Monday, July 1, 2013

Opening Our Hearts to Our Enemies. Now.

We live in divisive times. Sometimes, that grieves me.

 How do we reconcile these two perspectives? Can we? A homily I heard yesterday gave me hope.

As we all know, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the federal Defense of Marriage Act, the law barring the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages legalized by states is unconstitutional. I didn't like the resulting vitriol.

After the ruling, one facebook commenter quipped straight couples should just keep having babies, "because we know who isn't." As someone with more than one gay relative, I know those loved ones were raised by married mothers and fathers who, in all cases, never divorced. And as someone whose sons have more than one friend being raised by lesbians, I also know one's sexual orientation has nothing to do with one's physical ability to give birth, or to love children unconditionally, for that matter.

On the other hand, I find some of the rhetoric of those who support gay marriage equally divisive. Yesterday I drove past a Unitarian Universalist congregation. There was a rainbow flag and a sign that said "Standing On the Side of Love." The obvious implication is that people who do not believe the government should call same-sex unions marriages are full of hate.  Many friends think the government has no business redefining marriage, and to a person, these friends are loving and kind to all. They are in no way bigots.

No matter what our political ideology, or lack thereof,  we all can fall into the trap of demonizing those with whom we disagree. This is not how we build human communities and it is not how we build the Kingdom of God.

Thank God for the Gospel. Sunday's reading goes to the core of what it means to be Christian.

 "Christ set us free, so that we should remain free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be fastened again to the yoke of slavery. After all, brothers, you were called to be free; do not use your freedom as an opening for self-indulgence, but be servants to one another in love,
 since the whole of the  Law is summarized in the one commandment: You must love your neighbour as yourself."

At noon Mass at St. Patrick's Church in Bedford, New York, where I was visiting with my parents and brother, Father Joseph Domfeh Boateng challenged each of us to truly follow Christ. We think we're following Christ because we go to Sunday Mass, he said. That isn't even the half of what it means to be a disciple. Instead: "How do we treat those whose religious convictions are different from ours?" he asked.

He encouraged us to "open our hearts to our enemies." Boy oh boy, this is hard and necessary work; searching for the face of Christ in people with whom we disagree, and recognizing that the source of their humanity is the same as ours: the One who loved us first.

As I drove back home from Mass, I turned on the car radio. Wouldn't you know it? This song was playing.