Reverend Phelps. I have to admit, a year ago I had no idea who he was (at least by name.) One year ago on a Friday night I was sitting in a Halsted gay bar, Sidetrack, sippin a coke and talking with a 40-something gay bricklayer named Joe.
Joe asks me, "so what kind of church do you go to that they would let you come here?" We laugh together. “Our church wants to get to know the people in our community. That means getting to know people in their own environment. I’m here to learn a part of my community that I don’t know.”
Satisfied with my answer he asks, “so what do you think of Reverend Phelps?” I draw an immediate blank. Enjoying my struggle for a minute he finally offers, “you know, the God-hates-fags guy.” Ohhhh. That Rev Phelps.
I deduce all at once that if I play word association with your average gay man and I say “Evangelical Christian” he says, “Rev Phelps”. (This is why writers like Annie Lamott are so reluctant to admit they are “born-again”.)
And so my question to myself one year later is simple: What have I done since then to convince men like Joe the (Gay) Bricklayer that Evangelical Christian means something totally different than “Rev Phelps”? Honestly? Not much.
I know I’m not going to hang out full-time in gay bars. But I don’t know what I am going to do. And that bothers me. Its not enough to think the sign-holders fools and to say in my cozy confines, “that’s not who I am”. I have to find something tangible that communicates a different Jesus and a different Christianity to men like Joe the bricklayer who party in Boystown in my city.