One of my all-time favorite TV shows was the workplace comedy Better Off Ted—which is probably the worst name I’ve ever seen for such a funny show. (Until I actually saw the show, I mistakenly imagined it was about dead people, like Dead Like Me or Pushing Daisies. It’s not.)
Better Off Ted was a pitch-perfect satire of big corporate culture, epitomized by Portia de Rossi’s character Veronica, Ted’s boss. Veronica is the queen of business-speak, representing the company’s Powers That Be and putting the company line above all else.
In one episode, Ted learns to his horror that his company has installed new motion sensors on doors, elevators, lights, and even drinking fountains to save energy, but with one big problem: the new system fails to sense people with dark skin. Ted confronts Veronica on the issue:
The system doesn’t see black people?
I know, weird, huh?
That’s more than weird, Veronica. That’s basically—well, racist.
The company’s position is that it’s actually the opposite of racist because it’s not targeting black people; it’s just ignoring them. They insist the worst people can call it is ‘indifferent.’
Well, they know it has to be fixed. Right? Please? At least say they know that?
Of course they do, and they’re working on it. In the meantime, they’d like to remind everyone to celebrate the fact that it does see Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Jews.
Bwahahahaha!!! I laughed so hard at this scene the first time I saw it.
Actually, I’m still laughing. Hahaha! Haha! Ha! Ha! Oooh, but there’s a sting in there, too, isn’t there?
As I went back to show it to a friend, something occurred to me: This is how a lot of churches sound when they talk about gay people.
I’ve been in a lot of churches that think they’re doing a great job with “the gay issue” because they don’t hate gay people. They say things like this: “Oh, of course gays would be welcome here! We rarely mention homosexuality in our sermons, and we don’t single it out above any other sin.”
And, true, these churches aren’t Westboro. They don’t say “God hates fags” or focus on homosexuality. But not hating someone isn’t the same thing as truly welcoming them.
Imagine if I invited you to a party at my house, but when you got there, you discovered that everyone else was part of the same club, and we spent the entire evening discussing club jokes and activities that you weren’t part of, making no attempt to include you in the discussion. You might not feel hated, but you certainly wouldn’t feel welcomed.
As a gay person in many congregations, you quickly begin to feel invisible at best. There are plenty of church programs, classes, and sermon illustrations for heterosexual couples, but nothing that addresses your unique concerns and needs. You’re invited to attend and contribute money, but you’d never be allowed in leadership. And, truth be told, while no one would publicly admit it, many members of the congregation are clearly rather uncomfortable around LGBTs. They’ll smile at you during the morning greeting, but they won’t invite you to join them for lunch afterward.
These churches have their hearts in the right place. They want to be loving, and they honestly believe that because they don’t preach hellfire and brimstone, any gay person should feel completely at home in their church.
But—and I’ve heard this too many times from too many people—for many gay folks, these churches come across sounding a little too much like Veronica: We’re the opposite of prejudiced! We’re not targeting gay people; we’re just ignoring them.