After posting the link to my blog, Progressive Christian Reflections, last week on a number of Facebook pages, I took our dog Hobbes to the park and began to wonder what I would write for my next post. I returned to find an e-mail that simply said, “Unsubscribe me. I had no idea that your blog was gay.”
Surprised, I responded, “My blog is not gay, I am.”
I then suddenly knew what my new blog would be about.
The person apparently had been a subscriber for some time, and I wondered what prompted this realization. Was the Emmaus disciples’ story in that day’s post somehow misunderstood? I had written, “The eros of their hearts has been unleashed and ignited and they burn as one.” Perhaps this was understood as sexual, when in fact, I view eros simply as “the urge to merge” which drives both the mystic as well as the lover.
I remembered once, when reviewing scriptures said to be about homosexuality for a congregation, a listener asked me to turn to a biblical passage in which Jesus describes the end times: “Two men shall be sleeping in a bed—one shall be taken, and the other not; two women shall be grinding in the field—one shall be taken, and the other not.”
I gathered the questioner was thinking of the couple sleeping in one bed, so I played dumb. “There’s nothing about homosexuality here,” I observed. She responded, “You mean to tell me that two women ‘grinding’ in the field, isn’t about homosexuality?” The gathering burst out laughing, and her pastor rose to his feet to explain that “grinding” did not mean that then.
Yet the subscriber’s decision prompted me to think of larger issues.
First, the person had apparently appreciated the posts he or she had read, perhaps even benefiting spiritually. Only when realizing their source did they become unwelcome.
Second, so many Christians throughout the centuries have been blessed by reading LGBT mystics and spiritual writers, though they may not have known their sexual or gender identities.
Third, Christians of the 20th and 21st century had so many opportunities to grow from the spiritual experience of openly LGBT Christians denied membership, marriage, and ministry in the church. Denominational publishers and periodicals initially would not publish us, Christian book catalogs would not carry our books, and religious bookstores would not stock them.
Perhaps the worst and best of all, my colleagues and I were often forced to write and speak about sexuality rather than spirituality.
Worst of all, because of the limitations; best of all, because the church really needed to grapple with sexuality—any kind, not just ours.
We had so much to share about our spiritual experience, yet the church, for the most part, and until recently, missed out unless we stayed in the closet. Denied access to pulpits and to a large extent, teaching positions from Sunday school to seminaries, we formed our own spiritual support groups, congregations, and a denomination, Metropolitan Community Churches.
One of my reasons for writing my blog is to share what I’ve learned and am learning spiritually with other progressive Christians. It’s not a “gay blog” (though there’d be nothing wrong with that), but the blog of a progressive Christian.
But the unsubscribed subscriber is not alone in refusing the spiritual writings of someone who is different.
We do it all the time, sometimes unconsciously and sometimes purposely when we do not read people because of their gender, race, religion, sexuality, education, culture, politics, you name it.
I thought of a white friend who intentionally taught in black neighborhoods. Holding a little African American girl on her lap, the child revealed her distrust of white people. My friend explained, “Well, I’m white.” The child jumped off her lap and looked at her disbelievingly, though my friend’s skin is white as it comes. “No,” the child said, “You can’t be.” White had become a label, rather than the color of someone’s experience.
I think of all the labels that have prevented me over the years to attend to the spirituality of so many who had so much to teach me about what it means to be a follower of Jesus, what it means to be deeply spiritual, and what it means to be a citizen of the world.
I am grateful to God for the world’s diversity that challenges me more and more to open my mind and my heart.