A couple years ago, The Marin Foundation began what they call the “I’m Sorry” campaign. They gathered a small group of people, made shirts and posters, and headed out to Chicago’s pride parade to deliver a message of apology and repentance to the LGBT community, expressing regret over the ways they had individually done harm to LGBT people and for the ways Christians have collectively harmed the LGBT community. It was a humble gesture, but it made an impact at the parade and led to some powerful conversations. The event became a tradition at different pride events around the country, and gradually more Christians began joining them at the parades, wearing shirts and holding their own homemade posters: “I’m sorry for how the church has treated you.” “I’m sorry for not listening.” “I used to be a Bible-banging homophobe—sorry!” Many recorded videos detailing why they were apologizing and how they were planning to make things better and posted them online.
That first year, a man dancing on a float in his underwear noticed the “I’m Sorry” shirts, and after reading the signs, he jumped off the float and gave a big hug to a few of the campaigners. A photographer captured the moment on film, and eventually the pictures went viral online, earning a gazillion likes and shares on Facebook, Reddit, and, most recently, a list of “21 Pictures That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity” on Buzzfeed. It’s certainly a compelling image, capturing a glimpse of the kind of sustained reconciliation many people would love to see between Christians and the LGBT community. Because of the uniqueness of the concept, the popularity of that image, and the attention the I’m Sorry campaign receives every year, it’s become one of the main ways people recognize and identify The Marin Foundation.
Chicago’s parade takes place on Sunday, and because I’ve seen and heard so much about the I’m Sorry campaign online, my excitement had been growing over the last few weeks in anticipation. The spectator in me looked forward to be part of something so poignant and meaningful. The activist in me (and, really, in every twenties-year-old with something to prove) looked forward to doing something visible and provocative. The evangelist in me looked forward to an interaction between representatives of the Christian community and representatives of the LGBT community that would be positive instead of regrettable or detrimental.
Then, I started thinking about what I wanted to apologize for, and my excitement turned to dread.
Apologizing and repenting at a pride parade means I have to take ownership of the harm I have personally inflicted upon the LGBT community. There’s surely something to be said for apologizing on behalf of the Christian institution throughout history, but there comes a time when integrity requires me to stand and apologize for my own sins. And make no mistake about that term: What I’m talking about apologizing for are sins I have committed against other people. I have no interest in utilizing buzzwords to extend some political olive branch; but I have deep interest in facing the ways I’ve failed to love as Christ loves, and I want to do so on this blog to invite others to do the same. Here, then, is why I’m sorry:
I’m sorry I have not loved as Jesus loves. I claim to live as a follower of Jesus, and that means my behavior should reflect his character. My unwillingness to love you may have reflected poorly on Jesus, and that means I failed miserably in my attempts to follow and emulate him. When I withheld love from you, I’m sure I convinced myself I was doing it because of my dedication to Jesus, and I’m only now understanding how foolishly that misses the whole point.
I’m sorry I refused to listen to you because it was easier to ignore you. I pursued the goal of maintaining my comfort in a position of privilege and power rather than the goal of subverting a culture that oppresses you and discriminates against you, and that’s shameful and repulsive. God’s heart is near the oppressed and victimized, but I always assumed God was on my side of the walls I built against you. I didn’t recognize myself as the oppressor and victimizer because of my pride and self-righteousness.
I’m sorry I thought I had you figured out because I saw some gay characters in movies and television shows and otherwise sheltered myself from actual LGBT people. I’m sorry for thinking you were something I could or should figure out, like some strange specimen or abstract concept. I projected my own biases, stereotypes, and baggage on you and didn’t think of you as a human with a story. When I did stop to listen, it was often patronizing and superficial, and I usually left feeling proud of myself for being a good listener rather than humbled by the enormous privilege of receiving your vulnerability.
I’m sorry I didn’t think about the huge implications of my lazy theology on your life. I uncritically accepted a certain position on homosexuality for too long and put off engaging the issue with my own mind because I was selfish, careless, and scared, and that’s not fair to you. I shouldn’t have ignored evidence that challenged my assumptions, and I shouldn’t have dismissed people who saw things differently. It was incredibly arrogant of me to doubt other people’s spiritual health and integrity based on our disagreements over particular theological questions.
I’m sorry I didn’t pay attention to the crisis of anti-gay bullying in our churches and schools until the deaths of Tyler Clementi, Seth Walsh, Raymond Chase, Asher Brown, Jamey Rodemeyer, and too many others made it impossible to ignore. I’m sorry for every second I allowed my ambivalence about same-sex relationships to make me doubt whether I ought to stick up for kids and grownups who are bullied because they’re different. I didn’t take their pain seriously, and I’m so sorry I didn’t go out of my way to find them and tell them they were safe and loved and valuable and precious.
And maybe most of all, I’m sorry because I should have known better. I reacted to the emergence of my own same-sex attractions by becoming loudly homophobic. I intentionally distanced myself from everything that was stereotypically gay because I made an idol out of others’ perceptions of me. I laughed at jokes about LGBT people because I wanted to fit in, and it baffles me that I didn’t stop to think about how disastrously damaging it was for me to use the word “gay” as a synonym for “bad.” I was silent when I should have spoken, and I contributed to an environment of suffocating silence. I’m sorry I denied any commonality between you and me because I was afraid to be one of you. I should have felt the searing pain of the Church’s sins along with you, but I didn’t want to admit people in the Church—my people—could make mistakes like that. I didn’t want to admit I could make mistakes like that. I ignored the Church’s mistreatment of you because I couldn’t stand the tension of committing myself to an imperfect body of people.
Lest I speak only in the past tense: I’m sorry I still get things wrong so often. I’m well past the season in my life where I can excuse away my ignorance by appealing to a lack of exposure to and education about LGBT issues. I’m sorry I find it so hard to raise a voice of dissent when Christians who don’t happen to know I’m gay make disparaging comments about the LGBT community. That unveils me as a coward, and I’m sorry I remain so obsessed with making people in the sexual majority feel comfortable at the expense of the minority. I don’t make righteous noise because I want people to like me, and that’s embarrassing. I’m sorry I still fall into the trap of thinking about you in broad strokes and stereotypes. I don’t try hard enough to get to know you better.
I’m sorry I don’t love as Jesus loves.
- outsidetheglass reblogged this from omoblog and added:
- erixnazareth likes this
- mcstory reblogged this from omoblog
- cristoph likes this
- withruemyheartisladen reblogged this from omoblog and added:
- withruemyheartisladen likes this
- krdee likes this
- schizophreniatic likes this
- omoblog posted this