Thanks to my new housemate, Matt, I learned last night that our dear brothers and sisters from Westboro Baptist would be unleashing their particular form of “protest” toward the attendees of the Gay Christian Network conference this morning here in my beloved Portland, Oregon.
Well, since I try not to let sh– go down in my town without personally showing up (#unofficialPDXambassador), I got up earlier than I wanted and headed down to the Portland Convention Center.
I arrived to find that the usual suspects of Portland’s religious ragamuffins had already constructed a human wall blocking the cacophony of hate-speech from the arriving conferees. Evangelicals and progressives, mainliners and Catholics, all forming a “tunnel of love.” Each conferee arrived to a flurry of “good mornings” and “we are glad you are here” cheers. My dear friend, Marc Schelske, was even helping lead the chorus.
I never thought I would find myself singing Sunday School songs unrestrained on a Portland street corner.
Now, as the title of this post signifies, this was an absurd exercise. What better example of the brokenness of this life “under the sun” than the compulsion I felt this morning, in my best understanding of the Jesus-Way, to go join Christians protecting Christians from Christians.
Lord, have mercy on us all.
Those protesting the presence of GCN were shockingly normal folk, like any middle-class person from some mid-sized town, probably owners of a mid-sized car. And yet, they cross the country to do this… to carry those sorts of signs… to shout those sorts of slurs.
Here was my strong impression (one that I witnessed this morning and that, more than I want to admit, witness in my own internal dialogue): It is not enough to believe one is right, one must also find someone to repudiate as wrong.
The irony of religion is that it is designed to fully validate a person, it let’s one know that one is valuable, beloved, whole and purposeful… and yet, religion is also the instrument that twists us to invalidate, hate, minimize and reject others. And we love to choose a group of people (faceless and caricatured group of people) to receive that judgment.
It is not enough to let God lift me up high, I must push others down low in order to feel lifted up.
It also helps if I create a form of activism that provides the illusion of persecution.
That was my morning.
But heck, at least I got to sing Sunday School songs on a Portland street corner.