Friday, September 30, 2016

A special invitation

This post makes me nervous.

I'm nervous because I want to address the post to my LGBTQA friends and readers, especially those in the State College area. And, however much I may strive to be an ally and supporter, I am straight and cisgender (and privileged in other ways too) and I'm worried about ending up using the word "you" too often.  Whereas when I write with my specifically Christian, or environmentalist, friends and readers in mind, it's easy for me to say "We".

But, even though I am not LGBTQ myself, I hope that after several years I am enough "We" with LGBTQ people that I can make an honest invitation.  It's a faith-related invitation - and, at this point, one might reasonably decide to read no further.  From my experience, it would seem that every LGBTQ person one meets has a story of shaming and isolation and rejection that springs from somebody's "faith".   This is pretty much a universal.  No wonder so many LGBTQ people decide to leave the faith community which has betrayed them.  For some, this is a literally life-saving decision.

But then I saw some survey data in a recent book, Us vs. Us, which blew my mind. Among many surprising statistics, the one that stood out for me the most is this: Among all Americans who have made a decision to leave their faith community, only 9 percent are open to the possibility of return.  Yet the corresponding figure among LGBTQ Americans who have left their faith communities is 76 percent!   That's right - at least according to those LGBTQ Americans surveyed for this book (thousands of people), the desire for a homecoming to a faith community is widespread.  Over three-quarters expressed it.

If I was in this position, wounded by "faith" and yet craving a homecoming, I might hope for two things, I think: a place where I can hear a faith articulated that revolves around acceptance and embrace, rather than exclusion and shame; and a small group of like-minded seekers that I can be a part of and who will support one another.  That is why Justin Lee is coming to the Penn State campus on November 13th.  Justin is the founder of the Gay Christian Network, a national organization that helps LGBTQ Christians live out an affirming faith.  His presentation is sponsored by Receiving with Thanksgiving, a PSU student organization which affirms that "our lives are gifts from God, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made, and that we believe in a God of whom we are not ashamed."  Justin will articulate a faith that revolves around acceptance (in his very calm, peaceful way), and Receiving with Thanksgiving will extend the offer of a closer, small-group fellowship (if you are interested; no pressure).

So I'd like to invite you to come hear Justin (at 4pm, Nov 13, Freeman Auditorium in the HUB).  And I have to confess that I have some skin in the game too: my wife Liane and I are helping sponsor this event in remembrance of our transgender child Eli (Miriam), who we lost earlier this year; for Eli's sake I'd like to see an event which is really meaningful in your life, in the way that his presence was meaningful in the lives of his friends.  For some, I know, even the idea of listening to a faith-based speaker - even in a completely secular space - may be too triggering to handle. I respect that.  But if it is possible - and if you are one of that 76% - and if you are wondering about that homecoming and how it might come about - why not come on November 13th and hear what Justin has to say?  

1 comment:

Byron Borger said...

This is beautifully written and earnest, John, and I'm sure your friends in many different circles will appreciate your good invitation. This really will be a fruitful, even fun, event and I do hope many attend. Thanks for doing this good work.