Give me courage, a pillar of flame, as I begin to follow you on the pilgrim way. Create a calm and glowing centre within me that I may resist the cruelties of those who seem to love me. May I be firm in refusing all collusion. May I be harmed no more. Keep me steady when I arouse unresolved conflicts in others, for you love them as much as you love me. Loose my chains in the dungeons, and free them from their prisons too.
From Out of the Silence by Jim Cotter
Coda to Psalm 120
The Guardian has a lengthy interview today with Orlando Crux, the Puerto Rican boxer who came out as gay recently. The interview is reported on both the front and back pages. I read it immediately after reading Jim Cotter’s prayer this morning.
Donald McRae, who conducted the interview, says Cruz first needed to explain the far harder struggle he had finally won over fear and prejudice compared with the battle in the boxing ring. “I decided to be free” said Orlando Cruz. “They can’t hurt me now. I am relaxed. I feel so happy.”
“I have been living with this thorn inside me. I wanted to take it out of me so I could have peace within myself. People have died because of this. I was sad and angry a long time because there are two doors to death on this one issue. There is suicidal death – when a gay man cannot stand being unaccepted and takes his own life. And there is homophobic murder. In both these situations I want to be a force for change.
“I have been hiding this secret for such a long time. Now there is no secret. There is only truth.”
Fifty years ago, in April 1962, Emile Griffith and Benny Paret were preparing to fight for the third time. At the weigh in Paret taunted Griffith, calling him a maricon. Griffith was so incensed that he pummeled Paret ruthlessly in the last round. Paret fell into a coma and died 10 days later. Griffith was haunted for decades afterwards. He was indeed gay but only years later was he able to admit to being bisexual.
Before he succumbed to dementia, Griffith had said: “I kill a man and most people forgive me. However, I love a man and many say this makes me an evil person.”
Yesterday afternoon I met David Kuria from Kenya again. We sat and drank lager for an hour in the Westminster Arms next to the Methodist Central Hall. David is a gay man who is at ease with himself and his sexuality. We were at ease drinking together in a London bar. The bar where we last met and drank beer in Nairobi has been closed since I was there, reducing the number of places where LGBTI Kenyans can meet in a reasonably safe environment.
Orlando and David are among the many LGB&T people, Christian and non-Christian, who are following the pilgrim way of truth, love and transparency. David is a remarkably gentle, transparent, Christian gay man.
Both David and Orlando have freed themselves from the chains which had imprisoned them – David many years ago. They live transformed lives, confident in their identity as gay men.
From a calm and glowing centre, supporters of Changing Attitude in various countries attempt to avoid collusion with the powers that wish to chain and imprison us.
This afternoon, members of Changing Attitude Kenya have arrived in Mtwapa, north of Mombasa, in preparation for their meeting with Bishop Kalu tomorrow. Bishop Kalu has thrown off the chains which prevent so many African bishops from seeing their LGB&T brothers and sisters as people created by God who live with a dignity equal to their heterosexual brothers and sisters. Those who do so openly risk their safety and sometimes, their lives.
Against that background, the inability of the Church of England and the House of Bishops to create a space in which it is safe for gay and bisexual bishops to come out and for LGB&T members of many churches to be open about their sexuality for fear of reprisal is a scandal. And once more, Christians are making news for being prejudiced against LGB&T people – bad, very bad news.
May we all live from our calm and glowing centre, following others on the pilgrim path.