In many ways, I’m tired. No, exhausted is a better word to describe the lack of energy that I’m currently experiencing. It’s not physical. Rather, the exhaustion that has me in its grip is emotional, spiritual even. It is a weariness of a soul that has been asked to go beyond its limits one time too many.
Many would say that this weariness is of my own doing. After all, my exhaustion is the result of actions that I decided to engage in. I tend to organize my life around big visions that require intense investment. I’m a gay man, a BLACK gay man at that, who is striving to center his scholarship in conversations around race, LGBTQ-phobia, and religion. In every social sphere that I’m attempting to do my work, there is a fiery antagonist that I must strive with. When discussing race, I have to start with why it’s even a necessary discussion in the first place. Then, I have to pivot and weather the storms of homophobia and erasure from my own community. For too many of them, my sexuality is a choice, a personal hobby, or an annoying social tick that serves as a distraction from real issues.
In the religious world, I have to contend with the blatant anti-LGBTQ bias as well as the polite, conscientious bigotry of “well-meaning” people that offer unlearned, uncritical analysis of my life and the lives of others. I’m amazed at how much insight people have into my personal life without even knowing my address! My father must’ve abused me. My mom must be overbearing. I must want to be a girl (which is insulting to me and women, by the way). These soundly disproven folktales of homosexual causation routinely emanate from pulpits and barber shops. They live in the minds of otherwise well-educated people. Their right to have a differing opinion often is a smokescreen to allow dangerous views to create a toxic environment. This faulty analysis is offered on the backdrop of divorces, adultery, out-of-wedlock children, abuse, and a host of other Christian “slip-ups” that appear to be worse than having feelings for someone of the same gender.
This weekend, my exhaustion was exacerbated by one of the many examples of how far we’ve often fallen. Top selling gospel artist James Fortune is having a restoration concert. Several months ago, Fortune was in the news for likely assaulting his wife with a barstool. Several years prior, Fortune assaulted his stepson. As a Christian, I believe in the possibility of restoration for all. However, I also believe that God sides with the victims and works in the world for their justice. While I pray that Fortune receives the restoration he needs, the idea of seeing a known abuser lauded by his community while others are marginalized and crushed is nauseating. Fortune has endangered lives and will still have a lucrative gospel career. Anthony Williams, formerly known as Tonex, saw the gospel community dismiss him upon him acknowledging his sexuality. Anyone who considers those two actions similar misses the point.
I could easily remedy this and get the rest my soul is looking for. I could walk away from church, pick a less volatile research interest (communication tendencies of DC hipsters sounds peaceful), and just stay to myself. However, contrary to the beliefs of bigoted commentators and their selective analyses, I perceive the Spirit of the Living Christ moving and animating me. My evidence for God’s presence in my life is that I feel the urging to stay and fight, to stand, to work as hard as I can with my skills to make a difference. Deep down, a faith resides in me that urges me to hope for a new society where these differences, race and sexuality, are celebrated.
But that hope that has pulled me forward does not often address the wounds, those psychic and even physical marks of struggle that one collects when war is a constant reality. As a result of my hope, I find myself constantly disappointed. Not because we are imperfect; I also suffer from my imperfection and others have to suffer from it, too. Instead, I’m disappointed about our overall lack of sensitivity. We don’t even try. We don’t even seem to care. Why is it so contentious to mention women’s issues when they fill the majority of our pews? Why do many use gospel music to demonstrate glitz and glam, when the object of their artistry was born in a dark, dirty manger and died a criminal’s death? I’m asking these questions rhetorically. I know many of the answers. I consider my asking the questions a way to express my current feelings, a location between hope and weariness.
Even still, from this place of weariness, I see a faint possibility of hope in the future. I admit that I mostly see it with my heart at the moment. Perhaps some rest and distance will reveal more tangible examples in my midst. But as I warily drag myself toward the possibility of my hopes I am constantly bombarded by our failures, our sin, our “missing-the-mark” of what God would have us be. Between hope and weariness is where I am, for now. I don’t think this is an unholy spot, but it is a trying one.