Op-ed: Blessed Are the Merciful, for They Will Be Shown Mercy
Every wall is a door. Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to the end requires courage. — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Since Lawrence v. Texas in 2003, Christian fundamentalists and conservative evangelicals in the public square and in the back offices of financiers have spent millions of dollars to push LGBT people and their families back in the closet and deny us equal protection under the law. Proposition 8 was one of the most expensive attempts in history.
It has taken enormous courage and conviction for LGBT people, their families, and their allies to persist in the good work that ultimately overturned section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act. It has cost a lot, and it has been worth every penny and every moment of effort.
It is now my prayer and hope that our opponents who have dedicated so much time and money to discrimination against LGBT people will be motivated to turn their attention to the ministry that Jesus really calls Christians to —t he unpredictable and extravagant love of one another — with no barriers between us, a world in which every wall is a door. (Ephesians 2:14)
I am not holding my breath for an immediate reversal in attitudes for any of us, but I am holding up my faith that a better day has begun. I love the words of Frederick Douglass near the end of his life. He said:
One by one I have seen obstacles removed, errors corrected, prejudices softened, proscriptions relinquished and my people advancing in all the elements that make up the sum of general welfare. I remember that God reigns in eternity, and that, whatever delays, disappointments and discouragements may come, truth, justice, liberty and humanity will prevail. (December 7, 1890)
The overturning of DOMA by the Supreme Court has inspired a flurry of reflections on the idea “There are now two Americas.” As it stands today, we have one America where every married citizen has equal federal rights under the law and one America where same-sex married couples are unprotected, one in which their children are relegated to a place “less than” their peers. This America is one in which LGBT people have no assurance to give their partners of inheritance, Social Security survivor benefits, and immigration rights.
This divided nation is not new to us. It is, in fact, the fate that Abraham Lincoln hoped we could avoid as a union.
As citizens we often disagree on the freedoms that should be permitted and those that should be restricted. We quickly look to our courts to decide for us when we devolve into bitter disputes. We avoid talking about the roots of our discord and dealing with them with civility and tolerance. Many say we are a “Christian nation” and, in fact, our most significant conflicts from our founding narrative to this day are about Christian fundamentalism and little else.
We can trace the ugly parts of our Christian history back to the first time we put women in stocks for being witches, then to the commercial enslavement of human beings to the internment of Japanese-Americans in World War II to the present-day attempts to deny fair housing, marriage, adoption, equal employment, and safety to LGBT people.
Mahatma Gandhi said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
I agree with him.
Fundamentalist Christianity has not changed very much since Jesus’ time. He had a recurring conflict with the Pharisees, a powerful group of legalistic religious leaders. The list of people stigmatized by the Pharisees included Samaritans (ethnically impure and heretics), sick people (being punished by God), women (unworthy of discipleship), tax collectors and Roman soldiers (the enemy), the poor (without time or resources to maintain rigorous rites of purity). Jesus called these religious fundamentalists “the bones of dead men,” but they are still alive and well in America. How can we help them repent of the damage they cause?
I think we have to be the kind of people that Gandhi could like, the kind of people who would never deny another human being dignity, respect, and compassion.
Scripture tells us that in Christ there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. God has not labeled us in anyway except as God’s beloved children. We must not apply another label to ourselves or anyone else if we wish to represent God’s love for us.
Thank you to everyone who represented God with love and acceptance so that DOMA section 3 could end. I think Jesus is smiling. We are one step closer to being a Beloved Community.
CINDI LOVE is the executive director of Soulforce.