I am a Christian. I am a gay man. Here is chronicle of my symbolic journey west, toward adventure, challenge, mystery and ultimately peace.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Finding the Underside of Power

I have been mulling this series of thoughts lately about power and the church and civil government and the like. I truly doubt I will finish these thoughts today, mostly because my ideas are still a little jumbled. But I might try anyway...

It seems to my simple mind that at some point a couple decades back, some church leaders determined that the church (speaking here of the large corporate church) could exert influence on the people around it by flexing its muscle with respect to government. By energizing Christians in a particular direction, many religious people did become a powerful political force, voting several candidates, mostly Republicans, into office. Simultaneously, parts of the church found power in their newfound influence and began wielding that power with respect to conservative social issues, the most notable being abortion and gay rights. Or maybe I have it all backwards; perhaps by becoming influencial on social issues, groups began to band together to support certain candidates. I am not certain which came first, the chicken or the egg.

Either way, the question I am left with today is: How effective has that "soldier in the culture war" stance been in advancing the church's original message of Jesus Christ? It just seems that as some leaders insist the church "stand up," and "not take it any more," and "fight against the culture war," a corresponding number of people have become the church's enemy and yet another group of people blow off Christians altogether. What does that accomplish?

I have played that part, the holy roller who ran around with flyers and went to rallies and the like. To this day, I am not sure it did any good other than make me feel accomplished and productive in those tasks that I thought a good Christian should be involved in.

Alternatively, I got to know persons. I use the word persons deliberately, because I got to know one person, then another person, and then another person. I would talk honestly about myself and all my struggles and attempt to get inside their hopes and fears and messes themselves. And somehow, I was given so much more power and influence in the lives of those persons just by being my real one-on-one self than I had ever attempted to claim. Somehow I had stumbled into the underside of power.

I have met some gay people who would go out of their way to spit on some church steps, but I never felt the need to hide myself as a Christian from them. I would simply say I was a Christian, and that lots of things did not make sense to me and that I had more questions than answers. I was not deliberately evangelizing. I was just being me. And more often than not, those people who hated the church so much would gain a respect for me. One guy told me, "I have no interest in being a Christian, but if anyone ever made me think about it, it was you." And this all occurred AFTER my lengthy pity party about how much trouble I was having reconciling homosexuality and Christianity. Here I was, spilling my guts and problems out more than anything, and being granted a spot of influence in his life because I was real.

Somehow, that is the underside of power. And I honestly think the church in general has missed it on this one.

I want other people to know I am a Christian by how I live my life. And that does not mean that they see my drive to church in fancy clothes on Sunday, or my yard sign for a particular candidate, or that I boycott some companies over their advertising. Instead, I am just real, explaining myself when it seems good and learning from someone who might differ. And in the process--and sometimes quite unintentially--finding the underside of power.