O Lord, give me a sign…

26 09 2011

I don’t even know how many times I’ve asked God for a sign. Sometimes humbly, more often through clenched teeth and with the subtext of “And this time, don’t be so ****ing cryptic about it.” I’ve been amazed by those who seem to read the will of God so clearly, who can point at events in their lives and say “This was God showing me what to do next.” Of course, lining up those events is kind of like reading Nostradamus several centuries later and finding the historical events that could line up with the verses. Getting an actual sign and recognizing it at the time you need it? That’s a much rarer beast.

Background: earlier this year, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the USA (PC-USA) amended the Book of Order to remove the chastity and fidelity clause. Before the change, the position for anyone ordained was to maintain chastity outside of marriage, and fidelity inside of marriage. And since nearly everywhere in the US defines marriage as one man and one woman, that very neatly left the GLBT community right out.

So, with the chastity and fidelity clause out, and a more adult understanding of those who are called to serve in the church, there was suddenly the possibility of (gasp) ordaining homosexuals. And the board of elders in my church? Promptly flipped shit. End of the damned world, dogs and cats sleeping together. So the lecturing began. Handouts from Southern Baptist websites about how PC-USA was going straight to hell in a burning handbasket. Talk of separating from PC-USA. All along it seemed that my minister was trying to find the middle ground to hold everything together, to keep the congregation from disintegrating. And me thinking, I wonder if it’s time for me to find a different church.

Yesterday morning, I got that actual sign when my minister did his sermon on homosexuality. A very clear, bright line now separates me from what this congregation apparently stands for. I took it like a javelin to the heart. I wept through the sermon, as he listed all of the reasons that homosexuality is a sin, pulling out all seven places in the bible where it’s mentioned with the equivalent of “See? Sin! Bible says so!” And all those other things that are sins – blended fibers, shrimp – well gosh, those don’t count, we know better now, but that homosexuality thing? SIN! SIN SIN SIN SIN! God created Man in His image (hello, patriarchy), He created man and woman as different and complementary (hello, gender essentialism) and therefore requiring each other (and heterocentrism, too!)

Tears through the sermon, wrenching sobs afterwards as my mother held me and told me it was going to be okay. I’ve been part of this church for 35 years. I met the love of my life there. Married him there. Buried him there. And to my great shame, I have spent many of those years making excuses for the bigotry and homophobia that I knew existed in the congregation. I knew that they were to the right of me politically and theologically. But I told myself that it was good to be in a congregation of people who didn’t necessarily believe what I did, that it gave me something to push against, that it made me think.

And you know what? Weak sauce, that. I allowed that congregation to continue what they were doing, and in the process I threw my GLBT friends under the conservative bus. It gave me something to push against? Then why the hell didn’t I push harder? Oh, that’s right… they’re friends, they’re family, they’re my church. I want to peacefully coexist with them, and they like ME. I’m everything they approve of. I married a man in the church, raised our son there. My marriage was ended when my husband died, so I even did that the right way. It was so easy to just go along. People who have been friends since high school, a lifetime of connections – and it’s hard to walk away from that when you were raised as a military brat, with connections that are severed every three years.

Nonetheless… here’s my sign. Time to go. I cannot be a part of this brand of religion. I need a hands-on faith, one that actually puts boots on the ground. It isn’t enough to give money to the various causes – not that they don’t need the money, but what most organizations really need is hands, bodies, energy, and time. Jesus washed feet. He didn’t give money to a foot-washing foundation.

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