12:45…(pt 2)

I’ve been asked to continue my thread detailing my journey as a former fundamentalist and how I came to accept and embrace my many gay and lesbian friends.  Here is part two of my pilgrimage of understanding.

As a new minister recently hired away from a previous church, I was feeling pretty good about myself.  Even under the cloak of spirituality the thought of being sought out and desired gives a boost to an otherwise ordinary existence.  The honeymoon phase for a new minister should be experienced by every living being.  Imagine everything one says  or does being met with glowing admiration and acceptance.  Having witnessed this period during my last hire, I wanted to embrace every moment as I knew once the warm fuzzies wear off the real work begins.

I noticed Jerry and Fred (mot real names) around the church and initially didn’t really think to much of them apart from anyone else.  It wasn’t long before I learned they were very kind and gregarious and seemed to always have something entertaining or encouraging to say.  The people of the church gravitated towards them as would be expected and their presence was seemingly loved by everyone at the church.  They created some of the most elaborate decorations I’ve ever seen inside a church.  The ‘Hanging of the Green’ was just short of a Broadway production transforming the old stale auditorium into a Thomas Kinkade painting with grand flourish.  Their combined voices in the choir redefined my understanding of how beautiful a choir could sound. They worked tirelessly making sure the choir robes were immaculate in every aspect.

We heard told by many of the grand dinner parties they would often throw.  An invitation to one of the soirees was treated as the height of complimentary, from then onward,  now considered an insider.  The food, we heard, was beyond description and talked about long after the event concluded.  Without question, this old southern church was a better place because these two gentlemen choose to worship there and invest themselves in the lives of others.

Their home was a perfectly restored old Victorian complete with a grand staircase and a chandelier that left you speechless the first time it was seen.  Every personal detail sought to offer a glimpse into who these two men were and what they held dear and important.  Conversations were hard to hold for first time visitors as the embellishments and potpourri would constantly steal your attention and distract you from the topic at hand.

I know what many of you must be thinking as you’ve read this thus far…How did you not know they were gay men?  Fair question.  My answer would be even though I had some understanding  of gay men and lesbian women, my ability to decipher this trait was unrefined.  The truth of the matter is, even if I did know, which I didn’t until later on, the fact that these two men were life partners would have made little difference at all.  They were just interesting and generous men who treated me wonderfully and offered me a friendship that I willingly took.

Soon I was invited to one of the famous dinner parties and was swallowed in by their charm and warmth.  I found myself stopping by for many visits, many unannounced just because I enjoyed spending time with them and they always made me feel welcome whenever I stopped by.  I considered them friends.

It wasn’t long before the whispers began to circulate among the brethren about the nature of my friend’s relationship.  I was pulled into various meetings to discuss Jerry and Fred where juicy details were provided that described the revulsion many felt towards gay men in general and to my friends specifically.  I was saddened by the vitriolic pronouncements that were being spread about people who were so loved, valued, and appreciated only a short period of time ago.  Now these same “friends” where pouring out buckets of Old Testament anger upon the undeserving heads of these two men.  All they did was offer themselves as members of this community and make it a more enjoyable place to encounter.  Whatever ones belief about homosexual people, it should take into account that these are in fact, imperfect people just like you and I.  That simple fact was quickly overlooked as now the witch-hunt was fully underway.  From that moment onward, these two men where treated as objects of scorn and any attempts at offering humanity where effectively squashed.  More secret meetings were held as the faithful couldn’t come to grips with the reality that was before them.  I was repeatedly asked if they had ever tried anything inappropriate with me as I had spent so much time with them.  My reply was not as they hoped, I said they were good friends who cared about me and I likewise cared about them.  The only thing inappropriate that I could think of was one of the deacons wives who seemed to ask me to visit only when her husband was away.  This information wasn’t what they were looking for.

