Thursday, August 30, 2012

Church Recommendation

A friend recently posted a message on Facebook that she was seeking a church. Her litmus test for said church included that they needed to support same-sex marriage. She is straight, but obviously not narrow on matters of human sexuality. In fact, she warned anyone who might respond, “You can’t support ‘gay’ marriage and be a Christian,” to simply move on and not waste her time or theirs.

Most who answered her were enthusiastically touting the Unitarian Universalists. I, on the other hand, told her to check out The Episcopal Church and was clear that she needed to seek out the “Episcopal”, not “Anglican”, Church. Trouble is that, unlike the Unitarians who were happily evangelizing the wonders of their denomination, I was not able to bring myself to do a hard-sell of The Episcopal Church. Not because I don’t love our liturgy and rejoice at the amazing work The Episcopal Church has done as a mainline Protestant denomination in knocking down the human sexuality stumbling blocks. I am proud of those things. But I found myself stopping short of banner-waving because I know that in her particular diocese, the good works done at the national level of the Church simply aren’t welcomed. The bishop has made that clear.

I believe that when one goes questing for a spiritual home, the path is not to a “church”; the path is to God. What the church provides is the common community of believers who are also wandering and meandering their way toward God. It should feel like a safe place where one can go and be who they are, whatever that is, and no matter where they are in the journey toward this One Love. In God, in Love, whatever political or social beliefs we hold are meaningless because the table that’s spread before us is for us… all of us. Nobody gets a better seat, a nicer view, more food or drink than the next person because at this table, we are all the exalted and welcomed guests who will eat and drink to our great satisfaction. That’s the reality.

But I know that there is another reality, the “on earth” reality, which puts the flesh on the spirit-body. And in that reality, it does matter to the seeker of God what the side dishes will be at the table. Will the sermon condemn me and the ones I love and value in my life? Will the people sit with me and greet me? Will the prayers acknowledge that we are all connected and are part of a larger picture than just our individual and egotistical interests? Too often, I’m afraid, it is not the main course that sours the meal; it’s those side dishes that don’t seem to compliment the entrĂ©e. And that can lead the seeker to refuse to return.

I think it’s incumbent for all of us to strive to better our church institutions and make them places where a seeker can feel what it’s like to be fed a complete spiritual meal. And this needs to happen at all levels of the church, not just among the laity. I hope my friend is able to find the place that will give her best food and drink there is. And I hope whatever sides she gets with that meal enhance its flavors so that she truly can taste and see the goodness that is God.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Learning Curve

The phone message from my partner was quite unremarkable. “Hey. Give me a call when you have a chance, OK? Thanks. Bye.” When I did call her back, about 35 minutes after that message, I got a much different story. She’d had a trip and fall at work and had broken her arm and now was sitting with one of our friends at a doc-in-the-box clinic. “What?!?!?!” Needless to say, the adrenaline kicked in and nothing else mattered at that point. I was off to be with her, and take in the instructions from doctors and so forth. What hadn’t struck me in all the excitement is that this would be another path of learning to see limitation as a teacher. And it is giving me some lessons, too, in paying attention and being present. One normally doesn’t spend a lot of time contemplating the functions of various bones in the body as a general rule. But when one of them is broken, there is extreme pain and never-ending awareness. For my partner, suffering from having splintered her right radius in four places, she is experiencing what happens when one of the forearm bones refuses to “dance”, as I like to say, with the other forearm bone. The radius and ulna are always moving in a partnership, like dancing, to do things like open doors, turn pages of books, etc. Since she’s right-handed, and this is the right radius that is suffering from a break, her own aggravation is that much more, and her need to depend on me for such simple tasks as popping open the can of seltzer water is a bit humbling. In turn, I am finding that I have to strike the right balance between care and concern for her, but not overdoing things or, as my partner calls it, “fussing” over her. It’s been hard to see her in pain and knowing that there is very little I can do to help her beyond opening cans of water and pill bottles. And then there’s the acceptance that perhaps that, and letting her voice her frustrations and moan about the achiness of it all, is just what’s needed. Sometimes, there can be this rush to want to “fix it” and make it all better. But the only thing that will “fix” this break is the time her body needs to repair itself. This is where the welcoming of being present comes in. My job is to do those things for her that I can do, and then trust that the body has been imbued with wisdom and will repair itself. A skilled surgeon can also do a lot to help with that! Please keep us in your prayers.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Burning Desire for that Bread and Wine

