I stood at the back of the bar and listened to the lament of the poet. A sorrowful keening of being misunderstood, of being told that who he was simply was not ‘right’. The crack in his voice and the tears in his eyes communicated as much as his words ever could. His poem was about his Christian parents. Parents that did all that they could to “get the gay out of him.” Parents from whom he felt nothing but judgment. Parents who were scared and whose fear translated into rejection. The abandonment of a teenage boy in the name of upholding “Christian morals.” I do wonder how many times our morals can get in the way of our love.
As one who has grown up in the Evangelical Christian tradition I find myself often having to separate myself from that tradition. The overwhelming baggage that comes with such a term. I am a deeply spiritual man. A major part of this spirituality was my upbringing around an evangelical Christian table. This tradition, whether I like it or not, has, therefore shaped much of my own spirituality. Both in terms of that which I have taken on from the tradition and that which I have rebelled against. I am its pattern and the inverse of its pattern.
For some even those words, ‘Evangelical Christianity’, will likely induce a nervous twitch in the neck muscle. At this point, the easiest thing for you to do, would be to place me into a box of everything you think about Evangelical Christianity and then proceed to take a hammer to the box. This is often the way we work as humans. We love our systems and our labels and our boxes. It allows us to not have to deal with the complexities of real life flesh and blood people. It means we can simply ignore them and bring a critique to the construct that we have placed them inside.
We do this all the time in my country (Australia) when it comes to Asylum Seekers. We place a label upon them. Something like ‘Illegal Immigrant’ or ‘Queue jumper.’ This label then allows us to forget about the life of the mother who is doing everything she can to try and keep her family safe and instead to make up policies about the nebulus construct that is ‘illegal immigrants’. Life is not as simple as this. People are not as simple as this. We strip a person of their humanity when we do so.
I stood at the back of the bar as the poet lamented and raged against his parents. Against them and their religion. He raged and raged and indeed rightly so. I stood at the back of the bar and let every tear stain into my skin. Too many times I have heard this story. Too many times. As I look back upon my tradition I see much good done in the world and I see a whole lot of bad. A complex mass of people and their brokenness. I want to judge them, harshly. And yet, as I look back upon my own life I see exactly the same. I am complicit in the madness. I am part of the system. I am more than just me. I am one with the whole of humanity and her brokenness. The good and the bad it all flows through me. And so on behalf of humanity, to humanity, I think we need to say sorry.
The next day I wrote the following poem…
Joel McKerrow is an author, speaker, performance poet and educator from Melbourne Australia. He has, for the last five years, been on faculty at Tabor College Victoria is the founder of ‘The Centre for Poetics and Justice’. Joel is a regular host on ‘indiefeed performance poetry podcast’ (the most well known spoken word podcast in the world) and in 2012 was the third ever Australian to represent his nation at the Individual World Poetry Slam Championships. He is the author of Beyond Rhetoric, Writings in the Tradition of Kahlil Gibran and is passionate about discovering a new way to live outside the system of the Empire of Greed and spends much of his time trying to match his actions with this belief.