Sunday, May 11, 2008


So you know that I am now taking a 16 week (16 Wednesdays) course through August on HIV/AIDS and crisis pregnancy counseling. I specifically wanted to do work on the social side of AIDS since I’m now doing research on the scientific side of AIDS. They also needed men, but that wasn’t the motivating factor for me. So with me in the course, there are now two guys. And the course is to train people so we can staff an AIDS center at my church starting in the US autumn at least half the week.

Well, it was strange. I had a tough day. As you know I intended to only miss an hour, but I had to give another lecture because one course I instruct was lengthened. And I wasn’t able to get to the AIDS course between the two, so I just got there afterwards at 3 in the afternoon near the end of the first Wednesday. Well, the only thing I caught was a speaker who was a gay man speaking about living with AIDS.

So I was surprised. I was surprised because he said things that people don’t say in a church, that I have never heard anyone say in a church or at a church event without being asked to stop speaking or being whisked away. He told us about being gay about when he realized he was gay and liked men. First, you don’t say that, especially in a charismatic circle. You may be able to say you had/have feelings but you don’t call yourself something that you don’t wish. This is an issue sometimes in charismatic circles. Because they speak in the future in the hopeful/prayerful it is sometimes hard to face or talk about reality. Since they feel that God is truth and truth (God) can change or trump reality then they don’t speak about reality. But this guy was saying he was gay (not speaking against it in prophetic hope). Moreover, many Christians talk about deliverance from homosexuality. Well, he had not been delivered from it. He said he was made this way or came out this way (many would disagree with this), he didn’t ask for it and to this day it had not been taken away from him. He spoke about his struggle with it, growing up and having two lives—his public life and his trips away with his gay circle of friends and lovers. Because of trying to hide himself he started using drugs and alcohol and became addicted to sex. He even went to AA and NA meetings only to find that he didn’t identify with the experiences of others: he realized he was not addicted to drugs or alcohol but rather sex.

Anyway, he is now a celibate gay Christian who chooses to attend church at a “normal” church (I mean not a special church for gay people). He has what I interpret as the simple Biblical faith and notion of what is supposed to happen. You are never condemned for having the feels; the sin is the act of homosexual intercourse or acts. And he actually has a friend, a partner. There is not romantic physicality to their relationship at all. It’s a just a good friend who is his best friend with whom he can talk at any time and be completely vulnerable. This part too surprised me. I expected someone to escort him out, to tell him to shut up, to call him the devil.

Instead, these people at my church were SO completely loving. They thanked him soo much for sharing his story and struggle. Others cried with him. Some had questions and wanted to know more. It was strange. I had just never seen that from Christian people especially with what he was saying. It made me feel special and I actually thanked the group for showing love (my primary aim). It was quite wonderful.

And to be honest, I have always felt my church is quite wonderful—a sewing project, township project, women’s empowerment, HIV/AIDS and crisis pregnancy counseling centre, legal clinic, health clinic, Think Twice (life skills and sex ed-making right choices program for teens), teen pregnancy hotline, Habitat program/connection, etc. It goes on.

So when someone says that your church failed in something or is doing poorly it gets to you. It especially bothers you when it is something that is VERY important. This happened twice last week. A UCT South African undergraduate, who lived most of his life in California, told me he visited once and did not like what the pastor was saying. He said this after I mentioned the above and the social relevance of my church. I didn’t know what to say. He was nice enough to say that “you never know. Maybe it was just once” or “maybe I didn’t understand him correctly” but the undergraduate did not agree with the words; they bothered him.

More importantly a friend of mine (I think I consider her more of a friend than she considers me; I might just be an acquaintance) about whom I care a GREAT deal was offended by the words of a guest speaker in January when she visited. Our pastor was on a summer vacation sabbatical for two months and this was one of the guest speakers that was a member of the church (maybe an elder or something). Well, he said something about unchurched people or people outside the church—I don’t even know as I was working with the kids and missed the sermon. But imagine this, anytime God is brought up or believing in God is brought up, she mentions MY church and the ONE sermon she heard on the ONE day she visited. It scares me. It scares me that Christians can be the best argument against Christianity. It kills me that she was somehow hurt by something exclusionist or unloving when Christ was very inclusionary and loving. It makes me wonder if I’m in the right place. I have no idea what the sermon said.

1 comment:

jennifer said...

its so hard. is there a line you draw when it comes to disagreeing with a specific church? i think its easiest to say, 'i will have nothing to do with that church' rather than have conversations and open up dialogue about the church and continue praying that God would work miracles if they are in fact misleading people.