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LS: commonly held view
Jim, your friend reminds me of the many good white people who lived in
Alabama during segregation. They too felt that issues of race were blown
out of all proportion. They too responded kindly at the personal level to
black persons whom they knew, and they too avoided getting involved in the
more strident defenses white privilege. They rejected the virulent racism
of the Klan and the White Citizens Council. Yet almost all of them pitied
black persons, and many shared the common belief that blacks had
experienced the curse of Ham. Only some great sin, they reasoned, could
have caused God to set up the system so solidly against blacks. Of those
who felt kindly towards blacks, few indeed would have been happy for a
family member to marry a black person, lest the entire family inherit the
It is not surprising that your friend cannot imagine a happy gay person.
Probably there is little you can do to convince him otherwise, especially
if you try. His world has structured you and me as the victim, as surely
as slavery and segregation victimized black folks. These systems assure
that those who inherit white privilege or hetero privilege feel no need to
take personal responsibility for blaming the victim, yet that is exactly
what your friend is doing.
Racism and heterosexism also succeed in assuring that many victims behave
like victims. Your friend would probably understand the dynamic better if
he stopped trying to imagine what it would be like to be gay and imagined
instead what it would be like to be straight in a world which lesbigay
orientation dominated as unrelentingly as heterosexism dominates ours.
Would he take the risk to love the forbidden heterosexual object if all
who knew and loved him considered such attractions unnatural, sick, or
sinful? And even if he did take the risk, going to the few places where
heterosexuals were allowed to congregate (never at a church, mind you),
would he altogether escape internalizing that he had done something rather
filthy? Would he dare to tell those in the controlling majority of these
assignations, or would he remain severely closeted? Would his
heterosexuality be, as he was taught, only something he did in the dark,
or would he integrate it in a healthy and open way with all else that he
did, even though to do so were to live 'in your face' to his family,
church, and culture?
For me the greater wonder is not that many lesbigays live down to the
culture's expectations, but rather that so many of us manage -- by the
grace of God and the love of one another -- to be quite strong and
healthy while living in a world-wide hetero-dictatorship.
Make no mistake about it, for every strong African American you meet --
and my African American colleagues for the most part seem much stronger
than those of us who did not have to jump through the hoops they did --
there are a dozen more who were permanently damaged by systemic white
That's the way systems work. Racism and heterosexism are efficacious.
Otherwise those who benefit from them would have abandoned them of their
Lambeth manifests hetero privilege quite boldly, with few (but precious)
apologies. 1998 is the Summer of Virtue. His voice, which heretofore has
made our enemies sometimes wince, is THE voice of the Lambeth Conference.
His point of view is at the heart of what the press has reported. His
point of view closely mirrors that of the majority of the bishops
assembled. While David is more candid and less diplomatic, the archbishop
has said little that differs in substance. It is not surprising that Kim
reports that Andrew Carey hangs on David Virtue's every word.
It is extremely important that we not try to determine God's response to us
by looking to such systems or to those still invested in the privileges of
those systems. God has come to lesbigays directly with immeasurable love
in our Lord Jesus Christ. We are here not to receive that light from
Lambeth, but to bear witness to that light in lives of service even to
these who in ignorance style themselves as our enemies. They need our
love now as never before, and our patience. Not shuffling, not
obsequiousness, but our understanding -- understanding which we can
manifest only as a spiritual gift. Expect that gift. If it is slow in
coming, wait patiently for it.
During Lambeth, many bishops who have dealt kindly towards lesbigays have
been re-baptized, by immersion, in older, more familiar homophobic support
systems, as have all who have watched the Conference from near and far. Do
not be surprised if many begin to look at us through those lens. Do not
be surprised if they begin to define us by any failings we manifest.
That's the way that pre-judgment operates. Every pinkie and every hint of
a lithp will for a while be suspect in males not the master of a female,
as will every strong voice of assertion in a female not subservient to a
>From a win-or-lose point of view, Lambeth is David Virtue's. Shield the
joyous during its fleeting glory. From God's point of view, Lambeth
demonstrates an enormous Gospel opportunity, for God loves heterosexuals
exactly as much as God loves us. Pray that they will learn to hear the
Good News in that.
Meanwhile, love one another. Tend the weak. Care for our sick. Nurture
the young. Neglect not the poor. And as you look your enemies in the
eye, smile gently and forgive them even before they ask.