It's week number three of the "I am the bread" lines from John's gospel.  And I can just hear the priests who are preaching this Sunday secretly wondering, "How long, God?  How many more sermons can I write on this topic?" 

Better still, this is the portion of the "I am the bread" speech which talks about actually eating Jesus' true flesh and drinking his true blood as the pathway to eternal life.  Sounds a bit like the Zombie Apocalypse, doesn't it?

In all seriousness, this may be the perfect opportunity in some quarters to touch on that issue of this past General Convention: open communion.   That would be the broad topic.  The narrower discussion might be, "Why ARE we so protective of this sacrament?  Why DO we value baptism as the prerequisite to receiving this true bread and blood of Christ?" 

In the Episcopal Church, or at least in my experience of being an Episcopalian low these 44 years, I find that we don't like to ask these types of questions.  For all that we say that we don't check our brains at the door (and that IS true), most of us don't consider why we do the things we do.  We do them because "that's the way we've always done it."  One must be baptized to receive the Eucharist.  This is how we know that someone is a baptized Christian.  By receiving the host and the wine, the individual receiving this is bringing Christ into them, and feeding the Christ seed that was planted in them from the beginning of their lives and sealed at their baptism with water and oil. 

But for me that raises another question.  If baptism is all that is required for someone to receive the Eucharist, then why do so many parents and churches forbid children... yes even babies... from receiving?  Could a baby not get the host possibly with an ever-so-slight touch of the wafer into the cup of Salvation?  Perhaps that might seem too far-fetched, but I really don't think it is.   I don't understand the practice of making baptized children prove themselves worthy of the Eucharist through doing special projects before they can have the taste of the body and blood of Christ.  If we value baptism as our adoption by God into the body of Christ, then there is nothing left for a child to prove.   They are worthy. 

I remember when I had to go through my own routine of proving worthiness to my rector.  I was willing to jump through all the hoops in the world, create the poster with pictures representing "community", meet with him to talk about what I thought "communion" meant, and so on and so on.  I did this because I was longing to receive Christ in the same way that everybody else was.  Did I have a fully-formed theological position as to what happens when I take Christ into my own body?  At seven years-old, no, I did not.  What I knew was that I wanted it and I didn't understand why I couldn't have it.  I sometimes see this same desire in children at the rail.  The priest has stopped and offered a blessing on the child's forehead.  And then comes me with that bright shiny chalice.  I ask quietly of the parents if their child can receive.  Almost always the answer is, "No." And so I look and smile at this young one, and can feel their eyes as they carefully observe me administering the cup to mom and dad.  Some of the really young ones might reach for the cup.  I had one baby do that last week, and I smiled at her and said, "Yes!" 

So, if there is a desire of children who are baptized to receive communion before they have done whatever they need to do to satisfy some human-imposed requirement that allows them this very important sacrament, what would it be for the adult person who also wants to receive, but perhaps is not baptized?   What might it be that urges them to want to go to the rail?

Perhaps it's the continuous message they hear that to eat and drink these elements is to become one with this amazing presence called Jesus Christ.  Perhaps in their own hearts and minds, God is doing work that we can not see.  They could be just wanting to receive because of that good ol' fashion peer pressure of "everybody else is doing it."  In that case, I suppose, it will go in and out of them without ever taking root.  But what if they are someone who is seeking after God in Christ?  Do we say, "No!"?  Do we really have the right to refuse God to someone who asks for it?

