Rites and Rights

5 07 2013

Recent rulings by the United States Supreme Court has Facebook a twitter:). http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/07/01/poll-supreme-court-gay-marriage-affirmative-action-voting-rights/2479541/

The 5-4 ruling by the nation’s highest court has persons in favor of recognizing the constitutional rights of all citizens access to the  governmental benefits of marriage claiming the court is right.

I number myself among them. On this July 4, I recall our nation being founded on the premise that all are created equal… not identical.

People of faith have weighed in. Some applaud the decision. Fear mongers have suggested that the next step will be a governmental mandate for institutions of faith be be required to officiate at all marriages.  It won’t happen. Right or wrong the Church – a church gets to determine its rites. But it did remind me that some churches and pastors  are choosing not to sign a marriage license until the government recognizes all unions.

So what about Rights and Rites?  It would be easy to just hide behind the mantra that government and God are seperate. To some degree, they are. I have retreated behind the doctrine and discipline of my denomination under the rationale that greater good would be accomplished in so doing, finding right in following the rites.

I have also quietly complied with customs and citations that were accepted in my day. I drank from ‘white only’ fountains, sat in lower section of movie theaters and ordered my food from a different window at the burger place. I accepted the advantage afforded to while males without a second thought.  Often with the justification and sanction of the church.

My world was a southern US , protestant male and nothing beyond that sphere really concerned me, except to threaten me in my bubble. My world was THE world. Retreating closer to those who thought, looked  and lived like me and away from the borders of my bubble was suggested. Birds of a feather flocking together.

Being called from, taken from and sometimes snatched from that  bubble I called home has been a blessing that sometimes felt like a bane.

My unique journey away from that place is not relevant. But the central core of it is found in the Bible. I heard that message in the Church. Specifically- loving God,neighbor and oneself.

Like a three legged stool that has us falling down on our faces when the balance of the other legs is missing, I confess that personally and I believe ecclesiastically we have done the same.

Loving God is the beginning place but a one legged stool leaves is tottering in the center of a bubble.  Loving neighbors who only think, look and act like us builds additional layers of isolation. And who among us does not acknowledge how the excessive self love of narcism reduces our bubble to  solitary confinement?

My journey toward inclusivity as a pastor acknowledges that I am  part of an institution whose rites speak of a tradition that was less-than inclusive. 11am on Sunday morning remains the most racially  segregated hour in the US. Worship styles and a myriad of other feathered trappings have colors and kinds of people and worship flocking together.

Bishop Woodie White said in a sermon I had the privilege of hearing, ” I love chocolate ice cream but I do not to need to put down vanilla to love chocolate.” I wonder if we might expand that analogy to include all flavors, even rainbow sherbet?!

This debate is not over.  Like other issues that cause us to look soul deep we will wrestle with this one within and without.  The United Methodist slogan of, ” Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors”  calls us to expand or burst our bubbles.

I believe they are ordered appropriately. Hearts open and big enough to allow God THE place of honor and then all of God’s children, including oneself, a place in the spheres of love and life, church and court, school and society. Let’s start there and see where God leads us.

Jesus told a story about who is that neighbor we are to love . Someone was beaten and left by the side of the road until a Samaritan, who society said was no good,  came by and felt and acted with compassion, as the RSV translates. Luke 10: 25-37

The priest and Levite passed by, those were the religious folks of the day. I realize that for some my comments may place me in the theologically incorrect camp of a modern day Samaritan. To be honest, I know the safe route would be just to pass this issue by. Maybe so, but to look the other way or avoid getting involved, seems, well you read the story…

Now back to equal but not identical. What if we considered that all are loved, accepted, valued… all are beloved even if not identical? All means all.

“Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors”, may it be our prayer until it is our practice. I know I have a long way to go.

How about you, any comments, thoughts?