This sign out on Miccosukee Road caught my attention. Something about the word "Church" on a caution sign fits with many of the things that have been brewing in my mind lately.
For many of us in the LGBT community, the Church is something that does cause a sense of "Be careful!" or "Beware!" Bad things have happened to gay people at the hands of those in the Church or Church leadership. Those who hold tightly to their steadfast belief that there are seven verses of Scripture that call for my damnation into the outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth have been the ones holding the megaphone and representing "The Church."
Lots of others have also felt beaten up by those who call themselves, "The Church." Recently, my mentor posted an excellent video of our Episcopal Church's Presiding Bishop answering a question about whether one must believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah in order to get to God.
I approve of the applause she receives at the end of this video clip. I was also applauding, nodding in affirmation, and loving the fact that this woman is the titular head of the church I belong to and was raised in from my childhood. My people: they use their brains and can understand that the one God is a God for many and that one God will use any means necessary to call us into relationship... whether it is through Jesus Christ, or in journeying with Moses out of Egypt, or sitting under the tree with Siddhartha. This recognizes that we are a pluralistic society, and that no one tradition has a firm grasp on all that is God.
Unfortunately, this is not a viewpoint shared by all who call themselves, "The Church." I have been distressed to find that, even within my world of the Episcopal Church as practiced in North Florida, not everyone is of one mind on this. I have come across more people who say the word, "Pluralism" with almost a hiss of disapproval in their voices. And there are those who watch this video and say that the Presiding Bishop is being deceived by Satan. Afterall, Jesus IS the way, the truth, the life...
It distresses me to see how "The Church" can be such a bully for Christ. Certainly, this isn't the way I see Jesus teaching those who would follow him how they are to behave. Sure, he rebukes people and kicks over tables. But that is when someone or a group of someones have said or done something that deserves a good tongue-lashing. Gay people who, if they are in the church, are contributing to its ministries are hardly deserving of being told they are going to Hell for being who they were created by God to be. A sexual orientation and our ability to express ourselves sexually are gifts from God. When they are regarded as gifts, then there is no need to feel guilty or ashamed of our orientations or our ability to express ourselves sexually. So, why in the world do some feel that they can wag a finger in the face of a gay person and scream, "Repent!"? And can they really see the person they are screaming at through that log that is in their own eye?
The same is true for those who claim that the only path to God is through Christ. Jesus was never about promoting himself. Jesus was on a sole mission of bringing mercy to the masses by letting them know that kingdom of God is at hand. Love one another as I have loved you, he said. So how are we exhibiting that love when we tell a Jew they are going to Hell? Or if we spend an inordinate amount of time spinning our wheels over questions of why some other religious traditions don't do the same practices we do in Christianity? Worrying so much about who is "saved" is a great way, in my opinion, to avoid paying attention to our own spiritual lives and maintaining our own relationship with God through whatever means gets us to more Light and Love.
What does any of this have to do with Holy Week or, as I put it in the title of this post, Holy Weakness? This is the time when we, of the Christian faith, mark Jesus' long, slow, walk toward his final showdown with humanity, his death upon the cross, and his ultimate victory in the resurrection. This is the time when Jesus is the most alone and is standing in the corner of all those who have ever felt the sting of rejection by those who call themselves, "The Church." As we experience this week of a most difficult trek by Christ into Jerusalem, maybe now is the time to ask ourselves how we are behaving toward others as "The Church"? Have we grown so weak in our faith in a God who can lower mountains and lift up valleys that we think we must insist that our way is the way? The very thing that gives Jesus strength comes at the point when he is most vulnerable. As he is dying, he is repeating the words of Psalm 22. He releases his spirit to God, and dies, only to come back bigger and brighter on the third day. I believe it takes that level of vulnerability to get a clearer picture of this God whom we worship through Jesus Christ. The more we can let go of this thinking that says, "I know who's in and who's out of God's kingdom; who is right and who is wrong," the better off we'll all be. And perhaps then the Church won't be nearly as scary for people to approach.