I Hugged a Man in His Underwear . . .

Now that I’ve got your attention . . .

No, seriously, that is part of the title of this post I read yesterday and was very moved. Nathan (who wrote the post) is a pastoral care worker for The Marin Foundation, working out of Chicago in the USA.  His post tells the story of his attendance at this year’s Gay Pride parade, not as a protester, but to openly say ‘We’re Sorry’ to the LGBT community for not being like Jesus. I’ll put a link to the post at the end of this one.

I admire the work of The Marin Foundation for what they are doing in repairing relationships between the Church and the LGBT community (and highly recommend Andrew Marin’s book, Love is an Orientation: Elevating the Conversation with the Gay Community, though I still don’t think he goes far enough in his acceptance of LGBT folk into the life of the Christian community).

What I really appreciated is Nathan’s openness to realising that the Church of which he is a part has been wrong to victimise the LGBT community, marginalise them, and treat them no better than third-class citizens. While others were shouting venomous words and waving hate-filled placards, he and his friends were wearing T-shirts that said ‘I’m Sorry” and held banners and signs declaring sins of exclusion, asking for forgiveness.

What I also appreciate is what he said regarding acceptance and reconciliation:

Acceptance is one thing. Reconciliation is another. Sure at Pride, everyone is accepted (except perhaps the protestors). There are churches that say they accept all. There are business that say the accept everyone. But acceptance isn’t enough. Reconciliation is.

But there isn’t always reconciliation. And when there isn’t reconciliation, there isn’t full acceptance. Reconciliation is more painful; it’s more difficult. Reconciliation forces one to remember the wrongs committed and relive constant pain. Yet it’s more powerful and transformational because two parties that should not be together and have every right to hate one another come together for the good of one another, for forgiveness, reconciliation, unity.

Paul Fiddes spoke about forgiveness yesterday in the seminar I attended at Tabor Adelaide. Using the example of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa at the end of Apartheid, he demonstrated the difference between saying ‘I’m sorry’ and then sweeping the past under the carpet (so to speak) and sharing stories which lead to a more genuine understanding and reconciliation. In sharing stories, he said, we bring to light how the offense has affected us and often, though not always, just telling their story and hearing the story of the victim can bring about a real change in the attitude and life of the offender.

I believe it’s only when we can keep the conversation open that real reconciliation and the mending of damaged relationships can happen. Just like no gay person has ever been converted with signs that say ‘God Hates Fags,’ no reconciliation can happen if we refuse to respect the other enough to listen–rather ‘enter into’–their story.

After all, this is what Jesus did for us.

Here’s the link to Nathan’s post, I Hugged a Man in His Underwear, and I am Proud.