Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Confession: I Went To A Gay Bar Last Night ...

I went to a gay bar last night. Or maybe it was a club. A private club. You have to become a member in order to get in, which is how the bar can stay open all night here in Birmingham. I guess I went to a gay club last night.

This post is another one of my confessions. But the confession isn't about me going to a gay bar or my sexuality, although I mention the latter part in this post. The confession is about what happened before I even walked into the bar.

As I was standing in line outside of the bar, a man came by asking, "Would anyone like a tract?"

I said nothing. 

The man wasn't speaking to me, anyways. And he wasn't too near me at the time. I did get mad, though. And eventually, the man was standing right next to me, offering tracts on Christianity and salvation. Or that's my educated guess. And I'm going to be a little pretentious in this post, so let's just go ahead and say that I think my educated guess is a pretty good one in this situation.

I knew it wasn't the time or place to share my thoughts on what he was doing. He was "prepared" to address anything anybody said with stock responses he learned by rote, perhaps with a small addition of wit and on-the-spot, original thinking. Perhaps. I knew nothing I said could change his mind, because he wasn't there to respect anyone, but rather to express the wrongness of their lifestyle without knowing anything about them.

I was with three other people he didn't know. Probably he wouldn't approve of any of the four of us going to any bar that night. Maybe he hands out tracts to people going into any bar. Possible? Sure. Doubtful, though. That man was at that bar, because it was a gay bar and he assumed everyone in my party was gay. At the very least he was wrong about me and right about two in my group. The fourth member has never made a definitive statement about his/her sexuality, so I try not to say s/he is straight, although I assume s/he is. That's what those of us with a privileged identity do.

When he stood right next to me, I began to feel sorry for him. Everyone was ignoring him and he put himself in a no-win situation that he thought would please his god. So I said to him, "I think we're good, man."

My pity was just what he wanted, though. It took a few moments before he could either think of a reply or raise the courage to engage someone he (probably) assumed identified as gay.

"It depends on what you mean by good," he retorted.

At that point, I knew it was useless to respond. I felt worse for the guy than I did in the first place. Who really thinks that sort of cheesy response is the lead in to changing someone's mind and converting them to the way you think? Did he think I would banter with him, see his truth, cry, and repent of ... of what? Repent of being a heterosexual going to a gay bar with a few people who identify as gay and bisexual? Repent of respecting and engaging in loving friendships with people who he thinks are sinners on their way to hell?

I wondered how many times he's read the Bible. I probably have him beat there. How much does he knows about biblical history? I probably have him beat there. How much does he knows about Christian history, theology, and what different Christians believe? I probably have him beat there, too. 

I wonder how a "conversation" with him would have looked? I place "conversation" in quotes, because it is obvious that neither of us would have really listened to each other. Instead, we would have been trying to get the upper hand in a boxing match of words. I don't like that sort of back-and-forth, so I ignored him.

But I wonder how such a conversation would have impacted those around me. I consider myself an ally with the GLBTQ community, although I'm not as much of an advocate as I would like to believe. I know discussion was not possible with that man, but I wonder if a discussion/argument with him would have been encouraging or annoying to the people around me. Would I have embarrassed my friends? Would other people have got involved? Would I have been asked to leave for causing a scene? Would I have got frustrated and gone inside for my Jack and diet? Would he have got flustered and left? Would there have been a winner? Would people around me have thought, albeit briefly, that some Christians are worth getting to know? Would anyone have thought I was a Christian? Do I think I am a Christian?

A confession: I went to a gay bar last night. I was offered a tract and all I could say was a circumlocution for "no thanks." I wonder what Jesus would have done. What would you have done? What do you think about what I did?