Monday, July 26, 2004

In over my head 3
     I had a surprise visitor at work: Thomas Thomason. My secretary was off this afternoon so I was working the front desk. I immediately tensed up when he came in. I had never talked to him about the situation at church, and I didn't know how he would react to my attempt to defend him.
     I said hi. He said hi. He asked if he could talk to me a moment in private. I told him that I was the only one there and asked him to sit down
     "I was dropping my teacher's guide off and Pastor Bill told me that you had been in there to talk to him," Thomas said. "He told me that you were upset about the whole thing."
     Apparently that restriction that kept Pastor Bill from telling me what Thomas had said to him didn't keep him from telling Thomas what I had said. Lovely.
     "I ... well ... I didn't mean to be sticking my nose in where it didn't belong," I said. "If I upset you, then I'm sorry. I was only trying to help."
     "Who told you about it?" he asked.
     "I can't say," I said.
     "It's all over the church, isn't it?"
     It was more of a statement than a question, but I nodded.
     "I would rather people minded their own business!" he said, a bit loudly. "You shouldn't have known anything about it!" 
     He was right. His ex-wife Linda (as always, all the names are changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike) should have kept her mouth shut. None of it should have happened.
     "I know you were trying to help," he continued. "But you're just keeping the whole thing stirred up. I want people to stop talking about me. Do you understand? Please."
     "Yes," I said. "And I'm sorry that I've upset you. But what happened was wrong. I know that you want it to go away tomorrow, and I wish people's memories were that short, but they will talk about it. I know I didn't fix anything, but I wanted to try."
     "I want you to stop trying," he said.
     "I will," I said. "But answer me one question: Why do you want to stop trying? You can't put this back in the bottle. Nothing good will ever come of this if it's dropped now."
     "You don't understand," he said. "I've already got a couple of phone calls from people who think it would be better if I left town now. Of course, I am leaving as soon as my house sells, but they want me gone now."
     "Did they threaten you?" I said. "You could go to the police --"
     "You really don't get it, do you?" he said, sighing. "I won't go to the police. Not in this town. Look, I know this is hard for you to understand. You're Mister Clean Living, the Milk and Cookie Boy. You've probably don't even know how to be anything else. And that's good. There need to be people like you. More of them. Most people wouldn't have gone to bat for a gay person. But you can't win here. They might talk about how they support you to your face, but their whispers behind your back will kill you."
     "So ... you are gay now?" I asked.
     "Are you asking if I'm active?" he asked. "No. And I take whole responsibility for my breakup with Linda. I cheated on her. Vows are vows. I should have been honest from the very beginning and told her that I had these feelings for men. I lied, and she paid for it. She's still hurt by it. But if you're asking if I might be active in the future, I don't know, but I do know that I might. I want to be loved again in my life. And I think I can be Christian and be gay, too. I also think we shouldn't talk about this. I can tell I've shocked you."
     I didn't say anything. I didn't know what to say. What do you say to that?
     "So are you sorry that you defended me?" he asked.
     "No," I said. "No. It was still wrong what happened. They had no right to judge you." I shrugged. "Of course, I'm judging them now, which is also wrong. Frankly this whole Christian thing is very confusing. I can only keep trying."
     He smiled. "You do pretty good. Better than most. I do want you to drop it, but since I haven't said it, thank you for trying. If more people were like you, it'd be a better world, and maybe none of this would have ever happened. So thank you."
     He left on that.
     You'd think that maybe I'd be patting myself on my back right now, but you'd be wrong. Nothing got fixed. He lost his Sunday school class. His ex-wife got away with using the church to ruin his reputation. He's got people calling him to ask him to leave town. I've got people whispering about me since I defended him. It's pretty much a wash all around.
     So I guess I will stop talking about it and let it go. Sometimes the bad guys win. I can only say, though, that it was still wrong. And while those people won't forget, neither will I.

Copyright 2004. All rights reserved.


Joel said...

Sad. Keeps one motivated to keep fighting for the right.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what to say, except this is why I left the "Southern Baptist" church that I attended my whole life. I know we aren't perfect, but I think church going ppl tend to think that because they go to church that excuses them in some way to act judgemental toward ohters. You know "Holier than thou", For instance, if someone failed to show up for services on Sun night or Wed, I used to hear someone else say in a condescending voice, "where were you last Sun night?", and that is just the tip of it. There were other instigating factors in my decision. When I left it was like leaving my family, I had withdrawals and a sad longing in my gut for things to change. But in the end it was best, I am probably closer to God now than I was then. I hope you have found peace with the situation and I hope Thomas can find his own peace. Susan2