If you’re wondering why my dissertation turned into a Novella, read my confessions. Otherwise, here’s the new work:
John nodded slowly. “Okay. Let’s talk it through.”
“Let’s,” I said. “Starting with you. Why would we excommunicate Kyle and Evan?”
“Because they are unrepentant in sin.”
That sentence held so much depth of meaning, both right and wrong, that I didn’t immediately know how to reply. I breathed in deeply and said, “why would you think that?”
“They are gay, Zoe, it’s not like it’s a secret.” John looked at me in shock, “since when did you not think that homosexuality was sin?”
I breathed in deeply, again trying to think of which of a million things to say first. I was starting to suspect that just one conversation wouldn’t be enough to say everything that needed to be said. “Well… First, I’m not saying that two men having sex is right or what God intends. Okay?”
“But you’re alright with it?”
“Well, I’m not all gung-ho and thinking that everyone should go out and try homosexuality right away, but I’m not offended by their mere existence like Tilly Halliwell.”
John looked confused.
“You saw her face,” I said. “She was angry. She was angry because a gay couple dared to come to her church. You just try to tell me that her anger is justified, and this conversation is over.”
John shook his head. “Well, she was angry the second they walked in, that was clear. I had to talk her down just to keep her in the building.”
“And when Mary washed Jesus’ feet, did he say, ‘get off of me, you whore’?”
John smirked, knowing that I was quoting him. “No, of course not.”
“Sinners are allowed to exist,” I said, “that was God’s idea.”
“You’re right. We’re all given a choice, God designed it that way. But in Corinthians Paul clearly states that we are not to tolerate immorality in our midst.”
“Bull!” I slammed my cup down on the table, sloshing some of my mocha on to my hand. I was so angry I ignored it’s presence. “Paul says, ‘anyone who is an adulterer, a slanderer, sexually immoral, and calls himself a brother.’ It’s clearly about hypocrisy, not immorality itself!”
John cracked open his Bible and read the passage over a few times. I took that opportunity to mop up my spilled drink. “Wow,” John said when he was done, “I knew we hired you for a reason.”
“I preached on it a few months ago, but I don’t think anyone really listened.”
John looked nearly as despairing as I felt.
“Well,” I continued, “it’s about hypocrisy. As far as I know, Kyle and Evan have yet to even declare themselves as Christians. Kyle said that he was raised in the church but left when he was sixteen and got in his first relationship with another boy, and Evan as far as I know is still Agnostic. Hypocrisy isn’t really the issue here, is it?”
“No, but…” John sighed, “you know it’s bigger than that. It’s about homosexuality.”
“Then let’s talk about it.”
“If they have chosen that lifestyle, they did so knowing that it would mean that they wouldn’t be accepted by the church. You said that Kyle left when he was in his teens? To get into a relationship with another boy?”
“Well, I doubt he said, ‘hey, I’d like to leave behind everything I’ve ever known to make out with this other kid…’ I mean, I’m sure there’s more to his story than you’re assuming.”
“And that may very well be true,” John said, “but as much as I may hate Tilly’s reasons for her outbursts, she has brought up some really good points.”
I bit the tip of my tongue. I was seething. John’s cautious tone and demeanor, the way he kept stroking his Bible as if for reassurance, as well as the fact that he rarely met my eyes were starting to get under my skin. “Okay,” I said, “what are her good points?”
“First off,” John said, “at what point do we tell them that they have to start changing the way they behave if they want to be accepted? Can we trust them around the kids? If we look the other way, what kind of message does that send people? That we just tolerate sin?”
“Well,” I said, “We do tolerate sin.”
John looked perplexed.
“Tilly,” I said, “just as one example. How long have you looked the other way while she gossips viciously about everyone? When I first came into your church, she assumed that because I was in my mid twenties and unmarried I must be gay. She had women getting together to cast the demon of lesbianism out of me!”
“I understand you have personal issues with Tilly, but-”
“But lies, gossip, and idle chatter are all strictly prohibited. In the New Testament, no less!” I sighed, “I’m not saying that if you feel homosexual acts are sinful that you should change that conviction, but I am saying that you have to be fair. Don’t say this is about ‘sin’, because if all you cared about was eradicating sinfulness you wouldn’t let Tilly gossip and you’d hold brother Mark accountable for his porn addiction. It’s not about ‘sin’, it’s about homosexuality.”
John opened his Bible again, flipping from bookmarked passage to bookmarked passage. He didn’t say anything to me for a while, and I didn’t say anything to him. I drained the dregs of my glass and ordered another. The Mocha sat hard in my stomach and I thought it might make me ill, but I had to do something with my hands other than doodle bloody corpses on my napkins. Drinking seemed like a good alternative.
“I understand what you’re saying,” John said, “and I appreciate how passionate you are about this issue. I just wonder…”
“Why?” John said.
I saw red. Then, I saw orange. For a brief second I nearly saw blue. I was so angry I didn’t really know what I was looking at. I was remembering my first few weeks at Living Blood and how at some point John had asked to speak to me alone. “Zoe,” he’d said, “There’s some concern about your… your… your…”
“My?” I had replied, wondering what in the world might be the issue.
“Your sexuality,” he’d replied. “You’re twenty six, you’re not even dating, people wonder.”
“Perhaps I’ve chosen to be celibate,” I’d said.
“Are you gay?” John had asked.
“No,” I’d said, and walked out of the room, hoping that would be the last I ever heard about it. If I had been a man, no one would have questioned me then- and I certainly wouldn’t be getting questioned now.
I took a large gulp from my second mocha, and I stared across the table. “I’m not gay,” I said, “if that’s what you’re asking. I’m not interested in dating or having a family. I want to study the Bible, I want to write, and I want to serve my church. Anything else would be a distraction from that, and distractions aren’t welcome right now.”
“But as you know, there are aspects of God that-”
“We only learn through loving a spouse and raising a family. I get it, John, I just don’t want it right now.”
“If there’s something you aren’t telling me,” John said, and then faltered. I knew John fairly well, and he was way too gentle for threats. This time he was the one who deflected by embracing his cup.
I thought about letting him off the line, but I was too worked up for compassion. “There is something I’m not telling you. There’s a lot about who I am and why I am the way I am that I haven’t discussed with anyone here. In the year that I’ve lived with you and worked with you, I’ve never once felt comfortable enough to let down my guard.”
“It’s really a shame,” John said.
“Well, I’m not getting any more comfortable at the moment,” I said.
John drank more coffee.
I fished through my purse and pulled out my Bible.
“What are you looking up?” John asked.
“Those who say they love God but hate their brothers are liars,” I replied. I read 1st John chapter four every time I felt my head starting to separate from my body. Now was one of those times.
John looked down at the table for a while. I could see his eyes fluttering closed, see his lips moving soundlessly. He was praying.
“You know,” I said, “we didn’t bless this meeting before it started. Perhaps we jinxed ourselves.”