Living in a different time zone, I was not able to watch the live coverage of the Golden Globes, but I turned to the next best thing: Twitter. It didn’t take long before the newsfeed sounded out a collective gasp from Tina Fey and Amy Poehler’s Bill Cosby rape joke:
“Sleeping Beauty just thought she was getting coffee with Bill Cosby.”
Some may have thought the joke too offensive, that rape is too serious a subject to use as speech fodder, but I found it genius. Fey/Poehler called out the offense of a powerful man in his own arena, the world of entertainment where he gained his prestige, against the women he allegedly assaulted. They brought a buried injustice up to the surface, making the rich and glamorous squirm with discomfort — is that not the work of modern-day prophetesses? The fact that it came from two women who know first hand the misogyny in the male-dominated industry of comedy added another layer of irony and punch to the boundary-stretching joke. Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, women who are smart, talented, and gutsy enough to call out injustice, make me proud to be a woman. They are my people.
This past weekend, I’ve been following another event: the annual Gay Christian Network Conference in Portland. I take seriously my charge to find beauty in the margins. And whatever your stance is on the LGBT Christian debate, the fact that mainstream Christian media was conspicuously silent on covering the GCN conference is proof that within evangelicalism, gay Christians still live at the margins.
I listened to a couple of the keynote speeches via live stream and read the chatter on social media: hashtag GCNConference. Jeff Chu’s beautiful vision calling forth a church where courageous and vulnerable people are desperately, fiercely wanted, moved me in ways I haven’t been moved in a long time. Pastor Danny Cortez’s talk spoke of an all-encompassing grace extended even to those who have rejected him and his church. His sincere words stirred my heart and prompted tears. Hearing these brothers speak, I felt proud to be a Christian. I felt emboldened to stand by a vision of boundless love and unconditional grace. They are my people.
For a while now, I have been thinking about how I am redefining the boundaries of my faith. It used to be that I drew boundaries between those who spoke like me, thought like me, believed like me, acted like me as an evangelical Christian, and marked those beyond the line as outsiders. But slowly, as I discovered how God manifested God’s love and grace in those outside of church, I began to draw different lines.
There were those who used the same spiritual language as I, but acted bigoted and judgmental. I erected walls to keep them out. There were those who uttered the same creed as I, but cared only for the appearance of holiness. I created a separate category and made sure I didn’t belong there. There were those who followed the same Jesus as I, but walked in the path of greed and dominance. I turned my back and took care to walk a separate way.
It used to be that the line was drawn neatly, a rounded circle, segregating those inside of the faith and those outside, but now the line snakes through the church to those on the outside, a messy squiggle weaving between those who manifested a growing concern for the things of the gospel that I cared about, and those who do not.
Yet a realization dawns on me that I am still in the business of drawing lines.
I am uncertain what the alternative might be. Because in order to stand up for the vulnerable, there has to be sharp lines drawn against those in the powerful status quo who will not listen unless there is an abrupt fissure calling their attention. Convictions inevitably call for boundary marking. Standing up for one thing is to stand against another.
But here’s the thing, I have almost nothing in common with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, celebrity comedians who are rich, white, and hilarious. But I was proud to call them my people.
I am a happily married mother of two. I am straight. But I considered those at GCN my people.
I think there has to be lines that are drawn. I still do refuse to be associated with hateful people who speak shame to others in the name of Jesus. But possibly these lines are not carved into stone. Perhaps they are mere gentle marks in sand that we can easily brush over. Because just as I change and evolve in my faith, others do as well. As our lives take a turn this way and that, with expected milestones and unexpected setbacks, my hope is that we are involved not so much in the business of drawing lines, but expend our efforts investing in the search for our people.
The exciting thing is that our people can be found almost anywhere: from the glamorous awards of the Golden Globes, to the unassuming Christian conference in downtown Portland. We need our people to belong to, to share in life’s joys and sorrows, to do what is meaningful together. May we continue our search open to the element of surprise of where we might find them, what dark corners or unexpected spaces where we discover common ground, root for each other, and beam with pride. May we not hesitate to erase some previously drawn lines. May we be quick to find them, to fall into step with shared passions, to link arms and claim them as our people.
Cindy Brandt blogs at cindywords.com and serves on the board of One Day's Wages, an organization fighting extreme global poverty. She studied Bible/Theology at Wheaton College and holds a Masters of Arts in Theology from Fuller Seminary.
Image: Tinay Fey (left) and Amy Poehler arrive at the 2013 Golden Globes. via Synergy ByDesign / Flickr.com