O God our Father, whose Son forgave his enemies while
he was suffering shame and death: Strengthen those who suffer
for the sake of conscience; when they are accused, save them
from speaking in hate; when they are rejected, save them
from bitterness; when they are imprisoned, save them from
despair; and to us your servants, give grace to respect their
witness and to discern the truth, that our society may be
cleansed and strengthened. This we ask for the sake of Jesus
Christ, our merciful and righteous Judge. Amen.
--Prayer for those who suffer for the sake of conscience, p. 823, Book of Common Prayer
I'm going to be up front. Yes, Zach Wyatt is my state representative. But I didn't vote for him. I voted for his opponent, Rebecca McClanahan, the Democrat. I've not been horribly impressed with his showing as my state representative. He just punched all the holes on the Missouri GOP punch card, again and again. He railed against the state transportation dept.'s handling of our bypass, and all the time I thought, "You twit, you're one of the ones who helped cut MoDOT's funding, you get what you pay for." As an elected official, he's not one of my faves.
But I have to say I am very, very impressed with him of late--first standing up against the proposed "Don't Say Gay" bill in Missouri, against his own party, and eventually coming out of the closet himself.
Now, that's not to say this is a huge shock in recent weeks. First came the sudden announcement that he was not running for re-election after he had said he was running for re-election. Now, his reasons were valid. He only had one year of his military educational benefits left from his time in the Air Force. He had been accepted to the University of Hawaii to study Marine Biology. That's perfectly kosher. But I also have that "Hmmm, I wonder..." in terms of what what going on in his decision to come out of the closet and what was going on in the back rooms of the Missouri GOP. Whatever.
I do have to admit I did latch onto this as a minor prophet of Kirksville. When his decision not to run was announced, I told a few of my friends, "You watch. In a few weeks this guy is going to come out of the closet."
Next came his opposition to the proposed "Don't Say Gay" bill. By now I was going, "Hey, everyone step back from the closet door, this is gonna be good!"
A couple of days later I got a Facebook message from one of my friends. "You were right! He's gay!"
But honestly, here in Kirksville, MO, this news is "not news." I think a lot of us thought this was no big surprise. One never knows about anyone, but one is often not surprised when some folks come out of the closet.
I've let this story alone for a few days. I thought, "Let the guy come out in peace and quiet." But now I feel compelled to talk, but not to Zach--he did the right thing, and he needs room to grow into that now. It's my friends on the left side of the aisle I feel compelled to address, and I'm afraid I predicted that one too.
As I expected, when this hit the rainbow press, there would be some who would not be welcoming. They were more inclined to just keep calling him a Republican dirtbag. They used phrases like "he slithered out of the closet," "he's not brave, he's running off to Hawaii," "he should be ashamed for voting the way he did on certain bills during the session," etc., etc., etc. I've heard people say he would never have done this prior to the lifting of Don't Ask Don't Tell, because he would not have risked his benefits.
But he's a lame duck now. It's the upcoming election people should concentrate on, not Zach's past.
Do I think he's going to now miraculously turn Democrat now? No.
Do I think he's suddenly going to start changing his attitude politically on anything? No.
But I don't know who he will be in ten years any more than he does, and I am no judge of what will cross Zach's mind in the upcoming weeks, months, or years, as he begins to find his way with his new-found self.
Our prayer in the BCP reminds us to "Give grace to their witness and discern the truth." I am certain this announcement is just the beginning for Zach. I think over the next few years, he's going to have to examine many pieces of his life and witness, not just this one, and reconcile himself to them. In a recent interview in the local paper, he said he still considers himself a Roman Catholic. I fear now that this has gone high profile, his mother church may hassle him about that one. Perhaps, perhaps not. If that is the case, though, I hope he knows he has friends in the Episcopal Church. I invite him to check us out if that is the case.
But mostly, I plan to give grace to his witness to the truth and his own conscience. I have chosen not to judge but rather to pray. I pray he gets many new wise insights as he grows into his true self in the sight of God.
I think back to the lesser revelations in my own life where I suffered for the sake of conscience. I think of the times I betrayed myself in the ways many adult children of alcoholics often do--covering up the bad behavior of other people because of the rules many ACA's learn--"don't cry, don't tell, and for God's sake, don't feel." There were people, when I did finally get around and do the right thing, would never cut me an inch of slack. It was still too little, too late for some, and I still never should have done it, for others. But over the years I continue to make peace with all of it.
Watching Zach in this interview, I'm seeing a calmer, less high strung, less touchy Zach. I think he's feeling some grace in all this, and the best thing we can do right now is support him in prayer.
God bless you Zach. I pray society is cleansed and strengthened by your witness.