #1 picture was of a group from the Marin Foundation, who visited the 2012 Chicago Gay Pride Parade, simply to say, “I’m Sorry.”  They are sorry for the way gay people are often treated by churches.  They are sorry for the rejection that many gay people feel in church.  Many of them are even sorry that they themselves were once “Bible-banging homophobes.”  And as you’ll see in the pictures provided, at least one of the parade participants received that apology with open arms.

Andrew Marin, for whom the Marin Foundation is named and by whom it was founded, has made it his life’s work to build bridges between the Evangelical Christian Church and the LGBT community.  As inconceivable as that mission may seem, people like Andrew Marin–who is an Evangelical Christian himself–not only believe it is possible, but they believe it is imperative that everything possible be done to reconcile these two parties.

Check out the work being done by the Marin Foundation.

Now, as my friend Notapastor has pointed out to me, many from the LGBT community feel gestures like this are too little too late.  After all the shunning and shaming and judging and condemning many have experienced at the hands of the Church, sorry just doesn’t cut it for them.  Changes in statements of belief, changes in church policies, changes in the very fabric of evangelical church thought and practice would be more like it.

However, I do feel that saying I’m sorry–and the Church as a whole saying, “We’re sorry”–needs to be done, sincerely and boldly.  In fact, I have much to say I’m sorry for.

I’ll start by saying I’m sorry for something that happened almost 10 years ago, something that still haunts me today.  And in the posts that follow this one, I hope to document what happens as a result of saying I’m sorry.  I hope to document bridges being restored where I had done them damage.

The scene: a performance studies classroom at California State University Los Angeles.  My professor, an openly gay man, had shown much respect for me and my strong Evangelical Christian beliefs, though we had never spoken bluntly about our personal stances.  He had asked me to create a performance based on David Roman’s book, “Acts of Intervention: Performance, Gay Culture, and AIDS.”  After weeks of receiving the wrong counsel, and a miserable night of vomiting profusely, shaking violently, and praying ardently for some clear sign of what to do, I went against everything inside me.  I went into that classroom and delivered a performance–it was more like a sermon than a creative piece–that deeply and obviously shocked and offended him and many other classmates.  Some classmates tore into me as soon as I was finished; others waited until after class to tell me that they too were Christians, and that they were proud of me.  (The latter left me feeling less than proud of myself.)

The gist of the performance I gave: It hurts me that men suffer and die from AIDS, but it wouldn’t have to be that way if they simply didn’t have sex with each other.  And if they don’t stop, then the end is inevitable.  I spoke with a lot of passion, and even my professor recognized the conviction with which I spoke, albeit misdirected.  And at the end, after everyone had given their (mostly angry) feedback, he said, “Well, at least I know now what you really think.”  And our relationship, which I felt had once been a very personally meaningful one, was never quite the same after that.  Even though he offered me a hug on the last night of that term, I had very clearly hurt him.

He marked me down in my grade, because my performance did not reflect the purpose of the class: to present art that would lead everyone present to deeper understandings of one another, and even in the tension of sitting in possibly two very different viewpoints, to find common ground and transcend our differences.  That’s my understanding today of what that class was about, and that is precisely what I did not do.  I argued my grade at the time, but after hearing his personal story, which I will not divulge here, I knew that I had wounded him in a very deep place.

So, why say I’m sorry now?  Because I have changed, and I see that what I did was wrong.  I admit I am still figuring things out, and I feel the complexity of staying in the tension of building bridges between the Church and the LGBT community.  In regards to the specific issue at hand, I can definitively say I do not believe that AIDS is what God wants for anyone, and I also believe that those in the Church should be among the first to be the loving hands and feet of Jesus–and not the wagging finger of the self-righteous– to those suffering from and dying of AIDS.  And I’m sorry that I didn’t show this kind of compassion, this kind of empathy, even though I really wanted to, in that classroom almost 10 years ago.

