|Photo Credit: Morgue File by dieraecharin|
I am pondering love. I am thinking about honesty, about choice, about faith and freedom. I am wondering what it means to be happy, what it means to be true to oneself and whether happiness and being true to oneself are as related as I thought. I am thinking about listening and whether we, as human beings–jacked up on ego, opinion and doctrine–can do it. I am feeling hope.
Saturday I sat down to my Google Reader, looking for what goodies I might find sheltered in there, like wildflowers amid the grass. What I found was this. (It is long. Read it anyway. It is much worthier of reading than most things you will come across today and infinitely more worth your time than dusting or running to the store. Also, for the rest of this post I am going to talk about what I read there.)
I am, in case you haven't noticed, a big proponent of gay rights. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. Like everyone else, I have gay friends and relatives. Not like everyone else, I belong to a church which hangs a rainbow pride flag outside on its building. Our faith's public position is that we believe that the ability for loving adults to marry is a human rights issue. I am immensely proud of this about my church. I do not, to the core of my being, see a single thing wrong with two men or two women who want to love one another. It is not anything I have to overlook or forgive. But I do not believe in the Old Testament Bible as the word of God. There is no conflict there for me. For many, obviously, this is not the case.
After reading Josh and Lolly Weed's post, I have several thoughts I want to share with you. The first is that I feel an enormous and profound respect for the two of them for how they have conducted themselves. My personal faith, although it looks very different from theirs, demands these things of me:
1) Live consistent with your values, even when to do so is very difficult.
2) Be honest, even when being dishonest would be easier.
3) Make choices based on love.
4) Know that you have a choice, that your choices will have consequences, and choose powerfully.
They have done all these things in a way that had to feel very frightening, time and time again. I have nothing but admiration for them.
The next thought I have is that they seem genuinely happy. I have been reading Josh's blog for maybe two years now and he has always written of Lolly with affection. In the video they put up to follow up their post, their love for one another is immediately obvious. I have to ask myself, after almost almost seven years of marriage to the same man–nine of exclusivity with him–how much, exactly does sexual attraction factor into what makes our day-to-day life work? It is not something I would be happy to give up without a fight, but how much, in the end, does it really matter? The fabric of our marriage is made up of other things: greetings after work, days of labor in the garden, negotiations over schedule, laughter and shared faith and values. I had a dear friend several years ago whose history was this: She was married to a man and that man became a woman. They remained married. What she had to say about this was that her challenges were issues of preference and taste. The person to whom she was married was the same and so she remained with that person.
In ways that no one can anticipate or prepare for, our love for other human beings deeply changes us. It asks us to be something other than who we were. We can falter, like children refusing to put on our shoes and leave the house or we can slip our feet into our Mary Janes and run outside into the world full of lambasting hurts and tender surprises, and try to live.
I think that Josh and Lolly were faced with a choice that few of us would want to make and weathered it, in the way that felt right to each of them. I feel somewhat envious, not of the crushing pressure of that choice itself, but of the clarity that seems to have come with it. Josh says,
"One of the sad truths about being homosexual is that no matter what you decide for your future, you have to sacrifice something. It’s very sad, but it is true. I think this is true of life in general as well. If you decide to be a doctor, you give up any of the myriad of other things you could have chosen."I think most of us go blithely along our way, failing to recognize the truth of this circumstance of life, pretending that our choices only open doors and shutting our ears to the sound of the ones slamming behind us. When we marry, we obviously are giving up the right to be married to or sexually active with anyone else (at least in most cases), but we also close the doors on a thousand futures we can't yet imagine, limiting ourselves to meals that we both like, houses on which we can both agree, conversations our partner is willing to have. We cannot have anything without giving something up. No gift comes without a drop of our own blood. It is the way of things. Neither, I think, is this especially sad. It is merely true.
When we talk about being true to oneself, it could be asked of us what we mean. Do we mean to be true to our emotions, true to our desires, to our dreams and ambitions, or to what we believe our higher purpose to be? I think the answer to all of these questions should be no. And yes. We can't be any one of these things. We will, in some way inevitably be an assemblage of all of them, with an emphasis on one feature or another. So, I think that it is valid to choose one's values over one's desires. For the Weeds, this has lead to happiness. I think not all of us could do this. I am guided by my values, but I am no more suited to give up my heterosexual sexual orientation for a higher calling than most people are to live as a nun. And yet I can't help but have this thought:
Were this story a tale of an LDS man who, upon realizing he was gay, left the church and lived as an openly gay man, would some liberal people I know feel more comfortable with it, even if the story ended with his sadness at having left his faith community, lost his family, and perhaps never found a happy marriage? That would be the story of a man living "true to himself." This one, I think, rubs a raw spot–the question of where we might sacrifice an individual desire for a need to belong with community. The more liberal one's leaning, the more difficult this seems to be. The most liberal of all denominations, mine sometimes loses church members, it seems, over the color of the carpet.
In the end, I continue to want a world in which gay men and women are not faced with the choice to leave their faith communities or sacrifice living as gay. Even when it works beautifully for some people, it will continue to cost too many too much. I want this demand to fold into our history, like the days when we could not abide interracial marriage. I do not want Josh Weed's story held up as the answer for everyone because I fear it will hurt more than it will help. I want to thank Josh for how he has handled this, in very carefully saying that this is what has worked for him and not making it a prescription for gayness. He also said this:
"If you know and love somebody who is gay and LDS (or Christian), your job is to love and nothing more. Let go of your impulse to correct them or control them or propel them down the path you think is right for them. Do what you need to do to move past that impulse. Do not condemn the choices your loved one makes. Love. Only love. Show your love in word and deed. Embrace them, both literally and figuratively. I promise they need it—and they need to feel like they can figure out this part of themselves in a safe way without ridicule and judgment. It’s what Christ would do. It’s what your loved one needs. Accept them. Love them. Genuinely and totally."
I am full of hope. It seems that the voices of love are drowning out the voices of hate, that open-minded discussion is demanding a place next to grandstanding and yelling. When we can share from our hearts and listen to others, when we can place faith next to reason, when we can wrestle aloud with the quandary of being human, I think we will be O.K.
Something is changing. I hear it in the blogs I read from the Christ-loving writers I respect. I hear it from the comments section when the reader questions herself and her assumptions. I hear it in the affirmation of the atheist, the believer, the gay and the straight that what is right is love and honesty. I hear it, too, in the angry denial, like the smash of a dying tree trunk hitting the ground. Something is changing.
Each day, one at a time, more minds are changing and bringing the world closer to love.
What do you think we can learn from Josh's declaration? How is the faith community changing as it responds to the differing views of its members on homosexuality? Where do you stand?
More Discussion on Christianity and Homosexuality:
Glennon Melton of Momastery: A Mountain I'm Willing to Die On
Glennon Melton of Momastery: I Think Jesus'd Be Gay...or No She DIDN'T.
Dan Pearce of Single Dad Laughing: I'm Christian Unless You're Gay
Dan Pearce of Single Dad Laughing: A Teen's Brave Response to "I'm Christian Unless You're Gay"
As well as the interesting, varied, although largely LDS comments on Josh's blog, these comments on MetaFilter are worth reading, many coming from a gay perspective.