There are many things in my life of which I am not proud.
One of these things is that 99% of my friends are, more or less, exactly like me:
They are, more or less, me, and I am, more or less, them. It begs the question: what kind of a person is friends only with themselves? And why, when the world offers such diversity, would someone choose to spend time with mostly people who are just like themselves?
Is it because I like to have my own opinions spouted back at me in new ways that reinforce my own, existing, opinions? In other words, is it because I like to be right and for other people to confirm my rightness?
Do I hang out with only people like me because we are naturally drawn to people like us?
Or, as I suspect, am I afraid? Afraid of what could “happen” to me, afraid of how I might change, if I spent time with people who are different than me, people who disagree with me?
As you may begin to see, I am a question asker. Answers? Not so much.
* * * * *
I grew up in a time, in a place, where being gay was seriously frowned on. Let’s be honest: in many ways, and by many people, it still is. It seems to have a special place in many evangelical hearts: never mind that the Bible speaks harshly, and more often, about divorce or pride or lust. Fear can be a powerful motivator, and people’s fear of a gay or lesbian sexual orientation put it at the top of the “do-not-do” list. The “do-not-interact-with” list. The “disown-if-they-are-family-members” list.
The people in my area were not overt gay-haters – we were no Westboro Baptist. But most of the adults had left the Amish community, where hate is not practiced or accepted as much as shunning is. In my town, and from my outside perspective, gays were not hated as much as they were shunned. Excluded. Ignored.
But is there much difference between being excluded and ignored, or being hated?
In the midst of this, a boy grew up. Me. And I thought it was just the way the world worked, and would always work.
* * * * *
Why do I know so few gay people?
Am I scared of how I might change? Am I frightened I might enter into a tension that I cannot explain or understand? Am I worried about how to talk to my children about something for which I have fewer and fewer answers, and (as you can see), more and more questions?
There are few things that I know. But there is one thing I do know:
“There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life – fear of death, fear of judgment – is one not yet fully formed in love.” I John 4:18
Perhaps the opposite of love is not hate, but fear.
Jesus calls us to “love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and muscle and intelligence – and love your neighbor as well as you do yourself.” Love my neighbor as well as I do myself.
Judging by the number of people who I hang out with who are just like me, I love myself quite a lot. But my neighbor? When someone asked Jesus “Who is my neighbor?”, Jesus replied with the story of the Samaritan. The outsider. The religiously “alternative”.
Do I love the outsider as much as I love myself?
How would I know?
I rarely speak with them.