"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Don We Now Our Gay

I have many friends and a few relatives who are gay or lesbian. Recently I examined my Facebook list and found that about 10% of all my FB friends fall into that category. I thought it might be more. I grew up among theatre folk and what's euphemistically referred to as "creative types." Oh, and I'm an Episcopalian. In New Hampshire.

I must add that not all my real life friends and relatives participate in social networking media, so by extension only a minority of my gay friends and rels are represented on FB.

My gay friends and rels weren't always able to be so open about their sexual orientation, either because they were a long time realising it or coming to terms with it or comfortably telling me about it. (Which they shouldn't have been, but I completely understand the vulnerabilities they felt at the time.) I've witnessed joyous coming outs (comings out?) and wrenching ones.

When I think back--way back--to some of these earliest revelations, I contrast those times with current times. In some respects, things seem easier, better, more hopeful overall. Mind you, I live in a state where full marriage equality comes into effect in a little more than a fortnight. I belong to a religious denomination that, this past summer, affirmed the baptismal and ordained ministries of all persons irrespective of orientation. And my own diocese is noted for having the only openly gay consecrated bishop...all of a sudden I need to be very specific, because earlier this month another, far larger diocese elected a lesbian as their suffragan bishop.

I've spent countless hours in Bible study, informal and formal, but on so many levels my theology is simple and unsophisticated. I believe in God and always have done. Whatever God creates is of God and therefore I value it. When bad things happen in life--wars, famines, plagues, diasasters, losses--I am thankful for my religious convictions, which support me in hard times as well as good times.

I especially honour loving, committed, faithful relationships. I don't dishonour people who can't accept that such relationships are appropriate for same sex partners. They have their reasons, I respect them and don't attempt to alter their beliefs.

But I don't accept that Biblical interpretations or outright prejudice should infringe upon the state's or the government's determination of what legally constitutes a marriage relationship. Government is meant to be representative.

I feel blessed that I'm conditioned to accept and affirm people as I find them. People are people are people. Some I love, some I like, some I don't like. It doesn't seem fair or even right that certain people have to be defined and/or labelled by their sexuality. I'm doing it myself, right now. I don't commonly refer to "my heterosexual relatives and friends." I, too, marginalise people dear to me--inadvertently--by regularly relying on the convenient labels.

I love sinners...I forgive those who commit sins. But it's certainly not my job to define sinfulness for God. To rely on cliche, that's above my pay grade. I do know what sin looks like--in myself. I recognise when other people break commandments or do immoral or heinous things. I don't feel compelled to be judgmental (much) about their failings. I sympathise with and pray for the all who are damaged as a result. Including the perpetrator. Unless I ever sit on a jury (please, God, no!) I'm not responsible for meting out punishment, either.

Lots of people profess to know exactly what the Bible says and mandates. They point to certain Old Testament verses and take them to heart and apply them--selectively. I don't and I won't and I can't. Perfect clarity about Scripture, which I do believe was inspired by God and the Spirit, seems to me far beyond ordinary human capabilities and understanding.

Nobody presided at the union of Adam and Eve. We are told that God put them together. Even so, what with that business involving Adam's rib, by church canon any Pope or priest would probably be required to annul that "marriage" because of consanguinty. No matter. Times were different when the world was young.

I definitely don't know the author of Leviticus, or what he meant when outlining sexual prohibitions and holiness codes. It was a different time and place.

Jesus didn't perform any marriage ceremonies that I know of, he provided the wine at a single wedding. I'm not sure why he never specifically mentioned same gender relations, or whether he did and nobody remembered it afterwards or wrote down what he said. Or why Paul (it was Paul, wasn't it?) decided he needed to put his oar in. You know, way back in the 1st Century. What other 1st Century customs are we following in the 21st Century? Anyone?

At some point the early Christian church took upon itself the blessing of the existing ritual of marriage and eventually decided it should be a sacrament.

Non-Christian cultures have forms and customs of marriage. Other cultures recognise them as valid.

From ancient times up to the present day the state and governments have made and upheld and applied the laws of marriage. Or divorce. Only the state has actual authority and power--derived from the governed--to protect the interests of individuals, whether spouses or children or other dependents.

I wish I could know what the Creator, God, Yaweh, Allah, the Guy Upstairs, Our Father, Mother Earth, the Big Kahuna, the Great Spirit actually thinks--about everything. Since I can't, I'll just muddle on through each day, trying my best to be good and honourable and honest and faithful. I'll continue to love and cherish and affirm all my relatives and my friends, doing anything I can to ensure that each one of them has an equal chance to pursue happiness in this life.

I've been thinking along these lines a lot lately, for all kinds of reasons. And I always come to the conclusion that the "Judge not, lest ye be judged" guy, who consorted with lepers and the lame, absolved adulteresses and tax collectors, and hung out with every type of marginalised person or minority within his culture and context, just doesn't seem the type to condemn my relatives and my friends. Probably not back in the 1st Century. Probably not now in the 21st Century.

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