Thursday, March 20, 2014

Acquitting Yourself

My husband and I have been having our kitchen renovated. Anybody out there thinking of doing this, I have one piece of advice for you: Don't Do It. Göran and I were talking about this and he said, "Next time, let's just buy a new house."

Yesterday, we had our electricians install some new circuits to accommodate a dishwasher and a new (powered up) combination microwave oven/hood, and bring our kitchen up to code by installing a new outlet. (We live in a house that's over 100 years old, and one of the major headaches of renovating has been dealing with old plumbing/circuitry and new codes.)

After completing their work (which was all beautifully done), I completed the paperwork for the job and made the final payment. And just as they were leaving, one of the electricians handed me a little card that said "ASK ME ABOUT MY FAITH." "We're a faith-based company," he explained, "and we're always happy to answer any questions people might have about our faith."

I was mildly amused, only because, being as devout a Latter-day Saint as I am, and having engaged in some missionary activity of my own over the years, it felt odd to be on the receiving end of someone else's proselytization. Also, I didn't expect to be proselytized by my electrician.

At one point, while they were checking which circuits they needed to turn off to work in the kitchen, I had actually had to turn off my work computer and was making good use of the time by doing some daily scripture study in the living room. They had seen me sitting in front of two open Bibles (I was using different translations of the Bible for this particular study), and my Bibles were still there in plain view on the coffee table as they were shaking hands with me and getting ready to walk out the front door. Surely they realized that I am a devout Christian. This was also their second trip, and in some of our discussions I had said, "I'll need to check with my husband about that." So I assume they must also have realized that I am gay and that they were doing their electrical work in a gay household. I wondered what they made of all that.

I have to admit I had some complicated thoughts and feelings about it all. I couldn't help but wonder, were they judging me for being gay? Was it that kind of faith they wanted me to ask them about? What would have happened if I had taken up the invitation from the card and asked them? What kind of conversation might have ensued about the fact that they were inviting a gay couple to investigate their faith? And what would they make of the fact that I am gay and am also already a devout Christian?

It also occurred to me that it seemed odd that I should care at all what they thought, since my framework for understanding myself as a gay man is within the context of my faith as a Mormon. That is where it matters to me. I'm not so much concerned about how my gayness might play out in a Jewish or Buddhist or Unitarian or Evangelical Christian context, but in a Mormon context. Still, for some reason I did care.

I had put the card they handed me into the file where we've been keeping all the other receipts and documents related to our kitchen renovation. But finally I couldn't resist the temptation to pull the card out and take a look at it. There was, of course, a URL on the card, so I typed it into my browser and checked out their church's web site.

The first thing that struck me about the web site was the lack of identifying labels. The word "Christian" didn't even appear on their home page. Weird. I dug deeper. There was a link that said "What we believe." So I clicked on it, and found a series of one-sentence summaries of what they believed about things like "salvation," the "trinity," "the Bible," etc. I read all of the statements and by the end had concluded they were indubitably Evangelical Christians, but had obviously done everything possible to make it impossible for anybody but a scholar of theology and religious history to attach that label to them. A rather ambiguous statement of belief under the category of "worship" suggested that they may or may not tolerate speaking in tongues. I couldn't tell. The very last category was "marriage," and there they had two sentences about the sacredness of marriage, which they described as being between "one man one woman," and how they promoted "strong family values." I didn't assume that this meant they were anti-gay. I tried digging deeper by using the site search engine to do a search on "homosexuality," "gay," "lesbian," and "same-sex marriage." Literally nothing came up. I wondered if they had rigged the search engine to prevent such search terms from achieving a match, or if they had studiously avoided publishing anything on their web site that might contain such terms. Interesting.

Still, I was left with one impression. The electricians I had encountered had been polite, helpful and efficient, and they had done excellent work which they obviously took pride in. It occurred to me that if I was going to hire an electrician, I might prefer to hire one who used his electrical work as a form of evangelization. At the very least I could trust that he'd do the best electrical work he possibly could in order to make an impression on potential converts.

As I was praying this morning at the start of the day, I thought of them again. Of course I have my own salvation to work out, which was the main subject of my prayers. But as I thought of these two electrician guys, I felt the Spirit affirming that they belong to God too. All I needed to understand about their invitation to me to "ASK ME ABOUT MY FAITH" was that they had a relationship with God that entailed certain responsibilities, including the responsibility to share the good news with others, and that they had acquitted themselves and that was good.

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