This post started out as a response to an article titled “The F Word”, which was posted by an anonymous writer on the Red Letter Christian website. The article opens with the writer talking about how he grew up reading comic books. I used to love comic books and read them well into my thirties. So I felt an immediate connection to the writer. The writer, a gay man, goes on to say how he has learned to blend in and pass for straight, and how painful it is to hide who you really are from others.
When I decided to start blogging, I made a conscious decision to use my real name and to write as truthfully as I could about what I believe. I knew that I would be writing about things that might upset some people and that might even lose a friend or two. This post is about one of those issues. I am a little scared about how some people will react, but when I see the pain and alienation that LGBT people face because of the way they are treated by some people within the Christian community I can no longer remain silent. So here I stand, I can do no other.
The science fiction writer Robert Silverberg wrote a short story called To See the Invisible Man. Like all great writing it is far more than just a story; it tells something important things about life. It is a parable of sorts. I think that the parables of Jesus can be seen as short stories. He used his stories to point to a greater truth and to instruct us on how we should live our lives. I think that Silverberg’s story is like one of Jesus’s parables. It is a story of a man who was punished for the crime of coldness; in other words, he did not love his neighbor. As punishment for this crime he has a mark placed upon his head, and anyone who sees this mark must not talk to him or in any way acknowledge his existence. He becomes invisible to all around him. At first he thinks this is not such a bad thing because he can do pretty much whatever he wants and no one will stop him, but he soon learns that it is a terrible punishment. By the end of his one-year sentence he learns compassion and empathy for others. In fact he learns his lesson so well that when he sees another person suffering because she bears the mark of invisibility, he speaks to her and says, “I see you”. Because he acknowledges her, he is punished by being made invisible for another year, but this time he bears his punishment with grace because he acted out of compassion. The mark on his forehead is now a mark of pride and not a mark of shame.
This seems to me to be very much like a parable that Jesus would’ve spoken. The invisible man in the story stands for all those who are marginalized by the world. But as with the parables of Jesus, it’s not that easy, we are all the invisible man. We are simultaneously the invisible man and the society that refuses to see him. We all hide parts of ourselves from each other for fear of what others might think.
Now comes the hard part. I want to share with you something I have been struggling with for a long time. And that is the way that many people within the church treat our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transsexual brothers and sisters. They are the invisible men and women within the church, forced to hide their innermost selves from the church for fear that they will not be accepted. I think it says a lot that the one place that people often most afraid to talk about the issue of marriage equality is the church.
As we learn more and more about homosexuality, the more we know that it is not a choice. The science we have today indicates that sexual orientation is an inherent trait like eye color or height. I have struggled for some time now about whether or not I should speak out in favor of marriage equality. I have decided that as a matter of conscience I can no longer remain silent on this matter. I realize that this is a divisive issue within the church, but for me it breaks down into two separate issues. The first is an equal rights issue. Because I believe in the separation of church and state I believe that government must protect same-sex couples by ensuring that they have the same rights and privileges as a man and a woman who enter into marriage. I believe this because a government that can deny someone their civil rights on religious grounds can also take away your civil rights for the very same reason.
The second issue is whether or not a church should allow two people of the same gender to marry. This is a much more nuanced argument because, although I feel that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry in the church, there are many who do not agree with me. And although there are Christians who believe that homosexuality is a sin, it is equally true that there are a great many people within the Christian community who have come to an understanding that homosexuality is not a sin. So while I believe that Christians should support marriage equality, I do not think it would be right to require a church to marry a same sex couple if it conflicts with their beliefs, but I urge you to seek out what people are saying about this important issue and why many people within the Christian community now support marriage equality. This is one of those issues I could be wrong about, but I don’t think so. I do know this Christ’s call for us to love one another is unambiguous. Even if you do not support marriage equality I think it is important we support each other. It is important that we love all of God’s children with all our heart and all our soul and all our might. It is my sincere belief that God will forgive me if I am on the wrong side of the marriage equality debate. One thing I know for sure is that if I do not love my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters who I have seen, I cannot love God who I have not seen. So let us all reach out to our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in the spirit of love. Let us welcome them into our churches and into our hearts. Too many people in the gay and lesbian community are invisible to us. Let us say,” I see you, I love you, and you are welcome here”.
“A small footnote found in the court records of some parallel world. The name of Mitchell Chaplin, who served his sentence of invisibility and learned his lesson well. Too well. This time, however, he will wear his invisibility like a shield of glory. A shield forged in the very heart…of The Twilight Zone.”
Closing narration for The Twilight Zone adaptation of To See the Invisible Man.