Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Going Back For Kathy

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.


P.S. an after-thought said...

Your last paragraph spoke to me in a sort of viseral way. I'm currently in Wisconsin again, where there seems to be lots of "Christian" radio stations. Some programs are better than others; some speakers are better than others. There is one who has a mean streak.

Many of the shows have phychologist-type people being interview about a subject or new book, such as one I heard last evening about "anger." Some are preacher-types with some life style information, meaning stuff like How to Be A Good ___ (husband, mother, etc.) Some are mostly Biblical. Some, well, lets say, it is a stretch.

Anyway, I get really tired of the Let Me Fix You mentality. And the tone of voice that conveys, at least to me, that (deep rumble) I know these Bible verses better than most of my listeners.

I also occassionally pick up a Catholic radio station. Notice they don't say "Christian." I've been impressed with the content that I've heard on that station. There is a deep faith and an awe that is often expressed without trying to explain it or explain it away. Granted, I can't get that station often, so I don't know all that is on that one. But I hear more of a tone of "Come Unto Me."

I'm guessing that the person you heard was just trying to see how you would react, testing you. You must have "passed the test." There's some baggage there.

Monika said...

I love the points you make here. I keep trying to write why, but I can't put it into words. I live deep in the "Bible belt" and get so frustrated with many of the attitudes I see, the way people treat others (especially in the gay community). Things aren't so black and white when it comes to people and their feelings. Thanks for a great post that captured my mind and heart. *hugs*

MikeF said...

Oh, wonderful post, LC! You are so totally right, but I'm not sure when I've read it put so well. Our Lord was a friend of publicans and sinners, wasn't he?

When we stop being frightened of the Kathys, and love them, and start being prepared to be ministered to by them as well as to minster to them, we may just be getting somehwere...

PK said...

Chill bumps popped up... and I nearly cried when I read your musings this morning. It's not even 7am... and I'm sitting here... praying that I will be the kind of church you are talking about. May God put you in the lives of more Kathys that you can count. God's peace on you and your ministry.

Tom in Ontario said...

I never take the bait, just smile politely, and then sometimes they do open up like you described.

By the way, have you seen that Augsburg Fortress is selling "Lutheran Chick" merchandise?

CoG said...

Yes, we have to be genuine to reach the alienated. Their testing of us may save us more than we can ever save them.

Counselor in Process said...

My partner, the Jewish Beloved, sometimes says "Jesus Christ" as an expletive. I slyly say-"Oh, you're converting?"
After 16+ years, almost got her cured...