I have heard veterans of war talk about their experience in the midst of battle.  When your life is under constant threat from an enemy military, and there is a priest offering communion to the troops, it's amazing how nobody bothers to stop and say, "All baptized Christians are welcome to receive."  Such formalities go out the window, and everyone, baptized or not... and some who are non-Christian, take the sacrament.  And nobody died of that.

Tradition of the church gives us many examples of baptism as an important first step in the journey toward God.  Jesus was baptized before he spent his 40 days in struggle becoming readied for the task before him.  Philip baptized the Ethiopian eunuch in one of those dramatic moments in Acts where an apostle sees that one need not be a Jew or even look like a Jew or be of a particular orientation to be worthy of this entrance right into relationship with God.  So I do understand the desire for not watering down, as it were, the importance of baptism.  But is the table of God a place to draw a line in the sand?  And if it is, when will we really put into practice the idea that all baptized Christians, from babies to their great-grandparents, are eligible to receive?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Holy Crap (And I Mean It!)

No sooner had I posted about the historic gains made by Florida's LGBT community on election night, I saw the headlines coming out of Jacksonville. The city council there had voted 10-9 against a proposal to add "sexual orientation" to the human rights ordinance. Mind you, this was a compromise measure built on the backs of the transgender community. The original proposal had asked to add "sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression" as the new set of protected classes. Put the pro-trans language in, and the measure was defeated on a 17-2 vote.

Probably the worst part in this story is that the compromise measure would have passed had one member of the city council, Johnny Gaffney, not switched his vote.  Gaffney had been a supporter of extending civil rights protections to the lesbian and gay community all throughout the three-month hearing and workshop process.  But then the councilman said his constituents, who are largely in the downtown and sports complex areas, began to flood his office with phone calls, letters and emails against the proposal.  Under such pressure, the councilman caved.

The largest Baptist churches also launched a crusade against the measure.  They raised the complaint that the HRO would force people to compromise their moral beliefs and hire someone who is living a "sinful lifestyle."  Their members turned out in large numbers to protest in front of city hall, waving American flags and wearing big blue stickers that read, "Protect First Liberties."  And, of course, there were even those of the Millennial generation holding placards:  "Remember Chick-fil-A"

Yes, it is now the Alamo of fried chicken sandwiches.

The day after the vote, a friend on Facebook tagged me and others in a post that was meant to start a dialogue about the six "clobber" passages from Scripture used by homophobes to deny LGBT people their place in the kingdom of God.  He shared the video that has gone viral of Matthew Vines, a 21-year-old Kansas man who was raised a United Methodist and has spent the past two years studying those six passages in their historical and biblical context as well as the many other parts of Scripture that refute the claims that gay people are to be condemned.    The result of Vines' research was the video that my friend chose to share.  He asked that we all view it with an open heart and open mind.  What he got back was a stream of anger from some of the others who didn't appreciate being tagged for this kind of information.   There were people telling him to cease from sharing such videos with them, "if he wants to remain friends."  There were those who took time to watch, and still disagreed, arguing that the "sin" of gay people isn't that we're gay; it's that we choose to act on our gayness (as in "you have sex with each other.")   And it seems to be that it's the "how" we have sex that is now the cause for our eternal damnation.  Never mind that anything we can do, straights can do... well, maybe not better... but certainly the same, and many do.

Human sexuality, no matter where it falls on the Kinsey scale of attraction, is a gift from God.  Sexual contact between two willing people without coercion, trickery, violence or force, is also a gift of God.  It is a post-Christ warping of the view of God's human creation that has turned the body into a bad thing and one that we must suppress and separate from the glory of God.   How sad not to recognize that our bodies are the temple that holds the Christ within us!

I have not forgotten about the wonderful election night news in Florida, and the hopefulness that brings.  But these two events back-to-back are a reminder to me that there is still an undercurrent out there that is preparing to short circuit any gains the LGBT community might enjoy.  And they will do it in the name of Christ and claiming to know "God's way."

