God talked to me today.
I’m Quaker; it’s a bit more common with us than you might think, yet there’s always a moment of doubt as I write those words. Still: the One Insufficiently Labeled as God talked to me. He metaphorically sat down on the edge of my figurative bed, looked me in the eye, and said, “Paul, what have you done with your brother Harvey?”
I knew who he meant, although I’ll confess my mental image was of Sean Penn. But since I didn’t say anything right away, God went on. “What have you done with your brothers Harvey and Matthew, and with your sisters? Their blood is crying out to me from the streets and the fields.”
“I didn’t kill them, boss,” I said. “I’m not Cain.”
“I know, Paul. I was there, remember? I’m always there. But what have you done with your sisters and your brothers and all your other slain kin?”
“What can I do?” I said, flinging my arms wide. “I can’t protect them, as much as I want to. I can’t save them, I can’t bring them back. They’re dead. What can I do?”
He raised an eyebrow, and said, “You can start by asking the right questions.”
I paused, and then said, “What can I do?”
He smiled. “There’s something I need for you to say for me, Paul. Write this down.”
I must have hesitated.
“Write this down. This is my Word, son. Write it down. Get it right.”
My hand picked up the pen faster than I’ve seen it do anything before.
“Tell people this,” he said. “There’s a lot of hate being thrown around, and it’s got to stop. You can’t hate your way into heaven; you get in by loving your neighbor. I keep saying this, really; I’ve said it to just about everyone, at one time or another, and while my patience is as infinite as the rest of me, frankly I’m getting a little tired of having to repeat myself so often. Heaven is love; you love people and are loved back, and you’re already halfway there, you understand? From true love’s arms to mine is a very small step. But you can’t get in by hating.”
“The people you’re talking about, they would say that they hate the sin and love the sinner,” I said, a bit aghast at what was coming out of my mouth. Playing Devil’s advocate while talking to God can’t be a good career move.
“Oh yes,” he answered, “some do indeed believe that. But being gay isn’t a sin. I make some people fast and I make some people strong and I make some people gay, and there’s no sin in any of it until you do something wrong with what I made you. The state of being gay — I made that. That’s my work. Go tell them that.”
“Do you think they’ll listen?”
“Listening isn’t your department, Paul. You have to say what I say, whether anyone listens to you or not.”
I must have looked bad. He set a hand on my shoulder and explained a little.
“You say what I say, Paul, but not for the hatemongers. You’re not saying it to persuade them; they’re not listening to me, why would they listen to you? You have to love them, but you also have to stop them. Shit, son, you can’t love them and not stop them.
“Because you see, being gay isn’t a sickness, but hate is. And you don’t stop a sickness from spreading by killing the afflicted, and you don’t stop a sickness by infecting yourself. But you can isolate the sick and hope that they heal, and you can get the healthy away from the carriers. I am tired of this plague of hate running through my people and killing my creations. Passion, anger, even pain — those all have a place in my work. But not hate. That’s not mine.
“Go out. Talk. Say what I’ve told you to say. Not for those who aren’t listening, but for those who don’t even know that there’s anything to listen to. Go out and say what I say for all the gay kids out there who believe in me but have never once heard that I believe in them, not just parts but the whole of them, their whole nature. Go out and say what I say for all the straight kids who want a reason to not hate their gay brothers and sisters, but have never heard a pastor tell them the reason why they should love them. Go out and say what I say for all the activists and fighters trying to stop the hate, so that they know I’m on their side, whether they believe in me or not.
“And say this, too: I want to know what you, all of you, every single one of you out there reading this, have done with your brother Harvey, and all your kin. Have you honored them? Have you stood up for them? Have you taken up their banners? Or have you been silent while my children are killed? I want answers for that. Because when anyone kills someone for being what I made them to be, that’s an attack on me. I am not about to let my creations get killed off just for being my creations. Not without a fight. Not without a Word.
“And you, Paul: go deliver that Word.”
I sat, plastered to my chair, trembling, wiped out by the words pouring over me, and I whined the eternal whine: “Why me?”
He laughed. “You care about people, Paul. How can you not say this? How could anyone who cares not say this? And besides,” he added as he moved to the door, “you are your brother’s keeper. Just like everyone else.”
He paused, hand on the doorknob, and shot me a look of high expectation. “Remember. I am done with hatred. Go speak.”
Talks with God are not always easy. But here I am, saying what has to be said. Because he knows me really, really well, and so he’s dead right.
How could I not say this?
(Originally drafted October 11, 2009)