Waymon Hudson

My Night with Bishop Gene Robinson

Filed By Waymon Hudson | December 08, 2007 9:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: Bible, Christian beliefs, Gene Robinson, God, Religion, religious extremism

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAnyone who regularly reads my posts and comments knows that I have a bit of an issue with organized religion. You might even say that I am one of those “militant homosexual activists” that automatically dislikes and discounts a person when they are religious.

And you wouldn’t be wrong.

That has all started to change, however, after having dinner with the openly gay Episcopalian Bishop Gene Robinson.

First, I’ll give a brief background on what got me to my anti-religion view. It’s a similar story that I’m sure many LGBT people can relate to.

I was raised Southern Pentecostal (like Baptists, but even more conservative. They speak “in tongues” and dance around in the Holy Spirit). It seems my fellow church-goers had me pegged as gay as soon as I popped out of the womb. I can’t remember a time in church when the other youth group kids (and even some adults) didn’t call me fag and sissy.

I was kicked out of the church when I was 16 for coming out. The pastor and youth minister both called me the devil and said I wasn’t welcome. A great example of godly love, I’m sure.

My parents and family all used religion as a weapon against me when I came out, saying I was going to hell. They literally shunned me for a period of time, all in the name of religion.

This past summer, all of the attacks and hate-mail we received after our anti-gay airport incident came from churches and religious folk. I’ve been spit on by “godly Christians” and threatened to be killed by them for speaking out against the crazy, toilet-obsessed Mayor Naugle of Fort Lauderdale.

It’s not hard to see why I would have a negative view of religion, Christians in particular. I found them to be disingenuous, non-thinking sheep at best and hate-filled, bigoted extremists at worst.

That is, until I met Bishop Robinson.

I’ll admit I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to hear him speak. Since I found it impossible to reconcile my religious upbringing with my gayness, I was unsure that he would have anything relevant to say. Would I relate, or even care?

Those questions all melted away when I had a chance to meet him before his lecture (my partner was hosting the series he was speaking at). Bishop Robinson had such a sense of strength, intelligence, and peace about him as soon as he approached.

I put out my hand to introduce myself. He laughed and pulled me in for a hug, saying how great it was to finally meet me. I guess my hubby had been putting in a few good words about me.

I was immediately thrown off by his openness and kindness, something I wasn’t expecting from such a deeply religious person. My surprise only grew when I heard him speak.

He spoke with such authority and conviction about religion, God, and the Bible. He seemed to answer all of my questions and concerns about the way religion has been corrupted by extremists. He talked about the true message of religion: acceptance, love, and compassion. He talked about how civil rights, including LGBT equality, was something all religious people should be behind.

Even when he was attacked during the questions session by some crazy, right-wing pastor for “spreading lies about the Bible and Jesus” and “being a disgusting abomination”, he never got angry or reacted negatively back. He simply showed true strength and answered back intelligently and honestly, never stooping to the level of those that attacked him.

As I drove from the lecture to the restaurant where we were meeting for dinner, my mind was spinning. It was like my own little epiphany. I was being just as close-minded and bigoted as the Christians I had come to despise through my own experiences.

Sure, on some intellectual level, I always knew that the rabid, anti-gay Christians didn’t represent all religious people. I just never really cared to make that distinction. I lumped them all together as ignorant hate-mongers who just wanted to attack LGBT’s. Yet after meeting the Bishop, I saw a different, more honest form of religion that represented something I never truly thought about.

The dinner only cemented my view of the Bishop. He was fun, engaging, smart, and refreshingly normal. He wasn’t here to shove his views down anyone’s throat. He was simply a man striving to have a conversation about faith and love in a society that has given up on both. He was the real deal. A Christian, a man of God, who was trying to make the world he is in a better place.

So where does this experience leave me?

While I may not be running out to join a monastery anytime soon, my views on religious people have shifted dramatically. Sure there are still the hate-filled bigots who use religion as a weapon.

But that doesn’t represent them all.

There are people like Bishop Robinson who simply want to use the lessons of God to make true change in the world.

Honestly, he forced this jaded gay man to try and accept religious folks, or at least not write them off completely. If he can do that, I have every confidence that he can open the eyes of the world about LGBT people and our issues.

God bless him and his mission.

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I'm glad to hear you had that epiphany, Waymon. I truly believe that there are some true Godly men among us. You can recognize them the same way you recognized the Bishop.

They're not filled with hate. They don't discriminate. They don't stoop to calling those they disagree with by patently ugly names. They don't preach damnation, but peace.

They are, in so many words, what Christ would want them to be.

Don Sherfick Don Sherfick | December 8, 2007 1:56 PM

"I was being just as close-minded and bigoted as the Christians I had come to despise through my own experiences."

Amen, Amen to both that and to Bil's comment.

I think it is high time, frankly, for us to all stop using the term "Christian" in an overall perjorative sense unless perhaps we are disagreeing with its underlying an common theology (if there really is much outside of the Trinity, etc.). As is is the case with the blanket condemnations of Islam, which most of us would agree is overly broad, the use of the term "Christian" when we really mean a group much more narrow, is scarecely helpful. Andrew Sullivan has coined and uses regularly the term "Christionist" to describe what he considers to be a parallel to the term "Islamist" or perhaps "militant Islamist" belief and practice. Many Christians, and I include myself under that umbrella, deeply resent the fact that the term has been hi-jacked. Let's stop mis-using it ourselves and in effect aiding and abetting that not-so-grand larceny.

