The next post in this series is from Matt Richards. Matt is a Church Planting Intern at Urban Village Church, a Social Worker at the University of Chicago and he received his M. Div from the University of Chicago Divinity School.
Recently, I went and saw a play that one of my friends wrote called, “The Homosexuals.” It tells the story of a group of gay urban men who become family for one another. There is a very moving scene in which one of the characters recalls feeling utterly drawn to one of his male friends during adolescence and realizes at that moment that he “could never get close enough.” At that moment, he realized that no matter how deeply he was drawn into the life of this other person, there would always be more left to know, always places yet to traverse, questions yet to ask, words left to utter.
I remember a few of these magical moments. They will be etched into my memory forever because they were the beginnings of me feeling beauty inside my bones. These were moments in which I began to understand that there was some pulsating force inside of me that would lead me into the world of other people. Let us call it a basic curiosity or desire. That we often have these experiences before we have completed puberty, conveys that these experiences are not reducible to questions about who is putting which genitals where which, unfortunately, is the impoverished vocabulary employed by most of our churches when speaking about “homosexuality.”Instead, these are moments in which we begin to comprehend that we are not enough for ourselves and never will be. We are not at home.
I also remember sitting in front of the television when I was a child and listening to Robert Knight from the Family Research Council tell a national TV audience on CNN’s “Crossfire” that the average gay man consumes “80 lbs of feces in a lifetime.” I remember realizing that this dazzling mystery inside of me was nothing more than smut in the eyes of this man. He was disgusted by people like me, so much so that he could think of nothing better than to contrive the sorts of lies that prevent humans from thinking clearly—that is what disgust always does and it has regrettably been a Christian political strategy for a very long time.
However, this was an important experience because it was a more honest expression of the sort of Christian homophobia and heteronormativity that today tries to reduce gay intimacies and desire to acts of penetration or some issue that straight people (especially theologians) can puzzle over into the wee hours of the morning, studying with passionless detachment. This is strikingly different from Jesus who was always keen to a fascinating detour into some particular persons life.
I don’t argue about my gayness anymore because I feel no inclination to justify it. When I share in fellowship with my friends, when we show up for one another in surprising ways, that feeling of dazzling beauty arises again. I look around and I see surprise and delight in the faces of friends who have traveled long roads to arrive at this moment.
God creates all of us in such a way that we cannot be enough for ourselves. Ever. Think about that. We want everything near at hand and all at once but the tape will not play out that way. Consequently, we will all need companions, and lovers, and late night phone calls with friends. If we can’t go home, we will need people who help us discover where home now is. We will need banquet tables filled with beverage, and warmth, and people we love. Hopefully, like Jesus, we will endeavor to share all of these things with people who feel far from the center, who feel as if they have no one.
I imagine that Jesus’ return will be a final homecoming. One in which all of my friends will be free to go home to their Christian families on Thanksgiving. When they will not be regarded as disappointments or prodigal children who left town. Instead, they will be recognized as the beautiful, complicated, searching creatures that they are.
This eternal communion table indeed feels many worlds away. Part of the final communion I dream about is one in which the Church stops acting like “homosexuality” is my great spiritual dilemma. Instead, it will recognize that it’s all the other stuff. My insecurity, my silence in the face of injustice, my weariness about the state of the world, my lack of trust in God, my obsessive need for control. When the Church starts treating gay people like the textured creatures that all humans are, I will perhaps believe that home is just around the bend.
But until then, I try my best to remind myself that God can and will accomplish things that I cannot imagine. I pray that some of these unimaginable things will happen inside of me. We all need the cross and the empty tomb— signs of the God who is with us and for us until the end of all things. The shit storms of life demand that we try and remind each other of these things. That is the task of the Church and the interesting and difficult work of Kingdom building: that our lives become tangible expressions and reminders of the communion that is yet to come. May we all—straight, gay, bi, lesbian, queer, trans—be people who do just that. In Christ’s name. Amen.