I probably hated most of you at one point or another.
For what your kind had done, at one point in time, to me.To those like me.
Strangers to you.
Hate is a such a strong word. But no, I did.
I fact-checked you, had you figured out.
There was such perverse safety in knowing the enemy.
I sought out and read everything that you ever wrote.
Your stances, your positions, your apologetics. Your conclusions.
It sometimes took me a while, to find the evidence.
But make no mistake about it. I would find it.
I was Inspector Javert and you were Valjean to me.
I didn’t care about your past remorse or present burdens.
Your people had stolen the bread from me. You kept me from the table.
And I wouldn’t relent until every stone was lifted to find that one rotten piece.
That smoking gun, that one piece of evidence to seal the deal.
Do you remember what you wrote, what you said? It was 3, 5, 10 years ago.
“Here it is. What do you have to say? Look at it. I have proof. ”
I. The vindicated.
I would never forgive The Affronts.
I had you figured out, and you deserved your place in your own private Hell.
I knew you, sized you up.
Dismissed your mêmes, tweets, thoughts and profundities.
And there would be reckoning.
I held the Rosetta stone that unlocked you.
And there was nothing, nothing. Nothing that you could do or say
to make me look at you with anything but revulsion.
For you were dead to me now.
I. The vindicated.
You. The fraud.
I had you all figured out. All of you.
Until I met my friend.
He is one of you, born into your world of Good Books and Truths in Love.
(I still don’t know whether he knows the smell of incense
or taste of communion wine, or a statue staring intently at you in discontent )
But I sort of stumbled upon him.
He seemed to know the God of my understanding well.
Yet he was one of you, and I was so confused, because he stood up.
He stood up and shouted for me, for us. He saw what I saw.
What I’d seen all of my life. As I saw it, but how could this be?
That he would simply love a sinner. I waited, but he never finished the sentence.
“Love the sinner….”
FINISH IT. I’M WAITING.
But he didn’t. He said that he couldn’t.
He said that he’d evolved.
I almost didn’t believe him, but he couldn’t finish the sentence.
I remained there, a line cut short, held back.
I waited until it began to rain.
And then I went to a drier place inside of myself.
He wasn’t at all like me, the stranger. But he wanted to learn. And he became my brother.
In that astonishing moment of clarity, this stranger tried looking through my eyes.
He stood up for me. He stood for me when he stood up for us all.
And I asked “why? why?”
I hadn’t fact-checked him yet.
I didn’t have the chance to do so.
Because, you see, I grew to know him before I sought the facts.
I read what he wrote, and was moved.
Javert demanded answers from the convicted, who showed him such grace.
“I’ve evolved. I don’t think as I did, even 3 years ago.
I was totally unforgiving and rigid, but that was another person.
I’ve changed. I’ve evolved. A lot of people have. Give them a chance.”
Like Javert, I stared at the waters.
I was shaken to my core and ready to jump into the chasm.
Something dark was about to die in me. To begin to fall away.
Grace isn’t always an easy gift.
Grace demands that you be open to it.
It demands that you see it for what it is. An embrace.
A beckoning to a body much greater, and more whole, than yourself.
It demanded of me that I consider something unfathomable.
“You haven’t figured it all out, child. And you never fully will.”
My sources were historically and academically correct,
yet their conclusions were so very wrong.
So very, very wrong.
And so it was that I resumed my own evolution.
Dormant roots were ready to evolve into a better tree.
(But they were set in the earth long before there was me.
They were never really dead to me at all).
Grace, the patient teacher correcting that which I held to be so true.
I’m not who I was 5 years, 10 years, or even one year ago.
God help me. I thought that I finally had it all figured out.
Yet I too have evolved. I can’t hate the stranger. I can’t.
I can stop the sentence short and just love the stranger.
If he could do it, so can I. I can try.
I was once Inspector Javert. And it felt so good to be vindicated.
But I need to say goodbye, and to evolve further now. I’m willing to try.
We haven’t arrived yet, I don’t think, at that place
where evolution will ultimately allow us to reach one another.
But we will arrive.
And then there will be miles ahead. Yet another milestone to reach.
There will be another island awaiting, perhaps fearing our arrival.
I hope that you and I, my friend, can reach them soon.
I hope that evolution spins us wildly forward,
Like a top wound so tightly that it spins into the unknown.
Yes, I have a friend who once evolved. His wife has evolved.
His friends. His family. Others who once were strangers.
They evolved. I am evolving.
I feel it, and there’s God in that feeling.
They’re such beautiful souls. I love them dearly.
I’m glad. I’m glad that I don’t hate them, in not knowing them.
I’m glad that my beloved friends aren’t strangers. I know them better with the passing of time.
We still have much to learn about each other.
I have much to teach, stories to tell. In time we’ll grow greater together.
Greater together than we can be as one.
And we will reach that island of the Others.
The castaways, those deemed and damned for not being like us.
Those who I’m sure have fact-checked me.
Those who know me, as I once was convinced that I knew my own “others” too.
I hope that I evolve enough, in my time in this world, to be close enough.
To reach those islands of castaways that never end.
One after another, I suppose that the journey will never end for me. For us.
And if it doesn’t, then let me be resurrected anew, as I arrive at each port.
I owe them that.
I have a great debt to pay.
I’m grateful to him.
I tell him that, from time to time.
Maybe he will never really know how much. Yet I know it so well now.
That were it not for his words, my eyes might never have been fully opened to God.
God. I found the God of my childhood again in the unlikeliest of places.
God and evolution have always been great friends.
Yes, God evolved before me one day,
staring back at me through the eyes of a stranger.
KENNY PIERCE, a native of Southern California, came out in 1985 as the AIDS epidemic raged around him, both in Los Angeles and in San Francisco.
“I am passionate about emergent theology and interfaith dialog. My greater interest lies in sharing what I (and others) learned in those formative years, to build bridges between rapidly-changing faith communities and the earlier generation of survivors, families and friends affected by the AIDS plague.
“I feel strongly that the Church needs to acknowledge and work to address the alienation and disillusionment inherited by the current generation of affirming people of faith, who may not understand the implications of the past social, political and religious dynamics through which their uncles, aunts and parents lived.
“It is my hope that residual feelings of betrayal and silence during the “gay genocide” in those earliest years of HIV/AIDS be circumvented, and someday don’t fatally color the perception of all of Christianity among its survivors. Our earliest mandates — pacifism, social justice and compassion — are the universal key to unlocking the heart of our work in this world.”