Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Because it's where love takes us

The last place I want to be sitting today is inside the largest Southern Baptist Church in Charlotte. After all, they are largely responsible for putting a constitutional amendment before the people of North Carolina that discriminates against families who don’t fit their idea of what a family should look like. They fuel their fire with the Bible. And although I read the Bible, too, I don’t read it the way they do. Furthermore, I would never impose the way I read the Bible upon others as the ONLY way it can be understood. And I certainly wouldn’t insist that the biblical teachings of MY religion be written into the constitution of the state.

Because we are largely a conservative, evangelical Christian state, they have the power. Their way of thinking dominates our culture, even among those of us who are a part of less-conservative churches. Without even realizing it, many people in my congregation are more influenced by the conservative Christian culture around them than they are by the teachings of the Lutheran church. That’s the reality we progressive Christians have to deal with here in the buckle of the Bible Belt.

For the most part, I have insulated myself against the dominant culture in North Carolina. Life is good in my liberal little oasis in the heart of Charlotte. It’s a world where diversity is celebrated and where people are free to love whom they love. The congregation I serve is a bubble within that oasis where loving not judging is our mission because we believe it is the most authentic way to follow Jesus.

I knew Amendment One was going to pass. And so it has. This morning, my feelings about it are all tangled up in threads of anger, disappointment, and heartache knotted with gratitude, resolve, and hopefulness. While I’m working my way through it, I just want to retreat to my bubble within the oasis for a while. But it ain’t gonna happen.

This afternoon, I will be at Hickory Grove Baptist Church. It’s a cruel twist of irony that takes me there. The mother of a dear friend died and that’s where her funeral will be held. To add salt to the wound of her grief, on the day after Amendment One passed, she and her partner will be attending a service at Hickory Grove Baptist Church, complete with an altar call at the end. It’s not a place where they are at all welcome at that altar as the women God created them to be. It’s not a place where their love is recognized as acceptable or valid. It’s certainly not a place they would ever choose to worship. And yet, they will be there. Today, of all days. They’ll be there because they have to be there. And because I love them, I’ll be there, too. Because it’s where love takes me.

And so it is for us, dear brothers and sisters I have worked beside over the months and years in North Carolina. This is where we live. This is what we’re up against. And it’s where we have to be. Because it’s where the people we love are. Because it’s where love takes us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Several years ago, Arvil Hogan (of Whitey & Hogan and the WBT Briarhoppers)died, and I went to his funeral at a small Baptist church up on the Plaza. The Pastor Emeritus preached the sermon. He started it by talking about Billy Graham's daughter and the "real" Baptist stand she had taken on whatever the current bruhaha that was in the news, then went on to rant about the foul state the country was in because of the secularism of the country.

I wanted him to talk about Hogan, and the joy he had brought to so many people over the more than fifty years he had spent as a musician. But he ended up with almost an altar call.

I almost walked out, but my love for Hogan (and Whitey, who was there) led me to stay until then end. I knew that he should have been comforting to Hogan's family and friends, but his "sermon" had little to do with Hogan's life and the great example he had given so many folks over the years.

I know that this may not have been a good example of "Christian" teachings, but I certainoy told me much about the Baptist ideals of following the teachings of The Christ.