Yesterday one of my pastors spoke of "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly." The "good" consisted of how the church had guided him and helped him to find his purpose. The "bad" surveyed history for the times when organized religion missed the mark to such a tragic extent that lives were lost for nothing more than the sake of ignorance -- the Crusades, slavery in the U.S. were the two specifics he offered. The "ugly" was his concern for what believers today are doing with equal amounts of conviction that in years to come we may look back upon and cringe with shame. He didn't name specifics here.
When I filled in my own blanks, I, of course, thought of that which I have seen from experience . . . the way parts of the church have made homosexuality a litmus test for moral purity and in some sense true "Christianity," the unspoken yet still felt cries of "unclean" whenever you mention that you work with people with AIDS, and how it sometimes feels that the woman caught in adultery, lying in the dirt, surrounded by accusers who think themselves so much better is still a metaphor for the way some view women as church leaders.
I acknowledge that this is MY list from MY perspective. And had we taken the time to consider as a group what the blanks look like as filled in by others . . . well, debate rather than worship would have probably ensued.
I combine this with another experience with another of my pastors later that evening. We were speaking of a mental giant that is coming our way to share thoughts on diversity and we both agreed that while this passionate observer of faithwalkers has much to say regarding homosexuality as well, that this should not be a topic that is explored in his brief time with this particular congregation. "This church isn't ready for that conversation," he said and I agreed.
I agreed as a professional communicator who understands that you can't force people to see a truth and that for the most part turning hearts and minds takes time, much time. As a communicator, I agreed that we couldn't turn a worship service into discourse. I agreed, as a communicator, that even the few moderate congregations with whom I'm attached aren't ready to embrace homosexuals as fellow pilgrims. But as an advocate, my heart breaks. I choke on my silence.
(For an interesting piece on the sins of silence as it relates to AIDS, check out Leonard Pitts' column for today.)