Over the past few weeks I’ve had intense conversations with two guys. One is a relatively new acquaintance (he’s 20 years old) and the other is a friend who lives about 2200 miles away. I can’t go into specific detail but the questions, discussions and implications resulting from their individual circumstances are multi-layered and provocative.
I share these disturbing incidents to remind us again (especially Christians) that we need to walk into people’s heart carefully lest we do more damage than good. And we need to make sure we have actually been invited. Often the best help we can offer is our presence and our awareness of their predicaments. My secondary objective is to draw attention to situations and people who are often overlooked (unintentionally and intentionally).
#1: African-Americans Who Experience Same-Sex Attractions
For those of you who don’t know, I am black. My acquaintance is of the same race. At a recent HIV/AIDS event he was verbally assaulted – twice. First a bystander in attendance hurled racial and gay slurs at him. Then the man proceeded to quote Scripture at him. Then, a couple of hours later, a casual conversation my associate was having with a woman became quite heated. She ended up in his face shouting him down, “you just need to come out, be happy and live your life!”
My acquaintance was a bit shaken up because this was the first time complete strangers accosted him in such a vitriolic manner. Refusing to self-identify as gay or bisexual, he refers to himself as “a same gender loving brother” (SGL). To him, SGL encapsulate his same-gender attraction, affection and his blackness. He expressed it’s a distinction and an added weight which no white, gay person can totally comprehend.
Furthermore, he rejects “mainstream, white gay culture” (his words). As he puts it, people of color still endure ethnic (cultural) invisibility in many gay settings and black men are still primarily seen as potential sexual objects of white men.
#2: Ministers and Religious Leaders Who Are Abandoned After a Sexual Fall
My friend, who lives in another part of the country, is caught in the crossfire (along with his fellow congregants) in another ugly situation. The sexual proclivities and transgressions of the minister has come to light. The response and issue of how (or should) a fallen religious leaders be restored is threatening to rip the church family apart . . .
- some church members want to permanently remove him from public ministry because he had “lost his calling”
- the most vocal and influential group want to drop him and kick him out NOW because he embarrassed the body of Christ
- another group of people are starting more rumors and gossiping with glee
- others are confused, paralyzed and hurt but don’t know what to do or think
My friend tells me (based on personal, first-hand knowledge) that the minister is demonstrating a repentant heart. But he and his family are being shunned and isolated. Bitterness and depression has started to blanket their lives. Whether it’s due to burnout, disillusionment, personal misconduct or the spiritual character/health of the local church, how well are we nurturing our spiritual leaders?
Both of these situations are brimming with untold stories and missed opportunities. Both scenarios are not uncommon. They are lived out in public but are still intensely personal. Will we care enough to listen and seek to understand the untold stories? Do we have enough spiritual discernment to recognize the opportunities? Will we extend to them (and ourselves) the grace and space that is needed?
© Darrell Martin and SameSexAttractions.wordpress.com, 2013.
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