On "God's way," I believe it was the prophet Isaiah who said it best:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
   nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.  
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
   so are my ways higher than your ways
   and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Our job isn't to make claims about knowing "God's way," unless we just want to be made a fool in the end.  Our job is to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves.  And we can get that first part--that loving God part---of the great commandment right if we would really commit to the second part and truly love our neighbors as ourselves.  That means that those of us who are LGBT need to recommit ourselves to living in Love and resisting that urge to resort to attacks--verbal or physical--against those who seek to deny us our place in this kingdom of God.  The way we do that is by rooting ourselves into that source, that God source, which will give us the words and the impetus to act from a place of Love which did, does, and always will overcome anyone or anything that tries to stop it.

I think we are nearing a tipping point in this holy uprising in places such as Florida.  To those who would tell me and others like me that we have no place in this kingdom, no seat at the banquet table, I point you to a different part of Romans than that clobber passage in Chapter 1.  I ask you to look at these words from Romans:

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,
‘For your sake we are being killed all day long;
   we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.’
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth,  nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. 

Nothing.  Absolutely nothing separates me from God. And there is a place for all of us at the table with plenty of elbow room. Rather than fight with me, join me in the building up of others.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012

We Are the Change We Want and Need

Times are changing, even in Florida.

Last night, voters in the Miami Beach area known as House District 113 elected David Richardson, an openly gay man, to the state legislature making him the first "out" queer person to be a state representative.  First gay person.  No.  There have been others, but they were so deeply-closeted that it was tough to find them behind the brooms and the mops.

And Dave Richardson was just one of the openly-gay candidates who did well in yesterday's primary.   In Orlando, Joe Saunders, who has been a field coordinator and activist for Equality Florida, won his Democratic primary handily.  With any luck, he can win House District 49.  And down in Key West, there is another candidate, Ian Whitney, running in House District 120.   So, the possibility exists that we could have an actual Lavender Caucus in the Florida House of Representatives.  Wow!

This from the state that gave us the Charlie Johns committee in the 1950s and early 60s that went on a witch hunt for gays and lesbians in state government and the state universities.   A state who, in the 1970s, launched the anti-gay crusading career of Anita Bryant, and only four years ago, passed an amendment to our constitution banning "marriage or the substantial equivalent thereof" for LGBT people.  The archaic law that prevented LGBT people from being adoptive parents only fell a couple years ago.  And this state still has no statewide anti-discrimination laws protecting LGBT people from being fired or denied housing due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.

But still, last night, an openly gay man was elected to the state House of Representatives.  I am over the moon.

I told people after that extremely painful vote in 2008 that denied marriage equality that it was time for the LGBT community to recruit candidates to run for political office.  Then, and only then, would we be in a place to stop madness that allowed straight voters to curb our right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.  We needed to stop legislation that damned us to second-class citizenry and we needed to have LGBT people in place to help us achieve equality in state law.  Basically, we needed to be the change we wanted and needed for Florida.  After last night, I am beginning to feel that we have that change coming.

Injustice simply can't stand forever. Not even in Florida.

Hearty congratulations to Dave Richardson, and best of luck to Joe Saunders and Ian Whitney.  Sure would be nice to paint this town lavender!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Episcopalooza: Favorite Hymn Sunday

It was a different kind of service yesterday at St. John's.   Instead of the usual organ prelude and processional, they had all of us in the altar party take our seats, sit for a brief bit, and then all of us... Eucharistic Ministers, Clergy, Vergers, and Acolytes joined with the choir and congregation in singing... not one... but FOUR hymns.   And that was just the beginning.

At the start of the summer, we were notified that August 12th would be "Favorite Hymn Sunday."  Each member of the congregation could vote on one, a single, favorite hymn.  The top ten would be chosen and included in the Sunday program.  I whined to the choir director that choosing just one would be extremely hard for me.  She laughed, admitted it was hard, and--no--I could not vote more than once.  Some apparently did.  In fact, a parishioner who is currently singing with the heavenly chorus managed to cast a vote as well! There was also one vote for "Stairway to Heaven."  Love that!

