Your Preacher Might Be Gay
Now, as an Episcopalian who feels that his life as well as his soul have been saved by belief in a loving Son of God, my options were wounded outrage or sly humor.
As always, I chose humor.
"No," I told her, without a hint of a smile, and watched the horror spread across her face. "We worship Satan."
It was just a split-second of belief before she realized I was pulling her leg, but it was enough.
And this is how we've gotten along my whole adult life. I have told her what she wanted to hear, even if I didn't believe it, or I have made a joke and tried to get her to talk about something besides Jesus.
Good luck with that, by the way.
But I knew it was going to be a difficult Thanksgiving when (in the story I tell at the beginning of Faithful Citizenship), ten seconds after I had entered my father's house, said my hellos, and parked myself at the table where everyone was already eating, my grandma started asking me to enthuse about Sarah Palin.
Now whatever you think about the woman, it doesn't take much awareness to know she's one of the most polarizing figures in American life today; some people love her, and others loathe her, and why on earth would you lead off a conversation at Thanksgiving with that?
"She's a devout member of the Assemblies of God," Grandma went on to inform me, and although I think that the Palins are members of a Bible church, I do remember that she had been prayed over in the Wasilla, Alaska Assembly of God on several occasions. A Kenyan pastor prayed for protection from witchcraft for her, something like that.
"She's something," I said. Grandma was satisfied. I was secretly ironic. Everyone was happy.
But later during the holiday, we went on to have a series of exchanges about where the Episcopal Church stands on her big social issues, abortion and homosexuality.
I tried to avoid these questions in a way that was truthful; I told her that Episcopalians hold a lot of opinions about spiritual issues, that what we agree on is prayer and worship together and not on issues per se, but that admission in itself was damning in her eyes, since any church that can't agree to uniformly condemn these things is probably headed for the Lake of Fire in a mass migration.
So, since she wasn't getting satisfaction there, she asked another question: "Then where do you stand on the homosexuals?"
I looked at her, and I loved her, and I was furious.
Because despite a lifetime of lying to her, I discovered that there comes a moment when you are soul-weary of pretending to believe something you do not, of trying to keep the peace just by avoiding your differences.
"That's a really personal question, Grandma," I said, and I'd guess that my offense and exasperation showed.
"You know what God says about it," she said.
"I know what it says in Leviticus," I said, and then joined her in saying, in Garrett-stereo, "It is an abomination."
And then I told her I thought her pastor might be a homosexual, because he pays a lot of attention to his personal grooming.
"He is not," she said, outraged. "Why, he's preached against it. He—he loves his wife. He talks about her all the time, I've never seen a man so devoted --"
I touched her arm gently to derail her. "Kidding," I said, and I forced myself to smile.
Greg Garrett is the author of works of fiction, criticism, and theology, including Faithful Citizenship from Patheos Press. He is Professor of English at Baylor University, and a licensed lay preacher in the Episcopal Church.