Apr 062015
 

 – For Frances –

Marriage

I’ve been asked these questions so frequently that I compiled a few answers here. Love.

Q: You’ve been vocal in your support of marriage equality even though you are a Christian. Can you talk about that?

Yes. I will, but I do so under protest. It makes me squirm that we are still talking about this, that a straight woman is being asked to discuss whether or not her gay sisters and brothers should or should not be granted their basic civil rights. As if we Christians are the morality police, the gatekeepers for God, the legislative branch of the government, the bosses of the world. My gay friends know they’re fine and good and worthy of their rights even without knowing what I think. Even so – I will share my thoughts here with great anticipation for the Supreme Court’s ruling this summer – after which I hope we’ll need to discuss this less often.

One of the brilliant ideas that launched this country is that religions shouldn’t legislate their interpretations of holy texts to citizens. It doesn’t make sense to me to ignore this very American idea and call ourselves patriotic about it. But if we must, then I wish we Christians could come up with an actual tenant of Christianity to legislate, one that would serve the world – like gleaning or caring for widows and orphans or embracing the alien or turning the other cheek or turning all our weapons into plowshares or giving away our first fruits. I think it says a lot that we choose the rights of homosexuals to obsess over. It feels too easy. I’m not big on faith rules but if I had to choose one – it would be that every person must choose a faith issue upon which to hang her hat that requires HER to change – not somebody else.

It makes no sense to me that my gay friends cannot get married to each other because a certain slice of Christianity doesn’t believe in gay marriage. And let’s be clear, deciding that certain folks can get married and others cannot is not just a symbolic gesture. My married friends and I enjoy a host of government privileges and protections by virtue of being part of a government-approved marital unit. So when we do not support marriage equality, we support the government denying from gay families the rights we claim for ourselves, including rights to hospital visitation and emergency medical decisions; public housing access; certain inheritance rights and tax benefits; the right to residency and family unification under immigration law; and certain social security, retirement and health insurance benefits.

So, the first reason I support marriage equality is that I believe in the separation of church and state. I think if people don’t believe in gay marriage, then mostly they should not get gay married. That should be enough of a stand to take. We should live out our particular brand of faith, sure – but we should never force our brand of faith upon anyone else. All violence starts with the desire to change others and then never, ever ends.

Having said that, I’ll admit that I came to my stand on this “issue” through my faith, not in spite of it. I support equal rights for my gay neighbors not even though I’m a Christian, but BECAUSE I’m a Christian. In the Gospel Jesus makes it crystal clear that if we are going to take seriously only one of his suggestions- we should make it this one: love your neighbor as yourself.

I think there is a big difference between simply loving someone and loving someone as yourself.

For example: when a married Christian says that he loves gay people but can’t support marriage equality, it strikes me as an incomplete kind of love. Because loving your neighbor as you love yourself, I think, must mean that you bestow every right you claim for yourself onto your neighbor. If you are free and you love your neighbor as yourself, you want your neighbor to be free, too. If you claim your right to be married, but deny it to your neighbor, then you are loving your neighbor just a little bit less than you love yourself.

This kind of talk upsets people, which makes me sad because I really, really don’t like to upset people. Upsetting people feels wrong to me. But it feels more wrong to be quiet about freedom matters for fear of upsetting people. I have so many Christian friends who privately disagree with what is being preached from their pulpits about marriage equality, but they stay quiet so they don’t rock the boat. What’s ever going to change if we don’t raise our hands kindly? If our kids see us sitting silently, they’ll never know they have the freedom to ask questions. I get it, though. It’s dangerous to disagree with “the church.” You can get yourself crucified. People never get more riled up then when someone starts talking about God and freedom in the same sentence. It’s like we Christians love the idea of grace, but we don’t want it distributed indiscriminately- we want make rules about it and dole it out carefully and strategically. It’s like we’re worried that if everybody knows that she’s loved and accepted by God – it will be Grace Anarchy! I want that. I want Grace Anarchy. I want people to be free to be who they are. It makes sense to me that the free-er people are, the BETTER people are. I believe in people because I believe in God. I think God knew what God was doing when God made each of us.

Q: And so I suppose you agree that homosexuality is not a choice, then- but an inborn trait?

Yes, of course. Although I have a hunch that our sexual orientation is much more of a sliding scale with lots of grey than most of us are comfortable admitting. I think if we all got a little more cozy with our own grey areas we’d probably be more accepting of the gray in others. So, yes- I believe that gayness or straightness is inborn- but honestly I never understand why that is what we focus on. It makes me uncomfortable when people say: You’re okay because you were born that way. That feels negative to me. Like, it’s okay that you are this weird thing because God made you weird. I don’t love that approach. For me, I don’t care if you’re a woman who wants to marry a woman because you were “born that way” or because you met this one person and everything you previously thought about your sexuality changed in an instant. I don’t care. You are my neighbor and I trust you to choose your life and your love. I’m married and it’s one of the best things to ever happen to me and if you want this wonderful thing too, then I want it for you.

