I picked up my home phone. I had no idea who this guy was, but he was pretty wound up.
Said his name was Rob, and he heard me singing with my band at an outdoor, on-campus gig a couple nights before. He heard us do a cover of a vintage Crowded House tune, and loves Crowded House, so he opened his apartment window and listened. We were pretty good. He heard some songs about Jesus, too. And then he heard something he didn't like:
I was singing about gays and lesbians.
So he called the house that booked the show -- a place I'd lived when I was a student, called Koinonia House at the University of Illinois. He'd asked for my name and number, and they'd given it to him. (Thanks, fellas!) And he was kinda steamed. Rob had had it with Christians going off on homosexuals, because he was a church-going Christian...and so was his husband.
And yes -- Rob had me. I had been singing about gays and lesbians...and demogogues and thespians, for that matter. And evolutionists, creationists, perverts, slumlords, deadbeats, athletes, Protestants and Catholics, Philistines, homophobes...everybody, everywhere.
He understood the context -- but wasn't satisfied. He wanted me to know how wrong Christians were on homosexuality, and maybe we should meet in person to discuss it. It'd have to be in the next two days, because he was moving to take a job in D.C.
The next day, I'm driving to a bagel place to meet Rob.
I asked God on the way: "PLEASE don't let me say something stupid. PLEASE don't let me be done with this conversation, and think 'I shoulda said' or 'Why did I say THAT?' PLEASE have mercy on me, and him. I don't know this guy, and I don't know what I'm doing."
He wasn't hard to spot. He wore a t-shirt that said, "HATE -- It's Not a Family Value". He explained that some friends of his told him he should wear it, since he was meeting with some "conservative Christian guy". I actually thought that was kind of funny, and laughed about it.
I listened to him for about an hour and a half.
He'd grown up in the church. He couldn't remember ever being terribly attracted to girls. He'd attended all the youth events. He now went to fairly conservative church, but they knew he was gay, and people were fine with it. He told me about his wedding ring, and that he wore one because he and his husband, while not legally married, were just as committed as anyone else.
He loved his husband, he said, and how could God object to that? God IS love, you know. How could God have a problem with that? And how could Christians be so hateful? And how can someone say his relationship with his husband is "sin"?
I did a lot of apologizing, I remember that.
I apologized for Christians, for those who genuinely hated him. I didn't doubt, for a moment, the pain he'd endured. I told him I didn't regard him as morally worse -- not a whit -- than I was. I told him I couldn't know what his relationship was really like, but I suspected much of it WAS good, that there were admirable aspects not only of his character, but of his lover, and of their relationship.
I told him no, I didn't think he'd chosen to be a homosexual. But -- humbly -- I didn't choose my brokenness, either. And yet here I am, broken.
We talked about how some church-folk want to define people who are homosexual strictly by their sex lives, as though that were the whole of their being -- and how some people who are homosexual actually define themselves the same way. But, I asked, couldn't we share interests in movies, art, culture, food, sense of humor, and a million other things...? Surely, there are more aspects to a person, and bases for legitimate friendship, even in the midst of our mutual fallenness.
We talked about the nature of hate: Was it "hate" for someone to say what I'd just said, about brokenness, about disorder? Must one hate an alcoholic by recognizing, and lamenting, the alcoholism? Is it "hate" when I object to my own behavior? Is it "love" to applaud another's march to pain? And we talked about the "short of the mark" nature of the term "sin".
We talked about Jesus, and how yes, He'd had very strong words for people who thought they, themselves, were without sin.
We talked about God's image -- male and female -- and what sex, and family, may represent.
We talked about the fact that I'd eaten five giant bagels, toasted, just sitting there. He was alarmed and amused.
We talked...and talked...at the bagel-place for three-and-a-half hours. I liked him.
I asked him if he thought I hated him. He said no, he didn't. He hadn't expected the conversation we'd had. He said he got the impression, actually, that I felt sorry for him. He said he understood that I was convinced that his homosexuality, ultimately, was not his plan, but was the result of brokenness, and that I was concerned for him. But no, I didn't hate him, that was apparent.
I told him I did feel sorry for him, I couldn't help it, and I kind of feel sorry for all of us.
We got ready to leave, realizing we'd talked a ridiculously long time, given our plastic-seated, bagel-themed environs. I told him -- and I believed and believe this -- I can always be wrong. Could he make the same statement?
He thought about it. I told him, "I think -- I don't know, but I think -- if we honestly asked God, cried out to God, begged Him, open-mindedly, to show us the right way, I think we'll wind up in agreement on this. It may be twenty years, but I honestly think he would honor our prayers."
I told him I'd earnestly ask. He agreed to do the same thing.
One more thing, I said: "And if I'm wrong, about anything, I want to know. I honestly do. I'm convinced on this, but if I'm shown otherwise, I will change my thinking on this. I want you to know that."
He said that was cool. He appreciated it. Ultimately, God's the authority, and we have to submit to Him.
I asked him if he would do the same thing. I told him I knew -- it would be much, much harder for him. But IF he were completely convinced that this was not what God wanted for his sexuality, that it was actually hindering him from being who God wants him to be, if he were somehow convinced...
Would he change? Would he submit that aspect of his life to God?
He paused and said...no.
"Honestly? No. I know this doesn't sound good, but honestly...no. I wouldn't."
We shook hands, and I told him I admired his honesty, but I think we were both kind of sad. And I told him I was glad he'd called me, and it would be cool to hang out again, but, he was moving to D.C. It's been several years, but I was thinking about him tonight.