The Gospel According to Queer Eye
Although it is beginning its fifth season on Netflix, I had never watched the show “Queer Eye” before this past Monday. I had heard that it was a good show but it wasn’t until I heard there was going to be another pastor from my denomination on the show that I tuned in while I was doing my morning workout on Friday.
I was blown away. During the entire episode I felt like I was either laughing or crying. The “Fab 5” meet Pastor Noah Hepler from Philadelphia and help him prepare for his church’s 125th anniversary. The show spends a lot of time helping Noah talk about how he came out as a gay man as an adult and how he still struggles to find his voice and feel confidence in who he is. The men help him update his look, giving him a fresh haircut and beard-trim plus some new outfits. The show also shows the sad state of his parsonage, the residence owned by the church, which he lives in. Exposed pipes and mold, the place was in terrible shape. Hepler was quick to say that the church has plans to repair and update the parsonage. (That’s great – but he has been there four years! Come on, church! This tells a story that many of us have heard before – the difficult financial circumstances that so many churches find themselves in. I see on their webpage there is a place to donate to the church if you are so inclined: https://www.elcota.org/?fbclid=IwAR1b9w0ajdJ7wj0eWgJx2MN53vPuq7mfBgHpuxytRMJgoe51yRybCZzm1OA) The Fab 5 end up beautifully renovating a room in the church for him to stay in until his parsonage is fixed up. They also gave the sanctuary and a community room of the church an overhaul with beautiful new paint, banners, appliances, etc. The sanctuary was absolutely transformed – it’s amazing what color can do!
Perhaps most moving of all, they brought in a couple other leaders in our denomination (The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America) who also have dealt with the challenges that come with being “out” as a religious leader. The words they shared with Noah were full of grace and encouragement. Bishop Guy Erwin affirmed Noah and his ministry at Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Atonement in Fishtown. The Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer, a transgender pastor, after Noah mentioned how a young man in his congregation had come out recently, asked him if he would ever tell that young man that they didn’t come out soon enough. Noah said, “of course not,” and Rohrer said, “Well then, why do you tell yourself that, child of God?” Noah teared up and said, “I needed to hear that.”
I’ve watched a couple more episodes and each one has been just as moving and wonderful. These men offer not just friendly help to the people they meet – but the opportunity to see their own lives, homes, and futures differently. Sometimes we don’t realize on our own the unhealthy cycles of thinking and acting we have gotten ourselves into. Sometimes we forget that there is so much possibility yet out there. Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness, Antoni Porowski, Karamo, and Tan France cast their glance lovingly upon the people they meet. Lovingly! They don’t come in and judge or to act as a savior – rather, they draw out the beauty in the people that is already there.
Bobby Berk and Pastor Noah were talking briefly about Bobby’s terrible experience with the church growing up. Like many gay people, he had been made to feel unwelcome and despised by the church. And yet, Bobby came in and transformed the 125 year-old church sanctuary at Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Atonement into such a lovely, warm space. I know it was his job to do it – but there is something profound in his transformation of that place. Imagine how much beauty the Church as a whole has lost over the centuries when it has focused on hate and exclusion? Imagine how much we have missed out on by making anyone feel unwelcome or despised. Pastor Noah spoke words of apology to Bobby on behalf of the Church. I pray Bobby can forgive us. I pray we can do better and no child or adult ever feels unwelcome or unloved in the church.
The word “gospel” means “good news” – and I felt so much good news as I watched this episode of Queer Eye. It’s good news when we are reminded that there are new ways to see things. It’s good news when someone shows us that our story can have a new chapter. It’s good news when there is renewal and welcome change. The Fab 5 are making the world beautiful in more ways than they know.