Renee in Ohio has an absolutely marvelous post up at Street Prophets about celebrating the eucharist with the sole openly gay bishop in the Episcopal Church, the Very Rev. Gene Robinson. In it she quotes Bishop Robinson, who quotes John Fortunato, from his book Embracing the Exile. It bears quoting in full here:
I was sitting there, and God was sitting there too, on the couch, right in front of me. It was very peaceful and dark, but I could see him. He was bright, and we were talking.It's extremely powerful stuff, but if you want to make it a bit more powerful, a bit less palatable (if it isn't difficult enough for you, depending on your position vis a vis gays in the ministry), then transfer it to left blogistan's favorite enemy: your political opponents.
I was saying, "You know, sometimes I think they're right, that being gay and loving a man is wrong." God smiled and said quietly, "How can love be wrong? It all comes from me."
But I was a wreck, you'll remember. It was going to take more than that! "Sometimes I just want to bury that part of me," I said, "just pretend it isn't real!"
"But I made you whole, " God replied, "You are one as I am one. I made you, in my image".
I knew he was trying to soothe me but I had just been through four months of good Christian folk trying to cram down my throat that I was an abomination, so all this acceptance was getting me just little frustrated. (Laughter) So I tried again...
"Your church, out there, says that you don't love me! They say that I'm lost--damned to hell!"
"You're my son," God said in a way that was both gentle and yet so firm that there could be no doubt of his genuineness. "Nothing can separate you from my love. I redeemed you before the beginning of time. In my Father's house there is a mansion waiting just for you."
I started to fill up. ""What do I do with all this?" I asked, weeping now, and clenching my teeth, at my wit's end trying to have it all make sense. "What do I do with them?"
And in the same calm voice, God said, "I've given you gifts--share them. I've given you light--brighten the world. I empower you with my love--love them. "
That did it! After all I had been through, I had had it with sweet words. Who was he trying to kid? I pounded my fist in exasperation and cried, "LOVE them?! What are you trying to do to me--can't you see? They call my light darkness! They call my love perverted! They call my gifts corruptions! What the hell are you asking me to do?!"
There was silence. God didn't move a muscle, though his gaze was much more intense. And with a voice filled with compassion, a voice that enveloped me with its love, God spoke:
"Love them anyway," God said. "Love them anyway."
"Love them anyway?!" I moaned. "But how?"
"You begin just by being who you are," God said, "a loving, caring, whole person, created in my image, whose special light of love happens to shine on men, as I intended for you."
"Is that all?" I asked fearfully.
God shook his head. "No. You must also speak your pain, and affirm the wholeness I have made you to be when they assail it. You must protest when you are treated as less than a child of mine. "
"Is there more?" I asked. "Yes," God said gently, "And this is the hardest part of all. You must go out and teach them. Help them to know of their dependence on me for all that they really are. And of their helplessness without me. Teach them that their ways are not my ways, and that the world of their imagining is not the world I have made. Help them to see that all creation is one as I am one, and that all I create, I redeem. And assure them, by word, and example, and work, that my love is boundless, and that I am with them always."
"You know they won't listen to me," I said with resignation. "They'll despise me! They'll call me a heretic and laugh me to scorn! They'll persecute and torment me--they'll try to destroy me! You know they will, don't you?"
God's radiant face saddened, and then God said softly, "Oh yes. I know. How well I know."
I heard his words, and something irrevocable changed in me. I went numb. Now I knew. Now I understood. And it was as though large chunks of who I had been began falling away, tumbling through time and space into eternity. I just let them all fall.
No fear now. No resistance. No sense of loss. All that was dropping away was unnecessary now. Extraneous. I began to feel light and warm. Energy began to surge through my whole being, enlivening me as though I were a rusty old turbine that had been charged up and was starting to hum.
Then two strong, motherly arms reached out and drew me close to the bosom of All That Is, and I was just...there. Just being. Enveloped in Being. And we wept...for joy."
Transfer all that language about "them" who hate "us," and yet we are supposed to love "them" anyway, transfer that to the GOP, or George W. Bush, or Karl Rove, or...well, you get the idea. Shift the emphasis just that much, and then what do you do? How, then, do you justify still presenting an opposition to them, rather than facing them with love?
And don't look at me like I'm the bad guy. I'm asking myself the same question; in this one especially, I stand with you.