The second wedding I officiated years ago was for a gay couple. The ceremony was beautiful and after delivering the blessing, I began to eat dinner at the reception. An older gentleman sat alongside me and introduced himself as the father of one of the young men.
He explained that he was life-long Catholic, but that the church’s position on his son’s marriage had shaken his faith. He asked me for my advice regarding his troubled beliefs. We talked for half an hour and I did my best to comfort him. I tried to reassure him that I believed that Love mattered more than our flawed ability to interpret scriptures written thousands of years ago or to establish ironclad rules of law that could apply equally in all times and places to all people. I suggested that he look to his faith for the core of his beliefs for strength. And I suggested that he not abandon his faith, but rather to stay and advocate for what he believed was true and right.
Recent events have raised more challenges to belief for people in our society. Last Sunday, I awoke to the verdict of the George Zimmerman trial. I was overcome with anger — anger that seemed to nearly incapacitate me. I knew that I needed reassurance — reassurance that this travesty of justice was an exception, that the death of Trayvon Martin was not an indication of hopeless racism and gun worship in this country. I needed to be with African Americans in worship. I wanted to be with them in solidarity, but I also wanted to ask them for something that I had no right to ask. I needed to ask them for reassurance that whites and blacks in this country CAN live together in love and peace, freedom and equality.
So Jody and I went to the Zion Missionary Baptist Church in Saginaw. We found a joyous congregation celebrating their love of Jesus and the gift that was his life to us. We found no sad faces, no complaining, no bitterness, and no anger. We were welcomed with open arms and open hearts. Even though I do not share their creed, or their mode of practicing their faith, I left reassured that we shared a common belief in the power of Love to overcome all evil.
I was in no position to help my congregants last Sunday to deal with their anger over this case and the verdict. I was too full of my own anger; my own belief in this country and its people was shaken. But, now I can help others to cope with the sad story of Trayvon Martin, and all of the other lives so stupidly wasted in this country. Sunday I preached about the roots of anger and how we can deal with it (see The Angry Jesus post for the full text). For I believe in the future of this nation and its people. I believe in the power of Love and the force of Reason as guides. And I believe in the strength of our Commitment to build the Beloved Community.