The church collected its gathered wisdom and decided through it’s “spiritual Leadership” that Jerry and Fred would be allowed to stay in the church but could not be in any leadership positions and needed to not be visible about the church in any way .  In other words, they had to stay in the shadows and dark recesses of the church and stop being everything they were and give up being loved by so many.  Slowly more and more Sundays came and went without seeing their smiling faces.  Visits to their home were less welcome as they sorted out what was to become a new chapter in their lives.  I still tried to be friends as nothing changed in my mind with them but the scars were to deep by now.  It wasn’t too much longer and these two fine men faded off and found other places to invest themselves.  I didn’t understand their hurt back then and took it personally and started to pull back my life from theirs.  If there ever was a time for me to be a good friend it was then but I failed those guys miserably.

I always had trouble reconciling the church’s “teachings” with my friendship and knowledge  of these two men who were at one time very important to me.  Now as I’m older and have escaped the clutches of hate imposed by these types of leaders, scripture has come alive and clear to me.  We were wrong in how this situation was handled…offering them up as a sacrifice to our efforts at self-purification all the while ignoring the direct teachings about love, acceptance, grace, forgiveness, and inclusion.  Going forward,  I pray my life is known for ignoring the man-made teachings about isolation and rejection and instead is solely focused on being a better friend, especially to those on the fringe.

Jerry and Fred, wherever you are I hope one day you’ll forgive me for not standing up for you against the injustice that was perpetrated against you both by God’s followers.  Know this, I’ve taken your brave example to heart and will be the one out front fighting for you in the future.  Be at peace and know your lives made a difference.  Thank you for teaching me what I was unable to learn on my own.

Kindness matters.

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Movie…

What I learned from working on a movie set this past week.

  1. The glamor portrayed about Hollywood is strictly for the actors, and by actors I mean top shelf performers not the bit part players.  All the others spend most of their day sitting like the extras waiting.  When I say waiting, I mean waiting.
  2. Eating is taken seriously when it’s able to happen.  Sitting down to a meal isn’t always an option but good food is available all the time to snack on.
  3. Shooting a scene can sometimes take an eternity to get just right, oftentimes the extras start to rumble and cheering does happen when finally completed.
  4. The best way to be noticed and used often as an extra in a movie is to show up as a cute 17-24 year old girl.  If you’re an fat old fart like me you just have to be forceful and show up even when they don’t call you (worked surprisingly well)
  5. AD’s (Assistant Directors) are the hardest working people I’ve seen in a long time.
  6. There are people in this world who are professional extras and they talk about their careers like they are a form of nobility.
  7. Short of the US military, I never seen logistics done as they are on a movie set.  Precision movement of so many by so few is a sight to watch.
  8. A scene that takes 25 minutes to shoot can last a short as 5-15 seconds on film.
  9. Other than being the star of the movie, the only job I would want in the industry would be the clicker board guy.  He seems to move at ease and doesn’t do much heavy lifting.  I could handle this.
  10. It cannot be understood the amount of time spent doing nothing waiting for a scene to be set up or reset.
  11. Some high profile celebrity types are real assholes, however, the majority of the people, including the talent, are very kind, gentle and considerate of the minions about the set.
  12. When doing group shots, try to stand near a buxom woman to get the cameraman to include you in the picture.
  13. Actors can pretend many things but transforming from a pretty boy to a home run hitting baseball hero will take some hard work in special effects to look believable.
  14. It’s really really hard work, the day starts early and goes very late with little or no breaks except for a meal.  The meal only happens if they’ve been able to capture the shot perfectly, otherwise the shoot will continue uninterrupted.
  15. Most scenes of excitement, clapping, yelling, cheering, etc…are actually done in pantomime and sound is added later.  Performing such a scene is a mind blowing experience, kind of like a bad drug trip from ones youth.
    —Getting an affirming nod from Clint Eastwood made the whole experience worthwhile.

Honor…

My path may look overgrown but the route is familiar,

seeking a trail of possibilities over a well worn sidewalk of sameness.

Mine isn’t the ordinary, neither are my thoughts,

finding agreement with the many brings no satisfaction.

The spirit sets our course, my heart’s compass points the way,

justice compels, compassion demands, isolation accepts.

Seeking honor for my soul, needing not mans approval,

eyes firmly focused on the immediate prize.

As the pillow embraces my tired head,

sleep comes easy living at peace.

This is all we have.

Safe…

 

Of the many things to have gratitude for today, one thing comes easily to mind.

My wife.

She gets me.

