Close-Up – by A. R. Ammons
Are all these stones
and the mountain
but reluctant to
admit my praise could move it much
shook a little
and rained a windrow ring of stones
that it was so
Stone felled I got
up addled with dust
without much consequence
Obviously I said it doesn’t pay
to get too
close up to
and the mountain friendless wept
it couldn’t help
Re-Imagining Religion: “Falling In Love Will Not Send You to Hell.”
– Randy Roberts Potts
“All students are required to sign a pledge stating they will live according to the university’s honor code. Prohibited activities include lying, cursing, smoking, drinking, and a range of sexual acts including homosexual behavior and sex outside marriage.”
– Excerpt, ORU Student Codes , Oral Roberts University
Wouldn’t you know it: every time the “gay agenda” is reexamined, the “master plan” appears to become more and more normal on the face of it. Because it is.
“The gay agenda” is “the human agenda:” we all want love. Hope. Home. Family. We all desire the same things.
Back in 2010, Oral Roberts’ out, gay grandson Randy Roberts Potts read a letter to his closeted gay Uncle Ronnie (Oral Roberts’ eldest son) and recorded a viral video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYa0wi4XzeI) to honor Ronnie’s life, as unfortunately, his uncle had already passed away when Randy was just a kid (in June of 1982).
Randy’s irrepressible spirit remains to alchemize life’s tests and turn them into life’s testimonies.
In the video, after 2:38 minutes of silence (during which time we see the handwritten letter for his uncle), Potts reads a revelatory poem entitled “Close-Up” written by A. R. Ammons. Then, Randy moves into his own compelling testimony about the strange magic behind growing up with a gay uncle (around whom Randy’s mom was most captivated), and how it affected Potts himself.
We witness Potts as he entreats Ronnie’s spirit (for healing? For explanations?), “When my mother spoke of you, a look of awe lit up her face. You were the one voice in her life that could inhabit multiple worlds at once…. You stood for everything she was afraid I would become: gay, intellectual, and godless. And yet nothing caused my mother’s face to light up like your memory. I was jealous, and I always hoped to be you.”
Randy recounts following in his uncle’s footsteps simply by following his heart, and reminisces about the tragedy of losing a loved one who took his own life because he felt he had no options. No hope. Because he felt that life would not and could not get better.
“I’ve seen pain and loss and sorrow,” Potts continues. “I would have held you in my arms had I been a man at the time…. but there’s no one holding you, because you’re holding on to no one. And now I’m here sharing the same destiny…. your path and mine are crossed. They intersect…in some ridiculous dance.”
With a tonality not unlike Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Goodnight,” Potts brings us into present day. Yes, he is angry, but we can somehow see the light at the end of the tunnel, the burning hot flames of passion for living forever aglow in Randy’s heart. We somehow feel his uncle lives in some kind of virtual second life, through Randy.
Another “Gay Agenda,” Another Pleasant Valley Sunday.
“Oral Roberts was the first and one of the biggest of the televangelists. He brought the Pentecostal faith to mainstream America, he started a self-named university, and of course lived a rich life through his relentless please for money from his followers. His grandson Randy Roberts Potts grew up with him…steeped in that really sheltered, Far Right Christian world. Now he’s following a calling like his grandfather, but with an unexpected message.”
In sharing his story with MSNBC, Potts did indeed reveal he’d felt suicidal too—coming out was unthinkable to him. Having married a woman and raising three children with her, Potts’ coming out narrative is a common one that always feels mysterious and new during the discovery process. He told Hopkins, “Honestly, I thought I was just a really good christian that I just didn’t sexualize women.”
Though Potts’ closeted gay uncle passed away when Randy was just a boy, as he unfolded the discoveries about Ronnie’s life, they paralleled discoveries of his own.
It is now Randy’s life mission to reach back across the table and minister tolerance and inclusiveness to evangelicals themselves. Potts informed Page Hopkins that he’s doing so non-publicly, holding confidential meetings with religious leaders and consulting with them regarding family cohesion, suicide prevention and myriad other positive effects of practicing religious tolerance.
In one of the most romantic and courageous activism campaigns out there, Potts and his partner are now conducting what they call an ongoing “performance project designed for conservative towns with visuals of domestic gay life.” Potts is setting up storefronts from town to town , choosing to put his normal day-in day-out familial relationships on display, in a performance art piece called—what else…
To watch Potts’ It Gets Better video in its entirety, please click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYa0wi4XzeI
Have you got time to sit and pray a while? Check out Randy Roberts Potts – Re-Imagining Religion Series at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9uYWf2WfPH8. During his ministerial speech in this video, Potts reveals that his brother is also gay and his family still ostracizes them both.
And for more information about suicide prevention and LGBTQIA resources and support, please visit the It Gets Better Project at http://www.itgetsbetter.org.