Monday, January 18, 2010

when a man loves a man, et cetera

The internet is a scary place, full of goblins and ghouls lurking in corners and alleyways and - as time goes on - rattling with skeletons in a myriad of cob-webbed closets.

Take, for instance, homosexuals. When I was in college and knew everything, I wrote an article about them in response to something someone had written in the online version of our school paper. I still think that this person was sort of an idiot and had written a terrible piece; but the problem is that I was an idiot, too - perhaps an even bigger one. I compounded this idiocy by emailing my little rebuttal to the online paper, which, lamentably, proceeded to publish it.

For years thereafter, if you googled my name this article was only ever a short ways into the search results, a fact I noted with a growing amount of consternation. I hope that I have since learned to temper my opinions with greater humility, but it still does worry me, and the corporeal remains of my ill-advised college article still rattle around in some dusty corner of the world wide web.

Last night I told a friend my latest writing project, now that I have "finished" my memoir. I told him that I am learning how to write screenplays - working on the development of a script that has as its hero-protagonist a homosexual artist-painter living in California. I won't tell you any more details here, since the internet is full of writers (who are all a bunch of weaselly little thieves - I should know) but I will say that his reaction intrigued me, as it echoed very closely my own attitudes about homosexuality back in college.

I am only barely less ignorant than I used to be about what homosexuality  really is. Television - with its over-the-top, politicized scripting - hasn't educated me too much, and neither have I bothered to expend too much time or energy studying the issue from either a ratio-centric or theological standpoint. Nonetheless, I do have what I consider to be a much wiser (and from the standpoint of my faith, a more Biblically sound) response: I don't know.

If pressed, this is what I say: "Hmm. You know what? I've been a sexual pervert for quite a while now. That is to say, the ways I engage and express my sexuality have been a tawdry, pathetic excuse for what I feel like sexuality can and ought to be. Are homosexuals perverts? Undoubtedly. But so, I think, is everyone else... and most especially me! Who am I to judge someone else's perversion as being any more wonky than my own? I just don't buy that any more - and I don't think Jesus taught that I should go there, either. I think what matters much more is how I love people."

I told my friend this, and went on to point out the ugly pride in picking one behavior you don't personally feel any compulsion towards and then screaming that it's a sin and God can't love you if you do it. I explained how that sort of attitude misses a whole lot of what the Bible seems to be written expressly to get across: that is, Pride is Bad, Love is Good. "Christians", I said, often seem to be more concerned with being right than with being in Love, so to speak. And that's stupid.

My friend was not particularly impressed by this. I mean, he agreed in theory, but he seemed to think that I ought to have an opinion, one way or another, about the issue. If I don't take a stand, he asked, then am I not dropping the ball and avoiding my responsibility? I gave this some serious thought as I was riding my evil two-wheeled gas machine up into Charlotte to visit my actor-friend. Must I have an opinion?

I have a buddy from my childhood who no longer agrees with me about matters of faith. He has begun attending a Unitarian church and considers himself something of a (forgive me if I've got this wrong, J) neo-pagan. He knows that I don't agree with him. We've had that conversation. But so what? Do I keep having that conversation every time I see him? NO... and I say it again, NO! We talk about how our days went. We talk about our relationships, our passions, our art. He ends our phone conversations by telling me he loves me and you know what? I love him, too! And I don't give a rat's left eyeball for convincing him I am right. Who cares!?! I can't sort all that out - that's what God is for.

What really matters to me is that my friend knows I love him, because he is an important friend - one of the few who consistently keeps in touch and has encouraged me through my often excruciatingly painful separation from my wife. He has done this even as he deals with his own, much more pronounced life-pain.


And that, my friends, is love. Greater love has no man than this that he lay down the pride and stupidity of having it together and just sacrifices his time and himself for other people. And they will know you are living in Christ's kingdom by your love. If I had to figure out everything that's bad or immoral or wrong in this world and loudly proclaim my personal opinion of it to all and sundry, then I would be spending my entire life wallowing in the muck. We are all screwed up, and me most of all! Instead, I choose to look up into the light.

So I will write my script and love my fellow screw-ups, gay and straight alike. I will earn with my relationships the right that love allows to tell them what I believe. I will tell them... gently, and in private... once.  And then I will pass them the potato salad.

If this angers those righteous few who consider it their God-ordained calling to point out the sins of the world, then I will weep for them, too. I will bear their aspersions with all the love I can manage as a testament to the grace of God in which I somehow (despite the best efforts of these lovers of their own dark selves) still manage to believe. Perhaps in this way my own closets will be flung open and the bones contained within in them will turn to dust in the glaring light of the sun.

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