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Saturday, November 20, 2004

Have we changed much?

This was the essay I wrote for a college writing assignment in 1985:
Of Deviants and Loving My Neighbor
"I am a homosexual, Rich."


"That's right, I'm a queer." Bud Hines looked me in the eye. "I hope we can still be friends after this."

Sure we could still be friends. We had been friends for two years since we were both new in town. Los Angeles was too large for either of us. I had just arrived from the East Coast, and Bud was from Iowa. We met at Church and found a mutual need. We have been each other's "family" in this strange place away from home since then.

Each Sunday after Church, we would have lunch together at the usual diner. At least once a week, we would be in touch either for a prayer, or just to talk about the week, our work, frustrations and girlfriend problems. Then, six months ago, I was sent by my company on assignment to Seattle. We lost touch for a while;' oh, we called over the telephone, but that was all. Six months, and now this.

Bud told me he had been frustrated about his inability to have lasting relationships with any of the girls he had dated, and one evening had succumbed to the challenges of his colleagues at work to pick up a hooker. After that night, he had felt deeply guilty, and one evening, to forget his woes he went to a bar. That was where he was "initiated."

He wanted to "quit the church scene." Trouble is, Bud was not just a church-goer. He had been a committed Christian since his college days. He taught Sunday School, and was an encouragement to me in my Christian life. He also told me he wanted to fight his urge, but he felt "unclean."

"Can the Lord ever forgive me?"

I wanted to tell him, "Yes!" but what I could tell him, I was sure he already knew. I wasn't about to preach.

"Whatever happens, Bud, promise me that we will always be friends. And we will meet at church each week."

He promised, and as we left the diner, I had the feeling that we were going to have a long struggle ahead of us. I thought about our Church and its strong attitudes against homosexuals. I remember my friend, Frank Worthen, who worked with "Love in Action," a ministry to reach homosexuals who wanted to change their lifestyle, people like Bud. He told me once that he went to see a pastor to ask his support for this group. The pastor responded, "We want to see these sick people fired, evicted and jailed."

"That's the usual response we get from Christians," Frank told me. "The fact is that society in general is becoming more aware of the needs of the homosexuals, but the Church, whose aims are to save the world is apathetic, even antagonistic. That makes it hard for them to come to the Church for help."

I agree. In condemning the sin, we have condemned and ostracized the sinner. Instead of seeing the sinner as one who is in need, we have viewed him as an evil deviant out to pollute our lives. We have failed to realize that we, too, are sinners. We need a change of heart and mind. The Lord himself sat and drank with tax collectors and sinners. If we are to carry on his mandate to heal the hurting around us, we have to start calling the homosexual, "Our neighbor," and love him as one. I hope my pastor agrees with that.

When I wrote that piece as a young college freshman, I was a card-holding fundamentalist. You can tell why soon after my own church questioned my faith (or at least my doctrines), and regarded me as a radical, (or a liberal). Although after 20-odd years, I have changed much, and hopefully matured, but I wonder if there has been a corresponding change in the attitudes of the church. And I wonder if today, there is someone like Bud Hines, a leader and committed Christian, one who attends a progressive church like I do, were to fall into temptation like Bud did, would feel welcomed in the church or would rather "quit the church scene."