Why Did I (a Straight Man) Write a Book Engaging with Homosexuality?
People often assume that I must get a lot of hate mail because my first book was about how the church has misused the Bible when it comes to homosexuality. But the truth is, the only real backlash I've witnessed came the day my book came out. And (as is often the case) the person hadn't even read the book. They were basing their criticism solely on what they thought the book was about, and the fact that I was the person who wrote it.
I'll get to that in a minute...
But first, the reason for this post is to continue what I started writing about last week in my post, The Four Stages of Owning Your Privilege. In it, I suggest that the four stages of development in terms of owning your privilege are:
Step 1) AWARENESS: accept that you might have privilege in certain areas. Educate yourself on what that means. Step 2) LISTEN: intentionally hear the stories and experiences of those who do not have your privilege. Step 3) SIT: let the reality of steps one and two sink in. Let them impact you. Let them undo you. Let them change you. Step 4) ACT: take the privilege you have been given and use it on behalf of others. Use it to work for a more just and equitable world.
In short, my point was that I think there is a certain trajectory of development when a person does the work of understanding their own privilege and then trying to ascertain how being privileged ought impact their life.
Let me explain the fourth step a little further, before I share about the critical tweet I got in response to my book.
I think (and I may be wrong, of course) that one of the goals--in terms of what a "privileged person" does--is ultimately to answer the question, "how can you use your privilege for good?"
In other words, you didn't earn these advantages in life. They were handed you simply by being born. As a straight, white, middle class, cis-het male, I got to start the race multiple laps earlier than, say, a black transgender woman born in to generations of poverty.
So once you become aware of this, once you listen and learn from those who don't enjoy your privileges, once you've sat in that long enough to truly understand it and feel it... then what are you going to do about it??
One option is, I suppose, to become aware of my privilege and, well, not care. Just keep on living my life. Enjoying my advantages. Tip my hat to the Universe every now and then, thankful for my advantages.
But that's not the life I want to live. And that's not how I think people with privilege should handle being owners of said privilege.
For me, I want to see privileged people work for a world in which privileged positions become extinct.
I want to see a world where being straight does not have advantages over being gay. I want a world where women can walk down the street feeling just as safe at night as men do. I want a world where white people don't get preferential treatment by police officers, or first pick at job interviews.
And that world--if it can exist at all--can not be the responsibility of the marginalized (non-privileged) people. Those who broke it need to fix it. Those with the power are the ones responsible to change what needs changed.
There's a great story in the Gospels about a blind man who cried out to Jesus for healing. Jesus' disciples hushed the man, telling him not to disturb Jesus. They literally blocked the man from a chance at connecting with the Healer. The man cried out louder and got the attention of Jesus from afar. At which point, Jesus turned to his disciples--to the people who just got done restricting this poor, societal outcast from access to Jesus--and said, "go get him and bring him to me."
In other words, he turned to those responsible for building the walls of separation and gave them the job of tearing those walls down.
So who should be at the front of the line, helping fix what's broken in our world?
I'm looking at my fellow men... I'm looking at my fellow white people (or, as Coates says, "people who believe that they are white." Much more accurate)... I'm looking at those who, like me, identify as straight, or who's gender identity and biology match... I'm looking at those who are not living in poverty...
And I say, what are you going to do with your privilege?
At a systemic level, we (people who believe we are white) have created the world that discriminates against people of color. At a systemic level, we (people who identify as heterosexual) have created the world that stigmatizes homosexuality. And to take it further, we (people who are religious) have created the world that adds on top heaps of shame and guilt and the wrath of God.
I could go on, but you get my point.
Even though it may not have been me, Colby, personally, who created this world, I still benefit from it. And I belong to many of the people groups who got us here.
So dammit, if I don't feel some sort of responsibility, some sort of calling, to get us out of this mess, then I'm a selfish bastard (at the very least).
People often ask authors, "why did you write your book?"
When people ask me why I wrote UnClobber, the 700 words up above are how I try and respond.
It is me, doing my flawed-best, to work out the fourth stage of owning my privilege. Of trying to do something about the mess we are in. The mess that (let's not kid ourselves) white, straight, male Christians got us in.
I'm staring at the wall we built--the one that has restricted access to God and the church for LGBTQ people--and I'm responding to the call to tear the damn thing down.
Okay... I know last post I said that I would get to the angry tweet in this post... but I guess I had a bit more to unpack first.
So... to be continued...