For which I am prepared to die.“During my lifetime I have dedicated my life to this struggle of the African people. I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal for which I hope to live for and to see realised. But, my Lord, if it needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Those words struck me as he handed me a postcard at the Nelson Mandela Gateway in Cape Town. He looked into my eyes and nodded. I knew what he was planning to do. Something was wrong, and whilst I could only respect his choices, I knew something was amiss. Nevertheless, he saw my pain, and he knew – oh yes, he knew that hurting himself would also hurt me.
As a gay white South African clergyman (at the time he was a transitive deacon) of English, Afrikaner, and Dutch-Indonesian descent, he was planning to take the sin of Apartheid to himself and slowly mortify himself into oblivion. White guilt exists in the United States and in other places, but there in South Africa, one will find it to the extreme. In the process, he would also sacrifice his own sexuality and human rights, and leave me feeling awful over what we did.
Dear beloved one, do you really want to die? Striving for a democratic and free society wherein all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities does NOT require your figurative – and God forbid, your literal – death.
Guilt can be useful: It can convict someone into acknowledging their ‘sins, ignorances, and negligences’. It can persuade someone into repentance and charity with all. However, like many good gifts (such as anger), it can be abused. It can be used to destroy someone into submission. It can tear a person’s self-esteem and confidence down that they feel nothing but worthlessness and self-loathing. When guilt leads us to hate ourselves more instead of gently lifting our heads up, that is very wrong. When guilt fails to transform everyone to see their own beauty and belovedness in the eyes of God, that is very wrong. When guilt is used to bind others to fear and remorse, effectively controlling them, that is very wrong. Guilt becomes sinful instead of useful.
Heads that bow too long may not see the grace afore them. All of us ought to quit staring at the ground. Salvation is at hand.
Years ago, as a young Asian Pacific American Studies major, I reacted with shock to the suicide of the author Iris Chang. She had taken the violence and the atrocities of the Rape of Nanking and the Bataan Death March to herself and suffered from depression. Ultimately she shot herself through the mouth with a revolver. She left a grieving husband and a young child behind.
The same too, can be said of another American, Minnie Vautrin, who witnessed the Rape of Nanking first-hand. Having witnessed the horrors of an invading army, she also committed suicide.
In seeking to understand the one I love, I also travelled this route – in seeking, researching, and learning about Apartheid. The more I discovered about Apartheid, the more it hurt. It became all too tangible and real to me - it was/is a fact in our situation. It became painfully known in my life. It made me wonder what in God’s name inspired human beings to commit such atrocities toward other human beings.
The injustices of history should not be forgotten. It should be remembered and never repeated. Repeating an injustice - such as the prosecution of homosexuals under Apartheid under the Immortality (Sexual Offences) Act - perpetuates an unjust system.
I began to empathise with my lover's guilt, and I saw myself as a sign of contradiction to his vocation. It after all was a mistake and shouldn't have happened. Just like I am a mistake and shouldn't exist - I was conceived in sin - an adulterous affair. Like parents, like son.
I began to believe such sacrifices were needed to in order to heal the people of South Africa. I counted myself blessed to be the sacrifice, and to offer my sorrows, pains, suffering, and heartache to God who willed it. I began to slowly kill myself. I felt unloved, worthless, and miserable.
Was my relationship with a gay priest a gift from God? Did I not feel grace in his tender love? Was it sinful? Was it sinful that we gave ourselves to each other? Will all of you also consign me to hell for being a fornicating slut and a whore? Will all of you rebuke me too? Will all of you damn me?
In travelling the same road, I was sharing in the guilt he currently feels. I was hurting myself emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I found joy in the pain. I justified it, saying ‘I am doing this for love’. I thought, ‘He could not shepherd me. Let me lay down myself for him.’ I took every accusation upon myself that he may go free. I laid my reputation down for his sake. I was wrong. And I repent. I want to live.
Life is short. It's precious. I know deep inside he's still alive, wanting to be loved, to be accepted, and to be cherished. He exists. And most of all, he matters to me.
But I can’t walk with him down that road of self-abasement and self-deprecation. I can’t anymore. I can’t follow him there. It’s not healthy for me. I can’t continue further with him. I don’t have the strength to make him see how much he is hurting himself and how much he is hurting me. At this point, I can only stop in my tracks.
I can only be true to myself. There is a fork in the road, and a choice must be made. We can walk apart. He can continue on a path of self-abasement, or walk with me on grace-filled journey toward God, the source of love.
The guilt and unworthiness that pervaded our daily conversations was difficult to bear. It was like trying to love a wall. I will not deny the historical baggage – but please, please leave it at the Cross so that we may begin the healing process. In fact, he should get off the cross, we need the wood. Everyone deserves love, grace, compassion, and mercy – including him.
I love him, but I give up trying to be what I’m not. I’m not Superman, and I’m certainly not God. I am human just as he is human. I saw him – his love, his compassion, and his tenderness – not his skin colour. His love, his compassion, and his tenderness are what I most ardently yearn for – I ache for him. I ache for him to kiss me again and again and again, over and over. Love is what makes things holy, right? I know he is in there, yearning to be free, yearning to love freely. And this is the gift I confirm he possesses: The power and freedom to determine his own future and life – not a tyrant, the bishop, not homophobic colleagues, not his job, not his family, not the Anglican Communion, nor the congregation he serves.
I don’t have much – I may not have anything to give him, but I can at the very least offer my love, support, and friendship first. I would be honoured if we can walk down together, hand in hand. It would make be the happiest man alive.
It does not serve anyone – including the people of your country – to slowly kill yourself with despair. It does not serve your country to hate yourself for being white and to sacrifice your sexual orientation for the ‘greater good’. When you shine, you give others the courage to shine their light too. For my sake, for all our sakes, won’t you live? You are the only one I want and need. You matter to me. Won’t you roll the stone away so I can unwrap the linen shroud that binds you, fold it, and put it away? There is life, love, and light. Would you let me tend to you and love you, as you deserve?
Dear readers, I ask for your prayers. Pray for us. And I am not ashamed to ask for your help, guidance, and assistance. I am helpless, and I need grace. I ask you to intervene and save us.
Please, please dear beloved one – don’t die. Don’t kill yourself. You have so much living to do. Live.
You are not guilty.
You are not guilty.