Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Katrina Diaries: Pretty, Witty and Gay

Another day of moldy drywall. It remains hot and humid and we are so disgusting that I can barely stand to be in the same room with myself. In the heat of this afternoon, two irrepressible young women who have joined us from Indiana broke into song. With sweat streaking the dust on their faces they sang together, “I feel pretty! Oh, so pretty!” When they got to the phrase, “I feel pretty, and witty …” my friend, Tom, chimed in, “… and gay!”

The deepest joy I have discovered in this journey has come in watching Tom exercise his immense gifts of organization, leadership, energy and good humor. The entire team has been moved by his capacity for compassion – for true suffering with and alongside the families we are serving. We have been guided by his experience with plumbing and electricity, too, and have managed to remove fixtures from bathrooms and kitchens without making a bad situation worse and without electrocuting anyone! His ministry here is surely a sign of the reign of God in the world.

It’s a shame – one might call it a sin – that the world does not recognize such ministry. The church and the broader culture are torn apart by issues concerning gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people, yet the people themselves remain often invisible. Whether it is ordination issues within the church, or marriage and other civil rights issues in the society, GLBT people are painted with broad brushes and their individual lives are obscured. As a result, the conversation is diminished. Indeed, it is not even ever a conversation, because conversation demands partners rather than stereotyped images.

For this one week, at least, conservative and progressive people of faith have shared a common mission: to serve the people in most need along one small stretch of the battered Gulf Coast. Remarkably enough, through this shared mission, genuine conversation has emerged about precisely the concerns that divide us. But the conversation has an entirely different tone to it among us, because we are not talking now about “an issue” but rather about an incarnation, flesh and blood human beings who may be “pretty, witty and gay” or not.

Houses may not be the only thing that is rebuilt along the Gulf Coast. Perhaps a richer, fuller national conversation about the issues that divide us can also be constructed out of the relationships built among those who are sharing in the common struggle to respond to the unprecedented need in places like Gautier. God is not a Democrat nor a Republican, but God’s people come as each and as neither. Only when we can begin to see one another as individuals, created in our rich variety in the image of an unfathomably creative God, will we be able to reach beyond the lines of difference we have constructed. In any case, it’s clear that the folks down here whose lives Tom has touched are less concerned about his sex life than about the faith life that drives him to service in the name of Jesus.

1 comment:

Ron Bookbinder said...

David/Christian: I enjoyed your most recent posting so much, I read the one before and loved it just as much! Knowing Tom, I can just picture him in this situation and know how great it was to have him helping (actually leading) with the Katrina clean-up. I'm glad the common work led to good discussions. There's always a chance to educate just by not being afraid to be ourselves. Person by person, you (and we) are making a difference on the issues that matter.

Thanks,
Ron Bookbinder