Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Resistance is Futile ... A Commentary on Luke 9: 51-62

This is the commentary I did for Odyssey Network and Huffington Post: Religion today:
In the Methodist tradition in which I was I raised, there is a concept of perfection. We “strive for perfection” in loving each other and loving God. It is not about avoiding all mistakes. It is about growing in love for neighbor and being hospitable to all we come in contact with. This is the point of our theology: as we grow in faith and love, we become closer to God. In the end, resisting God’s call to love others is pretty hard to do.
And yet we know not everyone we meet is irresistible. We all have moments when some folks are harder to love than others. Sometimes those we find difficult to love are members of our own families. Other times they are friends we’ve had a conflict with. And for some of us, they are hard to love simply because of whom the other person loves.
A highly anticipated and significant moment in US cultural history has occurred this week. The Supreme Court ruled on two pivotal same sex marriage cases. The Defense of Marriage Act (known as DOMA) was struck down as being unconstitutional. Moments later, California’s Proposition 8 was dismissed as well. The Supreme Court ruled that in the Prop 8 case, there was no standing for the court to decide the case so the lower court ruling, that it was unconstitutional, stands.
Many have been eagerly anticipating these decisions.  Some were hoping against hope that the Court would make history and allow all couples to be treated equally in the eyes of the law regardless of their sexual orientation.  But others have been hoping and praying that the court would maintain the status quo because they are concerned that a change in this definition will prove damaging to society. Despite surging acceptance of marriage quality over the past ten years, the divide on this issue remains significant. The pull in either direction is far from irresistible to the opposing side.
History clearly seems to be moving in the direction of social justice. And for many it is about time. Equality is one of the planks on which this nation was founded. Justice is a central orientation of most faith traditions.
And so I have always loved the Gospel of Luke because of its focus on social justice.  With its many depictions of Jesus in ministry with the marginalized, Luke is the most socially aware of the Gospel accounts.  The counter-cultural Messiah that Luke proclaims is one who moves me into action. This gospel is about ministry to the last, the least, the lost, and the left-behind. And there is resistance in that.
In Luke 9:51-62, we seem to have a call story of sorts, but actually this is a story of resistance to the call to discipleship. In the first part of this passage, Jesus’ message is resisted by the Samaritans. And in the second part, Jesus’ own disciples continue to find his turn toward Jerusalem and his death hard to accept.
Even with Jesus’ time on earth growing short and his message becoming more urgent, the disciples nonetheless resisted his call for love and acceptance. Resistance wasn’t new then, and it isn’t now. We still resist change, resist persons who are different from ourselves, resist new ideas, resist difficult concepts or options, and even resist the message from Jesus to be the loving disciples he calls us to be.
This week’s rulings on DOMA and Prop 8 will of course find resistance – some of it extreme. For me, the court deciding anything but full equality would have been a massive blow.  I celebrate equality and wept for joy when the news of the rulings came. Many others like me, whose faith is oriented around a social-justice that yearns for full equality, will join me in that celebration.
For others with different theological and political perspectives, these decisions will be a difficult test, and they will struggle to accept them. I pray for their comfort and consolation.
So what does the text say to us that might be helpful in the midst of so many contrary positions?
For me, this Gospel reading speaks volumes about hospitality, resistance, and moving forward. Resistance happens. But so does the call of justice. And for me, that call is irresistible, irreversible, and always moving forward.
In the passage, Jesus calls for us to keep our eyes forward while our hands are on the plow. Jesus is moving toward the fulfillment of his mission (that is, his death and resurrection), and he does not look anywhere but forward toward his mission on earth.
Today, this forward movement continues with the decisions of the court. And in our culture, resistance should be expected. Even if justice is delayed or denied by the court, resistance and continued movement toward justice will advance. As Martin Luther King said not so long ago, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
Those in our number who search for full equality for all persons – regardless of one’s sexual orientation, race, gender, economic status, or other factors - will keep their hands on the plow and keep moving forward. For others, they will do as they feel led. Do I agree with them? No. Do I understand their motivations? Yes, to some degree. I fully expect that folks of differing opinions will continue to struggle with each other. There may be no other way to reach an equal and just treatment of all people.

And yet in the midst of all this dissension, I support the freedom to marry and full equality for all. I support marriage equality because of my faith not in spite of it. And in that call to justice and in everything I have come to know about faith, I trust that resistance indeed is futile.

Hallelujah! But we still have work to do!

While LGBTQI folks found justice this morning, we must be resolute that there still remains MASSIVE work to do with our brothers and sisters of color to receive equality and justice as well. We have SIGNIFICANT work to do to continue to struggle for equal pay for women. We have a GIANT undertaking to stop the war on women. We have to FIGHT for the voting rights of all people everywhere. Justice denied to any is justice denied to all. We are not done. We have work to do people. Serious work to do.#IStandforALL

More coming this afternoon.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Being One of a Kind

 My Mom used to tell me that I was one of a kind. I knew she meant that I was not like my two sisters – who were one year older and one year younger than me. And I knew that she meant that I was different from the other folks my age as well.

I was always unique and marched to the beat of my own drummer. I read thousands of books, even ones the county librarian tried to talk me out of and called my Mom about.  I was a feminist in 1970's redneck West Texas. I wore a t-shirt that read, “A woman needs a man, like a fish needs a bicycle.” I did not follow the crowd and made my own way. I was certain that following the crowd was wrong and that I was supposed to do something different.

It was not always easy. I was teased and made fun of at times. I was made to feel different and was, on more than one occasion, taunted fairly viciously. It was not fun. Growing up different is tough. No matter the reason one finds themselves being considered different – gender, theology, sexual orientation, religion, wealth, educational level, political beliefs, physical abilities, family issues, philosophy, size, clothing choices, gender identity, age, or whatever.

But despite that, marching to my own drummer has continued to be my style all of these years. Sometimes it has made me feel alone, sometimes it has made me feel extremely powerful, and sometimes it has made me just feel different.

Recently I read a story about a whale called “52 Hertz.” This whale has been tracked for years and goes his own way. He does not follow the normal migration pattern of other whales of his “kind.” He makes whale sounds that are on a different frequency than other whales – hence the name 52 Hertz. He was discovered about 20 years ago and continues to make his unique sounding whale call – and there seems to be no answer.

This whale is one of a kind. His sound is one of a kind. He swims the ocean alone, perhaps malformed or maybe a hybrid of two other forms of whales. He is alone – one of a kind – doing his own thing.

We have no way to know if he is lonely or depressed or enjoying his unique nature, but songs and stories have been written about his isolation and loneliness anyway.

You would think that receiving no answer to his unique whale song for decades would mean he might stop – but he doesn’t. He keeps on singing on his own frequency. And he keeps on swimming the North Pacific alone.
One of the amazing things about my own journey is that I have found others who are “one of a kind” as well. We have found each other – through our own “whale song” of sorts and we have found community in each other as we swim. Sometimes they stay for short periods and sometimes for longer. But I keep looking for the other “one of a kind” folks out there.

52 Hertz goes on and on – alone in the world.  He keeps on calling in his unique tone but for whatever reason he never receives a reply. I wonder if he just hasn’t found the way to talk in a way that others like him can understand. Maybe he’s just not accepted because he is so different. I pray for him to find peace and happiness – whatever that looks like for 52 Hertz. And maybe he is happy – we have no way of knowing what he feels. But I know what it felt like growing up as a “one of a kind” person. Luckily I have found peace and happiness.

And I pray for you to find that as well. I pray for you to find someone who can hear your whale song. Whether you feel like you will never be accepted or have already found others – keep calling … keep swimming. There are others out there listening.