Such a simple and starkly meaningful story, James. Makes me wonder how the Baptist church I once attended in a rural Florida town would have handled the same situation. I venture a guess that four plates would be delivered to you and your dad, two containing meals and two holding desserts. But, the pastor would be the delivery boy or at least the companion of one of the sweet-as-Southern-tea ladies from the church, but definitely not his wife or daughter who the pastor would feel compelled to protect from the likes of you. No, if the minister was accompanied by a woman, she would be one of those hard-as-nails older Southern ladies who smiles sweetly and says Well, bless your heart. She’d be a veteran Sunday school teacher who spent decades teaching white children that any child who doesn’t look like them is not loved by Jesus in the same way they are.

The plates would be presented and fervent prayers offered for your father’s healing and blessings for the food so generously prepared by more saccharinely sweet ladies waiting anxiously in the church kitchen for reports from the pastor about the sinful homo who invaded their God-fearing town.

Then, your guests would worm their way into sitting with you and your dad as you ate, opening the opportunity to preach to you about your sinful ways. The approach would be subtle as your guests make chit chat and ask about the life you lived before becoming your father’s caregiver. An innocent conversation and devious fishing expedition to see what evil inhabits you. When enough evidence of your wicked ways is collected, the Bible quotes and pleading prayers begin. Hands held, eyes raised to the heavens as the booming male voice implores God to free you from the devil’s influence that makes you desire other men in ways too deplorable to be uttered. And, supplication that their innocent town be protected from your influence until you repent before Jesus and his church.

If you don’t fall to your knees begging for forgiveness and God’s redemption, the self-righteous pastor and the brittle Sunday school teacher will rise to leave, imploring you to pray unceasingly for God’s will to be revealed to you — a will only they know. Then, another prayer for your father’s health and imploring Jesus to provide the words to help your father enlighten you and save you from eternal damnation.

They will hug your dad but avoid contact with you as they leave your home. Once outside, they pause to pray yet again that you will find Jesus during the night and invite him into your heart to release you from Satan’s grasp.

Yep, that would be how the visit would play out in the little Southern-baked town where I once lived.

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