For almost two years, I have been intrigued by four letters: i, a, n, a. I have no explanation why it’s those four and in that arrangement. It happened, and I was stuck with them. By the end of the second day, my mind was playing tricks on me: “I, ana, do hereby agree . . . .” Then it was, “I. A. Na.”
I was having a discussion several months later, and when I started a defensive response, I found myself using those four letters in that haunting sequence: “I am not ashamed of the position I’ve taken on this issue.” I spoke convincingly, and then I chuckled. The point was lost. My behavior required an explanation.
I shared my earlier experience, and we had an interesting discussion about the impact of I AM NOT ASHAMED. We made a series of statements, each beginning with that phrase. Then the room grew silent. We concluded that you learn much about an individual by what he or she is not afraid of.
For almost a year, my friends and I have often called to one another in passing, “I A N A.” We knew the two unspoken statements: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ” (to which good friends might respond, “only the way some people try to use it”).
The second statement was: “I am not ashamed that I am a gay man.” They had watched me mature in my comfort with being openly gay. Timidity about my sexual orientation was gone. I was becoming an activist.
AIDS has been on our minds this month, as so many participate in AIDS Walk Kansas City. Volumes have been written or could yet be written about this dreadful disease that struck our community. There is so much for which the world – especially the church, with its commitment to love and mercy – should be ashamed about its response to the deadly plague. Fear gripped one generation; condemnation engulfed another. Why are we wired to more quickly assign blame than to seek understanding?
There are exceptions. Some dare to take the risk and stop on their journey to someplace else and willingly endanger those they know to aid strangers. I AM NOT ASHAMED of how the Good Samaritan Project was birthed in Kansas City. It was a group of followers of Christ who were the first to respond to the devastating acts of the grim reaper. Spirit of Hope, the local Metropolitan Community Church, arranged a living room in their church and gave generously to serve the fearful. One month, 20 funerals were conducted for those they served. Sadly, one mother refused to take her son’s remains and left them with the church. I AM NOT ASHAMED when good is done in the name of Christ.
I A N A — those four letters are often spoken appreciatively now. I evaluate ideas and actions more carefully. My friends agree that it sounds a bit more humble to say “I am not ashamed of what we got done,” rather than “I am proud.”
The cultural battle will never be over, but I am not ashamed to be working for a reconciliation among the differing groups.
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Marvin G. Baker is the moderator for Gay Christian Fellowship’s Let’s Talk @ LIKEME Lighthouse.