I woke up this morning feeling sorry for homophobes.
If you know me, you might be surprised by this reaction, because I don’t tend to suffer intolerance. And at some point in my young life I realized that God doesn’t screw up people, so if God made people gay, I probably shouldn’t keep telling God to stop making mistakes.
But I realized afresh today that some of the people who have brought the most beauty and love into my life are LGBTQ. And people who want to make people “pray away the gay” (and hate away and threaten away and terrorize away the gay) clearly need more beauty and love in their lives. This, I know, is an incredibly straight-privileged position to take. If I were LGBTQ, I would probably be a lot angrier than most of my friends are at the world.
All of this came to me as I started thinking of a series I meant to start yesterday for the twelve days of Christmas, lifting up the values of Christmas and how I see them showing up in the world around me.
And not long after I woke up, I read an article about a couple who had “Faggots” scrawled into their apartment door and responded as follows:
I was struck by the joy-over-pain bravery of the response, and I found myself thinking about how joy is a choice.
The bible tells us Jesus was born at a time of oppression, of Roman rule, of a possibly demented quasi-Jewish “king,” and according to one gospel at a time that the lives of infant boys were being slaughtered (by said demented and also paranoid king). Angels came to shepherds and proclaimed “Be Not Afraid!” because the shepherds had every reason to be freaked the heck out.
And yet we talk about Christmas as a time of joy. Today I find myself thinking about joy as a conscious decision in the face of oppression. A rabbi I worked with at The Interfaith Alliance, Rabbi Jack Moline, once wrote about Jewish humor as a coping mechanism for thousands of years of persecution. And I find myself paying attention to how so many communities seeking justice turn to humor, turn to intense and focused joy, turn to celebration as a means of not letting the bullies win.
(Make no mistake: I don’t mean to glorify gay people. Just the other day a good friend of mine was telling me about a man who is wrestling with his sexual identity and who I believe is being incredibly selfish in the way he uses and engages my friend. He explained to me how hard it is to work through one’s sexual identity, and I said, “Yeah, but a guy who’s a dick when he thinks he’s straight can still turn out to be a dick when he finally admits he’s gay.”)
Now is a time it can be hard to find joy. In fact, choosing joy in the face of oppression or just plain bullying can be a heroic act, moreso than finding joy in the midst of already abundant comfort. But it is also a form of liberation. It’s a moment of remembering that the bullies can’t own you or your feelings.
So as I think about the spirit of Christmas today, I want to lift up joy. And especially the joy of The Gays In Apt. 611.