When I first agreed to lunch, I was hesitant. Not hesitant because I didn't want to go, but hesitant due to the content we'd be discussing. Me and Bree (not her real name) go waaayy back!! Back as far as little girls, who are cousins and not sisters, can: spending nights at each other's houses, attending birthday parties, crushing on the same boys in the neighborhood...all the way to pledging the same sorority once in college, way, way back!
My hesitancy about lunch surrounded the fact that my cousin had just found out I was in a long-term relationship with a woman. I wish I could write that our time was spent celebrating my now happy relationship/engagement and bright future with someone I truly love...not so.
Instead our lunch surrounded talk about "the end" (yes, as in the end of life), and how same sex relationships are unnatural, and if people attended church where "the Truth" is preached and they get offended, it's because of "the Truth" requires them to change. We discussed my divorce and how my current relationship had no bearing on my marriage breaking up, etc, etc, etc, etc... Very heavy topics that turned into an almost three-hour lunch meeting.
Once lunch was over, after tears and an attempt to understand each other, we hugged and went our separate ways. A part of me wondered if our relationship would ever be the same, while another part of me knew it wouldn't ever be the same.
I have never been one to "argue" the Bible. I believe there are many different perspectives and interpretations. The truth for me stands without the need of a defense or argument: God loves us and wants those who say they know Jesus to love one another and be in good relationship with their neighbor. Period.
As I was driving home, my head swirled with thoughts of "the Truth" and how "Christians" can sometimes be the least likely to draw people to Christ. I began to ponder why is it that the African American community (most of it) has not embraced and affirmed LGBTQ individuals? Truth be told, there are those family members that we always knew preferred the same sex, but it was never discussed. Not only was it not discussed, they just never seemed to bring anyone to the family dinners or get-togethers.
Why does the church and "the Truth" condemn us to hell? Now, I am smart enough to know that there are surely exceptions to the groups I've mentioned, but for the most part, everything I've read and now experienced leads me to feel that there is a LONG way to go yet in their collective acceptance. It seems that as long as LGBTQ individuals who work within the African American church (whether as choir directors, musicians, etc.) or in their own families, live their lives "secretly," they are accepted for the talents they bring to the church and to their family, but living in their authenticity with their significant others would almost assuredly bring disdain and judgement — and in extreme cases, exile. This is why so many LGBTQ African Americans live secretly, maybe as a way to appease the masses who attend church on Sundays or their family — hoping that in the secrecy they escape the pain of the aforementioned. But is it truly escaping the pain? Living secretly almost always brings pressure to play the part, and it can crush the development of a person's true authentic self. Not to mention, it heightens the ailments that may come from that pressure: depression, anxiety, etc.
I want to be sure to not lump all African American families/communities or churches into my reflections, but while I am careful to not do so, I am also imploring those who do support to speak up and make spaces safe for younger (and older) African American LGBTQ individuals. It is a must. Speak up so those who continue to feel the need to live in secrecy can step out of the shadows and into freedom, knowing they will be surrounded in a community of love and acceptance. Family and church have always been pillars in the African American community. Exploring how we combat "the Truth" with Christ's Truth is critical. Love above all else is essential.
I will remain optimistic that we as a culture will evolve and get there. The church for many of us is a place of renewal, hope, inspiration, and encouragement. ALL individuals should be welcome. Christ wants that. ALL should be welcome to live authentically without "the Truth" of condemnation or being told that who we love is somehow "unnatural" or sure to bring us eternal damnation.
That second lunch date hasn't been scheduled yet...not sure it will.
Kamiel Evans is a school administrator in Kansas. She has a strong faith and at one time pursued the path of Deaconship in the United Methodist Church. Coffee is a must every morning, and ice cream is a weekly guilty pleasure. She is active on social media and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org