Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Prison of Baseless Fear

I’ve gone around and around on this topic of what Mtr. Lee Shafer at St. John’s might call the “both/and” of being queer and being Christian. And I have heard the words of Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson on the radio this week, and I know the bishop is OK with talking about “the gay news”, but I believe, if you listen closely enough, he is pleading for the chance to talk about “the Good News”. Because—hello?—he’s a bishop! He didn’t spend time in seminary and years as a priest just so he could talk about Leviticus 18:22 or 1 Corinthians 6: 9-10 or any of the other supposed Biblical “proof” that God doesn’t like gay people. He can talk about those things, and does. But he also can talk about hundreds of other passages in the Bible. And I imagine he’d like to speak on other matters.

I’m not so bold as to guess what other parts of the Bible Bishop Robinson might want to talk about. But I’m going to dive into a passage from 1 Peter which was part of the readings this year for the Seventh Sunday in Easter. Because I think it highlights what is the real problem facing the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

“Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.” 1 Peter 5: 8-9.

I believe that the roaring lion…the devil…that is on the prowl right now in the Anglican Communion is fear. Fear of change, fear of western thinking on human sexuality, fear that somebody somewhere is gaining equality and the fear of those who believe that when the “other” gains…the fearful somehow lose their superior position. The lion loves nothing more than to see the prey run about frantically and become increasingly nervous and confused until the hunter can pounce and devour its captive. And frankly that is my perception of those who have become so vehement in their anger and hatred of the Episcopal Church and the LGBT-members of the Anglican Communion. This fear of homosexuality has crowded out their faith that the Holy Spirit is still alive in the world, and moving God’s story forward. Without leaving anyone out who wants in. I believe that if God did not intend for Gene Robinson to become the bishop of New Hampshire, He would have found a way to stop it from happening. And I am increasingly aware that “God is working his purpose out” and that purpose is to call more and more of us “queer people” who have wandered away from the flock to please come back, take a drink from the cup of salvation, and discover the meaning of eternal life. He has prepared a place for us, each of us, and He wants us to come home.

For me, Gene Robinson’s consecration not only made me think, “That priest who talked so candidly about faith with me as a teen-ager is gonna be the bishop of New Hampshire? Awesome!” it told me as a lesbian, “Wow! They really mean it, ‘The Episcopal Church Welcomes You’!” How sad that even five years later, the fear of an openly-gay man as a bishop is still on the radar screen….and can result in a specific snub of Robinson by the figurehead of the Anglican Communion. The lion roars with pride at the accomplishment!

The fear of change has become so great a force and such a “thing” that it threatens to distract from the true mission of the church to bring God’s message of loving redemption to the world, and continue our commitment to pursue justice, freedom and peace, and not forget the needy nor take away the hope of the poor. Certainly there are those, including Robinson, who want to get on with business already. And I believe if the Archbishop of Canterbury had included Robinson in the Bishop Bash at Lambeth and if people hadn’t made a big ol’ fuss when he was consecrated, we might be further along toward more light and less dark in the Episcopal Church.

“Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.” Don’t give into the fear because fear of “the other” is what drives a wedge between us: gay vs. straight, male vs. female, Christian vs. Jew, black vs. white, fat vs. thin, citizen vs. immigrant. Fear and hatred of “the other” is exactly what the devil wants.

“Fast on fear and feast on faith.” Amazingly, that simple rule spelled out in a sermon on Ash Wednesday is more than just a directive for Lent. It is a lifetime lesson for all of us.

My favorite theologian, Rev. Robert F. Capon, has a great quote in his book, “The Mystery of Christ…and Why We Don’t Get It”:

“The truth that makes us free is always ticking like a time bomb in the basement of everybody’s church. And that truth isn’t a bunch of ideas. It’s Jesus. Sooner or later, if we just sit still and listen, he’ll blow the lid off of any prison we’ve built.”

Don’t become imprisoned from the fear, people! Sit still and listen for God. His will is at work.

“...the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 5: 10-11.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The idea of the church changing has always been something that has been something that congregations have debated for years, and the American branch of our church is willing to go forward which is something that I feel is a good thing. We will change and we will accept everyone into our congregations, wait and see.