Saturday, May 11, 2013

Would I Have Had the Courage?

Earlier this week the Minnesota House passed the bill legalizing marriage equality. Probably within a few days the Minnesota Senate will do the same making Minnesota the 12th state to do so. I have been clear of my agreement of the bill and its ideas.

But I wonder if I would have been willing to do that if I were still in the active ministry?

What brough that to mind was that my current pastor at the Episcopal Church where we are now members, was on TV (as he has been before) expressing the acceptance of the bill and advicating marriage equality. He has been clear where he stands from the start last year when Minnesota defeated the anti-equality bill . There he was on TV on Thursday, in public, giving his opinion.

I am sure that I would not have been doing so. I am sure that I would have wanted to talk about it only with people who know my opinion already. I am sure that if someone in my church would have asked me where I stood I would have said my opinion but then hemmed and hawed with some statement about accepting, etc.

Of course, I haven't been in the church in almost 10 years now. Times, on this issue, have changed in our culture. But I was aware of how few pastors might have been making public statements on the issue. You know, we have to be able to minister to everyone and not offend anyone. Even if we believe they are wrong(?) But I am sure that in my desire to be liked and to be able to minister to everyone in my church, I would very likely have been less open than some.

On the same newscast was a pastor from a more conservative church who made it clear that their church was not going to go along with this cultural shift. Since the beginning of their church, he said, they have stuck with the Bible and scriptural values. He was not afraid of his views. He was certain of them and didn't care if people disagreed. He doesn't have the desire to minister to people who disagree with him unless they are willing to be open to changing their opinion. (My interpretation.)

Why is it that when we find that we disagree with what has been a more traditional opinion of theology and scripture that we hem and haw? We bow, if ever so slightly, to the tradition and lose sight of the fact that in many instances, (most instances, perhaps) those long-held interpretations are as culturally-based as the contemporary ones.

I have a sense that what we might be witnessing is similar to what was happening in American theology in the mid-1800s and again in the mid-1900s over issues of race. We missed the fact then that the Hebrew Bible (and therefore the under-pinnings of the Christian Scriptures) are tribal, a variation of the racial arguments. We may have difficulty today seeing how in any way you can justify human slavery and the de-humanizing of whole sections of the world population can be God's will.

I pray that the move we have been seeing in the past several years will prove to be as antiquated and irrational in 50 or 100 years. I pray that these steps can lead us to a deeper and more inclusive vision of who we are as human brothers and sisters. I pray, finally, that God's love can be seen and experienced as grace instead of law.

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