When I was seventeen I learned a very important lesson about church weddings. Coffee had run right through me and without realizing it I had burst into the bathroom the bride and her bridesmaids were getting ready in. It was a large bathroom with a rich people seating area that had a mirror the whole length and width of the wall. Luckily I had dashed so quickly into a stall there was only the slightest pause in their loud, laughing, and eight-person conversation. Here is where it got awkward though, apart from my Niagra Falls peeing, for the bride started speaking her ditsy, blonde, mind.
"Ugh. I hate churches!"
And. There it was. I threw up a little in my mouth.
The bride, trashing THE BRIDE and it was the most disgusting thing. I did my best not to snicker as she walked down the aisle. To try and see through the veil to the hurt girl inside who perhaps had good reason to hate the church.
Heaven knows I have fought with the church just like I used to fight with my own momma, for after all seventeen wasn't my best year either. (And Lord help me as they say you get what you got and I can't imagine sweet Kaiya going all teenage-psycho on me.)
Here's the thing. I understand some of my brothers and sisters in Christ feeling this fierce desire to protect the Bride. To be different, set apart and holy, and to take a stand on something. Marriage is certainly as good as anything to take such a stand. But here's what we don't get. We already let the word marriage be unholy, unsanctified.
What we are missing is we are having two different conversations. For lesbian and gay individuals the conversation is one about rights. Basic rights like the right to property, and the right to not be beat up or even killed for being different. Here, oh church, is where we left the conversation.
We stammer out bits of scripture, out of context and hacked up like chunks of zombie flesh, and somehow convince ourselves that we are defending marriage. No. We are not. So let me try.
Marriage is a covenant with God. It is symbolic of Christ's glorious relationship with Christ and his bride, The Church. We do our imperfect best to mimic that marriage. And all of us fall short in that imitation, which isn't to say we should stop trying but just that maybe we should remember that whole plank in the eye thing.
Now, back to rights. Real rights.
Maybe you've forgotten Matthew Shepard. Shame on you if you have. Maybe you haven't had people that you love so dearly they might as well be you who are gay and when that poor boy was killed so brutally you could only see the face of the one you love swimming in front of you. Maybe you haven't walked a friend through a breakup where they poured their lifeblood into property only to have no rights simply because from societies point of view they chose to love the wrong person. Years of their life and hard work wasted and nothing you could do but help them move. Maybe you haven't heard a friend talk about how their own parents disowned them for being different and how much it hurt feeling outside of their little family, the one that had nurtured them all their short life. Maybe you haven't known someone that wanted to end their own life because they were gay. Well. I have. I have wept with these brothers and sisters. I have been grieved by the injustices that have happened to them to the core of my being.
How about this to bridge the conversation gap: how about the church be in favor of basic human rights since that is always a good thing and a way to express the love of God but how about the word marriage be taken out of the equation?
Honestly, I think the whole "marriage" word being in the equation is the church's fault anyway. That the joining together of property by two people should have been separated from the religious service of celebrating a covenantal union between two believers. We have never taken issue with non believers getting married before so it seems like we are a bit late to the fight and trying to change all the rules in the eleventh hour. But I said it was a bridge, and so long as gays and lesbians have all the access that the law allows for straight marriages I wouldn't be opposed to calling it something different. (Or we could just start calling ours covenants since that's what they are anyway.)
And how about if you want to go to a church that teaches wearing the color green is the only holy thing, so be it? If you want to go to a church that insists everyone be a vegetarian, even in Texas, and everyone is all healthy and stuff with that, then so be it. If you want to go to a church that says the word "marriage" is only between a man and a woman, so be it. In other words, as long as a church is not drinking any poisonous Kool-Aid, wedding thirteen-year-old girls to four or five middle-aged men, or any other such crazy shenanigans than leave them be and let them worship whichever god or God they so choose. That includes my church. Leave us be to worship whom we believe to be the true God that sent his own son Jesus to die for us all.
And yes. We believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. I do not totally part ways with my church on this point, but I think we are having a different conversation and that marriage has come to mean something different. The word I am thinking of is "covenant" by which I understand as something that God laid out in his living word to be a picture of Christ and his Bride the Church. That picture, at least me for now, is best shown as a Christ-following man and his Church-dwelling female wife. Though, admittedly, I am often the worst picture of the Church in this role that ever lived.
But when I say the word "marriage" in societal context I do not mean anything other than two people who have joined their lives for financial and societal betterment. And absofreakingloutely those two people could be men or women who are joining with their same sex. I rejoice when I have a gay or lesbian friend who has been alone for so long and finally finds someone to love because love is always a good and powerful thing. I do not try to "pray the gay away" either. I just love them.
What we are missing is this is not the hill for the church to die on. It is a distraction. Essentially I think we are on the wrong side of this argument and we are wearing white hoods and burning crosses in people's yards and we don't even realize it. The church was not wholly on the wrong side of the Civil Rights Movement though, and it is time for the church to get on the right side of this fight. It is about people after all. And, last time I checked, we were in the business of loving people.
Like the sinners. The tax collectors. The prostitutes. Those were the sort of folks that Jesus loved when he came. I have a feeling if the day he was supposed to come was 3/26/2013 he would have been at DC waiting patiently with the crowds for those he has loved to be able to love like everyone else. I, am patiently waiting for them to be able to love like everyone else.
For the rest of us to get out of the way and stop worrying over someone else's life. Maybe you don't have the kind of life that I do, but there is enough drama in my own small existence to fill up my days plenty. Like my own covenant marriage. To my best friend who certainly deserves better than me but I'm grateful he hasn't realized that yet.