“Reform your lives!” (Mark 1: 14-20)
So often we feel paralysed, seemingly incapable of “re-forming” things in our life or the life of our world.
I recently talked with a young gay man who works in a church and he spoke to me of the guilt he felt in representing a church who contributes to the pain of other gay people. He spoke sadly of the high suicide rate among gay and lesbian teens, largely because of the messages they receive from their churches about being bad, sick, disordered and an abomination. He is a music director in a church and loves inspiring people through music. He is also a man of faith. Yet he feels hypocritical for working for a religious institution that contributes to the death of young gay people through the messages they send out. I asked him to look for various ways, if even small, that he can send out a different message, even if it is one on one, ways in which he could be a leaven in the bread as it were. He’s not powerless to make a change.
Alone, we may not seem like we can do much to change things. But together, there is much that can change. I think of the motto of the Equal Rights Campaign – come out, come out – one person at a time. Little by little it adds up.
I also received an email from the publisher of “Epistle,” a web magazine for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender Christians. It is linked on my site here: epistle.us. He spoke of an email he received from a straight evangelical Christian who had been grappling with his church’s negative teachings about gay people. He found this site and it helped him realize that we are not aweful people, but human, Christian, struggling, . . . just like him. I realized in that email that what I write CAN make a difference in the lives of others and that is my desire. Nothing would make me feel better than to know that I had saved a life by what I write here.
Perhaps we can’t do everything to change things in our world, but each of us, no matter what our situation, can do some small thing to be an agent of change. Each of us can somehow be a part of the solution – no matter the problem that we’re seeking to change. And we need not be paralysed by ever thinking there’s nothing we can do.
When we are hurt our natural response is to want revenge, to hurt the other person. Does that really get us anywhere?
“You have heard it say an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. What I say to you is: offer no resistance to injury.” (See Matthew 5: 38-42) Absurd hugh?? Not really. People like Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. and organizations like Soul Force know the truth of such non-resistance. It takes a lot of strength not to resist injury. Does this mean we allow ourselves to be abused by others and walked all over? No! We fight the injustice and we seek to right the wrong. We place before others the reality of their injustice and hurt. But we do it non-violently. When Martin Luther King Jr. marched, he did so non-violently and he called his followers to “resist no injury.” It took great courage because many WERE injured and he ultimately was killed. But such action displayed for the people in bold relief how wrong prejudice is and, in the end, the wheels of righting many wrongs were set in motion.
Sometimes we are hurt by another very deeply. Our instinctual reaction is to hurt the other person back in some way. It takes great courage, character and strength not to hurt the other, but to simply place before them, in a non-violent, non emotionally reactive way, the injustice that has been done. Perhaps this will change the person in some way and they may realize what they have done. And perhaps it won’t change them at all. But, even then, if we respond in a non-violent way, we will at least walk away with our integrity and self worth in tact.
As I write this it is the 40th anniversary of Robert Kennedy’s assassination. His time and ours are remarkably similar. One thing he said which strikes home to me is this: “I dream dreams that never were and say, . . . ‘Why not?’”
Dreamers can be frustrated when others say “why?” But dreamers keep dreaming and working to make the dream a reality. Who would have thought back in Robert’s day, when the struggle for civil rights was just emerging, that 40 years later – almost to the day of Robert’s assassination – an African American would take the Democratic nomination for President of the United States? I’m sure the people who spoke eloquently, who wrote, who inspired multitudes in those days; the people who fought and died, who were beaten and arrested and held down – I’m sure they never imagined that this day would come. But a dream was dreamed and one day somebody said: “Why not?” And things changed.
I have a dream when gay people can be looked upon as equal in God’s sight and when our love can be celebrated as sacred as anyone else’s. I have a dream of the world coming together in peace and when people no longer see themselves as citizens of this or that country, but citizens of the earth. I have a dream when people no longer say “God bless America,” but “God bless the World!” It strikes me that there are many players in making a dream reality. We need the people out front. We need the speakers. We need the writers. And we need those people who work to change perceptions just one person at a time. And it frightens me to admit that we need great courage, the courage to be yelled at, beaten, killed and arrested. I am not sure I have such courage.
No matter who we are, we all have dreams. What is your dream? What is the vision that you have for yourself, for others and the world? Do you think it’s crazy? Do others? Instead of just dreaming, perhaps we should say “Why not?” And then take a step to making the vision a reality!