Thursday, September 27, 2007

Nobody Crucifies Nobody Anymore

A few days ago, Harry left us another of his amazing comments. It is too good to get buried in a thread now four posts back. So I'm bringing it out into the light:
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One of the central dilemmas in Plato's Republic is how to get the philosopher -- who by virtue of wisdom wants nothing to do with the government -- to accept rule. There is much irony in the discussion, of course, but I don't think this is entirely one of Plato's reductios ad absurdum.

Our solution -- not a wise one -- is to say that the Holy Spirit takes care of this problem for us.

The problem with that approach is that we end up with--that's right--elected bishops.

In an elected body, there are only a few leaders. Who may or may not be able to lead under given circumstances.

We must not forget that the glory of democracy is the measure of our willingness to put up with its flaws -- and this applies to the House of Bishops as well. You get to be a bishop by making most of the people happy most of the time. Chances are that few of us here and few of us at Stand Firm would be really happy with any Bishop who actually spoke her mind. To some extent, we've experienced that with the Presiding Bishop -- who has disappointed glbt folks and supporters even on this list! We get upset with her and then forget about it... A good thing in the long run.

There is, however, a national character--and you find it in the government of the nation as well as in the House of Bishops. It's a character, a constitution if you will, that is little understood by foreign Primates who think they can actually establish an Anglican alternative in the States. It's the 'Don't Tread on Me' factor.

By and large, our congress and our House of Bishops are, by their natures, and by the necessary flaws of democratic action (also it's best lights), never going to do much that impresses many.

But when uboats start blowing up boats by our shores -- and when the potential fall of Britain hints at the potential fall of our own nation, woefully unprepared for war -- we're in.

And if you go on bringing in Primates from around the globe to play havoc with our Episcopal Church, there's going to be a collective case of Hot Under the Collar.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch -- I'm blessed with a parish that already knows this is a bunch of hooey and doesn't spend time fuming about it. We happily sent a check off to JCFs parish when the church burned -- and it was a substantial check considering our miniscule budget. No questions asked. We're not at all afraid to deal with issues. We've got shut ins to visit, and if a kid in the parish is in a school play--an unbelievable number of parishioners go. And I've even been to high school football and Lion's Club Chili Dinners. Trust me, it's not how I thought I'd be spending the best years of my life -- but how amazing to find the best years of one's life in bowls of chili and in kids playing TV theme songs while marching from goal post to goal post. These things -- a church burning down and all of us knowing how devastating it would be for us -- and all the little things that are a life and a day and a person make us pay attention. And we just can't spend that much time on the Communion Falling Apart or the Sky Falling Down.

Amazing moments just happen over time though. A woman, I'll call her Stella, shared with me early on that she had had the hardest time of anyone in the parish in calling a gay rector with his partner. Recently a Nigerian woman was doing laundry in our parish hall (we put a washer and drier in there so people who can't get clothes washed -- or even buy soap with foodstamps -- could clean their clothes!). She said to Stella, "You're Anglican, right? How can you allow these homosexuals to be part of your church? It's terrible." My partner -- possible the finest man I've ever met in my life -- decided not to jump into the conversation. Stella said, "You know, even just a year ago I thought the way you did. But I've changed..."

There is no difference between doing the laundry and talking about who the Children of God are. The good news? Clean underwear. And open arms. And above all -- sharing: soap, time, thoughts...and songs...

I'm so blessed to have a parish that lives this ideal -- openness -- so much so that even people who have had a hard time with the issue of hiring a gay rector have felt completely okay sharing that with me! That was the most welcoming feature of coming here to Michigan.

Alas, the Anglican Communion has some scary places in it. But people, we've got a good thing going in this little corner of it.

And I'm not leaving. And neither are any of the folks at St. John's, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.

They can throw us out. Hell, you're not really fully Christian till you've been thrown out of something or been jailed for something. They can throw us out, but that won't change a thing. We will still be Anglican. We will still be Episcopalian. And we'll still be helping people get their clothes washed, raising money for people to buy gas to get their kids to the doctor in Grand Rapids or Ann Arbor... Or the backpacks -- we put together 200 backpacks full of school supplies for kids who really needed them here in our little town.

Our problem is not gay people. Our problem is people. They need things. They get born into problematic families or with problematic disabilities. They grow up. They get married. They get cancer. They have children. Sometimes they get divorced. Sometimes they become widows or widowers. Sometimes they feel God, or love, or the world has abandoned them. And sometimes they suddenly feel the presence of God in their lives and have to share that with people. But they also keep doing this really weird thing that we can't seem to stop them from doing: sooner or later--they all--they die. They're there one moment. And then they are gone. And it hurts so bad, so incredibly bad -- and we all wish we had paid a little more attention to them, been a little kinder, loved them a little more.

And that's when we gather to hear the Good News. Part of the good news is, in fact, that we could have done better. That part allows me to join the human race -- to see myself as I really am. And to imagine a better me. And part of the good news is that God made me, and adores me, and can't imagine a better me than the one he created. And that just takes your breath away.

I look at the Milky Way and I think, "Hey, the guy who made that made me." I look at a buttercup out in a sheep field and I think "Hey, she made this buttercup so gently and so tenderly, and those tender, gentle things in me -- they must be something she loves."

And we gather. And the love of my life stands up at the front of the church and helps us all focus, and holds wine and bread with his great big beautiful hands, and sings, and he tries to tell us the good news and almost always does an extraodrinary job of it. And the deaths, and the births, and the children, and wonderful Jacob who is deaf and blind and 19 but looks likes he's in fifth grade due to many severe developmental disabilities, and Andy who is in high school and on the golf team and recently shot a hole in one -- and always makes me laugh with his ability to be present and in the moment and welcoming and just slightly grin, and his sister Kate, who is perhaps the most beautiful woman I've ever seen and a Freshman in college and on our vestry -- and Shirley, who recently turned to me after mass and said, "O my goodness, when did we start talking this loud right after church?" and my godson Aaron who is still insisting he doesn't believe in God AT ALL (and he's nine!) but is willing to read the Bible with me in terms of the Force from Star Wars (we're making progress) and is willing, at the Peace, to say to me, "The Force Be With You" -- and all the mess and the joys and the hurts and the going on, the just going on and on and on, sits there before us and with us and in us, and Wayne tries to remind us that it is very, very important who we are and what we do, and the Anglican traditions gather that importance together and measure it and say, "Hey, coming up short, but not really -- we've got bread and wine, thanks to...um, well I thought it was Mrs. Frobush but turns out it's God again!" and from moment to moment in stuttered and stumbling reality, but with beautifully fine liturgy, and quiet confidence, we go on. And somehow, going on, we don't go.

And we won't. But, dear beloved friends throughout the communion: don't tread on us. We fiercely protect our own. Nobody crucifies nobody anymore. At least not at St. John's Episcopal, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.

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Thank you, Harry.

J.

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