As I have talked about in my spiritual autobiography, hymns play a HUGE role in my story of this whacky journey with God.  It happens less frequently now, but for quite awhile, I would wake up every morning with some song from the Episcopal hymnal on a loop in my head.  All kinds of anthems, some that were associated with church seasons and others that were the tunes used to sing psalms and canticles when I was a child, would become the soundtrack for my day.  Hence, a service labeled, "Favorite Hymn Sunday" could very easily have put my jukebox brain into overload.   Everyone was being very secretive about the hymns that had made the list.  The choir director had already informed me that my vote for "God is working his purpose out" had failed to make the cut.  However, she told me that I was not alone in liking that particular hymn.  One of the prominent defense lawyers at St. John's apparently is also partial to that one. Proof that politics and professions may separate us, but we can find commonality in God and music.

OK, so the top ten hymns that did make it into the service were:

Open Your Ears, O Faithful People
Morning Has Broken
Amazing Grace
Lift High the Cross
Eternal Father, Strong to Save
Let Us Break Bread Together on Our Knees
The Church's One Foundation
Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee
Praise to the Lord (the Almighty the King of Creation)
and the number one hymn:  Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Were any of these ever on the hit parade in my brain?  Oh, yes. Definitely!  The Church's One Foundation, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Lift High the Cross, Eternal Father, Strong to Save (which was sung at my father's funerals in Exeter and Tallahassee) were all part of my Top One Hundred Hymns.  Forget ten.  I was nearing 100 songs that would play continuously in my head.  It was maddening.  And it was the cue for me to return to the church after a self-imposed exile during "the dark times" in Tallahassee Episcopal churches.  I thought this intrusion was tied to having to make decisions about music for the funeral services for my father.  And that might have been a plausible explanation except that the funerals were over, and the hymns... were not.  Later, upon looking at the lyrics, I figured out that the hymns and fraction anthems were encoded with their own messages that had nothing to do with my father, but were for me to ponder and consider as I embarked on this journey with God.

The first hymn to have hit my brain waves was the famous St. Patrick's song, "I bind unto myself today."  That one started shortly after dad died on Oct. 5, 2007.   I thought I was hearing it because it was a tune I remembered listening to my dad sing in church.  But then this spring, I looked at the chorus again:

I bind unto myself today the strong Name of the Trinity, by invocation of the same, the Three in One, and One in Three.

When my father died, my own commitment to God really began in earnest.  Traditions and prayers that had lost all their taste when I was a teenager suddenly had meaning and depth and breadth. In many ways, dad's life now in sunset had given birth to a sun rise in my faith, and I was being joined to the Trinity each time I crossed myself in the name of "The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever.  Amen."   And, as if that wasn't enough, the hymn I voted for quickly became the number one tune in my head:

God is working his purpose out as year succeeds to year;  God is working his purpose out and the time is drawing near;  Nearer and nearer draws the time, the time that shall surely be, when the earth shall be filled with the glory of God and the waters cover the sea.

Over and over and over. I don't know what that "time" is, how long it will last, when it will come, and will I be standing or sitting or lying down.  I just know that whatever is "the purpose" will be worked out.   In between rounds of this hymn, I'd get a dose of "The God of Abraham praise" or "Take up your cross" or "Christ is made the sure foundation" or "Breathe on me breath of God" or "For All the Saints who from their labors rest" or "Alleluia! Sing to Jesus" or "Crown Him with Many Crowns" (gotta love the line, "Hark, how the heavenly anthem drowns all music but its own"!)  It was a real winner when I discovered that the canticle I was humming from my youth, "O ruler of the universe, Lord God, great deeds are they that you have done surpassing human understanding" was called "The Song of the Redeemed."  That certainly seemed to be the overarching message: these hymns, and the many like them in my head, were about redeeming me.  Reclaiming me.  Reminding me that there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that separates me from the love of God. 

