Mom and I are in line to pick up lunch on Saturday. A bald, gregarious Baptist pastor turns around and thanks me for singing and asks if I’m part of the church where the conference is being held. I say no, that I’m just in town for the conference and helping out where I am needed. He asks where I’m from and I tell him, San Francisco. His response:
NO, YOU MORON, IT’S NOT, is what I say in my head. Not out loud, of course. I’m growing. He’s only been once, years ago. I don’t really get to explain why not because we are interrupted with people crossing the line, asking a question, or something. He continues chatting with mom asking where she’s from and we find a connection from the church where I grew up. He asks if I work in a church and I tell him Mission Bay. I take the opportunity to also tell him that I feel fortunate to be in the first healthy church situation in my life, because prior to that I’d been in Baptist churches. I haven’t grown that much.
He looks genuinely remorseful on behalf of his people, and asks what was the most difficult thing about it. I say, it’s a boy’s club where all the decisions are made on the golf course. He shakes his head again and looks squarely into my eyes and offers a deep apology and I am a little stunned. He considers himself a moderate Southern Baptist, if there is such a thing, and if he’s not SBC, he’s probably CBF. We joke about the incongruency of women being able to say many things in church, as long as they’re not standing behind the “magic block of wood.” He mentions the need for many to have a “spiritual gut transplant” and I counter with the greater need of a brain implant. We laugh, and I assure him that things are fine with me, because I left the Baptists and went where I could use my gift. We part ways.
First of all, I am guilty of stereotyping. I saw this obvious former football player, heard the accent, heard that I apparently live in a “secular culture” and immediately he went into a category: chauvanist, idiot, bombastic, narrow-minded, Republican, dumbass, etc., and those are the printable things. I am growing very little, in fact.
The truth is, he’s a product of his culture and I’m a product of mine. He’s alredy stepping out of his paradigm by being “moderate” and going to a Renovare event. He’s doing his best to follow Jesus. Yes, we had just heard about how the sacred/secular divide is nothing but gnostic heresy, but he is from a land where the car dealerships are open only after church on Sunday. He’s doing his best. I will try to do mine.