Tag Archives: Amendment One

We moved the runner over

When I was a kid, I was pretty fast sprinter. I remember participating in only one track meet, held at the athletic fields behind our local high school on a raw, windy spring day. I was a skinny nine-year-old kid with gangly arms and legs. As I was shivering, my bony arms and legs felt like clattering wind chimes.

My parents were in the bleachers, and I guess they couldn’t bear watching me shiver, so my dad came down to the fence between the track and the bleachers and called me over. He had a bulky, corduroy coat in his hand, a hand-me-down from my older brothers. It had a big hood that zipped onto the back. Dad told me that he and my mom wanted me to wear it.

I happily put the coat on and waited for the heat of my race to be called. Seeing the other kids shivering made me even more glad for the coat. Then our heat was called. I looked for my dad, to give him the coat back, but I had no idea where my parents were sitting. I assessed the other shivering kids in the race, and knew I was much faster than all but one of them. That one kid was a stranger, so in my magical nine-year-old thinking, I figured he’d be eating my dust even with the coat on.

We got in our starting crouches. Five freezing nine-year-olds, and one perfectly warm one wearing an enormous coat. It must have looked ridiculous.

The gun went off and I hurled myself down the track, legs churning. The coat restricted my arm movements, so it was hard to find a good rhythm. And then there was that zip-on hood.

As I labored down the track, I apparently compensated for my inability to move my arms freely by turning my torso in an exaggerated manner. The result was that the hood slapped me in the face with every other stride.

I came in last. I couldn’t hold the tears back, as I saw my parents approach me. “Why did you MAKE me wear THAT COAT?!?!?” I asked incredulously. My dad smiled and said, “Well, honey, I didn’t think you’d wear it while you were running.” I blurted, barely coherently, “BUTYOU [sob] TOLDME [sob] IHADTO [sob] WEARTHECOATAAAAAAUUUUHGH….”

This was the story that was running in my head like a movie this morning as I sat on the bus and read my Facebook news feed of people reacting to the passage of North Carolina’s Amendment One.

What I want to say is enough. Enough with the shame. Shame is like that heavy corduroy coat. It restricts our movement, weighs us down, and slaps us in the face with the regularity of a metronome. Stop casting “Shame on North Carolina.” Stop wearing shame like that coat. It is shame that enables short-sighted people to win small, temporary victories like the passage of Amendment One. But shame will not overturn Amendment One. Only Love will do that.

The last time North Carolina’s constitution was amended with regard to marriage was in 1875. That lasted 96 years which, while a mighty long time, is nowhere near the forever that those amendment authors were hoping for. 

At Heretic School yesterday, one of our band of scripture strugglers referred to the passage from John’s depiction of Jesus’ “Farewell Discourse” as being written with a key signature of farewell. In the passage we read, the most repeated words were “you” and “love.” My friend’s lovely musical metaphor enabled me to wonder whether the “Farewell Discourse” is Jesus as musical conductor, teaching us how to sing in the key of Love.

The opportunities of shucking off the coat of shame and singing in the key of Love in the face of Amendment One are enormous. In fact, by virtue of having Amendment One on the ballot, the work of Love has already begun. Disparate constituencies have found allies in each other, conversations about justice have erupted. People are talking, openly, at a NATIONAL level about marriage between same-sex couples. That, in and of itself, is victory. It is a sign that the shame that kept queer people and our allies silent for centuries is being cast aside, right now, right here, in our lifetime. We all know how toxic shame is, which is why it’s vital to not give into our desire to cast it on others as we remove it from our own shoulders.

Amendment One is the death rattle of a species on the verge of extinction. Or, if you prefer a baseball metaphor, how about this: In baseball, a player who gets a hit 30% of the time is considered a good hitter. That player is even better when s/he routinely does little things that don’t show up in the batting average, like moving runners over, or scoring runners while making an out.

In losing the battle over Amendment One, forces of justice and equality may have made an out, but we moved the runner into scoring position. So if you need a pick me up this morning as you read the stories about Amendment One, read some of the baseball box scores from last night, along with the little news descriptions of some of the games.