Oh, to grace how great a debtor daily I'm constrained to be! Let they goodness, like a fetter, bind my wandering heart to thee: prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love; here's my heart, oh, take and seal it, seal it for thy courts above. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Practice and Preaching

In looking through the lessons for this Sunday, I was particularly drawn to the passage from Ephesians.  It's message seems clear enough:  to live and love as Christ commanded us to do requires us not to hang on to bitterness.  It's right there on the page.  Paul says,

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice,  and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.

This reading captured my attention because of the recent practice my spiritual director has put to me.  I have been in a bit of a thrashing position as of late because of what I will call the accident of geography.  I live in Florida, specifically Tallahassee.  Our fair city, therefore, is part of the diocese of Florida.  This in and of itself is not a bad thing.  But when you add the layer of information that I am an out-lesbian Episcopalian, there is a tension.  Ours is a diocese that voted against the resolution authorizing same-sex blessings.  We knew that was our bishop's position before he went to General Convention.  We also knew from the letter that he sent to the churches that he had already made up his mind about what effect the passage of A049 would have on our situation in the diocese of Florida:  none. We will not bless same-sex relationships.  We will not allow our clergy to be a participant in the blessing of a same-sex relationship.  And, it has been further stated, that our clergy can not counsel couples who are seeking a blessing of a same-sex relationship in another state.

End of discussion.  We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander...

It's been hard to put those things away in the face of such entrenched and unbending resistance to the direction the Episcopal Church is moving.  I told my spiritual director that it is maddening to be a sheep in a flock that can see the beautiful lush green fields that others are grazing in, only to be shepherded to the other side of the road where the fields are trampled and full of weeds and yet I'm told to eat of this field, and like it!

I am reminded of the line in Psalm 34:  Taste and see that the Lord is good, happy are they who trust in him.

Ultimately, this is where I go in my head as I contemplate the situation of this accident of geography.  I have to look beyond a bishop to find the real source of why I remain in any way affiliated with the church. The real field in which the sheep are called to go into is the one with green grass, not the one with the weeds.  

So what does this have to do with practice?  My spiritual director, after being a witness to my thrashing, asked me directly if I pray for my bishop.  And I had to admit that what prayers I do offer for the man are insincere at this point.  I am forced to pray for him out loud when I am serving as the intercessor, but what I am feeling in my heart in that moment is not affection but affliction.  

Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander...

In order to do that in thinking about my bishop, I have introduced into my daily practice the collect in which we pray for our enemies.  I realize it may be strong language to call a bishop an "enemy" but it is what it is.  There is no prayer for our obstacles or stumbling blocks, and so I turn to the prayer for our enemies.  It reads:

O God, the Father of all, whose Son commanded us to love
our enemies: Lead them and us from prejudice to truth:
deliver them and us from hatred, cruelty, and revenge; and in
your good time enable us all to stand reconciled before you,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Using this as a daily prayer has been enormously helpful in that it has reminded me of my place and that of the bishop's.  Both of us are operating under the umbrella of God in the time appointed by God that remains a total mystery.  And the deliverance that I am asking for is not just from the oppression of this accident of geography, but my own ability to let go of its power over me.  In the letting go, I am able to drop the bitterness, wrath, anger, wrangling and slander.  To paraphrase another portion of Paul's letter to the Ephesians, it's OK to get angry and not give in to the prejudice, but don't let the anger become all-consuming and the thing you carry to the end of your day.  Recognize it.  Pray for it. Let it go and allow God to do the heavy-lifting.  This is the way to freedom.


Monday, August 6, 2012

We've changed the world | Concord Monitor

We've changed the world | Concord Monitor

I haven't had much opportunity to get on here and do much  writing these past couple of weeks.  That's what happens when Hurricane Peg arrives in Tallahassee.  She'll be off to blow back into New Hampshire tomorrow having accomplished some of her mission here to clear out a storage unit. 

