Well, I suppose by letters, I mostly mean emails or Facebook messages, but from time to time, I do receive privates correspondence from people, usually from people I know, about something I’ve written here. Just the other day, I received a card in the mail from a junior high and high school classmate full of encouragement. What a sweet gesture, I thought. We seldom communicate with cards and physical letters anymore and when you get something in the mail, it’s a treat. So, thank you, T, you made my day.
Also on the same day, I received a FB message from a fellow classmate from Ozark Christian College. I have thought about it quite a bit since reading it. I responded that day and he responded to my response that day, but I really don’t know what to say in going further. When you read this, you might have your own thoughts on the matter. For the sake of anonymity, I will call him Andrew.
Here it is:
Hey Ray – I have been struggling for a while to ask you some questions about your life now. I am frustrated because I do care about you as a classmate and brother in Christ but I just cannot reconcile your contradictions. I am not attacking you or trying to start an argument – and I am sure you have posted your story – but help me understand why you think you are right and I am wrong? I am asking this in COMPLETE humility and a desire for compassionate understanding. Thanks
This was my response to him:
Andrew, thank you for taking the time to send me a message. I don’t doubt that I sometimes contradict myself, I believe most of us do at times. You don’t have to reconcile the person I was when you knew me to the person I am now. I think I understand how you see it as your job to help me and I don’t mind that, but I don’t see it that way.
Still, if you would like to write a guest blog, I think it would be a great conversation starter. You really could take any direction that you want. My sense is that you have been thinking and praying about this and I’m sure you have something to say that many people want to hear. Yours is the first message of this nature I’ve received from my OCC classmates and I’m sure you are expressing what many feel and think. I would love to have your POV.
This was his response to my response:
I appreciate that Ray – I will definitely consider that – I do want you to understand that I do not feel it is my job to help you. I think as a friend it is my responsibility to completely understand your POV and choice – if I don’t agree so be it – but I have been wrestling with this because I am angered by what I consider over-reach in the gay community – and the threats against those of us who are Christians. So that is what I am trying to reconcile – thanks for your kind response – I look forward to more dialogue !!
Now, let me say, I do appreciate his attempt to have a conversation. I don’t doubt that he is expressing the thoughts of many of the conservative Christians I know. And I do think it was sent with good intentions. Is it overstepping the boundaries of what is “polite” to initiate this exchange? It’s possible. Andrew and I were amiable at OCC, but I never considered him one of my closest friends and I doubt he considered me one of his closest. Does that make a difference? Maybe, maybe not.
I think it’s somewhat audacious to talk about one’s perceived “over-reach in the gay community” to someone who knows first hand what it means to not have the same rights as any member of the heterosexual community. If it appears that fighting for equal rights for myself and my community is an over-reach, I can’t apologize, it’s something too important to me.
Another thing that I’ve thought quite a bit about in the days since receiving the letter is him telling me that he can’t reconcile my contradictions. And maybe this is just me, but what I heard, whether it was intended or not, is that he sees me as a hypocrite. I am sure I am. I think most of us are, but I really try to be a forthright, honest, accountable person.
There is something that I have skated around since I started this blog. I have avoided talking about my personal beliefs in terms of God and the Bible in specific terms for only one reason, I don’t want to hurt my parents. They do read this and while I’m sure they know my belief system is not identical to theirs, we do not discuss it. If they were to ask me, I would tell them, but, we don’t talk about it. It certainly isn’t rare for parents and children to see the world differently. But one of the many things I love about my parents is that they focus on what we have in common, the things that do connect us.
I have been torn about even sharing these exchanges from my classmate. He asked me why I think I’m right and why he’s wrong. I could ask him the same thing, and I suppose his answer would be that’s what the Bible says. But I could respond with, “No, that is how you interpret what the Bible says.” Even among people who identify as Christians, there are widely varied interpretations on many subjects. And it must be said, not every person esteems the Bible as the inspired guidebook for one’s life anyway.
I know how I go on and on about wanting to be the bridge between the GLBT community and the conservative Christian community, but there is a part of me that gets defensive when I receive messages of this kind. And I must say, that’s stupid of me, because Andrew really is just initiating an honest conversation and maybe having that conversation can lead to something good. I mean, if Melissa Etheridge and Mike Huckabee can be friends, isn’t there hope for all of us?
I do welcome your thoughts, even if you are going to tell me something I disagree with. And ESPECIALLY if you are going to tell me something I agree with. Either way, it means we are talking, communicating, and somehow that conversation might inevitably be the channel for connection.
I do want everyone to like me, it’s part of my needy nature. I know it’s just a handful of people who read this, most are people I have known in my lifetime. Most I rarely see in person. But if you are one of my old friends in Kansas or Missouri or Oklahoma, you do have GLBT folks that you work with or go to school with or are the parents of your children’s friends. And even if you read my blog and think, you know, I really don’t agree with Ray, he’s arrogant, a jerk, contradictory, hypocritical, not nearly as smart as he thinks, that is okay. My bigger hope is that somehow me sharing my journey creates a sensitivity, an understanding, even a love, for those people, members of my tribe, who ARE in your lives. Many have been rejected by their family or their friends or their church and it’s my belief that you being there for them, really being a friend, would be a good thing for them and also for you.
More people read this than you think! Keep on being honest. It’s refreshing.
Ray, you are a gift. The very fact that you are a spiritual person – a Christian, in fact – and are living your authentic truth and not trying to be something other than that, is a deep teaching for others, whether they realize it or not.
The world is not black and white. Perhaps Andrews wishes it was. It seems many people who follow ancient religious texts want the world around them to adhere to this either/or way of approaching life. But it doesn’t work. It’s not real. And life is just so much juicier and complex than that.
It’s great he is in a polite dialogue with you. He seems kind. We need more understanding. And I don’t think it’s about right or wrong. I think it’s about seeing the shades – the beautiful, very real shades – that make up living on God’s earth. Maybe in some small way, you will help him see all the wondrous colors and hues that exist. xo
There’s more here below the surface. Something more. Something deeper. Perhaps the dialogue can start with what is the common ground. The most common ground is a belief in God, faith in His existence, His love for His Creation. What would you like to know from Andrew? What would you like to know from Andrew? What is is that needs to be spoken? What anger and hurt needs and wants to be healed? Here’s a stepping stone, an open door, a building block. Oh I could go on but I won’t.