surfing working on my computer early one evening when the doorbell rang. The dog went nuts, of course, so I had to put down my laptop and find out who was here. It was three Mormon missionary boys, fresh-faced and eager to talk.
In an intriguing coincidence, I had been revisiting some writings by my recently deceased friend, Rance. He was a gay man raised in the Mormon church, and he was the first to make me aware of the depth of the pain caused the LGBT community by his church and many others. He wrote in detail of two suicides, one his first love.
Feisty, profane, intelligent and compassionate, Rance also spoke on his faith:
We could all tell these kinds of stories all day long. It is so easy to hate and to blame but in the end, we must rise above it. Rising above it is all we have. We must each find a way to emulate Him, and keep our eyes on Him and not the tide of misunderstanding that so often rises against us. In the end we should not be deprived of the Church because so many in it don't have a clue. It is just as much our church as it is theirs, it is there for us, for all of us, and the more understanding I gain, the more I realize that Christ would welcome me to the arms of the Church, and He is the only one who counts at the end of the day.
Rance's words put me in the proper frame of mind for this visit from Mormon missionaries.
The boys started out with their memorized questions, but I put a stop to that with a couple of kind rebuffs. At first I just wanted to shut the door, but then it struck me that I had a teaching moment here. I told them that instead I wanted to talk about the grave harm the church--theirs and mine--was perpetrating. I told them about how our denominations are literally killing people with the doctrine of rejection some are teaching on homosexuality.
They wanted to challenge me--politely--with "what the Bible says" about homosexuality. My reply was this: what the Bible reads and what the Bible says are two different things. I discussed the difference between the original languages and our imperfect translations due to the restrictions inherent in the structure and etymology of English; the cultural context of the original writings that is so crucial to understanding; and the overall message of the Bible.
In scholarly studies we see that there are compelling arguments to both sides of the issue, and there are problems with both sides. We can spend eternity flinging Bible passages at each other. So it comes down to this: what is the overall message of the Bible, grace or condemnation? What is the nature of God as you understand it? I believe God's message to be one of unconditional love and astonishing grace for everyone exactly as he made them to be. If God loves me, broken as I am, then how could he not love everyone else equally?
I asked the boys to think about it.
I thank God for Rance, for giving me the background and confidence for this unexpected meeting. You never know who is ready for what you have to say. Maybe one of those boys needed to hear exactly what we talked about that evening.