Then get back out there and sing in the key of Love. Find others to sing with, too.

And whatever you do, NEVER attempt to run the 100-yard dash while wearing a heavy coat with a zip-on hood. Unless, of course, you feel your track meet needs some comic relief.


The Long, Hard, Stupid Way

This week has been thick and dense, much like the cloud cover and fog that have engulfed the city. So my post is long. If you want to read it, you might want to line your snacks up ahead of time.

This being an odd-numbered month, Heretic School is on tap for early Tuesday mornings at Emmanuel Church. Heretic School makes the fabric of my week so much more vibrant and resilient. Sitting together with people I admire, puzzling our way through texts that baffle, annoy, or outright frighten us, is such a great and generous gift of time and spirit.

Later in the week I heard a great lecture by a designer named Frank Chimero, entitled “Do Things the Long, Hard, Stupid Way.” In the lecture, Chimero tells the story of David Chang, the head chef in the wildly popular New York City restaurant Momofuku. The story, perhaps apocryphal, is that Chang caught his sous chef cutting a corner in preparing a dish and told him:

Just because we’re a casual restaurant, doesn’t mean we don’t hold ourselves to fine dining standards. We try to do things the right way. That usually means doing things the long, hard, stupid way.

Since the “long, hard, stupid way” pretty much describes the way I’ve done just about anything worthwhile in my life, this story appeals to me. It reminds me of the thing my older brother told me once, with which I ended my previous post here. It also reminds me of the time years ago that I heard T-Bone Burnett talk in an interview about how one of the things that appealed to him about Christianity was how difficult it is. These are my people, and they’re singing my song!

So all this was rolling around in my Joybrain this week when I engaged a Biblical literalist on Facebook over the Amendment One vote that’s coming up in North Carolina on Tuesday. A friend of mine had posted this great flow chart on her Facebook page:

One of her Facebook friends responded with the standard line that God made marriage for one man and one woman, “it was Adam and Eve not Steve & Tom or Mary & Joyce.” At first, I thought, no, I’m not getting into this. These types of arguments rarely go anywhere, and they often frustrate and demoralize me.

Without comment, I posted a link to a video that had interviews with a wide variety of North Carolina clergy saying what was wrong with Amendment One and why people should vote against it.

The man responded with more canned argument about how our country has gotten away “from knowing God and his word” and that we need to repent and come to Jesus or we’ll fall under the power of other countries. At that point, it was my bedtime, but I couldn’t resist responding with this before I went to bed:

I’m a Christian, lesbian, and married to my wife for the past 8 years here in Massachusetts. We have three daughters together. I read and study the Bible, go to church every Sunday, pray daily, and know that, like you, I am made in the image of God.

The work of Jesus Christ about freeing ALL God’s people from tyranny, oppression, and danger. Jesus had NOTHING to say about homosexuality, and very little to say about marriage. More than anything else, he talked about not being afraid and about the corrupting, oppressive power of wealth. If you actually read the legislation, Amendment One puts all kinds of North Carolina’s families and children at risk. Certainly not what Jesus would want for God’s people.

I would go so far as to say that Amendment One would make North Carolina look more like Taliban-ruled Afghanistan than any state in this country, which, after all, was founded on liberty for all people. I don’t normally engage with people who claim to know what God thinks, and I may end up regretting this, but I couldn’t stay silent. Silence has never protected anyone.

When I got up the next morning, I resisted the temptation to see how the man responded. I wasn’t sure I was up to what I assumed would be a lot of vitriol. As PW and I drove to work together, I told her about the Facebook thread. She suggested that I was already in the conversation, and advised that I go ahead and read his response, but with as much compassion as possible. And that if I chose to respond to him, to do so from a place of compassion, not combativeness.

