Tuesday, April 18, 2006

What Kind Of Christian Are You, Anyway?

LC, as is so often the case, got me thinking again this morning (and it hurts before my first cup of coffee...).

What image of "Christian" do we present to the rest of the world? This is especially timely for me right now. As part of our congregation's search for our own building, I'm making a lot of contacts in the community at large, with public officials, etc. What kind of impression am I making on them? Do they see "Christian" first or "G(ay)L(esbian)B(isexual)T(ransgendered) person" first? Do they see the collar before anything else? Some people, I know, have a hard time reconciling the first two--Christian and GLBT--let alone adding the clergy identification into the mix.

River City is heavily Roman Catholic, conservative Roman Catholic as I haven't seen in a while. The atmosphere reminds me of my ex's family (RC) in Brooklyn, where any mention of a deceased relative was followed by "Godresisoul," and first communion parties rivalled weddings. Thus another issue for them--a GLBT female clergy (they may have been aware of a neighbourhood priest who was "that way," but he was still male, and theoretically celibate, anyway). Many people have this ingrained respect for "the cloth" trained into them from the time they could talk. But in the GLBT community, they've also been trained that who they are is something to be ashamed of. So people hide in the closet, or, when they come out, reject not only Catholicism, but Christianity. So to see an out Christian often opens their mind to a new possibility--that they could be both Christian and out. And, as the town's "token religious GLBT spokesperson," I'm a model for that.

Now that sounds a bit conceited, but I'm not trying to say that I am the perfect model. In fact, that's something I still have to come to grips with. People do look to me, to see how I will react to an event, or what I am doing in response to an issue. I am very aware that what I do affects not only how the GLBT community might see the church/Christianity/clergy, but also how "straight" folks view the GLBT community/Christians/clergy. I am very aware of my many faults and failings, so there's a real tension between honesty and providing a role model. In many ways, I'm forced to be a better person than I would be on my own...and that's a sad commentary on my discipleship, perhaps, but there it is--the truth.

1 comment:

LutheranChik said...

This is something I've thought a lot about.

I don't consider myself "in the closet," but on the other hand I'm not running around screaming, "I'm here, I'm queer, get used to me!" LOL (Well...there is my infamous Coat of Many Colors, immortalized in my blog, but I haven't worn it in awhile.) In my church I'd say that there are about three people who know I'm gay, and probably many others who suspect.

But in the event that it ever becomes A Thing in my congregation -- I want people to have gotten to know me as a person; I want to live Christ into my life in my faith community in such a way that, if my sexual orientation ever becomes a topic of discussion in my congregation, it's not going to be the only or the most important defining factor in how my fellow parishoners see me; and that when these people hear the words "gay" or "lesbian," their first association is not going to be with some homophobic stereotype, but with me...not because I am exceptional, but because I'm not.