How do I tell this story? Perhaps without using any names or many descriptions. You see, I am not convinced that LGBT people can be considered safe from violence at the hands of people -- including self-proclaimed Christians -- who don't like laws and court rulings related to equality and are seeking aggressive and "creative" methods of responding.

None of my friends in high school were open about being gay. There were a couple of casual acquaintances, but that is it. Today, more than a few Facebook friends from high school are, relatively speaking, very out about their homophobia. Oh, they wouldn't call it that. They'd use terms like "conservative" or notions of old-fashioned values related to how we were raised in the Bible Belt.

Here is where it gets strange, though. A mutual friend that I believe we all respected is gay. We didn't know it then. Many don't know it now. I wouldn't exactly call her "open" about it, but I can tell. I know, for example, that she hears my "tone of voice" online and appreciates it. As a Christian, this brings me great joy. As a graduate of this particular high school, it makes me sad.

I'm sure my friends on the political right, people who are in many ways so wrong despite believing they are right in multiple senses of the word, still hold the same affection for our old classmate. Odds are they don't know that she is a lesbian. I didn't for decades, so why should they? Here's the question, though: what would change if they were confronted with the ultimate freedom Christ offers to his followers -- aka, Truth (the Truth will set you free)?

If they know what I know, would they reject this person or update their assumptions and "beliefs" with new information? This mutual friend of ours wasn't just somebody that we used to know. I always saw her as an ally -- take from that term whatever you will. I valued her advice and leadership, although I probably rarely sought it. I believe our younger friends trusted her to the same degree or more. It is, though, these younger friends that concern me the most.

Some would be indifferent to the news I never intend to share because it doesn't belong to me.

Some might stop in their tracks, which is an encouraging thought.

All of that is overshadowed by my fear that some, even though we came from the same circles, might just add her to the list of people that they don't believe should be allowed ...

I can't even finish that sentence without holding my breath. Allowed to what?

* allowed to shop in the same stores I do,

* allowed to live with (and certainly not marry) the person she loves,

* allowed to hold a job without pretending she just hasn't found the right man yet,

* allowed to share her life story openly without a threat of violence, either verbal or worse,

* or perhaps even allowed to live.

No, I don't believe I have some old friends who would sentence other old friends to death just because of who they are (whom they love). But make no mistake: some of these people defend views like Mike Huckabee's or worse. By worse, I'm talking about the California attorney who wants gay people to be shot in the streets. By worse, I'm referring to multiple Christian (typically, but not exclusively, Southern Baptist) pastors who think we should round up homosexuals and permanently isolate them in internment camps or prisons.

What, though, should I do with all the talk about "taking our country back” if I don’t draw the inference about what we do with enemies in a culture war? The line between rounding people up and respectfully disagreeing with them becomes far too fine to measure. I want to believe that putting faces and names to people who are irrationally described as enemies will make all the difference, especially when mutual friends are involved. I am right to be concerned, though, that the ending might not be affirming.

This train of thought comes from an article I read today on an online friend’s blog. Michelle used her Word Of A Woman site today to provide a platform for someone who has more to share than just concern. It’s fear.
It Isn't Power. It's Fear.

Let me admit something else that I haven’t really shared before. More and more, my own feelings are not just about concern but fear. Would I be safe putting these thoughts on the line with people from our old school? Probably. Isn’t that shocking, though, that the honest answer is only “probably”? Whether it reveals something about me, like perhaps my own trust problems, or something larger about the debate over equality, it is still a true reflection of my doubts.

Look, it isn’t a big jump to move from rounding up your enemy to rounding up “their sympathizers” because we’ve seen this in almost every fascist system you can find in a history book that hasn’t been whitewashed by the myopically patriotic. I can’t tell you where the utopian vision of those who don’t really believe the American mantra that “all people are created equal and have certain inalienable rights” (including the pursuit of happiness) would end.

Does their version of patriotism deny a gay couple the right to get married? Clearly, yes.

Is it aggressive about ensuring that a bakery that wants to segregate its customer base (on a highly arbitrary standard from a Judeo-Christian perspective) faces no legal requirement to treat customers equally and fairly? Certainly, yes.

Would they burn a cross (or a building) of companies that eagerly pick up the business of customers who are rejected in this manner and any other customers who prefer to spend their money with people who choose not to separate, isolate, and humiliate anyone? I’m desperate to say no to this question, but it’s neither clear nor certain to me right now.

So, I worry about old friends who have to hide facts about other old friends from mutual old friends. Honestly, I also worry that even sharing these feeling could make me unwelcome in some corners of my old hometown. On the next Walk The Earth (#25), I’ll talk a little about cakes and cookies and a fear of being poisoned by people who don’t like my ideas.

It’s irrational. I used to say that I know it’s irrational. I still do believe it’s irrational, which simply suggests that all of us are irrational about something. That’s what fear does, though. It makes us doubt the things we ought to take for granted.

1 John 4: 18-21 says:
“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.” (NASB_1995)

So, I’m working on it, struggling to move a sense of fear back to merely a concern. I'm not even asking for a sense of confidence again. I'll settle for merely concern.
This is my prayer.

Inappropriate Conversations
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