A Moratorium on Condemnation
What we're talking about here really is the heart of your book.
Right. We can't look at gay and lesbian folks as a project, as an evangelism opportunity.
That's a chapter in your book: "We Are Not Your Project."
I'm saying that what we need to do now is to establish relationships with gay relatives, gay coworkers, gay friends, gay congregants -- it's the same principle Shane is talking about. We have to start by recognizing that people are people and we must build relationships to build a community. What Shane and I have in common is the teachings of Dr. John Perkins, founder of the Christian Community Development Association. Dr. Perkins teaches the "Three R's": Relocation, Reconciliation and Redistribution. I understand that not everyone is called to move into a gay neighborhood -- just like Shane doesn't teach that everyone is called to move into a poor neighborhood.
What you're describing represents a startling change of heart, mind, and spirit for a Pentecostal gay basher. You explain a couple of defining moments in your spiritual pilgrimage. One unfolded when your friends came out. Another defining moment was when you ran into your old high school baseball coach some years ago.
Right! I used to live for baseball. I went to college on a baseball scholarship and played Division 1 baseball. In high school, I broke a lot of school records. I was All Conference and All State. On and on. Anyway, years later, after I had started my organization, the Marin Foundation, I ran into my old high school coach. He said, "Hey, Andy! How're you doing!"
We were in a restaurant and I said, "Great to see you!" And I described this organization that builds bridges between the gay community and the conservative church. And he laughed at me! He thought that was so funny!
I was confused and asked him, "Jim, what's so funny?"
He said: "Do you remember who you used to be? Do you remember how you used to act in high school?"
Ohhhh, I knew something bad was coming. And then, he said: "Andrew, you called everyone you didn't like a fag. When you got mad at me, I was a fag. Anyone you didn't like was a fag. You said more stuff like that than any other person I've ever met in my life."
That's when it really sank in! Here was a guy I respected so much. My high school coach! And what did he remember about me? He didn't remember all those records I set. He didn't remember how good I was as an athlete for him. What did he remember? All this stuff I shouted about. That was how he remembered me. I wasn't a hero to him. I was funny and, now, an oxymoron.
So, the big message in your book is to stop beating up on gay and lesbian people, even in the language we use when we think we're just with straight friends, right?
Definitely! That's the first main point I try to communicate. Even our language really matters.
And you're saying that the first big step must come from conservative Christians -- the people of faith who've been treating gay people like -- well, like "projects" to "fix."
Yes. I don't believe that anything can happen productively down the road unless we are the first ones to come and repent of the sin of homophobia. A lot of conservative folks will say to me: "Just because I don't agree with you, Andrew, doesn't mean that I'm homophobic." But we're standing in a sad place now after decades and decades of consistent Christian behavior against gays and lesbians. We've had this consistent movement to put out gay and lesbian people. We're the ones who have to begin this process of bridge building.