Q: How do you respond when people accuse you of picking and choosing what you believe in the Bible?

Well, that theory suggests that there are two kind of Christians: Those who pick and choose what they follow in the Bible, and those who follow it all. I just tend to think that the two kinds of Christians are: those who admit that they pick and choose what to follow, and those who don’t admit that. For example: most folks reference 1 Corinthians to prove that homosexuality is a sin, while ignoring the fact that the same book of the Bible says that women should wear head coverings and be silent in church. The strange thing is that when I bring that up, people say: well, that was written in a different time. You have to understand the context. It is so strange. Context is allowed to be considered when discussing women (progress! great!) but not when it comes to homosexuality. It doesn’t seem right to pick and choose which scriptures we are permitted to consider the context of and which we are not. As a woman, it is important for me to say: Let’s please not take hold of our freedom, but leave our gay brothers and sisters in prison.  This is like the Bible underground railroad; as the church moves forward and frees oppressed groups one at a time, let each newly freed group go back for those still imprisoned. What good is our freedom if we don’t spend it on those not yet free? Tweet: What good is our freedom if we don't spend it on those not yet free? @momastery http://ctt.ec/6jde1+

Q: How do you interpret the scriptures about homosexuality? 

When these scriptures were written, there was no precedent for monogamous, consensual homosexual relationships. Many theologians agree that the original Hebrew word used here (the one that has been translated again and again by imperfect people) originally referred to the common ancient practice of taking child sex slaves. Many theologians agree that the original scripture writers were referring to child sex slavery as abomination. The abomination here is about abuse of power. It’s about the abomination of people in in power abusing the vulnerable. (Read more about this here.) If you want to fight against the abomination referred to in these scriptures, don’t picket a wedding of two grown people who love each other and want to start a family, join the work of courageous organizations who are fighting the very real abomination of the child sex trade across the world today.

I think that if someone translates scripture to me in a way that seems to rub up against what I know about the God of love, it’s my responsibility to start asking questions. We must work out our own faith with fear and trembling. We need to take scripture seriously enough to look hard and research and ask questions. Every time someone tells me that homosexuals need to repent and leave their life of sin I want to say: but repent means to RETHINK .Why do you read God’s direction to repent and assume God is talking to someone else? What if God is talking to you? What if you are to rethink your ideas of who is in and who is out? I know when I read the direction to repent, I know it’s meant for me. I feel constantly, just constantly, called to rethink. If we live in a constant state of repentance, that means we are always letting go of old ways of thinking to make way for the new. Behold, God says. I am doing a new thing! Repentance is the way of God, which means that if I want to follow God, I can’t cling too tightly to my ideas about God. Ideas and beliefs about God are not God. Opinions and beliefs can become the idols that are hardest to let go. And so faith has to be more of a dance than a checklist.

I’ve had a lot of repentance to do lately. I used to be really angry at Christians who think differently than I do. God is working with me. I am softening. I have many conservative Christian friends who look at all of this differently and I have come to understand that they are good people. They are not hateful, they are just like me: doing the best they can with what they’ve been taught. It’s good to be kind and humble about what we think we know. It’s good to choose mercy over judgement in all cases. I’m working on it. My son said to me recently: “Mom, you’re judgmental too, you just tend to judge judgy people.”  Dangit, I thought. Repent, repent. repent, Glennon. Walk humbly. 

Q: How do you talk to your kids about homosexuality?

Early and often and badly.

Recently my 11-year old and I were talking about this and my five year old walked in and overheard us. She said: “what’s gay?” And Chase said: “Well, it’s like when a girl loves girls more than she loves boys.” And Amma said,” Oh, I’m definitely gay then.” And I thought. Wait, Crap, Well – based on that definition, I might be gay, too. We need to tweak that, maybe.

So we don’t talk about it perfectly. It’s awkward and I’m always certain I’m saying all the wrong things. There’s no script. After one family discussion about sexuality- I called a gay friend and said: “UGH. How do I talk about this? What do I say? I feel so awkward.” And she said, “Well don’t go blaming that on us. You’re awkward about a lot of things.” YES. That’s true, I thought.

