By John D. Pierce

“Have you ever felt like the whole world is a tuxedo and you’re a pair of brown shoes?”

That deadpan line comedian George Gobel once delivered on The Tonight Show to crack up host Johnny Carson came to mind last week.

I knew that out-of-place feeling on Wednesday night when I slipped into the “Moxie Matters” event at the Grand Opera House in downtown Macon, Ga. But I entered keenly aware that my demographic was not the target audience for this event featuring author Jen Hatmaker and musician Nichole Nordeman.

The female-laden crowd that filled the stately room revealed few attendees old enough to remember George Gobel and Johnny Carson, and even fewer men. So I sat near an exit, just in case, and quietly made a few notes of my observations.

However, my presence there was purposeful: to support my church, which sponsored the event, and the creative efforts of pastor Jake and Erin Hall who keep leading the Highland Hills congregation — by calling and example — to engage more deeply in our community.

While others may report more accurately and with better insights about the evening of worship, encouragement and empowerment — marked by humor, honesty and shared commitments — I found the overarching theme to be something like: Get through whatever it is you’re going through.

Worth noting is that Jen Hatmaker has gone through a lot of personal pain from rejection by the evangelical community in which she has long been immersed. This occurred for one simple reason: A year ago she publicly affirmed her LGBTQ Christian friends.

The ridiculously, out-sized reaction to her announcement confirms my contention that fundamentalists (now branded as evangelicals) have reduced Christian ethics primarily to just two unpardonable sins: equal access to medical abortions and equal rights for LGBTQ persons.

By expressing compassion and affirmation for gay and lesbian persons, Hatmaker committed one of those “sins,” and her popular books were pulled swiftly from the shelves of LifeWay Stores and other Christian bookstores. A deluge of harsh judgment and hatefulness rushed her way.

She recounted experiencing the “violent, angry rejection from our own crowd” — in the form of hate mail, personal threats, and even intimidation toward her children that ensued from so-called “Christians.”

“It was as if I had not loved Jesus a day in my life,” said Hatmaker, who used her example of moving by trial and error through suffering to remind her listeners that such a path is not quick and easy, nor follows a prescribed, one-size-fits-all pattern.

She focused on biblical understandings of suffering — urging listeners to avoid the tempting responses of denying the pain, seeking to rush through it, or choosing to numb the feelings. Instead, she urged those experiencing such personal trauma to, “Be kind to yourself” — and to use all available resources “to transform your pain into healing.”

Most appreciated was Hatmaker’s astute and others-focused observation that all the ugliness and pain she has encountered for this season in her life pales greatly in comparison to what gay and lesbian Christians face constantly from self-righteous church people. (Note my difficulty in even using the label “Christian” for modern-day Pharisees who place condemnation over grace.)

Thanks to Jen for standing up for justice even at a personal cost — and for noting the deeper pain of many others. Thanks to Jake, Erin and others who brought this first stop on the tour to Macon.

Thanks to the many women who reject the controlling, nonsensical “biblical” arguments for male dominance — and the men who share in that cause. Thanks to all who stand up against abuse, neglect and oppression of any kind.

My minority experience in this sea of womanhood — something older, white, straight, American, Christian males don’t often encounter — was much appreciated. Thanks for letting me sit in on your celebration. I’m better for it.

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