This past week at the Create CommUnity Event, I met a woman who shared with me an experience she’d had one day while walking with a friend. A car pulled up at a stop sign near them and they saw a black man and a white man in the car together laughing about something. Her friend turned to her and said, “Now that’s a strange sight,” which caught her totally off guard because she is Asian American. She said she spent the rest of the walk wondering if her white friend thought it was strange that the two of them were walking together as well.
When I was in Zimbabwe, in Southern Africa, I got lost one day in the bustling city of Harare— a city of about a million people. I was riding my bike to get to the University, as I did everyday, and somehow I got on a road I didn’t recognize. When I stopped to ask the crossing guard where I was, he responded with a laugh, “You’re a long way from white town. You’ve got to go that way several miles.” To him, I was a strange sight— a white woman, on a bike, in pants nonetheless! No matter how adamant I was that I needed to get to the University of Zimbabwe, he just kept pointing me to “white town.”
Many years ago now in Minneapolis, I had the privilege to meet Michael. Michael had been coming to church for several months when he came to see me about becoming a member of the church. He and I talked about what it means to follow Jesus, about the membership covenant, about his desire to commit to a Christian community, and then Michael asked me what I thought about his being gay. He had grown up in the United Methodist church. His Dad was a Pastor in the Dakotas Conference. He was a child of the church and longed to have a community of his own now that he was an adult. But he wanted to know what I thought about his being a gay man because he had tried his whole life to keep it as a secret so that he didn’t have to lose his faith community— or his father. Michael grew up hearing that he is a beloved child of God; and yet he had also grown up being told that to be himself was too strange; to be himself was too outside of the norm; to be himself was too sinful to be in the church.