And speaking of New Hampshire, this is a wonderful reflection in the Concord Monitor after this weekend's consecration of bishop coadjutor Robert Hirschfield.   A tiny state like New Hampshire has done so much to lead the Episcopal Church toward making our kingdom on earth more reflective of what I imagine is the kingdom of heaven.  We Granite Staters are "wicked awesome!"

More personal posts to come in the future.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Collects, and Psalms, and Chicken: Oh, My!

What a week of absurdity this has been!

I haven't had time to do much posting here, and perhaps that was for the better.  It gave me time to continue watching, marking, learning and inwardly digesting the amazing scene this past Wednesday happening at Chick-fil-A restaurants in Tallahassee and elsewhere.

Hundreds and hundreds of people, snaking their way through packed parking lots and waiting in long lines at the Drive Thru window just to make a point.  Ask some of them and they'd say their point was the protection of "free speech" or "freedom of religion."

The point they really made was: we hate gay people.

I know for some that seems like a harsh judgment.  But the president of the Atlanta-based chicken chain was not using code words for his beliefs.  He speaks of marriage equality as "shaking our fist at God" and telling God what defines a marriage.  When he was asked about Chick-fil-A's Winshape Foundation, which has bankrolled several anti-gay groups, and whether he is active in fighting marriage equality, Cathy said, "Guilty as charged."  In other words, he is not trying to hide his bias.  In response, the LGBT community and many of our supporters are not hiding our bias either.  There was a call for boycott, and even a "Kiss-in" at Chick-fil-A restaurants.  To fight back, former Arkansas Governor and one-time GOP Presidential contender Mike Huckabee called for an Appreciation Day on Wednesday.

And they came out in droves. It was a banner day for chicken sandwiches sold between two halves of a hamburger bun.  Some said they were eating there because they were standing up for this Christian businessman and his right to free speech.  It wasn't about hate.  It wasn't about being anti-gay.

Well, until my friend, Terry, showed up to exercise her free speech rights at the Chick-fil-A on Apalachee Parkway.  Crying, "Shame!" at the many cars and people in the restaurant, Terry said a group of portly white men shouted back at her, "That's right, faggot!"

No, this wasn't about hate at all.

 O god, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom
nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon
us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so
pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal...

I have found that keeping this particular collect in mind has been helpful throughout this whole nonsense.  Because these matters are truly temporal and the height of absurdity.  Really: must you eat unhealthy, artery-clogging food to prove you don't like gay people?

I mentioned the psalms in the title of this post because they, too, have been helpful this week.  For whatever reason, the ones assigned during the daily office have hit the perfect note, capturing the feeling that I and others felt as we saw the cars going bumper-to-bumper into the Chick-fil-As.   From Psalm 69:

 Pour out your indignation upon them, *
    and let the fierceness of your anger overtake them.

Let them be wiped out of the book of the living * 
and not be written among the righteous. 

As for me, I am afflicted and in pain; * 
 your help, O God, will lift me up on high.

It has been quite helpful to have these words running around in my head as I have dealt with insensitivity to why gay people might be just a wee-bit offended by the words and deeds of Dan Cathy and his chicken shack chain.  I think about how many other countless struggles have been fought for equality throughout world history, and how many of those folks turned to these same words as a security blanket of "At least God gets it!"

Naturally, I am aware that the people on the "other side" read these same words as the same security blanket against the likes of me.  And I figure where God sits is in the middle, waiting for us to spit out all the insults and anger until we exhaust ourselves into a heap of realizing that we've worked ourselves into a froth over matters that are, at the end of the day, temporal bullshit. 

We don't have to eat their food.  And those who do support bigotry are welcome to go gobble up as many waffle fries as they want.  And in another forty years, this is going to look as stupid and hatefully absurd as the pictures of the crazy, angry white people exercising their free speech rights against desegregation.

I think the young son of my friends, Sharon and Ed, said it best when he announced to his parents that he
"likes Jimmers and Ben better than Chick-fil-A."    I do, too!