My flight into DC on Sunday night, January 18th, started in Omaha, NE. I spent the weekend at Christ Community Church of Omaha, a Christian and Missionary Alliance (C&MA) Denominational church, with my friend Richard Engle. What a great, loving group of people who genuinely have a heart to learn about building bridges with GLBT people. It isn’t often I can say that every person I met throughout that weekend was humbly trying to listen, learn and understand what it means to try and grasp the gay community through the gay community’s filtration system. Not only that, but I was excited at how many GLBT people attended the service—not that it is too much of a surprise anymore because it seems that no matter what church or conference I’m at or speak at (no matter how conservative or fundamental) there are always GLBT people who come to listen. But what did surprise me was the solidly constructed relationships those gays and lesbians already had with the largely conservative congregation. It seems as though many of the individuals at Christ Community have done a magnificent job on their own, and thus, the reason they were so eager to gain some additional perspective and framework to make their bridge building efforts more sustainable—corporately and individually.
I would also be remise not to mention the few precious hours I got to spend with my great friend—Chris Heuertz—International Executive Director of Word Made Flesh and author of Simple Spirituality. I truly love and respect him so much. Each time we are together his brilliant mind and his theologically and socially stimulating thoughts and ideas push and challenge my own to continue experientially integrating my faith into social environments within everyday life. He is the real deal, and I’m so blessed to call him a friend.
On Sunday evening I flew out of Omaha (and I was bummed I didn’t have any time to try and stalk Warren Buffet) en route to DC to speak at an interfaith event on Capitol Hill the night before the Inauguration. I had a quick layover in Chicago (which always annoys me when I have a layover in Chicago because that is my home—why do I have to layover in my own home?!). And when I boarded my United flight to Reagan National Airport, that’s when the impact of where I was going hit me square in the face.
I fly quite a bit so I’m fortunate enough to have a great status with United allowing me to sit in upgraded seats in the front of the plane. As I was one of the first to board I quickly noticed something interesting—I was the only white person I could see. I looked toward the entrance to the plane and started keeping a tally of the ethnicities of the people who boarded. On a completely sold out flight, there was only a total of 17 non-black people on the plane:
9 white people,
a family of 5 Indian people (of which 2 were kids),
and 3 Asians
As I sat in my seat looking around I started to tangibly realize the magnitude of what was going on. Not only so, but every African-American person on this late-night flight was dressed in their Sunday best—suits, ties, hats, dresses, heals, jewelry, long business coats, furs, etc. More-so for them than I could have ever grasped as a recipient male of white privilege, even the plane ride to DC deserved to be treated with respect and honor; the same respect and honor that each moment of this Inauguration experience means to African-Americans all of the world. Looking at this I was reminded that years ago, black people were only counted as 3/5ths the person of that of a white man. And now with as much pride as they could muster, a plane full of festive and exuberant African-Americans were about to fly to Washington DC to witness history first hand.