Recently I had a conversation with an elder man about the issue of acceptance of Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgendered (LGBT) people in the church. He was upset about all the recent noise about inclusion. He felt that “those” people are not normal; they are not part of God’s plan for humanity and could never be recognized as normal. He was concerned about the language of inclusion that was being expressed in an increasing number of circles. He had grown up in a community in which though it was known that “those” people existed, they were unmentionables and were never to be included in proper social gatherings.
It seemed to him that all this talk was an indication that the “gays were wanting to take over” and he was not going to have it. I shared with him that that his sentiment is similar to that of every dominant culture that was resistant to hearing the cry for justice from a minority or so called subordinated culture.
As I listened and later challenged him on the matter of God’s created order for humanity, it occurred to me that he expresses the opinions of many of his generation. He grew up in a world where LGBT people were demonized and ostracized. They were relegated to the outskirts, dark corners and forbidden alleys of society. They were objects of abuse, ridicule and violence. There was no opportunity for a “normal” life unless it was in secret and even then the threat or possibility of exposure was always looming, so there were few opportunities for peace in the life of our LGBT brothers and sisters. And at the same time, this man was socialized to believe that these people disturbed the peace of his community.
But I would venture that there are generations of people who grew up under all kinds of repression and oppression—racism, sexism, ageism, classicism, elitism, etc. that was/is psychologically, spiritually and emotionally damaging. Even he, as an African-American Elder man, must have experienced the effects of exclusion. It seems there is always somebody somewhere who wants to belittle, condemn and restrict some so that the restrictions can make way for freedom and comfort of others.
I think the ultimate end of all spiritual/religious pursuit is peace— peace in one’s personal life, in one’s family, community, world and certainly in the afterlife. And it seems to me that a considerable part of understanding peace imparts a sense of justice—not vengeance or exclusion. A sensibility that says I am accepted cared for and encouraged to share my gift of life in the land of the living and so too are others. The more I talk to people like this man, I wonder whether peace living is possible.
The optimist in me, says that no matter how difficult a task is or appears to be, if the end or completion of it is peace, then we should, I should continue the work without violence or malice but with the strength of hope in the possibility for mutual understanding.
Are we all searching for peace? I believe it’s an important question of this millennia; we’ve tried all manner of hostility, sanctions, exclusions threat and force. It is time to seek peace; first seek it within ourselves, and then encourage peaceful living in our homes, on our jobs, in our neighborhoods, and the world. Speak out, vote, write, teach and support efforts that encourage peace