Some of you will recall Kathy Griffin, of My Life on the D List fame, getting into hot water with television censors and incensed Christians several weeks ago for poking fun, in a crudely profane manner, of celebrities who publicly thank Jesus for their professional successes.
Fellow Traveler and I ran into a non-celebrity Kathy Griffin a few weekends ago, at a potluck. As soon as we were introduced, and I was identified as a lay-minister-in-training, it became obvious that this woman had issues with religion and didn’t care who knew it. As a matter of fact, my presence at the gathering in question seemed to fuel a series of irreverent Griffinesque references to the Godhead – she would drop a profane G- or J-bomb, then look at me slyly as if to say, “What are you going to do about it?” while fellow guests – and this was a pretty laid-back crowd acquainted with irreverence of various kinds – glanced wincingly at us both and then tried to change the subject.
I am well aware of, and understand completely, the religion-hostility that exists in the gay community. I still recall sitting at a lay ministry training where the pastor-facilitator recalled a trip into a metro-area gay bar with his adult kids, and the reaction to his presence by many of the patrons, with a naïve surprise that made me want to chuckle: "Some of these people seem very angry with the Church," he'd announced to our class in evident puzzlement. Well, no shit, Sherlock.
But – here’s the really interesting thing about this particular potluck evening, with this particular angry person: When we found ourselves in the kitchen together, she started asking me honestly curious, non-confrontational questions about my lay ministry. Could I go into hospitals and pray with sick people? Could I do blessings over people in various circumstances?
Later on, talking to a friend of ours who’s a philosophy/religion professor and practicing Buddhist, she asked, rather wistfully, “But how can you share this spiritual wisdom in a way that someone like me can understand?”
It seems to me that this place – this nexus of love and hate where many people’s spirituality is seated – is a really, really exciting place to do ministry. I don’t mean in the fundagelical, yay-team “win a soul for Jaysus” way, nor do I mean in a patronizing, “Oh, you poor dear, let me fix you” way. I mean – these passionately alienated people are the people the Church (which is all of us) needs to give it an edge that cuts through the crap of both “the powers and principalities” and the Church’s own self-righteousness, arrogance and frequent ridiculosity. We need to go back for the Kathy Griffins of the world, not only for their sake as persons seeking a living spirituality but for ours as a faith community.