Let's Tell a Better Story
by The Rev. Adrienne Koch
“Canada warns LGBT travellers of US risks”
That was the title of an article in my BBC news feed this week that first shocked me, and then gave me pause.
According to gallop poll, gay marriage approval is up to 71% of the US population, with only 28% claiming it’s not a valid marriage. But those figures were reversed just 18 years ago, and the 28% holding out remain loud.
In an instant I recalled the themes of emails and phone calls I’d received over the last few months related to LGBTQ+ hate:
LGBTQ+ hecklers are appearing at events in my community.
Gay hate preachers are coming to CSU’s campus.
My church was vandalized because of a queer event.
Family won’t come to my same-sex wedding.
These are not isolated experiences, and in fact, I’ve heard each over and over in multiple venues. Why do the numbers trend toward affirmation and acceptance of LGBTQ+ persons while the hate speech increases? I imagine there are many ways to answer that question, but the one that rises for me is that the 71% are simply quieter.
Every Thursday at Trinity’s Healing Eucharist, those gathered in the pews pray these words, “O God of peace, you have taught us that in…quietness and confidence shall be our strength.” It’s a line taken from the prophet Isaiah (30:15) and found in the prayers and thanksgivings in our Book of Common Prayer (BCP).
There’s nothing wrong with being quiet. In fact, as old Jewish proverb teaches us that “Silence is a fence around wisdom.” Quietness may be a sign that discernment is occurring and even perhaps that a flower of wisdom is blooming within us, but quietness doesn’t require passivity.
Last week, I met with a number of Cleveland State University staff who are concerned for the growing instances of overt LGBT+ hate on campus. As a community partner with a large LGBTQ+ population and many many Allies, Trinity Cathedral is uniquely positioned to support those being verbally abused.
While there are certainly times and places to speak out against hateful voices (at times, even Jesus called religious hecklers “broods of vipers!”), engaging public hecklers directly can get complicated, especially since more and more are accessing their right to free speech and acquiring permits to speak on public property. One method for engaging religious hate indirectly is simply to tell a better story than the one the hate speech is offering. As Christians, this is something we are also uniquely positioned to do.
One of the methods we see Jesus use in scripture to derail any message in conflict with God’s message of unconditional love is to change the subject. If he was asked a question, he asked an alternate question. If he was asked a question that was oversimplified, instead of responding directly, he would share a parable to show both the complexity and simplicity of God’s response of love.
This academic year, I will be collaborating with administrators to find creative ways to tell a better story for the LGBTQ+ students and staff on campus. When opportunity presents itself, I hope you’ll join me in being a messenger of Jesus’ alternate Way of Love:
LGBTQ+ hecklers are appearing at events in my community: “The tongue is a fire…sets on fire the cycle of life, and is itself set on fire by hell…show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom…wisdom from above is peaceable, gentle…without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3)
Gay hate preachers are coming to CSU’s campus: “The pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people’… all who exalt themselves will be humbled and all who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:14)
My church was vandalized because of a queer event: The people are the church, not the building. “God’s church is made up of living stones being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:5)
Family won’t come to my same-sex wedding: Jesus was the first to sign up for a party thrown by people the crowds called “sinners.” (Matthew 9:10)
Together, let’s look for opportunities this year to support LGBTQ+ people experiencing hate by telling a better story.