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Marriage Equality: An answered prayer

You know the old joke about praying for God’s help? The one where the man in a storm waits atop his roof while flood waters rise, having prayed for God’s help for deliverance…meanwhile, his neighbor drives off, a boat passes by and even a rescue helicopter hovers overhead. All of which the man refuses because he is waiting for God’s miracle.

After the poor sod drowns, he asks God “Why didn’t you save me?” To which God replied, “I sent you a truck, a boat and a helicopter. What more could I possibly do?”

I think of this modern parable often when it comes to LGBT issues in the church. For all the debating, squirming and strategic positioning clergy and denominations prayerfully search for to find ways to be or not to be openly affirming, I have a hard time going on much further. It’s pretty simple. For anyone who has ever “sincerely prayed” about “what to do” about the “LGBTQ issue”, I find myself thinking: God sent you thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender AND a questioning people of faith to your doorstep. What more do you need? How many more faithful will come for your care, ask for your protection and fellowship before you realize that God has answered your prayers about what to do next?

Perhaps the miracle in the waiting is for the church to actually recognize and accept God’s gift…the gift of loving, serving and helping prosper people as they come? I can think of no better miracle when we actually accomplish loving our neighbor.

I realize that Marriage Equality isn’t going to be a cure-all covering for clergy. The laws of many denominations are still very clear in limiting, if not out-right condemning of LGBTQs and will still keep many clergy from blessing the weddings they could be blessing. Still, one has to sincerely consider if Marriage Equality isn’t yet another answer to prayer.

It may be worth noting the deep, spiritual longing that marriage has maintained itself in representing after all these decades. That the even when civil unions were made available to many, having the legal access and means still failed to satisfy what is ultimately a sacred expression of life-long commitment to one’s partner. Despite the protests of our more conservative Christian peers, the appeal for same-sex marriage is not with a lack of respect to the sanctity of marriage, but quite the opposite. For many LGBTQ people of faith, it is with immense respect and understanding of the sacredness of marriage that we have asked for witnesses to seal the blessing.

If, as clergy, you have ever prayed “What am I supposed to do with my gay neighbor?” and now this, a boat floating by in what feels like a rising tide…May it’s time to actually jump in?

 

Originally published for Believe Out Loud HERE 



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Marriage Equality V. Religious Freedom

Marriage Equality is now the law of the land. Finally, each marriage in this country will be protected and afforded the equal opportunities, rights and benefits they deserve. No government will be allowed to stand in the path of those who wish to marry. For those who have known the trauma and hardship it has taken to advance to this day, it is, indeed, a day worthy of robust celebration

Marriage is after all, a celebration that aches to be shared with as many people as possible. The joy of love (if you’ve ever been so fortunate to have been there) is an experience that you want to blissfully shout out from the mountaintops. Yet, the deepest bond of love asks for more from those would-be partners. It longs for commitment, patience and reliable presence through all of life’s ups and downs in ways more substantial than mere romance affords. Knowing this, we long to make ceremony of our intentions publicly. If one looks to the “traditional format” of a wedding, it is the act of standing before our highest powers and saying “I am here for my Love, above all others, and will be held responsible for my commitment.” The witnesses to this act not only verify the union and encourage accountability of the betrothed, but also stand in a place of honor to assist in the protection of that union. It is an act of equal commitment from friends, family and community that says, “I will help you succeed together.”

That we now have a government standing along side us as an honored witness and protector for our marriages will only strengthen our wider community’s understanding and LGBTQ acceptance.

Still, many will disagree we should be celebrating. Cue, the religious objectors. Cue those who think strong communities are better separate than equal. Cue those who cannot fathom life without prescribed gender roles and static sexual orientation. Cue the onslaught of “Christianity is under attack” speech and Religious Freedom Reformation Acts.

As momentous as Marriage Equality is, expect to see more, not less, religious pushback. Expect to see more discriminating business owners citing religious objection. Expect louder, fearful cries from ecclesiastics who have never, on their darkest days, have ever been forced to marry anyone they didn’t want to. Expect to hear more agonizingly hateful sermons proclaiming “end times” and “abominations”. Expect to continue to hear more quotes from GOP candidates and Christian Conservatives on the “true” definition of marriage, religious freedom and rights of conscience.
And if you can, in the midst of all that, rejoice. Rejoice by celebrating your freedom to marry. There will be clergy there to unite you. Families by your side. And finally, the rights and protections afforded you equally by your government.

