Last night I spent the evening socializing with a bunch of evangelicals, along with members of the GLBT community; about 8 people on each team.
I would not normally want to do such a thing, seeing how we've interacted in the past. Fact is I am so tired of this. This point in Utah's legislative session is where I typically start to wear down and this session has been difficult, from the loss of all Common Ground Bills on the heals of Prop 8, to Buttar's declaration that gays have no morals, followed by the agreement of his Legislative buddies (they just didn't like the way he said it...). But I went because, frankly, I'm a desperate man; I'll drag myself along and will take on most forms of discomfort and exposure to just be heard on the other side, just in case that helps the three huge responsibilities I left at home last night.
I'm glad I did it though.
The conversation was moderated, and cushioned between periods of socializing. It went well and the only time I got stirred up was in listening to one of my friends talk about the hurt our families have gone through this last year in Utah and in regards to the LDS. There wasn't any hostility from either side, though. No one was trying to be cruel, even with that veneer of love, and no animosity was engendered that I could detect, and that is a tribute to their and the moderator's approach. It seems some leaders in Utah can't advocate even love and "mutual respect" without being insulting and inflammatory :-).
In short, these were not the evangelicals who protest at Pride or LDS conference. They were folks who love and are adherent to their faith. They were people who believe Paul when he seemingly wrote to the Romans that homosexuality is a sin. However, they were sincerely looking for common ground; it wasn't the sort of bait and switch I've come to expect. They actually heard our fears for our homes, and agreed on issues of equal rights and law... or at least seemed to, my cynical side wants to add, but I'm trying to give these folk the benefit of the doubt.
We talked about the legal issues our homes face here; we talked about the trouble the adoption law, for example, causes some of our children. We talked about how dehumanizing it feels when it seems like the average evangelical looks at us and all they see is something relatively unimportant to us, sex, not a parent, not a spouse, not a citizen. The christian gays and lesbians talked about the challenges they feel in finding a community of faith for their families.
But we were there to hear their fears too.
They wanted to know from the christian gays and lesbians if love, inclusion but not a blessing of their unions was enough for them to fit into their congregation; they agreed it was. They were even wondering "why don't we sit in the same pews?", which is much more religious inclusion than we're used to, seeing as the church of our youth would likely excommunicate every gay couple there. Nevertheless, we don't want their faith to change in their churches; we want the government we share in the secular world to be blind to our anatomy, and to treat us how they'd want to be treated.
Also, as they said, they've been in the majority in the US for a long time and they fear their numbers are dwindling, and that's scares them. No one there said this was their personal fear but they said it was an evangelical fear that, if they give us equal rights, it eventually will lead to gays treating them the way they now treat us. They are afraid of payback, that the same tools the LDS and some evangelicals are using on us now will some day be turned on them, if they give us any ground. I think the gay community should be more sensitive to that fear. Even if we don't see that as a likely event and it's not in our hearts, we need to get it across that, if that day ever came, we'd still be on the side of religious freedom and equality, on the evangelical's side on that day. We also need to get across that, to aleviate any chance of that fear comming true, they should not be putting tension on the pendulum of politics. They should fight to bring the mass to the middle, fight for equality and protections for us both under law, else, when they're forced to let go, they might convert their potential to kinetic energy against them down the line.
Anyway, while we may never agree about a letter from Paul two-thousand years ago, it seems we can still render unto Caesar what's Caesar's and have each other's back in the political arena. In the end, cliche as it is, bridges were built; there weren't two teams. I hate that gulf of misunderstanding between my family and the majority of LDS Utahns out there; it's one I'm nearly certain we could bridge with 90% of them if we just spent a similar evening together... but there are only so many evenings and I'm looking for my family to spend them elsewhere. Nevertheless, you have to celebrate the small steps, right?