that’s literally all i could say when i read the now-infamous facebook updates/comments by midland school board member clint mccance. not rage. not anger. not disbelief. not shock. not surprise. just, wow. but i’ll get to why i responded that way shortly.
just in case you’ve been segregated from any shred of media in the last 24 hours, here’s what mr. mccance shared on his (now-deleted) facebook page:
Seriously they want me to wear purple because five queers killed themselves. The only way im wearin it for them is if they all commit suicide. I cant believe the people of this world have gotten this stupid. We are honoring the fact that they sinned and killed thereselves because of their sin. REALLY PEOPLE.
it, of course, didn’t stop there. in the comments, mccance continued:
No because being a fag doesn’t give you the right to ruin the rest of our lives. If you get easily offended by being called a fag then dont tell anyone you are a fag. Keep that shit to yourself. I dont care how people decide to live their lives. They dont bother me if they keep it to thereselves. It pisses me off though that we make a special purple fag day for them. I like that fags cant procreate. I also enjoy the fact that they often give each other aids and die. If you arent against it, you might as well be for it.
I would disown my kids they were gay. They will not be welcome at my home or in my vicinity. I will absolutely run them off. Of course my kids will know better. My kids will have solid christian beliefs. See it infects everyone.
in the mainstream media, the blogosphere and social networks, the reaction has ranged from empathy (thankfully that is in the vast minority) to anger to shock. my response was none of those. i certainly wasn’t empathetic and i’m not one to express much anger. more than anything, i certainly wasn’t shocked.
lately i’ve thought a lot about cynicism and its crippling effects. it’s simply a ball and chain that disallows for meaningful engagement with the world around us. i’m letting go of some bits and pieces of cynicism that i have and it’s with this reality that i put forth the premise of this post: i am absolutely unsurprised or shocked by mccance’s outburst of hate toward gay people. (what i’m getting at is that the following statements come after much thought and not from a place of cynicism regarding the attitudes of people concerning homosexuality.)
it’s not so much that i was disaffected by mccance’s statements, because in fact, i was deeply saddened by his statements. it’s just that i’ve spent the better part of my 30 years on earth hearing and experiencing the very attitudes that mccance stated so brashly.
several years ago, i read a great research piece about the current status of racial attitudes in the US. the basic thesis was that asking, “are you racist? yes or no?” is no longer an appropriate question. for most people, the answer is an unhesitant “no”, because in 2010, it’s simply not socially acceptable to openly be racist. the writer certainly contends that racism is alive and well, but that most people simply won’t be vocal about their feelings.
and then there’s clint mccance. he opened his mouth publicly. opened it wide. and loudly. and in fairness to him, he has plenty of company. of course, the vast majority of his company knows better than to yell it out in a public—albeit a “private” facebook page—forum. when asked—if surveyed with the question of whether they’re homophobic—they naturally would answer “no”.
but the heart and one’s actions (and when-no-one’s-listening conversations) speak much more loudly.
so, surprise? disbelief? shock? absolutely not. see, i grew up in a culture of people (in more rural, small-town settings, to be more specific) who absolutely believe every last jot and tittle of the venom mccance spewed on facebook. of course, they love jesus. and they love their country. and their family. and their church. and their freedom. but not gays. not sinners. not those who destroy marriage. not those who are unnatural.
hate runs deep throughout our state—the state that i genuinely love. i find that lifelong little rockers and people from other (relatively) progressive parts of the state suffer from a sorta “reverse sheltering”. sure, there is plenty hate here, but we can forget that in the parts of the state where “the natural state” really gets its name, things are different. it’s a whole different set of social norms and social mores.
let me pause and say that this isn’t about assumptions or “big city” snobbery, but rather, my honest observations. i’ve spent far more years in small town arkansas than i have big city arkansas (not that little rock is too big city, quite frankly). i have many, many lifelong friends from places that i’m describing who carry a lot of hate toward various minority groups, so i’m speaking from a place of honesty and, quite frankly, sadness.
so, i don’t think this is cynicism or mere finger-pointing, but more of a response to what i openly experienced for a large portion of my life as a child (and beyond). people carry a great deal of hate and fear and disregard toward the gay community. it’s sad and it’s dangerous and it’s unfortunately pervasive.
so what’s the point here? am i just proclaiming vacuous doom and gloom and engaging in vitriolic finger-pointing? absolutely not.
i’m asking for action. i’m asking for people who walk in the way of jesus (specifically) to disengage from our (yes, i’m a part of this too) apathy and indifference.
i’m not asking for sign-wielding protests or threats of violence against mr. mccance or even joining one of those ridiculous “fire clint mccance” facebooks groups. i’m not asking for anything much beyond the ordinary.
i’m asking for those who are trying to figure out what it means to be jesus to the world around us to begin caring about the gay community.
maybe that simply means befriending a gay person and hearing about what it’s like to live with the hate.
maybe that means examining more closely what the bible actually says about homosexuality (realizing that people will come away with many different conclusions).
maybe that means after you’ve examined scriptural proclamations about homosexuality, you decide that love is the primary posture and mode of engagement for christians.
maybe that simply means rethinking the type of joking or language you engage in (sorta like when i decided to quit using the word “gay” to refer to things i didn’t like).
maybe that means being a voice for those too afraid to raise their own voice.
maybe that means praying for teenagers struggling with their sexual identity.
maybe that means praying for those—like clint mccance—who drag around the terrible burden of hate.
i’m not sure what the limits—if any—are to the possibilities here. i’m simply saying that the church—the community of people supposedly engaging in the way of jesus—must do something.
i’ll end with the powerful words of our brother martin luther king, jr., who offered a prophetic reminder of the call of christians, saying:
in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
let us not be silent, both in word and in action.