Fighting Discrimination: Missionary Style

Using the methods I learned to bring people to Christ, but for good.

I've had a lot of feelings that need to be digested over the past months. Since the election there has been a cycling of grief, anger, anxiety, tears, hopelessness, and resignation inside my head. That compiled with the stress a dozen or so kittens that we couldn't seem to socialize or find homes has led to a feeling of internal failure and apathy.

Some of you may be asking about what happened to Pancakes and my egg donation. I am very heartbroken to share the news that the implanted embryos didn't thrive in the end. I know I'm certainly not as heartbroken as my friend who is nearing the end of her IVF options. I was really looking forward to being part of a new kind of family.

On the bright side I was able to tap into some of those emotions to make two brand new records that I'm really proud of. I've delved into my darkness and been vocal about it. It's not funny or pretty, but it's true.

It's taken me a long, long time to be true to myself. The more truthful I am the farther I find myself from some of the ones I love dearest. BUT, I also find new relationships with relatives who used to be strangers. There was a time when I went to church every Sunday with my family, and I didn't ask questions. Questions mean confrontation. Confrontation means I will be in the bathroom for awhile. We had one bathroom for five people in my house. I wonder if we had had more toilets, would we have communicated better as a family?

As an evangelical Christian child, I was charged with the task to share the Gospel and bring people to Christ. Everyone needed salvation, and if I wasn't telling the world about that then I was being complicit in the damnation of my friends. That was quite a burden to bear on the playground. I just never knew how to convince anyone of anything. As soon as someone disagreed with me, I shut down. I changed the subject. Maybe I left the room and cried. Discourse was so risky. I viewed disagreement as a rejection that would lead to loss of love. I still struggle with that.

One summer I went on a missions trip to Scotland where I was a counselor leading a group of earnest teenagers who wanted to bring people to Christ. The organizers of this camp were so different from the churchy, crispy, holy, don't ask why people that I had grown up with. First of all, their accent was awesome. Please, tell me more about my sins. Second, they used the word bitch and a few other curse words pretty freely. So edgy. Third and most important, they taught me that I alone cannot bring someone to Christ. Wha?

Basically, I learned that you can put someone's beliefs on a scale of 1-10. "1" might be someone who hasn't ever heard of that Jesus dude. "10" is like the Pope. As Christians we can't sit down and change someone's belief system with one conversation. Believing in a man who totally died and then totally came back is extraordinary and weird. Believing in a loving God is even harder. If you didn't grow up in it, belief like that takes many conversations, many experiences, many moments of "maybe" that gradually take you from "1" to Pope. Nobody goes "1" to Pope at once. That would be an awesome Marvel movie though. Small gestures that allow a person to make connections and realizations on their own will build a better foundation for changing minds.

These mission trips were a chance for you to move the scale by a fraction. As a team, we would don Jesus-y t-shirts and clean up litter or run a daycare or put on a puppet show for children or just show love in whatever way was asked of us. You never know who was watching and maybe thought "hey those Christians aren't assholes after all". And then, you have tipped the scale from "4" to a "4.3". Good job. Then that person gets cut off in traffic by a car with a "Jesus Is The Reason For The Season" bumper sticker, and they slide down to a "3.5". Sigh.

I haven't been to church regularly in a couple years. I disagree with the patriarchy and hypocrisy of the church I was raised in, but I've found ones that I am 100% on board with. They freely open their arms to everyone. I look for the rainbow flags and weirdos. I look for pain. I look for brokenness. Smiles are easy to find at a church. I've been faking those for years.

Listen, you cannot bring someone to Christ. You cannot change someone's mind about homosexuality, abortion, racism, Obama, or Donald Trump. How did I come to change my mind? That's another post, but I have found more acceptance, love, grace, kindness, and openness on the outside of the church's doors. The nerds, the gays, the outcasts have always felt like home. I haven't closed the doors, but I'm certainly not trying to drag anybody inside. There is home for me on both sides.

I am using the missionary method in reverse. Reverse missionary, if you will. That's right. I'm am putting on my rainbow pride t-shirt when I know I will be around people who are homophobic. Instead of ignoring my father-in-law's racist jokes, I will say "That is not ok, Jim". I have been inviting my gay friends over for Christmas Eve family dinner for a few years now. Singlehandedly, I am responsible for the acceptance of alcohol being served in my house. I AM MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN THIS WORLD! Or at least, I'm shifting decimal points on the scale of what my conservative friends believe. I can't change their minds, but I have seen hearts soften.

This big picture coming at us in 2017 seems overwhelming and depressing to me. I'm never going to be an outspoken critic or a strong debater or the one leading the protest. This Christmas Eve I am going to fight discrimination by inviting my gay friends over to play Ticket To Ride with my conservative family. We will drink beer and collect all the rainbow trains to get across these loosely United States together. Hopefully I will win. I mean we all win. But really, I want to win.