I know I’m probably going to get some heat for the comparison I’m about to make. Maybe I’ve just absorbed to much of the debate over same-sex marriage this month. Maybe I’m just reacting to news of black gay performing artist Kevin Aviance being attacked in New York City, by four black men yelling anti-gay slurs, while people watched and did nothing to help him. (Maybe I it’s just that I made the mistake of reading the Freeper reaction to Kevin’s attack.) Maybe I’m remembering that two other anti-gay attacks happened in New York the same weekend that Kevin was attacked. Maybe I’m also remembering another local attack in which a young black lesbian was shot, allegedly because of her sexual orientation.
Sometimes, I think, when facing up to bigotry, discrimination, and debate over one’s own humanity, one is called upon to state what should be plainly obvious. One has to assert one’s own humanity. That’s what I thought when I read about this statement by gay Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson during the denominations general convention this month.
The first openly gay Episcopal bishop said at a packed church hearing Wednesday that he is "not an abomination," as he pleaded with the denomination not to bar gays from the office of bishop, even temporarily, for the sake of Anglican unity.
If Episcopalians "see Christ in the faithful lives of our gay and lesbian members," they should have the courage to say so, no matter the potential consequences, said Bishop V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.
"I am not an abomination before God," he told the Episcopal General Convention. "Please, I beg you, let’s say our prayers and stand up for right."
Reading that statement, and seeing the picture of him standing to make that statement, I immediately thought of this picture.
Maybe it’s a stretch but does seem to me that, now as it was then, it’s not people’s rights that are really being called into question and debated these days. It’s our humanity.
And maybe that’s why Robinson’s statement reminded me of that picture. One the things I learned from studying the civil rights movement and the principles of nonviolence is that in order to walk that walk — in which every step, every action, is a statement of your humanity — you also have to have faith in the humanity of the other person; even as they’re pointing a gun at you, discriminating against you, or merely debating your humanity.
Making the statement is an act of faith that those hearing it have the capacity to understand; that they are reachable. Maybe that’s why Robinson was able later to also state his commitment to continuing the conversation.
He told the BBC that resolutions proposed by the convention were part of a conversation – one that he would not shy away from.
"I won’t walk away. I will stay here and I will talk with anyone who is willing to talk. I will be as faithfully true as I can be with people who can be equally as faithful," he said.
Then again, Robinson is in the faith business. And maybe the people he’s talking to are reachable. But at a time when mega-churches are marketing a "christian" computer game that sends players on "convert or kill" missions against gays and other infidels and five-year-old children are in boot camp training to be members of "god’s army," I sometimes wonder how many people will remain reachable, and for how long.