In a world filled with strife and confusion there is always one safe place I can go to escape and just be myself.

This makes me very, very happy.

Yardstick…

A trance still brings her to mind,

the steel blue eyes lacking empathy or peace.

A slight woman with a bit of a hunch,

giving the appearance of something villainous.

The long boney finger jutting from her hand

ever held tightly to a thick yardstick.

Her face never revealed a smile,

just stern gaze of contempt for all.

Black cape covering her shoulders,

the dark scarf framed a frightening face.

Her calling was to serve God,

but somewhere the vision perished,

the glory of ministry gave way to a prison of ritual.

Questions not valued, answered must come quickly,

children to be seen and not heard.

Sister Whatshername, I remember you.

Blows to the head, back or arms with that ever present switch,

the price a boy pays for not being perfectly obedient.

The reality of Hell ever before this class,  a constant reminder,

a place for children who chew gum or misbehave.

The fiery description painted with years of repetition,

described large pots fills with snakes and spiders, boiling in the forever fire.

My place I’m told is eternity in such a pot bitten forever,

to remind me how much God loves me.

At least that was the version she told.

As five decades of life draws near, I still shutter thinking about how this wicked woman hurt me, not just with the ruler which did hurt badly, but how she hurt my sensitive heart.  She made me believe God’s love was conditional and freely withdrawn on a whim.  The reality was she found fear a means to control a classroom.  Far too much damage to innocent children just so she could finish a lesson plan.

Easter…

Easter week is upon us and everyone seems on their best behavior.  What a  pleasant time.  Funny how certain religious holidays bring out the best in people only to be quickly forgotten once the season has passed.

Easter has always puzzled me.  To steal a line, it is the worst of times, it is the best of times all rolled into one event.  Everything from gore porn reenactments of the crucifixion by wanna be actors to kids looking for easter eggs dressed in their innocent finest.  Easter seems a paradox.  Men can finally wear light colored clothes hidden in the back of their closets through winter and woman feel compelled to wear gaudy hats which block the view from at least two rows behind the wearer.  The ladies hats more resemble an afternoon at the Kentucky Derby than church but that’s tradition for you.

And then there’s the message.  At one time some well meaning preacher found himself hip deep in a Grey’s Anatomy text book and decided to fully comprehend how a crucifixion destroys a body.  From this one investigation, preachers have been detailing the most horrendous display of man’s cruelty upon another for decades.  Parishioners are spellbound as the storyteller portrays the step by step agony of this torture, right down to the tearing flesh and spikes splitting tendons to nail a helpless victim to the cross.

Never has this description of the death of Jesus made complete sense to me.  I accept with immense gratitude the sacrifice made on my behalf.  There is no question this was a horrible manifestation of cruelty freely enacted on one so undeserving.  All of this I understand.  The question that arrises is not the removal of the message but the elimination of the grotesque depiction used to guilt people into acting more passionate about their faith for the moment.

My desire is that the focus of Easter could be the message of hope offered through the life of Jesus and the promise of a better tomorrow would be more than enough to change lives.  It’s certainly been enough for me.  No amount of blood splattering or comprehension of how the cat-o-nine tails decimates the flesh will make me walk in deeper passion for the message of Jesus.  Yet, for too long and in too many places Easter services become akin to christianized slasher movies freaking out the masses and leaving worshippers with so much guilt and no means to assuage it.  This is reprehensible and must stop.  As a former children and youth minister, I promise these images don’t just wear off, instead they leave children traumatized and fearful.  Scared, scarred and confused is a horrible life for a child.

Easter is about the Sunrise, the promise that a new day dawns when old old has passed.  Easter is about renewed opportunity to live life to the fullest and seek new opportunities to love and embrace our fellow man.  Easter is about availing ourselves to reconciliation with forgiveness and grace extended to those we hurt or excluded.  Easter  is waking up knowing today I’ve got another chance to make a difference, to do something meaningful in the life of another.  Easter means we don’t have to accept our lives as they are and each day we can change if we so desire.  One doesn’t enter into love from fear, only from love does one come in.

Easter is joy presented in the life, message, and desire given freely by this man Jesus.  That’s what I’m after.  That’s enough of a message to change the world.