And so I plan to write an email to my professor from CSULA.  I’m nervous about it, and I’m not sure how it will be received.  But maybe, as a friend reminded me yesterday, this may be more for my own benefit than it will be for his.  I’m pretty sure he’ll remember me, and I don’t see him being indifferent as he reads it.  But, unlike that old me, who prayed so earnestly on that night before the presentation, “Lord, let this cup pass from me,” I know unequivocally this is the right thing to do.  Let’s see how it goes.

To be continued…

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About Catterfly

Mexican-American guy, married to a Korean woman, with Korexican kids. I have not arrived yet, but I'm on the path every day to becoming the man, husband, father, son, brother, friend, and pastor I was meant to be. My standard, my highest aim, my very life is Jesus Christ. This is my journey.
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2 Responses to Saying I’m Sorry, Pt. 1: What I’m Sorry For

  1. notapastor says:

    Good luck, brother. I think it’s a very important time in our nation’s history and for the heart of Christianity.

    I don’t know about the theology questions, except that they have become overblown and bitter. I suspect the Devil (if there is such a person ;)) delights at the energy our faith has devoted to defend traditional marriage, the violence – physical and relational, the distraction. And the almost unilateral outcome of turning people away from God.

    Much love to you, man, to your conscience and your heart. You’re a good dude.

    • don says:

      Hey Johnny,

      Wow. I really appreciate your williness to enter into a very deep journey and want to honor it. I also wan to the journey’s of my queer brothers and sisters in the church. As I shared in our last lunchtime, I’m involved in a movement towards full inclusivity in a small Church that I have attended for almost 15 years. It’s a tough tension because our revised memership statement says that “some members believe that homsexuality is sin; others are not sure;”.. and other believe that homosexuality is an orientation to is equally in the image of god as any other orientation and to be celebrated (the last part paraphrased). Many members have left the church. On the other end, a group within the church has emerged that is trying to create a “safe” place for queer members to come out and feel celebrated rather than judged. I’m in this group but recently have felt ambivalent about it’s practice of vetting people who express interest in the group. If you express interest in joining this new group but the group senses that you are not 100% on board with the belief that homosexuality is NOT sin, NOT an unfortunate shortcoming, but rather an equally “in the image of God,” (my belief) than you will not be gently screened out and not invited to join.

      My struggle is that, though heterosexual, I deeply empathize with the violence done to the queer community by the church; a violence that has been exacted for centuries through an insidious theology and culture of silence. So I get that my queer brothers and sisters need a safe place just to be. The last thing they want/need is to have to hold other’s anxiety and projections about homosexuliaty. They have been doing this for centuries and are plain old sick of it. And rightfully so. I’m learning that my queer brothers and sisters are just wanting to be; not wanting to convert others to their beliefs; just wanting some safe soil to begin re-growing a part of themselves that have been dismembered by the heterosexism that is so subtely interwoven in the church and in their familes.

      On the other hand, I don’t believe in exculusivity is ideal. The irony is that the new group fought so hard to tear down a long-standing church membership statement that was exclusive. And now they are building on that same ethic: “Queer people or ‘Allies’ only; others, not invited, excluded.” There are many in the church who have grown all their lives believing that homosexuality is a sin, but who are ALSO on authentic journey, who genuinely are questioning these deep theo-psychological structures; who are wrestling with the contradictions with their wanting to genuinely applogize for their violence towards queer brothers and sisters and the core belief that they still hold that homosexuality is not entirely whole. Unfortunatley, the group in my church is now doing violence to these members of the church by not respecting their process; by demanding that they be 100% on board with the group’s beliefs; and by maintaining an ethic of exclusivity if they are not. And of course, responding to violence w/violence = more violence.

      So I’m holding the tension for now. I’m a member of both groups; honoring the psychic limits of each group while also trying to move in a way that is non-volient and compelling; that moves away from polarization and scapegoating and towards dialogue, and reconciliation (as imperfect as it may be), regardless of color, class, gender, or orientation. It’s hard. But just wanted to say Johnny that I value your journey so much, and am keeping as holy your small steps towards wholeness, for your queer brothers and sisters of course, but as you said, most importantly your own.

      I’m excited to read your next entry.

      best,
      don

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