My badass friend Dylan Scholinski (read his book “The Last Time I wore a Dress”) edited and compiled a zine about a sign held by Christian protesters at Denver pride this year. A sign which read, “Please forgive me for judging you.” Dylan asked me to contribute a piece to the zine. The piece I wrote follows. If you’re interested in the zine in its paper format, please contact me at Andie.Lyons@gmail.com, or write at POB 40671 Denver, Co 80204
I’m not supposed to be religious. I am supposed to be a bad ass radical queer, all perverted public sex and outlandish politics. I’m supposed to be a tried and true lefty with a warranted skepticism for all things God related. I am supposed to sneer at Christians and hurl finely crafted rhetorically complex criticisms at them.
But I can’t. I’m sorry.
I’m sorry that maybe you will think I’ve let you down when you read this and realize I am an apologist. I’m sorry that it might undermine your trust in me when I say I believe in things like grace, like forgiveness. I’m sorry that you might think I’ve given into some ridiculous ideology, that I might not have your back anymore. I’m sorry that I’m going to tell you that sometimes, the best we can do is ask for something that is impossibly given and remarkably unwarranted.
I’m not sorry to tell you that I think we, we the reckless radical queers, have done ourselves a disservice to dismiss so wholly the idea of God. I’m not sorry to tell you that sometimes our impassioned speeches beseeching the world for justice have done nothing more than perpetuate the alienation we want to eliminate. I’m not sorry that I am allying myself with ‘the enemy’ long enough to hear what makes their hearts so hard. I’m not sorry to mete out a judgment, upon myself and anyone else who has ever ruthlessly and unapologetically shit-talked people of faith. I’m not sorry that I think that sometimes we are assholes who snidely dismiss one unbelievable ideology while subscribing to another.
Please forgive me for judging you. Please forgive me for judging myself. Forgive me even though I don’t deserve your forgiveness. Forgive me because it’s the only way out, it’s the only way through. Forgive yourselves, even if the thought of doing it makes your stomach clench tight knots. Forgive everyone who has ever wronged you. Do it even if you don’t mean it.
Forgiveness is the remitting of an offense, an offense which alienates us from each other, an offense which keeps us trapped so tightly in our own self involved anger and resentment that we cannot see each other, ever at all. Offenses which have erected walls of fear, of misunderstanding, of trite answers to complex questions, of alienation and lonliness. Offenses which continue to fester unattended, and those which have scarred our faces beyond recognition.
Forgiveness is an almost impossibility. Its unreachable, just touching the tip of the tongue. Say it anyway. Say, “I forgive you.” Say, “I want your forgiveness.”
But be uncompromising. Demand accountability. Never let the sin of broken hearts and devastated worlds and scarred souls be removed or forgotten. Remit them; take them in and make them over, turn them into unforgettable lessons and avenues to something deeper and bigger. Forgive them. Own them. Make them yours and share them amongst yourselves. Give them new life.
In the midst of all that unfurling fucked up judgment, in the face of half-hearted forgiveness, there is grace. An unmerited favor that we can give to each other and ourselves. Grace is illogical, you have to talk yourself into it. Rationalize it however you have to. Because nothing transformative ever came about through simple structures and making sense.
I’m not telling you to turn the other cheek. I’m not telling you to let your face get smashed in. I’m telling you that it will happen; faces will be smashed. But what will you do with that devestation? How can you grow it into something that echoes with pain, never submits? How can it become that new thing you know can exist?
If we want to survive we have to create grace, the gentle lullaby made from vicious pain and the deepest of struggle. Its softness, its sweetness, is not an easy one; it is ringed in multitudes of emotion. This is not the easy way out. It’s not the simple answer. It is a resting spot in the middle of hell; a place to lay our heads until we can keep going again.