the risk and the reward…

For a week I’ve been trying to find a way to write about the cases before the Supreme Court this week concerning same sex marriage and for a week I’ve failed to find a way to do that. I’ll do my level best on this but in the end, it’s bound to be just another voice shouting in the wind because after all, it’s the internet and everyone has an opinion and a megaphone these days.

I’ll begin with admitting something that I am ashamed about. 20 years ago when my sister “came out” to me I was shocked. I really never saw it coming and I did not know what to say. I think I stumbled through some platitudes or affirmations and probably I said some very stupid things but what I wanted most to convey to her was that it didn’t matter to me, that I still loved her no matter who she chose to love, so long as that person treated her with absolute love and devotion.   We sipped our coffee and I think I probably cried…because I do that all the time. I’m crying now as I write this, if you must know, because I’m remembering how awkward I felt and how unprepared I felt and how shocked I was that I did not already know this but I’m crying because I’m ashamed that I made it so much about me.

What about how my sister felt? Now that I have 20 years to have thought about it I’m ashamed that the first person I thought about was me. How awkward must that have been for her? How nerve wracking and scary to reveal the most intimate detail of one’s sexuality to her big sister who was just beginning to consider herself a born again Christian? When I look back on it I realize that I cried not because I didn’t like her revelation but that I felt like so much of a disappointment to her, that I would not have known this, that I was so wrapped up in my own life that I did not take the time to really know who she was.

I was confused as well. I did not know how to navigate this relationship in light of my own religious lifestyle. I worried about what my friends might say, I worried that they would judge her, that they would want me to distance myself or try to change or save her. I worried about what our family would say. I worried about the current relationship she was in, at the time, I did not care for the woman she then revealed was her girlfriend. I confess, the woman gave me the creeps before I knew she was gay and she gave me the creeps even more once it was revealed that she was dating my little sister, who I also did not know was gay until that moment.

Not long after that she broke up with the first girlfriend and began to date the woman I’m proud to call my sister in law today. My sister and her partner have been together nearly as long as my husband and myself. They have been solid people in our lives. They are fun and caring. They are there when we need them and they are good for each other, they build up each other, they complete each other. Their “marriage” is not honored as a traditional marriage right now. They’ve done the paper work to be united in a “civil union” but they still do not receive the same considerations and benefits of traditionally married couples. What is happening at the Supreme Court this week has the potential to finally elevate them to have the same rights as other married couples, rights that we heterosexuals take for granted in my opinion.

Here’s the thing- I understand why people, especially religious people, are against granting marriage for same sex couples. At the root of it all is this idea that although the world is changing, they simply cannot be a part of something they see as a perversion of God’s design. For someone to support a same sex marriage means that they are complicit in the world moving in a direction they feel is “away” from the one that God might have for us as humans, they are an accomplice to that shifting. To remain steadfast and vote against it, to be vocal about upholding the most prevalent and conservative understanding of marriage means being true to the values of their religion which are based upon sacred and ancient writings. For these people it is not about hating anyone, it’s about hating the way the world is moving and wanting to be the drag that keeps it from happening as quickly as it seems to be happening. I do understand it even though I do not choose to be a part of that foot dragging.

The religious tradition I have adopted does not affirm a homosexual lifestyle. I doubt that it ever will. Before I converted to Orthodoxy this gave me great pause. I asked the priest if becoming Orthodox meant I had to hate or judge my gay friends and family. His response was that to hate or judge anyone is absolutely not Orthodox. He spoke about the underlying doctrine of the church, its reasons for its stance, the unlikeliness that it would change in the future regardless of how the culture changed and he waited because in the end, it would come down to me deciding if I was willing to move into a relationship with Orthodoxy, knowing its stance on this issue and knowing that it might never change. In the end, I decided that relationship was really what all of this was about and I did move forward and I do not regret that. For this reason, I take the long lens on this issue. I support my gay friends and family whole heartedly in their striving to legitimize their family life even though it may put me at odds with some in my religious community. And I choose to commit myself at the same time to a religious tradition that does not support this positon which may put me at odds with some in my social and family communities. I point to love and it’s all I have.

I don’t know what the “fabric of society” will look like in another 20 years, another 50 years, another 100 years. I’m not convinced that it will be same sex marriage that unwinds that fabric just as I’m not convinced that aliens won’t land before the fabric unwinds. I do not know what the future holds but I do know that adding my feet to the drag on the changing times does nothing to stop that shift. It takes me out of relationship with people that I love and care for more than I can ever express. I know these people and I do not judge them just as they do not judge my joining in to a community of faith that would not welcome their marriage when it is given its due rights. I take the long lens on this which is one reason I chose to become Orthodox in the first place. The Orthodox church is not trying to be in step with the culture, it never has and I doubt it ever will. I find some odd comfort in that because when all is said and done, hopefully it will have held the thread of the story from the beginning of time until the end of time and that thread is relationship, that thread is community and that thread is love. That is what the long lens promises, that no matter how things shift in the world there is a heartbeat at the root of it all and we can trust in that, we can love one another well.  This is the risk and this is the reward.

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4 thoughts on “the risk and the reward…

  1. We cannot expect the law of Christ from those without Christ. And we can’t expect Orthodoxy from those not Orthodox. And even when it comes to the Orthodox, we’re to keep our eyes on ourselves, not them.

    There’s a great story I wish I could find again about an inquirer to Orthodoxy. “Father, I’m interested in becoming Orthodox.” “Good, let’s schedule a time to talk – first about Jesus and the Holy Trinity, then the services, then the saints, then about prayer.” “Great, but I should tell you I’m gay”. “OK, first we’ll talk about Jesus and the Holy Trinity, then the services – ” No, Father, I don’t think you heard me. I’m gay”. “Yes, I know. First we’ll talk about Jesus and the Holy Trinity, then the services, then the saints, then about prayer….”

    By comparison, without being Orthodoxy our views on celibacy make very little sense, as do the Orthodox fasting rules. There are things you can know on the outside, things you need to grapple with on the outside, but there are other things that only make sense as part of the whole, from the inside. Also, baptism, chrismation, and the Eucharist actually provide something we didn’t have before. Understanding isn’t all about intellection. Baptism is still referred to as illumination in the Orthodox Church, it can allow us to see things that weren’t visible before – not in a dramatic, see through walls way, but in the way we can see things new that we’d been looking at for years. Before-grace (the Orthodox would say the energies of God) and after-grace is different.

  2. Good reasoning. Any Christian organization that would have you shun someone you love because they do not have the lordship of Christ in their lives and are acting contrary is not Christian. It is a hard situation. Where are the boundaries? Should there be any? I think it would be harder if you had a loved one who left their spouse on weak grounds and wanted to bring their new fling over for Thanksgiving or a family situation with children. I think that there does have to be boundaries with someone doing self destructive or abusive behavior or that are interested in subverting those around them.
    I don’t know if you read this, but I thought it was good and helped me a bit with the my own grappling of the current court battle:

    http://www.bransonparler.com/1/post/2013/03/stanley-hauerwas-on-sexuality-and-marriage.html

    I recently heard at our Church about a couple that became friends with an outspoken Lesbian. Their purpose (to be intentioned is to be wise) was to actually do what Christ commanded, to love. They did not plan to do what many well intentioned Christian’s do: develop a relationship and then ambush them with the Gospel. They just tried to show the love of Christ through their friendship. The women’s life did change as she saw how they dealt with the couple’s ups and downs of their lives. She yearned for the peace that they had in the midst of their trials. She was drawn to Christ by the honesty of their love and chose to embrace the same peace in her own life.

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