Flesh Touching Flesh
When the New York Times writes about you, there will be angry responses. Mine started arriving last Tuesday in the form of a phone call from someone in California at 3:45 AM. Emails and comments on this blog came the next day. I traced the source of most of them to a Christian Internet news site that had run a supportive article. About a dozen conservative Christian sites picked up the story and turned it to their purposes. Those articles became the source of much of the unwanted correspondence.
The people who wrote do not know me. We have had no personal encounters. Yet they fear me. They are frightened of being forced into close proximity with me. Of course, what they do not realize is that they are already in close proximity to transgender people. Since the article appeared, scores of closeted transgender fundamentalists have contacted me. Their stories leave me in tears. Several are pastors.
When humans organize in tribes, we behave in ways in which we would never behave as individuals. We can be goaded into seeing an entire people group as a threat. It takes a tribe to create a cosmic malevolent force sufficient to deny the humanity of a fellow human.
Tribal behavior is maintained when left or right wing media keep their audiences isolated. The isolation is essential to their agenda. There were scores of comments on these right-wing sites, all of like mind, condemning the New York Times and condemning me. There were no voices of dissension. The arrival of the Internet has made the world smaller, but ironically, it has also made us more isolated from one another. When our only interaction is electronic, and limited to those we believe are like us, our humanity is diminished.
Prejudice dissipates when knowledge is disseminated, stories are told, and flesh touches flesh. That is the ministry of reconciliation to which we have been called. That is the responsibility we have as followers of Christ. The evangelical church has become a choir without a melody, repeating one single note – to save people from hell.
The hell people need saving from is not on the other side of death. It is here on earth, where tribes create enemies that do not exist and scapegoats whose only crime is to be different from those in power.
The ministry of reconciliation is about reconciling humans here and now. It is about putting people together, two at a time, who have no agenda other than to get to know one another. It is about laying aside our smartphones and eating a meal together. It is venturing beyond the boundaries of our own tribe to find the individual precious humans around us.
To all those who have written to express their anger that I exist, come and sit down with me. Do not bring your agenda and I will not bring mine. Maybe we can talk about our favorite teacher in elementary school. And maybe we will come to know the healing power of our mutual humanity.
And so it goes.