Wednesday, May 9, 2012
The day after Amendment One: Diary of the depressed
It’s the day after the passage of Amendment One. It’s 12:25 pm, and I’m sitting in my normal chair at the Bean Traders on Ninth Street. I’m surrounded by people I love and respect. Being here makes it easier for me to unleash all the emotions coming after the passage of an amendment rooted in bigotry and ignorance.
North Carolina’s state constitution will define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. After expending so much personal energy into defeating the amendment, I’m left drained, confused and overcome with a sense of loneliness. This was a battle regarding theological claims. It pitted the Biblical literalist against people like me – those willing to consider the actions of Jesus against the message of an apostle named Paul.
The clash has left me with massive battle wounds. As an African American pastor of a Baptist congregation, I have challenged people to be more compassionate and loving when in the company of people who love a person of the same gender. The way I function as a spiritual leader forces me to ponder what it means to love people beyond conditions. I’ve asked readers of my blog and column to see the humanity in everyone they meet. I’ve begged members of the congregations under my leadership to see the face of God in every face they see.
The passage of the amendment leaves me broken due to the assumptions of its passage. If most people living in the state refuse to accept the possibility that people of the same gender can love one another in ways common to their own relationship, I’m left outside the normal culture. In the minds of many, I’m a heretic of the Church. My teachings are not endorsed by the majority within the state. Sadly, many who share my hue agree with the passage of Amendment One.
It leaves me struggling to locate a people willing to consider an alternative to the message of exclusion. Where do you go when surrounded by people unwilling to consider the implications of the laws we create to sanction hatred? How do I continue to function as a heterosexual offered privilege denied those I love? How can I get married in good conscious while people I care about can’t do the same? How do I stand and listen to messages regarding how we are created while people I love grapple with suggestions of how they are sinners viewed as deplorable in the eyes of God? How do you listen? How do you continue to serve?
The vote in favor of the amendment serves as North Carolina’s collective shout against people like me. We are few in number. We are black, heterosexual, ordained, part of a mainline tradition and forceful in spreading a message of love while standing in the fire of hatred. We have no community to endure with us as masses walk away. We have no rainbow love to hold hands with us after we’re forced out of work and cry because our calling is under attack. We’re left alone.
But, does any of that matter? Isn’t this what it means to walk in integrity? Doesn’t leadership demand walking in the darkness with those who can’t find the light?
My ache is because we didn’t need this drama. North Carolina didn’t need to vote on placing an amendment in the constitution to validate the homophobic ways of those who refuse to take the time to listen to the voice of God beyond what they assume is found in the Biblical text. The need to make a point transcended the message of love. We didn’t need this fight. None of us needed to experience this trap of division.
That’s why I can’t stop crying.
I’m reminded that my tears don’t belong to me. This was not about my right to love and get married. Wait a minute. Maybe it was about me. Maybe that’s what so many have lost in this discussion. It’s about all of our rights to love and be free. It’s about our right to stand free from the control of others. My tears are stirred by something deeper than a vote. They are about freedom.
For me, I seek a place to be free to express my spirituality in a way that lifts me beyond my own thoughts regarding what it means to be me. I need to be connected to Gaea, the great Mother Earth. I need messages that reflect how I am connected to a world beyond my knowing. I require the love of my friend, Rabbi John Friedman, a Jew. I need to be cradled by the strength of Joy Mickle-Walker, a Buddhist, and Naomi Quinn, an atheist. I seek a world that bounces in the pride of a collective tune made possible by a desire to be more than what divides us.
I few tears began to flow. “My generation gets it Carl,” my friend Laura Lazarus told me just before I took my seat to write. “In 20 years, people will look back at this and laugh at us.”
Surrounded in the comfort of diversity, I exhaled. New breath after the sting of isolation. I’m not alone.
Shana, a barista at Bean Traders, says we should celebrate Durham in all of this. Maybe she’s right. We should seek love among those willing to be love. My hope has always been to find unconditional love in the Church. I’ve sought to teach love by being love.
If I’m a heretic, I’ll continue to love all I meet. Even if those in the Church reject the message of love. In standing with those rejected, I become the rejected. Isn’t that the message of the faith so many say forced them to vote in favor of the amendment?
If I have to stand alone I will carry this cross. It reminds me of that song we sing during worship – “no cross, no crown”. My cross is my love for those seeking freedom, my crown is the sprinkles of love they give when those in the Church turn their backs.
The victory is in the love.