So another blog post on Patheos has really stuck in my craw and I’ve been doing a great deal of thinking and praying to offer a thoughtful and faithful response. I find I am feeling less gentle than I should so forgive me if I am a tad punchy here. I am troubled by the author’s casual dismissal and even open disdain of a piece of pop culture that points people toward love and kindness when there is so much garbage out there spewing hate and violence. Readers, please pop over to read the post to which I am responding, I’ll wait here ’til you’re done.
Here’s what I’m thinking.
1. I’m happy to see anything that makes believing in yourself and treating others with respect a popular notion. There are way too many messages out there that glorify despicable behavior. So is it really that bad to hear a positive word from an otherwise bizarre pop star? Lady Gaga hardly needs to promote a song that is so wildly popular – alleluia she chooses to use her position of influence to create a source of hope and strength.
2. I’m grateful to see any message that just might get through to someone, even if it is only one person, who really needs to hear that they are ok (or heaven forbid, wonderful). What a blessing that someone hears love rather than the constant message that so many churches and families drive home – that they are an abomination and an object of revulsion.
3. It takes a hell of a LOT of courage to be gay in some places in this country so to claim it is “an insult to real bravery” is simply ignorant of reality. Sometimes it really is a matter of life and death:
It takes courage to be gay when there is a real and constant threat of violence…
that can even go too far…
It takes courage, maybe even more even when the violence is spiritual.
So please let me address the three fantastic quotes offered by the author and share how my heart reads those very same statements.
Madeleine L’Engle wrote, “We have to be braver than we think we can be, because God is constantly calling us to be more than we are.” – This is a wonderful quote that calls me to be brave in the face of certain rejection from my family in friends and maybe even violence at the hands of strangers. There was a time when I did not think I could muster the courage to go through what I fact did have to go through in order to be all that God has created me to be. I was less because I was living a lie, I am whole because God called me into the light of truth.
J.R.R. Tolkien wrote, “Living by faith includes the call to something greater than cowardly self-preservation.” – This is fantastic! What incredible faith in God we must have to step out of the self-preservation closet that many in society would love to lock us. Self-preservation as a gay person often means lying about who you are, hiding your love and playing the pronoun game out of fear. What courage has the young man or woman who says they will take all the risk to life and limb to accept faithfully how God has made them?
Winston Churchill said “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Yes! The first time I came out to my parents and our relationship failed, that was not fatal and that was not the end of the story. When I successfully hardened my heart to them “once and for all” that was not final for God opened all of our hearts anew one blessed Easter morning.
The author’s illustrations of forgetfulness, a few extra pounds or an inability to show up for PTA meetings are no way comparable to being LGBT. Sexuality is not just some little hiccup in a self-improvement plan. Homosexuality is not something to overcome, it is something God calls us to live into fully and faithfully. For gay and lesbian people coming out IS the change, is the improvement, is the liberation. And it takes a heapin’ helpin’ of courage.
You know, as Christians, if we actually believe the Greatest Commandment – to love God with all of our whole being and to love our neighbor as ourselves…then the triquetra of this commandment falls apart if we do not even understand what it means to love ourselves. Not narcissistically but with a deep and real respect for ourselves and how we fit in the larger context of family, community and world. We can only love others if we understand that we are loved and lovable.
The real shame here is that Lady Gaga might get a young man or woman to see themselves as lovable while the church actively wounds or passively remains silent in the face of bullying. It’s just flat sinful that the first time some kid may hear they are lovable is in the lyrics of a pop song rather than through the words of Jesus. But praise be to God they can hear it somewhere.
I aslo bristled with her use of the phrase “traditional values” as if there is one set to which all Americans or even Christians prescribe. After I do a little more reading and praying I’ll share a post about “traditional values” sometime in the next couple of weeks.