But we do talk about sexuality openly and often and we keep two things in mind:

First, we don’t ever assume to know our kids’ orientation. Recently, we were playing the Life board game and when each child landed on the “Get Married” space I was careful to say: “Congratulations! Should I give you a wife peg or a husband peg?”  No assumptions until and unless they talk to us about it.

Secondly, our kids know that homosexuality (or heterosexuality for that matter) is not something to tolerate, but to celebrate. We tolerate traffic jams, we celebrate love and sexuality. They need to know that NOW. I often see loving, wonderful, courageous parents changing their “views” on homosexuality after their child comes out to them. That is some brave progress, and I applaud it, but it’s not ideal. Many of my gay friends tell me they knew they were gay as children, long before they told their parents. How much better for a little one to know he’s ALWAYS been accepted for whoever he turns out to be?

Most importantly, our minister, Dawson (that’s him in the picture up top, officiating a wedding!)  is our good friend and he’s gay- so my kids aren’t growing up with the idea that homosexuality and church are at odds at all. They just see their gay friend wrapped up in a vestment Sunday morning, being his brilliant, divine, human, hilarious self. They just watch Dawson preaching truth and love and freedom and then they feel him placing his hand on their little foreheads and blessing them: in the name of the Father/Mother, Son and Holy Spirit. They feel God through Dawson. So that’s how we “talk” about it. We just love Pastor Dawson and he loves us. And as my kid see our church family not just “accept” pastor Dawson but be led by him — they learn that church is a place for humans to be human, and then love each other in superhuman ways.

We just want to dance in the streets with God and Pastor Dawson.

It will be Grace Anarchy and we will all be free and it will be on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Love,
G

Dawson

*Comments are closed. I’m certain that most of the conversation here would be loving and thoughtful, but I also know what else to expect. More than I care about creating a dialogue about this, I care that this space remains a safe place to land for LGBTQ people. Feel free to comment on FB or anywhere else on the interwebs. And if you’d like to read more, my friend Jessica wrote an essay ten times more lovely than this one.



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest


 Posted by at 12:09 pm  Comments Off on I Support Your Right to Share My Rights
Apr 032015
 

Our Easter Story

Originally published in 2013, and excerpted from the
New York Times Bestseller, Carry On, Warrior.

(For S.)

Craig and I sat next to each other at church the next morning and listened to our friend and pastor talk about Easter. She said that for Christians, Easter means that people can rise from the dead, and that relationships can, too. That even the bush that looks withered and brittle and lifeless can bloom, if given enough time, enough tending, enough love. A new season will come. There is always hope. What looks like the end might just be the beginning.

She said that Sunday might be around the corner, but there is no fast-forwarding through Friday and Saturday. The cross has to come before the resurrection. It’s the way of the world. And unless you bear witness to the truth, unless you face it head on and choose to open your heart to the pain, you won’t bear witness to the miracle, either. If you run away from the crucifixion, you might just miss the resurrection.

But I’m learning that the pain, the struggle that comes from the resurrection, can be a long and excruciating process.

We started seeing a therapist, where, one day, not long ago, Craig delivered The News. The News that no spouse ever believes she’ll hear, though so many of us do. The News that our lack of intimacy was due to a major betrayal of our martial vows, long ago and repeatedly. The News confirmed what I had felt all along. It was verification that the distance between our bodies and hearts and minds was real from the beginning. The distance was created by a solid wall of lies built between us. I knew we didn’t have the marriage we wanted and needed, but before The News, I didn’t know why. I didn’t know why we couldn’t reach each other. The News opened my eyes wide, and it hurt like hell.

I told Craig to move out of our home immediately and explained that I wouldn’t speak to him until he went did some major work on himself. He did. He was awakened. He decided to fight for our family with his new self. His truthful, out in the light, whole self.

While he was gone, I decided to divorce him. Then I decided to forgive him. Then I decided to kill him. Then I decided to stop deciding things. I am learning to listen to the still, small voice telling me not to run—not today at least—and I am taking each day at a time. One at a time. Carrying on.

I remember what our pastor said about Easter. That even the shriveled, lifeless bush can bloom. That Easter Sunday comes after Saturday; the Resurrection after the Crucifixion.

Craig and I are in the Saturday of our marriage right now. We’ve started the hard work of healing and waiting and grieving and raging and holding each other. When I want to turn away or run away, which is all of the time, I remember what Adrianne told me the night I bought my new bicycle. When you feel like you’re falling, she said, steer into the fall. Lean into it instead of away, and you’ll be all right. My favorite part about life is transformation, and I don’t want to miss Craig’s. As a Zen master once said to Geneen Roth, “Enlightenment is seeing one thing through all the way to the end.”

