The church members warmly welcomed us to Detroit, asking us what brought us here and encouraging us to take as much food as we’d like. I have been to churches where a warm welcome often has subtle undertones of we’d-like-you-to-convert-or-donate-or-join-our-congregation, but this was different. These people genuinely wanted to know who we were, what we were doing for Detroit, and how they could make our experience better. Bryce, Ryan, and I continuously exchanged looks of incredulity. Their overwhelming kindness took us off guard, and it could not have come at a more important time.
Last Sunday came a day after the U.S. legalization of same-sex marriage. With some of my homosexual friends and family in mind, I could not have felt happier and prouder to be an American. Our DukeEngage group gleefully celebrated when we gathered after work, and I knew I would never forget this historic day. However, while we were celebrating, some Christians throughout the country were candidly expressing disapproval. To hear such dehumanizing beliefs made me wince as I thought of my friends. To many of my LGBTQ friends, the ruling was just one step in overcoming a staircase of inequality. After hearing what many outspoken Christians were saying, my fellow DukeEngagers and I began to question what it now means to label ourselves as “Christians.” While we were proud to be Americans that day, it was almost felt unnatural to say we were proud to be Christians.
That apprehension changed on Sunday. The Episcopal Reverend spoke with joy and support when discussing the SCOTUS ruling, stating that Episcopal leaders were preparing to formally welcome same-sex marriage within the church (the very next day, they actually did: http://www.nbcnews.com/video/episcopalians-okay-same-sex-marriage-475032131670). With the church’s support of the ruling and the unparalleled kindness we experienced, we could not have been more relieved to see this interpretation of Christianity on display. In fact, it reminded us that the media’s portrayal of modern Christianity did not tell the full story. Across the nation, most Christians have embraced the same-sex marriage ruling. Though this support has been extremely delayed, it’s been overshadowed by the outspoken voices of conservative Christians. In essence, only a small portion of the story is being told. It reminded me of another story that isn’t being fully told.
Ultimately, our experience on Sunday brought Detroit back to the forefront of my mind. Detroit is a city that only gets part of its story told by the modern media, yet it has an incredible history and culture. The city serves a diverse range of interests, from a scenic Riverwalk and a modernized shopping district to several revitalized college campuses and a city-wide bike ride each week. While the city houses the second-largest theater district and the sixth-largest art museum in the country, the architectural novelties of the Renaissance and Fisher buildings give Detroit its own flavor. Overall, Detroit offers much more than an outsider would ever know. I’m just glad I can tell part of its untold story.