So, I think it's way past time for me to tell the Sweet Evenin' Breeze story again - because Christmastime especially is a time for compassion :)
About 20 years ago, when both my grandparents were still alive (who both lived to 91 - good, clean farm-living), my grandmother - whom I'd previously considered the most compassionate Christian in the world until that day - came home from church a bit rattled.
She said, "I just helped Irene H. run some lesbians outta our Baptist Church. We stood up in front of God and everybody in the aisle, Irene gave a speech, and then cast them out. I stood beside her."
She said it with pride, but her face said she felt guilty and horrible.
My grandfather put his paper down, studied her face for a minute.
Pap: "Oh yeah, well ain't you proud? Woooooweee, yes siree, Lawdy, I'd be proud if I was you - 'cuz I know'd that what's Jesus wouldda done. Run 2 women sinners outta church for a sin you can't even prove, based on gossip. "
Granny: "Well, the bible says it's a sin."
Pap: "Well pride's a sin too, ain't it, and slander? The bible says a lot of things, 'pending on who's doing the talking, but I thought it was 'sposed to be about Jesus..."
"... and your face says you don't feel so proud, you feel bad. That's because you know it ain't right to treat people thatta way. That's Paul's way, but it ain't what Jesus says..."
"... that Paul loved his Old Testament and his old church rules and control, that one. Jesus didn't say nothing about it. The only people he ran outta church were greedy and the only people he shamed were a bunch of Pharisees as hypocrites, judging other people on sin just like you and Irene did today..."
"... and by the way, we all know the truth about why Irene did that. Because her own daughter's a lesbian. She's just putting on a public show so nobody thinks it's her fault her daughter's gay, it ain't got nothing to do with Jesus, it has to do with Irene. And I 'spect you know that, the whole town knows it."
Granny: "Well, we can't let that go on in our church, Orville, we might as well let molesters in there?"
Pap: "Oh Bullshit, Dolores, that ain't the same thing and you know it. You think Irene's own daughter molests children? I'm telling you them people can't help being gay, they can't help it! I don't care what the bible says with them old timey rule lovers. Who would choose to be something that people feared and hated?"
"...That's why I don't go to church no more, nature is my church. A bunch of people sitting around making themselves feel better than everybody else by judging other people on rules they made up themselves, that's all church is now - it's as wrong as any other sin...."Granny dropped her head.
"... and what about, Sweets, Dolores, you think he's a molester? Do you ever think about him? "
Pap: "Yeah, that's right. I'd be ashamed, Dolores, I really would. When you was anemic and so sick after Marth-Ann was born at Good Sam and back then, they wouldn't let me stay overnight - you were almost dead - who came in and took care of you, held your hand all night, wiped your brow and sang hymns to ya, huh?" Sweets, that's who. Sweet Evenin' Breeze, Dolores...."
"... and when I was so sick with 'pendicitis, thought I was gonna die, wanted someone just to shoot me and wondered if God was punishing me, who came into my room, brought me blankets for chills, held my hand, sang to me, said 'God ain't punishing you for nothing - we all gotta suffer sometimes in this life like Jesus, to know better what he went through for us - but we'll do the best we can to make it stop'?"
"...Sweets, that's who. I'd never felt more ashamed of making fun of him or gays before then in my life, swore I never would say another word about them again. "
"... the Angel of Good Sam - Sweet Evenin' Breeze - ain't no better soul, man or woman, black nor white - than Sweets, Dolores, now you know it. This whole town knows it, whether they admit it or not..."
"...so if anyone should be ashamed before God, it should be you and Irene H for how you treated them two, ashamed in honor of Sweets' memory. Cause I KNOW'D God wouldn't send nobody like Sweets to hell, he was doing what God called him to do and believed in Jesus his own self, he counseled me on him directly, that night. "
Who was my Pap referring to?
He was referring to the Angel of Good Samaritan - James Herndon/Sweet Evenin' Breeze - an African American, openly-transgendered, orderly/nurse.
Records show that Sweets was brought as an infant by his uncle to Good Samaritan Hospital for an eye injury and abandoned (though the rumor is that he was intersex or "hermaphrodite" as it was called at the time and thus why he was abandoned).
The nurses there, raised him as their own. To pay Good Sam back for their kindness, James/Sweets became an orderly, but considered himself a nurse - and by all accounts, he was the most compassionate, loving soul in Lexington, he sat with everyone, but sat longer with the worst of sufferers to comfort them - and in fact, forgave his uncle for abandoning him and lived and cared for him until his death :)
My grandfather got the true message of Christ, regardless of church rules or even church attendance - he saw the bigger Christian picture, whereas my grandmother didn't...
... as so did Sweet Evenin' Breeze...
... they understood that Christianity isn't about church rules, which Christ often defied himself when not based on love - it's about being a steward and servant of humanity just like Christ :)