His name is Mohammad and he laughs when I ask with that hopeful childlike expression if they serve hot chocolate for breakfast here at the Hilton. Yes, they do and that makes me very happy.
I am here at the Gay Christian Network Conference and despite being helpful whenever he can and trying his best to speak as accent free as possible, Mohammad doesn’t look all too happy. Is it because he has to serve women, or does he just not have a good morning? I can just assume that he is a Muslim. I do not know. Yet something tells me he is.
He is friendly, no doubt. He smiles, laughs even. But something doesn’t make him all that happy. Is it because we are a lesbian couple, holding hands and kissing in public? Does that make him uncomfortable because he believes that our orientation contradicts his beliefs? Depending on where he is from, there might still be the death penalty in his country of birth for same-sex sexual acts. Maybe he has been taught from early childhood on that this kind of “behavior” is evil, a sin, worthy of condemnation. Maybe in all his hesitation and doubts he is not very different from many other people here at the conference who were taught similar ideas. Like the man I met yesterday who was outed to his church and wife by a so-called friend and kicked out of his home. He still doubts that being gay and Christian can be reconciled. He learned the same ideas as Mohammand.
Ideas that the man who stood outside the Hotel this Friday afternoon with a sign saying “Homo sex is sin” was also taught. Ideas that people like Kim Davis grew up with. We all remember Kim Davis, right? The county clerk from Kentucky who denied same sex couples their rightful marriage license because that would be a “violation of God’s law”. The man with the sign is the personal Kim Davis of this year’s GCN conference.
Three men. The lonesome protester with his sign, the Muslim waiter and the wounded gay Christian. All of them brought up with the same ideas. It is wrong to be gay. It is a choice, a sinful behavior that must be suppressed, punished or even annihilated. These three men represent to me a big part of the not affirming opinions in the United States.
There are the Kim Davises who refuse to acknowledge anything that goes beyond their limited belief system, even although they themselves do not obey the bible all the way through. Mrs Davis is now married for the fourth time. These people will not accept that we have separation of church and state in the US. They are the ones asking for laws to protect their “religious freedom”. Laws that allow them to discriminate against us. “Homo sex is sin” is what this man had to tell us. Honestly, for a moment I wasn’t even sure if it was some weird attempt at satire or real. Yet, we cannot and must not ridicule this man. Who are we to judge?
Because look at the gay man who is struggling with his identity. A man who might have been as opposed to same sex attraction as the protester if he wasn’t gay himself. But he is. And so all he can do is trying as hard as he possible can to fight through the indoctrination of his childhood and youth, to try to forget many ideas that used to be his only truth and to understand that he as a Christian is just as worthy, just as important and good as other Christians.
And then look at Mohammad. His upbringing, his indoctrination make him feel uncomfortable around LGBT people. I watched him. He checked if the people on the tables he waited had conference badges. Here he is very similar to the protector and to the struggling man. Ideas, planted into his mind, hard to overcome, maybe impossible. But unlike the protester, the Kim Davis of the conference, he is still right here. He is still waiting tables, doing his job as he is supposed to do, no matter what his beliefs tell him about the LGBT community. He still serves hot chocolate with a smile, even although in private he might completely disapprove of me and my wife, maybe even hate us. But he is here. He is right where he should be because he understands that his own religious feelings are not more important or valid in an very day situation than mine.
He respects me. He respects me because no matter how different we are from each other, we still share one thing: our humanity. He might not accept me, but he respects me. That is more than the protester does. And it might even be more than the struggling man does who very obviously cannot respect and accept himself as a gay Christian, so how could he respect and accept me as the same?
Is it the Muslim man who teaches us a lesson today? It seems so. The Middle Eastern man who has a message of respect and acceptance. Middle Eastern?
Jesus was Middle Eastern, too.