When my wife and I moved to the Queen City in 1989, we were excited about buying our first house. Rather than purchasing immediately, we decided to sign a one-year apartment contract to give us some time to explore and evaluate the Charlotte real estate market. We did not want to make a bad real estate decision we would live to regret.
We had three major concerns. My wife and I did not want a bad location, bad schools and bad neighbors. I also did not want a yard to mow that had steep inclines.
With respect to location, we had to be mindful of access to Uptown, although we called it downtown, unaware Charlotte called its central city Uptown. My wife was one of 17 attorneys for little North Carolina National Bank, which remarkably would become the giant Bank of America. We didn’t want Vicky to have to commute more than 15 minutes, so we ruled out anything past Highway 51 (Pineville-Matthews Rd.), preferring to stay well within that boundary. We chuckle now at the thought that Highway 51 is considered close to Uptown Charlotte.
The school factor, as it is with many people, was prominent in our thinking. We did not have a gene pool carrier at the time, but we planned to have one in the near future. Fortunately for us, by the time our young one was ready for kindergarten, Charlotte had magnet schools, and we were able to get our boy in the gifted and talented magnet. You never know about the magnet lottery, however, so evaluation of neighborhood public schools was a significant part of our real estate process. We knew we could opt for a private school, but our preference was for a public school.
A house is not just a house. It has to become a home, which is part of a neighborhood, so you want good neighbors. How do you determine if you are going to have good neighbors? It’s not like it’s appropriate to interview all the people on the street. There’s not much a couple can do in this regard. One easy thing to do is to look at how the houses and yards are maintained.
With this strategy in mind, my wife and I began our search for a home three months after we arrived in Charlotte. We figured it would take us a good bit of time to find the right house. We figured wrong. Within two weeks we discovered a great fixer-upper house. True, it had the ugliest brick in Charlotte (we eventually painted the brick). True, it had avocado green throughout the house. Yuk! The first of three renovations took all the green out. And true, the floors had to be refinished, layers of wallpaper had to be stripped (Don’t get me going on that!), and the backyard looked like an unnatural natural area. Yes, there was plenty of work to do. I did say it was a fixer-upper. We had parents, though, who would help us paint and clean up the yard.
The major stumbling block to signing on the mortgage line was the house above what turned out to be our house. The neighbor was elderly and in poor health. His adult children had not been able to persuade their father to repair the house and the backyard literally was an Amazon jungle. It was going to take a backhoe and a lot of chainsaw work to do the major landscaping needed. One ray of hope for us was that a sign was in the front yard announcing a company was about to do repairs on the house’s exterior. We also assumed the elderly man would sell the house in the near future, and the next occupants would immediately clean up the jungle. That’s exactly what happened.
We couldn’t really tell if we would like our neighbors. Never in our wildest imagination did we dream we would have the incredible neighbors we turned out to have. We have the best neighbors in Charlotte. Not just the ones beside us, but all up and down the street. And the elderly couple who lived below us became like an extra set of grandparents for our son. After her husband died, we ate together twice a week and did many other fun things together, like going to get yogurt at TCBY late at night, when the dessert urge raged. Ok, I’ll tell you her name, Ann Westlake, who, unfortunately for us, now lives in Memphis, Tenn. Gosh, we miss her.
Luckily for us, none of our real estate nightmares happened. We had a great location, highly rated schools and neighborly neighbors, some of whom who were like family.
One real estate nightmare that didn’t even cross our mind was what God might do with our home. I bet most people never consider that God might mess up their real estate deal. Of course, many Christians don’t read the Bible carefully and don’t read it from the perspective of the marginalized. The God who appears in the pages of the Bible displays preferential treatment for the down and out, contrary to much of our capitalist society and contrary to those who believe poor people are lazy and undeserving of any kind of special treatment or assistance.
In the 25th chapter of Leviticus there are some radical real estate instructions from God.
13In this year of jubilee you shall return, every one of you, to your property.14When you make a sale to your neighbor or buy from your neighbor, you shall not cheat one another. 15When you buy from your neighbor, you shall pay only for the number of years since the jubilee; the seller shall charge you only for the remaining crop-years.
23The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants. 24Throughout the land that you hold, you shall provide for the redemption of the land. If anyone of your kin falls into difficulty and sells a piece of property, then the next-of-kin shall come and redeem what the relative has sold. 26If the person has no one to redeem it, but then prospers and finds sufficient means to do so, 27the years since its sale shall be computed and the difference shall be refunded to the person to whom it was sold, and the property shall be returned. 28But if there are not sufficient means to recover it, what was sold shall remain with the purchaser until the year of jubilee; in the jubilee it shall be released, and the property shall be returned. If anyone sells a dwelling-house in a walled city, it may be redeemed until a year has elapsed since its sale; the right of redemption shall be for one year. 30If it is not redeemed before a full year has elapsed, a house that is in a walled city shall pass in perpetuity to the purchaser, throughout the generations; it shall not be released in the jubilee. 31But houses in villages that have no walls around them shall be classed as open country; they may be redeemed, and they shall be released in the jubilee. 32As for the cities of the Levites, the Levites shall for ever have the right of redemption of the houses in the cities belonging to them. 33Such property as may be redeemed from the Levites — houses sold in a city belonging to them — shall be released in the jubilee; because the houses in the cities of the Levites are their possession among the people of Israel. 34But the open land around their cities may not be sold; for that is their possession for all time.
Imagine being a real estate agent trying to incorporate those instructions in a real estate contract!
The Jubilee described in Lev 25:8-55 is one of the most remarkable pieces of biblical directions. It describes a theology of the land of Israel, in which land belongs to God, with the Israelites merely tenants on it. It outlines a system to protect the poor and the down and out. It is a real estate agent’s nightmare. It is a nightmare for a middle class or rich person homeowner.
God is, and always has been gay. God is the first gay. This is good news for the marginalized, and very bad news for those who believe in their goodness while they turn their back on people due to their socioeconomic status, gender identity, sexual orientation, race and/or nationality.
Conservative Christian Republicans, who claim to believe all the Bible (which is not possible because there are parts of the Bible which cannot be reconciled), like to point out this Levitical legislation was never practiced. Actually, we don’t know that. However, even if it’s true the year of Jubilee was nothing more than unacted upon bleeding heart liberal theology, that still does not eliminate what God desires for God’s creation.
I hope if you are looking for a house you find the home of your dreams. Consider yourself warned/informed, however, about the Gay God.
Rev. Chris Ayers is senior pastor at Wedgewood Church is Charlotte, N.C.