I read somewhere that God sends us partners who are most likely to help us heal. This rings true to me. It’s just that sometimes the healing is so hard that one or both of the partners can’t take it, so somebody bails, or makes it impossible for the other partner to keep on loving. I understand this completely. Healing is so painful. Thankfully, when we turn away someone who would have helped us heal, God sends us another. I don’t think He punishes us. He gives us lots and lots of tries. God is Forever Tries. Tweet: God is Forever Tries. @momastery http://ctt.ec/3E5ZL+ I think He sends our healing partners in all different forms, not just spouses. He sends sisters, girlfriends, strangers, authors, artists, teachers, therapists, musicians and puppies until one or several partners stick. But if we want redemption, we have to let one stick, eventually. We have to sit through the pain long enough to rise again. Tweet: We have to sit through the pain long enough to rise again. @momastery http://ctt.ec/be2LZ+

Last night Craig and I went out to dinner, just the two of us. We sat down and Craig pulled out a notebook and pen. He said, “Okay, let’s start from the beginning. I want to know everything. Every little thing. And I want you to know me. The real, honest me. We’ll take it slow…. Where were your parents working before you were born? How did they meet again? I’m going to take notes and study them later. I want us to know everything about each other.”

Happy Easter.

Sunset

 **********************

Post Script:

On the surface, our Easter story is about the redemption of our marriage, but that’s not the truest story. The truest story is that our Easter is the redemption of me, and the redemption of Craig. Separately and then together.

During the Friday and Saturday of our Easter story, many well-meaning Christians tried to convince me that my marriage was worth saving at any cost. That was not true. Marriages are not worth saving at any cost. People are worth saving at any cost. And God saves, we don’t.

Sometimes when it comes to marriage: Christians forget the message of their leader, which is that as uncomfortable as it makes us—new life often requires a death first. And sometimes that means the death of a marriage. Some relationships are like perennials; they survive the winter and bloom again bigger and fuller than ever. And other loves are annuals. They last for a season and then winter comes and they die and they crumble into the soil making it richer for the next bush to bloom. Either way there is new life. Either way there is redemption and never before seen beauty.

Please know that if there are two paths in front of you—divorce and reconciliation—God is waiting to walk you down either one. The bumps on each path will be different. Each will wind differently. But the end of each path is redemption. You will never be left alone on either path. Because nothing—not death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, (including divorce) will be able to separate you from the love of God.

If your church is more interested in saving your marriage than your soul, raise your hand and ask questions. God loves you more than any institution on Earth, even marriage, even Christianity.

Jesus did not die for your marriage’s redemption, Jesus died for your redemption and the redemption of your partner. Divorced or together, you are already redeemed. It’s finished. Claim your peace. Claim your freedom. Do not be afraid. Because no matter how dark it is now: you will rise again. That’s the way of the world. That’s the message of Easter.

Friday = Life Hurts Like Bloody Hell.

Sunday = BUT LOVE WINS

(We like big buts and we cannot lie)

 

Easter On, Beloveds.



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest


Apr 012015
 

My-Office2

Here is my office.

My work is to talk to children about how wild and wonderful are their world, their God and other people—and how fiercely and forever and unconditionally loved they are. I teach them about grace; how grace means that they can relax because there is nothing they can do to make God love them more and nothing they can do to make God love them less. I teach them that the world will try to convince them otherwise, but the truth is that all they really have to do, their whole lives long, is bask in the light of God’s love and then reflect it onto others. I do this work because everyone should figure out what she believes to be the most important work in the world and just go do it.

So this morning I waited there, right in front of the altar while the little ones waddled in like geese—single file, squawking, looking so tiny inside the massive sanctuary. There is no way to describe how precious they were with all the heads swiveling around at the soaring ceilings and all the pinching each other and all the trying not to giggle. I’ll just say that my heart did that thing that happened to the Grinch—remember when his heart swelled so many sizes that it almost burst? That’s why I go to church—for the heart swelling. The heart swelling is the only buzz I have left. Luckily it’s the best one I’ve found: the kind of buzz that leaves me better and bigger instead of worse and smaller. Anyway—looking at those Joy Beings walk towards me, I wondered if this time my heart would swell OUT of me and I’d start floating above the pews like a Macy’s Day balloon.

At the end of the little geese line was a new student wearing a name tag that said: Ryan. Ryan was a head taller than the other children and his eyes were dark and deep, like wells you can look into but never find the bottom of. I was immediately drawn to this little man with the big, deep, sad eyes because I agree with Dr. Who: Sad is happy for deep people. I winked at Ryan. He grinned, but just a little.

