Monday, January 17, 2011
Amen For Gay Men
I was glad when they said to me,
‘Let us go to the house of the Lord!’
I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.
Imagine with me: 60 gay men walking into a church in South Orange County, California to lead a Sunday night vespers service. They are belting out "Holy Ground" and "Shout to the Lord," and swaying to a traditional Zambian worship song "Bonse Aba." I saw this with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears last night, right here in the land where Ronald Reagan said "the good Republicans go to die." And God said, it was very good.
Men Alive, the Orange County Gay Men's Chorus, led two packed-house worship services last night at St. George's Episcopal Church in Laguna Hills. As I sat between my wife and gay friend, I was was struck by the irony of gay men "coming out" to the sanctuary to usher us into the presence of God. These men are denied status in most Christian "places of worship" throughout our nation, not to mention all the legal rights that come with "marriage." Sure, they are "loved" by Evangelicals, but, in this moment of time, their "sin" is hated far more staunchly than anything--from greed to promiscuity to violence--that heterosexuals do in broad daylight. Gays and lesbians, within most of the Body of Christ within the US, are only welcome if they hide or change. They are rendered voiceless.
For the past 10 years, the members of Men Alive have lifted their harmonious voices above the hate, shunning, rebuking and indifference. No doubt, this redemptive chorus is filled with stories of pain, brokenness, rejection and abuse--from families, churches and society at large. But they have courageously journeyed together, providing comfort, support and solidarity to one another as they inspire and invigorate audiences all over the Southland. EasyYolk salutes their courage and salivates over their singing.
The Hebrew prophets imagined a Day when God would wipe away every tear and bring every child of the earth into God's arms. We Christians believe that Day came when the Nazarene walked the shores of Galilee and beckoned lepers, tax collectors, prostitutes, Gentiles, women and children into his revolutionary Movement of love, forgiveness, service and joy. One way that Jesus changed the world is that he boldly proclaimed that God's Dream for the World is inclusive, or as the Zambians sing: Bonse aba mu pokelela/Ba li pele maka akuba bana (All that sing have the right to be called the children of God). This massive Evite into God's Reign has progressed over the centuries, chipping away barriers of gender, ethnicity, race, class and age. Sexual orientation is not a sin, but one vital form of identity for all of us. As a hetero, I take this for granted because my orientation has been honored as the norm in family, church and societal settings. What a shameful privilege.
Sure, there are destructive and deforming habits that dehumanize our sexuality: abuse, addiction, adultery, one-night escapades and just plain old sleeping around. The church, through word and deed, should lead the way out of these counterfeit forms of intimacy for all of humanity, gay and straight. But the church should steer a different course (what the Bible calls "repentance") and give gays and lesbians the same opportunity it gladly extends to straight couples: the opportunity of a lifetime--a rigorous commitment of love, sacrifice, forgiveness and service to one other person (what everyone in our society calls "marriage"). On this day we set aside to commemorate the Dream of our greatest American prophet, let us be reminded that our gay brothers and lesbian sisters are still not given full dignity in our family, church and society. Go tell it on the mountain because that's something to sing about.