His response was to tell me that he is a retired soldier, working with other soldiers, and that he has been to Iraq and Afghanistan and clearly I know nothing about the Taliban, who will kill anyone who does not believe what they believe. His ending surprised me: “May God work in you his will and glory in Christ Jesus.” It struck me as open-handed, which I’m sure was partly due to my adopting PW’s suggested posture of compassion. So I responded:

Thank you for your service, and for your ongoing support for and work with soldiers. My comparison with the Taliban has to do with a religious minority attempting to impose its world view and its rigid perception of God’s law onto a population that does not share its religious views. That is what Amendment One is all about–a religious minority attempting to write into state law its particular religious views.

I encourage you, and anyone else reading this thread, to stop and consider what we know about the universe—it is rapidly expanding and only about 15% of the matter in it is known to humans. If the universe is the work of God, and I think it is, why on earth would anyone assume that God’s only communication with us is contained solely in The Bible? If God’s ever-expanding creation is made in God’s image, then perhaps God continues to speak to us, at all times, in all places, and in ways that we can barely comprehend.

Given what the scriptures tell us, over and over, about what God wants for God’s people, I think that it is safe to believe that where justice, mercy, and love are alive in the world, that is God speaking. Where hunger, oppression, tyranny, hatred, and division are alive, that is God weeping.

I pray that all people in all places may find ways, whatever their path, to expand the realm of justice, mercy, and love, and to shake off the chains of tyranny, oppression, hatred, and division.

As I reflected on it, I realized that the key for me in this exchange was to stay invested in simply standing and representing a different view–to represent possibility, and not get invested in winning the argument, or convincing the other person. Those results would be nice, but, to paraphrase William Stafford as I’ve done before, it’s the process that’s important.

The exchange was also an excellent test of my convictions. Do I really want the realm of justice, mercy, and love to be alive in the world? Yes, yes I do. How hard am I willing to work for it? As hard as I can. Some days there’s more can in me than others. And since it’s not work that can be done alone, that’s why it’s so important to draw strength from others. I draw my strength from people in and out of church, with people I know and with people I have never met, but am connected with by a web of Love.

I know as well as anyone that to take on a label is to risk being pigeonholed by other people’s assumptions. If I’m a lesbian, I probably hate men, or I couldn’t get one to like me, or I just haven’t met the right one. If I’m a Christian, I’m probably an irrational, science-denying person incapable of critical, analytical thought. I’ve heard all that and more.

But see, for me, being a Christian (and for that matter, being a lesbian!) has meant doing things the Long, Hard, Stupid way. It is to willingly inherit an ancient legacy of stories and customs that have been misused and badly interpreted for millennia. It is to share a path with people who, at one extreme, believe me to be unworthy and ungodly purely because of whom I love. If I am to live with any amount of integrity, then I believe it’s essential for me to stand and represent the possibilities inherent in the labels I take on.

Christianity is a peculiar path for me, made all the more peculiar by the fellow travelers. It’s a long, hard way, in which you’re guaranteed to encounter stupidity. So, really, it’s a lot like the rest of life, unless you have figured out some way to live in an echo chamber of genius. In which case, I’d suggest that you’re missing out on some interesting, provocative, and challenging scenery.

This week I found that engaging the more close-minded of my fellow Christian travelers with detachment and compassion can be excellent practice for clarifying my understanding of and my thoughts about this path. It’s also an intensive cardio workout for my compassion, which both feeds my desire to be on the path and makes me better at staying on it.

GForce, age 3, in the suds

While I was taking a shower on Friday morning, I noticed that the new bar of soap was particularly sudsy. It occurred to me that I’ve never heard a singular for the word “suds.” What would the point of a single “sud” be, anyway?

Then it occurred to me that Christianity is like suds, it is inherently and essentially communal. It’s not a path meant to be traveled alone. Which is why it’s difficult. Which is why it demands companionship. Which is why it’s difficult. Which is why it requires companionship. It’s circular like that. Not the least bit efficient.

So here’s to the Long, Hard, Stupid Way. Maybe I’ll see you somewhere on the path, and we can hoist some suds to the journey and our fellow travelers. The first round is on me.