Thursday, February 28, 2013

Preparing for a Panel on Marriage

I had to open my big mouth and scream at God.

I had just come home from leading Morning Prayer at St. John's.  Something in the service had reminded me that there was a panel coming up in Tallahassee with the so-called "God Squad" that does a monthly program called, "Faith, Food and Friday."  They like to tackle difficult cultural topics and let five clergy people (one black pastor, one white woman who is Methodist, a white male rabbi, and two Christian white guys, one of whom is my rector) talk about said topic from a theological perspective.  I have never been to one of these forums because it conflicts with my weekly, personal devotion of attending Friday Eucharist. 

But I was planning to make an exception for this Friday because the God Squad would be talking about "Love, Marriage, and Same-sex Blessings." 

And I was furious.

I looked at the people on the God Squad.  All of them were straight and married.  And this group was advertising they were going to talk about same-sex blessings... which is constitutionally (and in the Episcopal Diocese of Florida, canonically) banned.  And they were going to have this conversation without a gay person on the panel. 

I screamed at the ceiling in my house, tears streaming down my face, "How dare they?! How can this happen?!  How can You (God) let this happen?!?!"

Later that day, I got a call from the Rector.  He wanted to talk to me.  We agreed we'd see each other after the church's pre-Lenten Wednesday night program.  We took our seats at an empty table.

"We have a topic coming up on the Faith, Food, and Friday panel that deals with love, marriage and same-sex blessings...."

I played dumb.  I wanted to know where this was going...

"Liz (the organizer) and I were talking and we noted there wasn't a gay person on the panel.  And we wanted to have a lay person, who is gay, who could talk about this issue, and we both thought of you.  Would you be willing to do that?"   I sat quietly, and then said, "Yes."

Lesson: don't ever scream at God.  You might get tapped to be the solution to your problem.

Now, I'm on this panel.  And, boy, hasn't that stirred a pot!  

Apparently, the desire to have a "lay gay" was borne, in part, out of the concern voiced by the conservative clergy that they didn't want to have to debate, face-to-face, any of the three openly-lesbian pastors in town.  So, let's just find a token queer, preferably one who goes to church, who we'll stick up on the panel and won't be as knowledgable about Scripture as the preachers.  But the Holy Spirit is a wily one, and She had another trick up her sleeve.  So, yes, I am a lay person; however, I am a lay person with a diploma from the Education for Ministry program, a four-year extension course offered through the Sewanee School of Theology that explores Scripture, church history and the philosophers who have shaped theology throughout the centuries, and I co-mentor the group, leading them through theological reflection.  I read the Daily Morning Office six days a week, and on the seventh day, am in church.  And I have read books by modern thinkers such as Anne LaMott, Barbara Brown Taylor, Bishop Gene Robinson and Robert F. Capon.  Oh, yeah: and I write this blog.

In short, I ain't thtupid.  Just call me David to their Goliath.

As I've been preparing, I have been contemplating Scripture, especially the passages that often are the "clobber" lines from Scripture: meaning those lines that straight people like to use as "proof" that gay people don't have  a place in the Kingdom.  There's all kinds of intellectual arguments to disprove that falsehood about God's attitude toward the LGBT community.  The words in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 that are often erroneously translated as "homosexual" are the Greek words "malakoi" and "arsenkoitos".  Of the former, we know it translates literally as "soft" like leather.   Of the second, we really don't know what it means.  But the assumption is that it was the "active" person in sex; hence, "soft" has meant, for some, the passive receiver of anal intercourse and the latter is the one doing the penetration.  Trouble is, since we don't know exactly what the second word meant, we are relying on a translation.  And translation, and language, has been the biggest bugaboo for Christianity.  I mean, one iota changed the whole understanding of Jesus' relationship to God in the 4th Century!  But more importantly, what was Paul seeing when he was in the randy party-hearty city of Corinth?  Was he witnessing the 21st century relationships of LGBT couples, or Temple prostitutes?  Can you really equate them?

Then there's the Romans 1:26-27 about women and men who give up natural relations for unnatural ones.  This is another favorite, and the only time lesbians come in for a good old bashing.  The assumption in the days of Paul was that everyone gets hooked up with a member of the opposite sex to have children.  In fact, people who were celibate were the radical ones taking control over their bodies by refusing to have sex.  For me, I think this passage plainly says that I am following my nature.  I think of the line in Jeremiah: "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you.  And before you were born, I consectrated you."  So, God knew I am a lesbian, and made me with that sexual orientation.  For me, then, to sleep with a man would be wrong, hurtful and deceptive to the man, to me... and to God.

And then there are all the Hebrew Scripture favorites.  I don't need to go through those; that's why the Rabbi's on "my side."

Ultimately, that's the saddest part about this forum: that there is a "my" vs. "them" side on the issue of Love. Because, at the end of the day, all my EfM training and my reading of Scripture is but the window dressing for what is the true essence of who I am: a lesbian daughter of God.  The mere fact that I, and any other gay person shows up in a church on a Sunday morning, is a testament to God's power to search out and find every single one of the sheep that have wandered away from the fold.  Wandered, or been simply shut out by those who falsely accuse us of undermining the church, and the world.  To reclaim us, reconcile us, and roll out the red carpet for us to attend the greatest party with the best banquet week after week.

I think I'm ready for this.


Phoebe McFarlin said...

Well prepared, well done! 1393

Leonard Clark said...

You speak for me (really well), thank you. Leonardo