This past weekend I was at a conference with some students in Buffalo, NY (home of Buffalo Wings and Canisius College). The topic of the second annual national gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender conference for Jesuit colleges and universities was "Identity, Faith and Advocacy". The main purpose of the conference was to let students and leaders "understand, integrate and promote identity, faith and advocacy into our lives and the lives of those around us." This sounds like a pretty simple and non-threatening conference but apparently, there were some who were quite disturbed. They were disturbed enough to hold signs on the side of the road. They were disturbed enough to hand out pieces of paper with their message. They were disturbed enough to yell and scream at students as they walked by.
Now these individuals have their right to protest...I will not argue with that. However, I am offended by the fact that it is all in the name of "Jesus". Give me a break!!!
Besides the fact that the arguments they used against homosexuality were quite see-through and lacking in proper theological foundations, the manner at which they went about all of this was quite contradictory to the example of Jesus. Of course it’s frustrating to hear such hollow arguments constructed out of ignorance and fear. But it’s a lot harder to walk past a yelling protestor, who probably hates me, and yet find just a bit of love within me for them. After all, I am called to love those who persecute me.
The reality is, I’m pretty use to this line of thinking. I’ve been struggling with it since day one. I’ve tried to put my life out there as an example. I’ve tried my best to be in open dialogue with those who "Love me, but hate my sin." I’ve tried to maintain relationships that were challenging in hopes that we would grow together. I have tried to live my life with dignity and love while reconciling the long hard journey. And the honest truth is...it is all very hard.
Yet even with such exposure to pain and struggle of this kind, it really doesn’t get any easier. Sure, I learn how to cope, I learn how to love a little more. I even learn how to put on a smile and say good morning to the protester screaming in my face. But I can never shut off the jolt of my heart when it begins to realize the pain of it all. I can’t shut my heart off when I remember all the painful conversations of my past (and the ending of some of those relationships). And I can’t shut off my heart when it tells me I have to keep working for change.
The reality is, I know what I need to do. I know that I need to be a voice. I need to be a voice in my community and especially my church, because I don’t want people to think that Jesus is like the protestors. I need to be a voice because there are millions of people around the world who lack certain human rights. I need to be a voice because I might make it easier for one person who is coming out of the closet and into the wardrobe (because coming out is an everyday process). Yet even this reality doesn’t make things any easier, but really listening to your heart is really quite compelling.
I know that I will encounter many more protesters in my lifetime. I know that I will have many more difficult conversations. I know that I will lose more friends because of who I am. I know I will never give up struggling for the greater good, because THAT IS WHO I AM!