The past two weeks have brought an onslaught of confusing emotions. My body froze and felt ill all at the same time when I realized a very disturbed young man had walked into a church in my favorite city in the world, The Holy City itself, and shot and killed nine people in cold blood. There is a reason our minds and hearts have no context for this – because it’s not supposed to happen. We can take down all of the Confederate flags in the world, but that won’t change the fact that there are hateful and disturbed people out there who will do horrible things.
I experienced a wave of mixed emotions when I read that the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage across the United States. It seems odd to me that something as wonderful and beautiful and complicated as marriage can be decided in the same way as the legalization of marijuana or the right to have a gun is decided.
I am elated for my lesbian and gay friends. In no way shape or form do I believe I should have more rights than anyone else. I believe marriage was created by God for a specific purpose. I can’t quite wrap my mind around how the government got involved in all of this in the first place. What seems like a victory for the gay and lesbian community at first now feels really confusing to me.
I am currently reading The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. If you haven’t read it, please do so and very soon. It is an amazing book. In the early chapters of the book, President Lyndon Johnson has passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Rosaleen, one of the main characters, has practiced writing her name in cursive over and over and over again because apparently someone in the State of South Carolina decided that they would try to stop black people from registering to vote by requiring them to write their names in cursive on their voter applications. This didn’t stop Rosaleen, so she took her practice writing papers into town to apply to vote. On the way she is harassed and beaten within an inch of death by a group of racist white men. She nearly dies in jail before she escapes. (Just to clarify: she was walking down the street to go register to vote, she is harassed by others, so she pours dip juice on their shoes, they beat her, and SHE goes to jail).
The law of the land was clear and had been passed, but I think we all know that no one woke up on the morning of July 3, 1964 to a different world. Things were still pretty much the same. 51 years later, we are still not fully living out the Civil Rights Act and all that it entails. That war is made of so many battles which are still being fought.
I’m a middle class, white female. I have never been persecuted, much less beaten for trying to exercise my rights. When I lived in Berkeley, CA, I was mocked and judged for being a Southerner and a Christian (one lady yelled at me when I called her “Ma’am”. I thought I was being respectful. She acted like I had just called her an SOBMF.) That’s pretty much the extent of my experience with being persecuted.
I have no idea what it is like to be gay. I have had friends and family refuse to spend time with me because of who I was dating, but he was a sociopath and it turns out they were trying to protect me. That’s different. I don’t know what it is like to be afraid to go to church, or not be able to marry someone I love, or wonder if people are glaring at me while making judgments about my family or my lifestyle. I pretty much just get to do what I want to do.
It grieves me especially when someone doesn’t feel safe going to church. That should be the FIRST place we feel comfortable running to for love. Sadly, it is usually the last. Many of the women I worship with in the jail are lesbian or bisexual. Some even go so far as to remind me of this every week. What do they think I am going to do? Close up shop and tell them they are going to hell? Refuse to hug them and pray with them? Deny them friendship? Oh right. Of course they think that. Because that is how most of them have been treated, especially by the church.
I am not putting a rainbow on my profile pictures for many reasons. For one, while I feel a strong sense of joy for my lesbian and gay brothers and sisters, I don’t feel like I can adopt a sign of their battle for my own because I haven’t had to fight. To me, that would be like wearing a Seal Team 6 shirt when I had nothing to do with their victory. It just doesn’t feel right to me.
Secondly, and most honestly, I am struggling to decide where my heart is in all of this. I truly believe that God created marriage so that a man and a woman can experience the closest thing to total intimacy that can be experienced on this earth. I do not believe for one second that a government has the ability or right to say who can experience love and who cannot. That just doesn’t make sense. The government didn’t intervene when I was living with my boyfriend years ago. That is outside of the Biblical context of marriage, but no one came in and made us move out or refused my rent money. That’s just crazy!
I work with all kinds of couples in my counseling practice. Gay, straight, married, dating, divorced…I used to work with one couple that never had a “legal” marriage but did have a “wedding” at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Did I refuse them care or tell them their relationship wasn’t valid? Hell no! That would have just been arrogant on my part.
I do celebrate with my gay and lesbian friends. I have never been invited to a gay or lesbian wedding, but if I were I would go and bring a gift and cheers to the couple and dance my butt off. I have been to Jewish weddings and ceremonies and had a blast celebrating friends there! We believe different things, but that doesn’t mean I can’t embrace them in love and joy. Judgement isn’t in my job/life description. Micah 6:8 says, “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Nowhere in there does it say for me to administer justice and deny anyone basic rights and privileges. I can walk in justice, love with kindness, and speak humbly knowing that my job on this earth is to love as I have been loved, to forgive as I have been forgiven, and to remember that I am a small, but significant part of a much larger story.