Spreading the Love Around

More than 25 years ago, when I was in seminary and coming out, I joined the Gay Fathers of Boston. There I met many wonderful men who were struggling, as I was, to make sense of life as a father and a gay man. Many of these men were still legally married to the mothers of their children.

One such man was also a faithful member and leader of his church–the Jehovah’s Witnesses. I remember being surprised that he was part of such a conservative group. It was then that I first heard and began to understand the phrase, “We are everywhere.”

I thought of this yesterday when I saw a front-page story in The New York Times about lesbian and gay students at conservative Christian colleges.

Of course, coming out is an important step in self actualization. It also is a form of testimony, even evangelism, to the wonder and beauty of God. It is a spiritual process, not only in claiming one’s own soul and beauty, but also in testifying to the glory of God.

Taylor Schmitt, center, attends Abilene Christian University

These students are like those involved in the early church, saying to a skeptical and also needy world, “See the power of our God, who causes love to flower even in the most inhospitable places.”

I hope you’ll read the story and feel inspired and grateful as I do. You can find it here http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/19/us/19gays.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=Even%20on%20college%20campuses,%20students%20fight%20for%20gay%20identity&st=cse

And I encourage you to check out Soul Force, a powerful movement headquartered in Lynchburg, VA  (of all places, and that story makes my point all over again!), that is really helping these students claim and live God’s truth. Here is that link http://www.soulforce.org/ Consider making a donation if you can. They do amazing work.

I am just awed every day at how God is at work in the world, helping us to spread the love.

One thought on “Spreading the Love Around”

  1. Dear Mr. Gorsline:

    I am an author of young adult novels and have just come out with a new one, YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT ME (Random House/Delacorte). It is a modern re-imagining of HUCKLEBERRY FINN with slavery replaced by homophobia. I would like to send you a copy of the book. Given recent events (the article in the NYT about gays struggling to be recognized at Christian universities, Rick Welts coming of the “sports closet,” Ben Cohen’s StandUp foundation against homophobia in sports), I feel my story about a born-again teenage boy’s struggle with homophobia is more timely than ever.

    Here’s a recent review to give you a better of the story.

    The Bulletin
    of the Center for Children’s Books

    You Don’t Know about Me

    by Brian Meehl

    Many remakes of classic stories stay so close to their source texts that it seems pointless not to simply read the original. Others use their source text as a thin veneer in an attempt to lend some gravitas to the new, decidedly lesser production. Sometimes, though, the remake gets it just right—not only adopting the plot and character arcs that made the first book great but also manipulating the style and sensibilities of the source text to refresh and renew our acquaintance with it, all while creating a story that stands alone on its merits. You Don’t Know about Me, Brian Meehl’s revision of Huckleberry Finn, is one of those.

    Billy Albright has been reared as a Christian outlaw, following his fanatical mother in her quest to stamp out the devil wherever he may show himself, from protesting at gay weddings, to taking a Sharpie to products in the grocery store containing the word “devil,” to shaving the heads of Tickle Me Elmo dolls (whose Satanic crime is that they teach kids about unbridled pleasure). They call themselves “Jesus-throated Whac-a-moles,” and they are rare birds indeed. But when a Bible arrives in the mail with a DVD hidden in its leather binding, Billy finds out that his righteous mother has been lying to him about his father’s having died when Billy was a baby. Instead, his father, now dying and, if the video can be believed, probably already dead for real this time, has staged a cross-country geocaching treasure hunt for Billy to find his inheritance–the copy of Richard Irving Dodge’s Thirty-Three Years Among Our Wild Indians scribbled through with marginalia by Mark Twain, including plans for a never-finished sequel to Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Billy runs away to follow the clues, and his quest becomes a twenty-first-century mirror of Huck’s as he takes up with Ruah, a black baseball player with a big heart and a big secret. At each checkpoint, Billy’s father has left pages of Huckleberry Finn with an embedded code that indicates the whereabouts of the next clue, and Ruah insists that he will take Billy wherever he needs to go if Billy will read the pages aloud to him as he drives.

    From Billy’s wide-eyed naïveté, to his and Ruah’s inventive use of vernacular, to their intense questioning of religion and the social mores of the day, to Billy’s nuanced crisis of faith when he finds himself in the hands of con artists who mock Native American beliefs while rendering them beautiful, Meehl’s engagement with Twain is flawless in all of its layers and facets. Billy’s discovery that Ruah is gay produces the same inner conflicts that Huck faces as he tries to figure out what to do about Jim, and, echoing the controversy that plagues Huckleberry Finn to this day, this remake fearlessly tackles the contemporary prejudices that surround homosexuality, particularly in professional baseball and fundamentalist Christianity. Like Huck with his conflicted views on slavery, Billy never actually changes his view on homosexuality as a sin–his early training is too strong for that–but also like Huck, he decides that he is willing to brave hell to help his friend, and the tortured path toward Ruah’s ultimate freedom is what Tom Sawyer would call an adventure in “the regular way,” full of danger, violence, and excitement. Clearly, the book stands on its own merits as an exploration of one boy’s quest to understand the seemingly irreconcilable contradictions of his faith, his family, and his friendships, but it will also make young people better readers of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by helping them see the ironies and contradictions Twain explored in that book in comparison with present-day contexts.

    Karen Coats, Reviewer

    June 1, 2011.

    I believe strongly in promoting the message of tolerance. Enough so that I’ve written an extensive story about it for young readers.

    Let me know if you’d like me to send you a copy of the book.

    Best regards, and keep up the good fight!

    Brian Meehl

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