I woke up way too early this morning from a strange dream, as I knew I would when I went to bed at 1. Whenever I go to bed in a distressed emotional state (thankfully this doesn’t happen too often) I sleep my physical tiredness off in a couple hours and then wake up right before the light starts to come, toss and turn for a while. I decided to get up and do something useful. My original idea was of something useful was studying for this huge test I have to take in about a week… but then I thought I’d elicit some words from you all instead. Still useful, right?
The dream was pretty funny, actually. I found myself forced to sit in a kind of revival-style worship service, surrounded by male friends from my hometown, kids my own age. I realized that we were all gay (in my dream), and that this was a service to try to convert us (to holiness and heterosexuality, I guess) The service built to a kind of altar call. A line of young men (who I recognized as older boys from my hometown) were marched in to surround us “sinners” and all assumed a kneeling position of prayer – they were to serve as beacons of virility and heterosexuality and virtue while we responded to the call. Defiantly, I got up and tried to make my way to their line and assume their same posture, to show that they had no exclusive claim on prayer or virtue. One of them got angry and pointed me back to my seat. There, still defiant, I again tried to assume their same kneeling prayer posture. It was very awkward to do on the edge of my chair, and I wasn’t sure I was getting the arms quite right, and I worried that I looked really fairy-ish doing it and that it wasn’t really helping my cause.
This is all related to the draft of a book that I received yesterday. I submitted one of the chapters to it. It’s a compendium of writing about the gay issue in the Mennonite church, with writers from a great variety of perspectives being published here. It should be pretty decent and interesting book (I’ve just leafed through it so far), if you care about the church’s conversation (or lack of) on the issue. My deal is that I’m struck and surprised by the force of emotions that hits me when I really re-engage with the institutional church and its representative voices on these issues. I think I’m just beginning to comprehend how deep currents of something like rage still run in me. My instinct is always toward reconciliation, valuing everyone’s individual story, speaking calmly and warmly to those on the other side of the issue, not letting it divide us, being a peacemaker, etc. Nonviolent principles, generally. I think they’ve born some good fruit through the time I’ve tried to engage things in this way.
And yet here I am again waking up at 5 a.m. with rage dreams when I’m forced to truly encounter the real voices of exclusion in the church… in the case of this book, a group of middle-aged (and older) straight men pontificating on this “issue” and how to deal with “them.” But of course – they’re just calling to mind powerful forces from my past. My anger really isn’t about the exclusion of me now as an adult, but about all the violence that was directed against my child-self and my fragile adolescent self when I was completely open and vulnerable to everything the church had to say. I feel (maybe? it’s my metaphor, anyway) like someone who’s been physically abused forced to put her story up beside the abuser, who’s still mouthing off the exact same words he’s always said, and the words are still entirely about HIMSELF.
Whew. So, my problem is that a large part of me is still trained by being a good Mennonite boy (that’s a GMB) when it comes to such things. And I guess Mennonite boys just suppress their anger – at least that’s what this one has always done. How can such anger ever find its place in the world/life? What is its purpose (assuming that all things are meant to work for good if used in the proper way)? It seems like such a force for violence, for destruction, for breaking relationships. I believe in nonviolence, reconciliation, and relationship-building – and pragmatically consider them the most effective strategies for change. I don’t want to direct anger at individual people and cause them pain or harm. Yet – it’s the voices of individual people who collectively (and mostly unconsciously) create the abusive force that I rage against.
I want to know if anyone else has had such rage/anger in their lives, and how they learned to make it a part of themselves, despite the GMK training. I don’t want to be split in two (that was kind of the whole point of coming out in the first place), and I’m afraid that suppressing it is just a way of disengaging from the issue rather than working toward anything positive. What does someone who believes in nonviolence do with rage?