It is amazing how easily we all forget that just because the "Christionists" are the most vocal, they really don't represent all of Christianity. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of bad individuals who use religion as a way to persecute, demean, and abuse others, but there are also those out there who really just want to do good in the world.

It was truly amazing speaking with the Bishop because he left me feeling oddly at peace with religion for the first time in years. As I said, I'm not running out to join my local church, but I also find myself less angry and ready to attack anyone who says they are religious.

Now if I could just come to terms with Republicans (especially the Log Cabins…), I would be a much less bitter person… LOL

Janis Walters | December 9, 2007 7:49 AM

Waymon, thank you so much for sharing your experience of meeting a “real Christian”. Bishop Robinson truly exemplifies what Christianity should be about.

Last night I had the wonderful experience of going with a group of “real Christians” (most of whom were lesbian, gay or very supportive hetero’s) to watch the film “For the Bible Tells Me So”. Bishop Eugene Robinson and his family are featured in the film, along with the Dick Gephardt family and 3 other Christian families. I also had the privilege of meeting Dan Karslake, the director of the film and listening to him explain the background of making the film and some of the response he has received as the film has been shown across the country. Mary Lou and Bob Wallner, who are personal friends of mine and members of the church which I attend, are also in the film. Mary Lou had used the Bible and her religion to alienate her lesbian daughter, who ultimately committed suicide. Since then, Mary Lou and Bob have re-studied the Bible and re-evaluated their spiritual beliefs and started T.E.A.C.H Ministries (To Educate About the Consequences of Homophobia).

I highly recommend everyone see the film “For the Bible Tells Me So” which so eloquently reveals that church sanctioned anti-gay bias is based almost solely upon a malicious misinterpretation of the Bible.


Hmmmmm... lots to think about.

Good post, Waymon.

Sportin' Life | December 9, 2007 3:12 PM

"I was being just as close-minded and bigoted as the Christians I had come to despise through my own experiences."

Actually, no.

Have you been campaigning for state constitutional amendments to deprive christians of rights that other people have? Including the right to legally care for their families?

That's my exact point, Sportin'. I had let the actions of some define my whole view of Christians. I'm not saying I'm a big cheerleader of religion (still quite the contrary), but I have found myself trying to not automatically judge someone who simply says they are religious as an ignorant bigot. There are a wide range of people of faith. I'm sure the Bishop isn't the only person in the world with a more open and welcoming definition of religion and Christianity. In fact, there are entire movements starting (like "Red Letter Christians" and such) who are trying to rescue their faith from the very people you refer to.

Again, I'm a long way from embracing organized religion, but at least my meeting has challenged me to rethink my attitudes and opinions, which I think is always a good thing.

William Kaye | December 12, 2007 1:29 PM

Thank you, Waymon, for your gracious generosity. For gay people to even begin to forgive Christians represents a depth of spirituality the humbles me.

I have a Gene Robinson story of sorts, too. I was a lapsed generic Protestant who hadn't been to church in years -- because, to be frank, I didn't want all the baggage associated with being a "Christian" -- you know, the right-wing nutjob politics, the "I'm saved and you're going to burn in hell, nyahh, nyahh" smugness, the warmongering, the anti-gay, anti-woman agenda, etc. Oh, and "praise and worship" music, 97% of which just sucks, and the "Left Behind" books, 100% of which suck to the deepest depths of suckitude.

In 2002, though, I heard that the Episcopal Church had elected an out gay man as a bishop. The fundegelical Christianists went into overdrive denouncing this "abomoniation" and predicted darkly that right-thinking peoople would desert the Episcopal Church in droves.

My wife and I talked and we decided to call bulls#$t on that and went down to the local Episcopal Church and told anyone who would listen we were there BECAUSE of the "gay bishop".

(Sounds like a cocktail, doesn't it? "Another round of 'gay bishops', barkeep, and keep 'em coming!")

It was a one-off political stunt, really. I suppose, in retrospect, I was pretty obnoxious, but people were kindly patient. They answered my (sometimes really dumb) questions, listened to my (often ill-informed) rants on religion, and invited me to God's table where, they insisted, there was a place for me, just as I was.

Bit by bit, I realized these people had something I wanted. There was a powerful presence at work in their lives that manifested itself not in doctrinal proclamations or exclusionary politics, but in a gentle, yet robust spirituality that saw salvation as a common journey, not just an individual experience.

I stuck around. I'm still sticking around. I suppose I'm Christian now, but I still bristle at the term. In my own flawed way, I'm trying to follow One who offered himself up unreservedly so that all -- without exception -- would be welcome at God's table.

Somehow, I've found a home for my heart. I hope you do, too.

Dinner with +Gene? - Must.Not.Be.Jealous.
Oh well, maybe he'll come through Missouri sometime soon. I'd love to hear him in person. His writings and actions show patience, fortitude, and general common sense in the face of a lot of provocation. I haven't even heard of him pleading for ""newer" insults, the old ones I have done only ten thousand times before..."

I'm pleased to see that your experience with BIshop Robinson was so positive - and please know that the Episcopal Church will always welcome you. As an aside, I've just done a series of posts on my blog about Gene, starting with my reflections on his appearance at Foundry United Methodist Church and going through two others - feel free to drop by!