Saturday, June 14, 2014

What's the Problem with Marruage Equality?

I have been musing for a while about why some conservatives are so vehemently opposed to marriage equality. I recognize that for many of them the objections are based upon their religious convictions. However at least some of these people have accepted in other areas of life that what they would not do because of their convictions others are legally allowed to do. One may believe that drinking alcohol is wrong without trying to reestablish prohibition. So why is marriage equality such a problem for them?
I think, and I certainly could be wrong about this, that for many of these folks their opposition has roots in patriarchy. Marriage has for most of its history been the union of unequal partners. Why, until recently, was the proper way to address a letter to a married woman "Mrs. John Smith"? It was a vestige of patriarchy. Marriage equality is an assault upon patriarchy. Although I would make no claim that there is perfect equality in all same-sex marriages, I suspect that there is an unacknowledged fear among some who cling to patriarchy that marriage equality will challenge the inequality of their marriages. If two men can establish a marriage of equals, then why shouldn't opposite sex couples do that? And if two women can show us that a marriage doesn't actually need a man, what happens to the idea that the husband is always the head of the household? (Actually, most of the married women that I know think that idea is a joke.)
I am convinced that marriage equality is a gift to all of us, even to those who oppose it so vehemently. It can teach us about equality in relationships and begin to free us from thinking that culturally created gender roles are permanent. It can do that only if we let it shed much needed light upon marriage as we have understood it. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014


I awoke suddenly very early this morning feeling very sad. I had been dreaming about putting containers of food in a freezer but I have no idea about what connection there was between the dream and my sadness. Deciding that trying to go back to sleep would be futile, I parked myself on the sofa in the living room, played solitaire on my phone, which didn't make me any happier, and thought about sadness - mine, that of people I love, the world's sadness.
For a few minutes I entertained useless thoughts about how I have no real reasons to be sad.  After all I am more prosperous than most other people in the world, so why should I be sad? But strong emotions aren't logical and there is nothing to be gained by telling myself that I have no right to be sad. Emotions simply are.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of being with Malcolm Boyd, whose Are You Running With Me, Jesus? played a significant role in the journey that led to my being ordained. Malcolm is still very insistent that prayer is one of the most important parts of the work that we do as people committed to justice. Real prayer, honest prayer is what is needed, and these days honest prayer will often be a lament.
Someone said recently that we need to reclaim our capacity to lament. The people of ancient Israel understood the importance of lament, at least that is what I see when I pray with the psalms, and Jesus, we are told, lamented when he looked at Jerusalem. The world is a sad place and denying it, saying that God is in heaven and all is right with the world, only makes it sadder.
In 1976 the Canadian theologian Douglas John Hall published Lighten Our Darkness: Toward an Indigenous Theology of the Cross. Hall began the Preface of the book with these words: 
The subject of this book is the failure of a people and the courage that can come to those who contemplate this failure in the perspective of the cross. The people are the North Americans.
Hall is right that it takes courage to face our failure and that we can find courage as we see that failure in the light of the cross. We have adopted in both his country and mine an almost official optimism that denies the presence of darkness, that refuses to lament. Hall took as his title a phrase from one the collects for Evening Prayer in the Book of Common Prayer. How can we pray that collect with any integrity if we refuse to admit that "our darkness" is real? How can we move to honest confession of our failure when what we too often hear from our elected officials is the far less than honest "Mistakes were made"?
Perhaps my early morning sadness was a gift, a nudge from God who wants me to be honest in my prayer, who wants me to lament.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Unity, Not Uniformity

In her sermon on Sunday, my colleague Jo Barrett focused on Jesus' prayer that we all might be one as he and the Father are one. Although she did not say it, it seemed clear to me, sitting in a pew, that she understood that the unity of the Trinity is a unity of love. I think the language of the Nicene Creed, drawing as it does on categories from Greek philosophy, is not at all helpful today if it ever was. What meaning does "one in being" or "consubstantial" have for us? Apart from love these terms sound very hollow.
If the unity of the Trinity is not a matter of uniformity, then the unity of the disciples of Jesus need not be a matter of uniformity. Just as it is orthodox teaching that the Father is not the Son, so it might be considered orthodox to say that Baptists are not Roman Catholics and to mean that both are recognizable as members of the one Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church which is the Body of Christ in the world. 
Several years ago when I was teaching at a Roman Catholic high school I spent some time thinking about what gift the various denominations of Christians  offered to the Church and the world. I am thankful for the social teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, for the Baptist's clear teaching about the necessity of a mature commitment to Christ, and for other gifts that have enriched my life as an Anglican.
In her serm0n Jo used her own experience of being awakened by the dawn chorus of birds as a image for the offerings of praise that the different churches in our community make. Reflecting on that image now I remember being part of a chorus several years ago. Another member told the director that she didn't think we sounded right. The director asked her to stand next to him as the chorus repeated what we had just sung. When we stopped singing she said that the music sounded right from that perspective. Perhaps we can't hear how the offerings of all the different denominations become one. Perhaps only God can hear that.