Baby’s First Hate Mail

Published October 17, 2014
© The Rev. Eileen Gebbie

Babys First Hate MailThe first comment I received on the About Me section of this web site was not actually my first encounter with hate. My first experience of anonymous public judgment made personal was when I was a kid.

Up through my teen years my mother served as a state public health official. Sounds innocuous, no? What can go wrong when you are encouraging preventative health measures? Try fluoridating the water in Portland, Oregon and you will soon see. Encouraging K–12 HIV/AIDS education in the early 1980s was even worse.

One afternoon I was home alone, probably no older than 6th grade, and the phone rang. I answered. It was a man asking for my mother. “I’m sorry, she is not available right now, may I take a message?” I had been trained to say.

And so began a tirade.

The man explained his theory about my mother’s pinko commie agenda, ending with the news that he was just a mile from our home in the phone booth of a gas station. He was angry and he was on his way.

I was completely terrified. As day turned to night I turned on every light in the house and made myself as small as possible. The man never showed up and I later learned from my mom that such assessments of her agenda were common and not to be feared.

For queer people, for poor people, for anyone who does not fit the picture of American success and normativity, negative assessments of our agendas and our personhood are common—and not to be feared.

Here are highlights from the comment I received:

“…gay practices are completely agains what God stands for…Most peole turn gay becouse of a demonic influence…Usually by a traumatic event in our lives such us a rape, incest, abuse…Very glad you love the Lord but, hope you find your way in serving God the correct way..God bless you.”

It’s a classic love the sinner/hate the sin position. It is also dangerous and inaccurate. Every two minutes an American is sexually assaulted. By the commenter’s logic, the U.S. would be a hotbed of demonic homosexuality.

But that isn’t really the point. The real issue is how any one of us Christians, gay or straight, pansexual or asexual, live lives of integrity. We are all called to integrate our relationship with God, understanding of scripture, and knowledge of self so that when we walk through this world we serve as living beacons of compassion and the hands of justice.

In my home town, coming out as gay was really easy. In the secular Pacific Northwest, coming out as Christian was a big risk. But I had to do both to be true to who I am and, by extension, bear my best witness to who/what God may be.

In the United Church of Christ we like to say that God is Still Speaking. Rather than create God in our image—intractable and controlling and judgmental and cruel—we profess a faith in the belief that holiness is in constant dialogue with creation. It is not a repetitive conversation, but ever as fresh as a baby’s first tooth. Our great responsibility, then, is to be good listeners and to risk having our hearts and minds transformed even if doing so makes us rethink everything.

The only way to correctly serve God is to serve God—not humanity’s corrupt and corrupting hatreds.

Photo credit: Thomas Nelson’s “NKJV Baby’s First Bible

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