Wednesday, May 25, 2016

"Don't You Want Me?"

Hobbes hangin'.

Last week, the day before a spiritual program was to begin, I was asked to take care of all the meals. Though it was last minute, I rearranged my week to accommodate the request—happily, because I enjoy serving in this way, especially those tending to their souls and the souls of others.

On one of the several daily drives to and from the site, tears came to my eyes when the radio played Ed Sheeran’s pop song, “Photograph.” I have come to associate the song with our dog, Hobbes, who died last July, specifically the line about a loved one’s photograph:

So you can keep me
Inside the pocket
Of your ripped jeans
Holdin’ me closer
‘Til our eyes meet
You won’t ever be alone
Wait for me to come home.

You see, I keep the above photo of Hobbes on my cell phone inside the pocket of my blue jeans. Every time I check my phone, she looks at me with those eyes, eyes that wanted me always.

The song that immediately followed on the radio brought up a different kind of grief, The Human League’s song with the plaintive refrain, “Don't…you…want…me?” I remember dancing to it during afternoon tea dances on the deck of the Boat Slip, a popular gay bar in Provincetown, in the summer of 1982. I spent a few days there with friends after yet another defeat at a Presbyterian General Assembly, that year, in Hartford, Connecticut.

What was particularly disheartening at that G.A. was that Bill Silver (the candidate who occasioned the denominational debate on the ordination of “avowed, practicing homosexuals”) and I had consulted the Stated Clerk on a strategy that he subsequently arranged to torpedo, now that he knew our plans. Bill felt so betrayed, he ripped off his visitor badge and tossed it over the balcony, yelling at the gathering that he would have nothing more to do with the church. He never attended another G.A.

At the time, we could not know we were at the precipice of a soon to rapidly-descend rollercoaster called AIDS. The devastation we felt at that national church convention was nothing compared to a disease that could strip us of whatever dignity we were trying to embrace, a disease that would accentuate our loss of spiritual support from the church. Many, many years later, Bill too succumbed to it, but without ever losing his feisty spirit and sardonic wit. Bill died with more integrity than many of us will see.

Like “Photograph,” the song “Don't You Want Me?” is about a yearning love, a love translatable to an institution like the church.

“Don't…you…want…me?” The song’s repeated, wistful questioning became the question of a generation of LGBT people.

And now, in our senior years, it still seems relevant. Earlier that morning I had looked through a couple of church publications, recognizing names of peers who have done well in the church, attaining positions openly LGBT Christians of an earlier time could never aspire to.

“Don't…you…want…me?” I realize old age plays tricks on our perspectives, that many seniors have the same question, as younger people, and yes, the church and culture, move on, unaware of the cost older generations have paid to make things better.

I thought of how excited my mom was when Tom Brokaw heralded “The Greatest Generation” that saw the world through the Great Depression and WW II. “Somebody’s finally giving us the credit we deserve,” she told me, and Brokaw’s book was the last book she was reading when she died at age 84.

A similar generational gap is explored in a touching article, “What My Mother Sees in Hillary.”

Prompting these reflections last week was the awareness that openly LGBT United Methodists were once again experiencing rejection during their 2016 General Conference, meeting in Portland.

In my view, that denomination’s attempt at globalization has meant throwing its LGBT members under the proverbial church bus. Not all cultures are as welcoming as Western cultures in regard to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Thank God that the denomination that ordained me in 2005, Metropolitan Community Churches, takes its “good news” of LGBT welcome to every country it serves, even at great risk.  That’s an example to follow! And I am grateful that, in 1982, the Hartford MCC pastor then, the Rev. Steve Pieters, offered visiting activists the welcome denied us by Presbyterian polity.

Please support this blog ministry by clicking here and scrolling down to the donate link below its description or by mailing to MCC, P.O. Box 50488, Sarasota FL 34232 USA, designating “Progressive Christian Reflections” in the memo area of your check or money order. Thank you!

Quoted lyrics copyright © by Ed Sheeran.

Copyright © 2016 by Chris R. Glaser. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Other rights reserved.  


  1. Wondeful perspective. God loves all of us but there are still today those who have to falsely judge those different from themselves.

  2. Excellent essay. It reminds me of similar thoughts I've had, but from a different vantage point. At age 55 (okay, soon to be 56), I've only been out for just less than two years. As an ordained Teaching Elder for less than a year longer than that, I could theoretically have come out before my ordination vote, the Book of Order having been amended before that. I didn't do so for several reasons, the most significant being that I was afraid it would derail my ordination.I think I'll always feel like a deceiver and a coward for having done so. This guilt was only more firmly rooted within me when I had the very real pleasure of meeting you, Chris, and so many of the other "Rock Stars and Prophets" of the movement last year. Now that I'm an out and proud TE, and the call process is still far from a cakewalk for any LGBTQ clergy (and I'm beginning to sense that even the welcoming congregations willing to accept an LGBTQ pastor want a younger, hipper one instead of a middle-aged one), it can get quite discouraging, leaving me to ask the same question "Do You Want Me?" But then I remember your stories, and those of so many others, who worked so hard, and endured so much, to make it possible for me to even be out and ordained at all, and it emboldens me to dust myself off after the setbacks and keep moving forward. In reality, our ages aren't that far apart, but you were courageously fighting the battles when I was still trying to understand myself. To me, you and your fellow trailblazers in the movement are our version of "The Greatest Generation." You are certainly wanted, and so very much appreciated.

    1. Thank you, Dwain, for this moving testimony to the throes the church puts us through relative to our consciences, opportunities, and to each other. Please know I've always tried to affirm those who have made different choices than I have. Know too, that I also feel keenly the church's desire for "younger, hipper" gay men. And that I am white and male does not help. The church often wants all their minorities in one hire! Ha! But that's also painful. The church made its change in policy at an age for me that made me undesirable to most congregations, but paradoxically at an age I could run for president! Thanks so much for writing, and best of blessings as you seek meaningful employment in the church! warmly, Chris

  3. I remember using the idea of "being called" (meaning that if i was not received--that was not my calling)-----it set me somewhat adrift about just what was my calling. I thought i figured it out and settled for "a calling" and then found out 18 years later that there was major "misunderstanding" or an allowance of some confusion. So, 18 years i might should have directed significantly differently. Makes for bitterness. It tastes bad. I admire you, Chris, and I thank God for your discernment.

    1. Discernment is a spiritual gift that we all need, Chuck. But discernment can come after a decision has been made--when I've made a "wrong" choice or turn it has been a "teaching moment" for me or others. Sounds like it was for you as well, and you may have helped others subsequently sort things out. Hope so, anyway. Thanks, as always, for reflecting on my reflections!

    2. Thanks! Yes, that damn hope just keeps springing eternal. LOL