Pardon me, Justice Roberts, but you’re damn right I’m going to celebrate. In our history, the LGBTQ community has gone from being targeted enemies of the state (you think I’m exaggerating?) to, finally, being protected by it. Pardon me, if for a moment, I take the religious cries that “the sky is falling” to be a bit melodramatic.

Religious freedoms, so far as the eye can see, have been well tested, judged and protected in this country. In fact, we’ve spent ample time clarifying the bounds of where religion has it’s rule in a pluralized society so much so that ordinary, individual citizens have had to labor to define themselves apart from it. Believe me, Jesus is going to be just fine.

To faith communities already in the swing of Marriage Equality, having long embraced the LGBTQ community, thank you for your efforts. Were it not for your willingness to marry, support and bless these unions, we may well been relegated to “civil unions”. That being said, we still have a very long way to go.

Christianity is still synonymous with being anti-gay and there are many who expend great effort to color God that way. If the Church feels any kind of pressure at all over this decision, it should be in living up to its own expectations of peace. By continuing to side with theologies untenable to preserving human dignity, religious objections become impotent to their proclaimed higher calling of compassionate life. The rite of marriage is an act of unity and preservation. It is a coming together. A fusing of spirit. By standing together as any witness, we stand together in community saying, “I wish you peace. I wish you all happiness. I will fight for you toward success. I will comfort you in trouble. I am by your side.”

It’s time, Church. It’s time to be a gift-giver rather than a wedge. It’s time to make peace instead of starting a new fight.

How many more times, I wonder, will the high court of our nation have to remind us to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves? It is a lofty ideal we aspire to, fail quite often, rarely arrive at without leadership instructing us to do so, but upon occasion in history, we are find we are capable of more than we might have imagined.
Ready? Set…Go!

 

Originally posted to Huffington Post: Religion



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The Love that Dares to Speak Its Name (HuffPost Blog 5.10.12)

From the moment that I publicly revealed my sexual orientation the whirling vortex of religious authority has not ceased in its attempt to claim sovereignty in defining the rights, privileges and value of my most intimate relationship. For all the ways that my faith has come to shape the integrity with which I hope to love and be loved, I, and others like me must contend with the irony that it is from those who teach love we are most often wounded. After two years of listening and comforting the countless heartbroken religiously induced casualties of this era-defining social issue, I committed to launching Inside Out Faith as a NPO for LGBT faith advocacy. It has been a challenging endeavor, as it often requires stretching the bounds of available grace when many refuse to acknowledge the diversity of human sexuality. Asking folks to stop bullying gay people is one thing, getting endorsements of same-sex marriages can be an entirely different matter. In a foolish attempt to keep some sense of remaining favor with my religious opponents, I have spent considerable effort in hedging my public answer to the marriage equality question with all the adroitness of a dancing hippo. But yesterday, the President called me out. If I intend in any manner to lead, then I must speak plainly: human dignity demands marriage equality.

Blog Image 5.10.12

There is no way around it. President Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage strikes at the deepest nerve of religious conscience. I admit, I openly wept at his candid account of personal “evolution”; a conversion he credited to both his faith (as Christian) and his experience in listening to the accounts of his LGBT friends and colleagues. I wept because my own experience was echoed in his confession. I wept because his interview was, at its core, a model of all that I’ve hoped to replicate in my own life as well as Inside Out Faith. The President was willing to expose how his faith was not the impediment to LGBT equality, but rather the inspiration for it. Humbly, he chose the familiar language of his faith to express the significance of his own transformation. And he did so without apology.

Though the faiths we practice are often subject to tradition, we must be wiling to encounter the reality of lived experience. We must be willing to listen, encounter and believe in the experiences of those who dare to speak love’s name. By acknowledging the impact in meeting and hearing the real people who live out love’s hope, President Obama gave value to innumerable families, friends and children in our midst. At the heart of effective social change is the undeniable power of story. Few of us change our traditions or prejudices without a meaningful encounter to lead us there. Our President has experienced how silence is often confused for consent. It is a heavy reminder that without taking individual responsibility to act with compassion and courage we concede authority to those who claim it at the expense of our loved ones.

If our religious institutions and leadership make any claim to speak as authorities on love, then the practiced action must corroborate the claim. Love’s many faces do not threaten the beauty of my faith, but it is easily mocked by refusals to recognize its appearances. If, indeed, I speak with the tongue of angels but have not love I am but a clanging cymbal. If love is patient and kind, then it must also be courageous to speak of its presence. So, after ten years of monogamous, joy-filled and devoted union, my relationship may not be recognized as marriage, but it is sacred and it speaks. Thank you, Mr. President for listening.