I spent the day with colleagues and friends new and old in a colloquium on religion and culture, the inaugural event of the Elon Center for the Study of Religion: “Sex, Religion, and the Public Square: Religious Discourse in the Debates about Same-Sex Marriage.” In a lovely way, organizers of the day not only brought in thought-provoking speakers, but also gave us time for local contextualizing of what’s happening in North Carolina around Amendment One, as well as some strategizing for work we can engage in together to shift the debate — one none of us really wants — toward a conversation that might be more productive in the long run.
Like, instead of pounding another nail in the coffin of “gay marriage” — already illegal in North Carolina — we might be spending time talking about — or better yet working on — how to render all relationships more just, more apt to enable human flourishing.
For instance, where are women most likely to experience violence?
In the (heterosexual) home.
For another instance, what is the key stressor on families in our culture, contributing to hunger, poverty, and the break-up of marriages and families?
Economic insecurity, driven by excessive profiteering.
I know the presence of gay people in society is somehow supposed to be threatening marriage in America, but I think most marriages — gay or straight — are far more deeply threatened by the loss of jobs and income, or the presence of violence.
Why, we might wonder, is so much campaign rhetoric — and our state’s electoral budget — being spent on non-issues when there are so many pressing real issues to go around? Hmm. Perhaps someone does not want us focused on the real issues. Like economic disparities, bad and getting worse.
It was a good day. Thought-provoking and action-inspiring and coalition-building.
I came away from the day thinking about the ties that bind and those that fray. We are supposed to be a commonwealth, a community focused on common well-being. When I have time to think about what tears us apart, I tend to think about the ways my own privileges and blinders get in the way, and what I can do about that, whether it’s white privilege or cisgender privilege. It’s more rare for me to think about what it means to be the odd woman out, or the lesbian even further out.
But today, my queerfolk were in charge, led by Elon’s Dr. Lynn Huber, kicking ass and taking names. We were beautiful, brilliant, funny, sassy, diverse, and our straight allies were listening, working, laughing and crying with us.
What’s all that got to do with Lent, you ask?
I think we were — we are — a sign of some things Lent is about. One of Lent’s purposes is repentance, which is a much bigger word than “I’m sorry.” In the New Testament, the Greek word metanoia actually means something more like “transformation,” something God works in us, from the inside out.
And that is what we were about today: the transformation of what it means to be community, to be accountable, to be in solidarity, to be about the business of justice-making and love-making and fairness-making.
I felt surrounded, supported … and surprised. Happily so.
So … if you live in North Carolina? Vote no on Amendment One. Refuse to put a nail in any coffin. Help every North Carolina child, woman, man, person, family, and community to feel and be more whole, more human, more loved.
Wherever we live, move, and have our being, let’s do better than we have done. Let’s stop living in fear, and live for love, in ways that help there to be more life and more love in the world. Let’s act like the resurrection people that we are, and believe that life can break in and break out anywhere and everywhere.