A Sea of Red…


hrc-equality-sign1

If your preferred social network friend list is anything like mine, the above image has repeated itself over and over again since the last week.  By replacing the profile pic formerly of their cat, dog, kid, or lunch, millions of people are declaring their declaration of support of marriage equality in the United States.  Instantly folks from all over the country were changing their pics, and the image went viral in a matter of hours.

As a result, millions of people logged and saw the flood of red in news feeds and status updates.   Now a week has past, and our limited attention spans are quickly being nudged elsewhere.  As such, you are slowly seeing a return of the aforementioned puppy, kid, or burger.   Come June, when the Supreme Court is slated to issue their ruling, I imagine that there will be few, if any, of the icons left on pages.  Perhaps on the eve of that decision there will be a new image that goes viral.

The flood of red has started me thinking again about a unique place our society finds itself in.   Over the past three or four years, I have become increasingly convinced that we are turning into a society whose sum total of civil disobedience and protest is seen in quick blurbs in tweets and status updates.   I fear that by putting a catchy quote, a viral pic, or calling out some great ill in less than 140 characters, many of us will believe we have done our part.   The need to stand on a  corner, challenge a public official face to face, or make a real difference to the person on the street, seems to have taken second place to the catchy pic, meme, or MLK, Jr. quote.

Yet there is something that can be seen in that flood of red.    What we are really seeing is a world catching up.   The red icon repeated ad nauseum is a very clear indication that things have changed.   The red is our indicator of a change in momentum; at least in the discussion of civil rights.

For those empowered by this recent change in our country’s discussion of marriage; you must respect the very real truth that it wasn’t Facebook status’ that changed this conversation. It was countless gay pride parades.  It was Harvey Milk.  It was the “It Gets Better” videos.  It was Lady Gaga.  It was  those people like my college friend who came out despite the fear of doing so.    It was the goodness of the kids our gay and lesbian neighbors are raising that has changed the mind of a nation.

It was never a bumper sticker or a pithy quote on Facebook.   The gay or lesbian individual living next door stopped being a stranger and became a neighbor.  They became brothers, sisters, coworkers, pastors, doctors, teachers, and friends.

Once we had a face, the train left the station.  Now, there is no way, with so many within the church and general population so firmly entrenched in their beliefs,  that we will ever return to the views of a prior generation.  Although there might be numerous fights left to wage, the debate is over and now it becomes a matter of waiting for the state, the church, and each of us, to catch up.

For a few minutes, and in the shadow of my own conviction to human rights for all, I considered adding that red logo to my own profile.   I wanted to be a part of that sea of red.  Yet, In the end, I did not.  The logo never made it to my profile for two simple reasons;

1.) My inability to stand up to the ugliness, discrimination and prejudice around me and within the church proved to be one small piece that allowed this discussion to go on for way too long…  Although eventually I found my voice – and the balls – it took me too long…  There were – and are -too many of us that have remained silent for too long.   We remained silent in the public arena, and we remained silent at home.  In our silence – and in our fear – the theology is not discussed.   We need to have this discussion.    We need to talk about how we respect the rights of those we disagree with, and how we approach those areas of faith that are hard.    We dont all have to be on the same page, but we have to be talking.

And…

2.) I feared by posting the image I would also be shutting off the conversation that attempts to answer the next question…   At least for the church, there a ginormous “what now” on our horizon.

Ultimately, this hasn’t just been a discussion on civil rights.   It has been our internal debate about how we approach scripture, biblical authority, and faith in a post-modern context.   I know that there are many voices in the religious square with many different theologies.   I have many close friends whom I love and respect, who see this situation very different than I.

For many of my friends down south, I am called (with affection) that crazy liberal New Englander….  For some of my more progressive New England friends,…I am not liberal enough.   One thing is for sure, the definitions have become hazy.

We no longer fit into nice clean boxes anymore.   Scanning my friend list, I a note a pair of conservative friends that have marched at gay pride parades at the same time I can point to a pair of far left leaning pastors who wont budge on this issue.  Remember it was Bill Clinton that signed DOMA, and Dick Cheney who applauded his lesbian daughter’s marriage!

Despite our lack of clean boundaries, we need to keep talking.   Our incredible desire to keep fighting each other within the walls of our church has nearly destroyed us.   We must do things different.   We need to ask “what now”

Over the last few days, I have argued that the church has been left with three choices and one priority  in our process of catching up…

Our Choices are straight forward.   We can:

1.) Do nothing and ignore the disagreement, in effect leaving the discussion on how we live faithfully in our diversity and disagreement to others.

2.) Force one to either comply with the other’s view or to be cast aside…causing immeasurable hurt, anger and resentment as we do.

3.) Find a way to live faithfully acknowledging the disagreements, working towards understanding our shared identity amid our diversity.

And finally… our priority:

We must recognize that just as our failures, accomplishments or successes do not define us… What we want – or who we want – doesn’t either. In the end, beyond the label of “child of God”, all else is just noise, and just serves to minimize or marginalize.  We need to remember the words of scripture that remind us that God has shown us that we should not call anyone impure or unclean.  (Acts 10:28).

Deep down, and acknowledging the love and respect I have from my brothers and sisters on the other side of the fence, I do believe we can reach the place where we can live, serve, preach, minister, and discern with great love, respect, or holiness together.     Hopefully we can find a way to be about that together.   We are bigger than that which separates us.

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