Monday, October 11, 2010

Tony, Disco Balls, Boystown, and Jesus

Well tonight was kind of different. Monday nights I am in Boystown doing outreach. I walk the streets meeting with guys who are participating in prostitution. They do this to live, to support themselves, their families and/or their habits. I talk with hustlers, trannies, dealers and just folks who want to talk. My goal is simple, to let them know Emmaus Ministries is available if they need the services. I let them know it is a safe, welcoming place to get a good home cooked meal, do their laundry, take a shower, pray, use the phone, or get mail. It is not home but it is close. What I don’t do is go into the bars. This is ministry for men who participate in prostitution, it is not aimed at gays, the two are not the same thing.

However, tonight we went to Roscoe’s. I had never been there before. I walk past it all the time. I know it is always busy. Still, I was surprised at how large it was. It was also attractive and the staff was friendly. I really did not know what to expect. We were there to see Tony Campolo. He is an Italian-American Baptist who is a sociology professor at Eastern University. He talks about Christianity and homosexuality.

Tony’s talk was sponsored by the Marin Foundation. This is a ministry that strives to bridge the divide between the faith communities and the GLBT community. Andrew Marin is the author of “Love is an Orientation.” This is part of a series of talks that Roscoe sponsors.

Andrew Marin discusses his book, "Love is an Orientation"

So there we were sitting in a room with a large disco ball hanging from the ceiling talking about Jesus. The crowd consisted of folks from the GLBT community and church folks who had been invited. The conversation was honest and respectful. The speaker was dynamic.

So Tony spoke on the churches use of power. He spoke of the emphasis on one sin while ignoring so many others. He stated we are called upon to love our neighbor, we are called upon to love the sinner (who by the way is everyone) and called upon to take care of our own sins. He didn’t attempt to match theological point with theological point. Rather he challenged everyone to enter conversations with the attitude that they might be wrong. He believed it was an attitude that was conducive to dialogue and not just talking at one another.

The talk comes at an important time. Yes, today is Coming Out Day but that is not what I am talking about. I am talking about the increase in hate crimes, the use of the “homosexual issue’ in elections, the increase in bullying and related suicides. Tony pointed out that the rate of attempted suicides among young gay men was 18%. The talk was important.

Gay Bash By Mélange Lavonne

The talk was also hopeful. He acknowledged the challenges but also the progress. The fact that the audience reflected multiple perspectives attested to that hope. He spoke of the challenge of churches finding ways to find a place at the table for all of their members. He spoke of the challenge of not seeing people one dimensionally. He spoke again and again of love. It was a great way to spend a Monday evening.

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