My friends Nancy and Susan started the lesson and we sang and we danced and then we quieted ourselves and went into our still, small place in our hearts where we can listen for God. Then half way through our quiet minute: my big-eyed friend motioned to me in a way that said: can you come here? But can you not make a big deal about? So I went over to Ryan but I didn’t make a big deal about it. I just casually sat down next to him and kept facing forward so he could take his time telling me whatever he needed to tell me.

Finally, he tapped me on the shoulder and I leaned down close. He looked around the big sanctuary and he said:

“Excuse me. Is God coming?”

Then Ryan looked around again, like he was expecting God to show up here like Ronald shows up occasionally at McDonalds. And I just stared at this little man who had just asked me the question that every single human being who has ever looked around a fancy sanctuary or a busted up family or a hurting friendship or a shocking diagnosis or a messy world is thinking:

“Excuse Me. Is God Coming?”

I swallowed hard and I said: “Ryan. That is the best question I have ever heard. Just the best one. Listen, I won’t if you don’t want me to, but I gotta tell you—I think your class needs to hear your brilliant question. May I share it?”

My big-eyed friend’s eyes got even bigger and he tried to contain a proud little smile and he nodded to me.

I stood up and said, “Miss Nancy, I am so sorry to interrupt you, but this person has just asked the most honest, beautiful, important question I have ever heard anyone ask in my whole entire life. He looked around this room and he said, “Is God Coming?”

And it got really quiet and I looked at my friend and tried to respond. I babbled, really. I said, “I don’t have an answer, no one does, really. But here’s my hunch. I think God’s already here. I don’t think we wait for God to come as much as we bring God to each other. I think God is inside me and you, Ryan. It’s like… you know how cookies have sugar in them and that’s what makes them delicious? We have God in us. That’s what makes us delicious. And I think God sent US to be here for each other because God’s inside of us–so God knows that if we show up–God’s here too. God sends us to each other. Because we are all God’s family and sometimes family members send each other. You know how sometimes your daddy sends your mommy to pick you up and sometimes your mommy sends your daddy?”

And all the little ones raised their hands and nodded except for Ryan. I stopped and looked right at him. He said, “My daddy doesn’t pick me up. My daddy’s in heaven.”

And Nancy and Susan and I froze because suddenly those deep eyes made perfect sense and all the kids got really quiet in holy reverence for Ryan and his daddy and his questions—and there is no chance that in the history of the entire world there has ever been a more brutiful, silent moment.

And I let there be silence for a long minute and then when I finally pulled myself together, I walked over to Ryan and silently prayed PLEASE GOD HELP ME BE PRESENT FOR THIS AMAZING BOY YOU SENT and then I started speaking really quietly to him. I said, “Ryan, your daddy is in heaven?” And he nodded. And I said, “I see. Well my guess would be that God and your daddy are together there, and that God sent me and your teachers and these friends to be here with you today. So that we could love you for God. I think that God loves you more than you can even imagine. And I love you too, Ryan. I can’t believe how lucky I am to know you. I think that God sent you here for me, Ryan. Because you are just one of the most special people I’ve ever met. You have beautiful questions about God and you are honest and kind and I just think that you are my gift from God today, Ryan. Thank you for showing up here. I’m glad I showed up, too. Magic happens when we go where God sends us, doesn’t it? It’s like God sends us places to meet God in others. And to be God for others.”

And then I just went out on a big limb that appeared in front of me.

“Ryan, I don’t know how you can know if God is here or not. But here’s what happens to me when I notice that God is with me. My hearts starts to feel bigger. It feels like it’s swelling up. It feels like it’s getting so big it might crawl up through my throat. Like right now, next to you—my heart feels huge. Like somebody pumped it full of air. I think this heart swelling is sometimes how God reminds me that God is with me.”

And you guys. Ryan’s face—the face that had been so serious and so sad—broke into a smile that made it abundantly clear that God used the heart swelling trick on him, too. But he just didn’t know it was God doing it. And then he said quietly, “I know what you mean.”

Is God coming?

I know what you mean.

Have there ever been two more perfect, two more brutiful sentences uttered?

Then I asked Ryan if I could hug him and he said yes and he squeezed me tight and then Nancy had to take over completely because I could not speak for the rest of our time together. Just not one more word.

Listen to me. You HAVE to decide what you believe to be the most important work in the world and then you have to DO THAT WORK. Because THIS is what happens. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS. God shows up.  Tweet: Decide what is the most important work & then DO THAT WORK. Because THIS is what happens. God shows up. http://ctt.ec/B7ka4+ @Momastery

I love you.

Happy Easter.

G and Ryan

“…have you ever found God in church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not find God.”
― Alice Walker, The Color Purple



Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery community on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest


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