It just recently came to my attention that a retired and rather infamous, more than well respected at the least, reverend and ethicist in the Methodist Church — the Reverend Dr. Ogletree — has been castigated and may face trial for officiating at a same sex wedding between two men in New York late last year. Coincidentally the exact date of this particular wedding happened to fall on my birthday. The New York Times wrote an article about the details, which can be had by clicking here
Not being gay myself I admit I can make no claim to understand the full ramifications of either the positive or negative aspects of the controversy of same sex marriage. For people like me life in the realm of love and marriage is pretty cut and dried. Meet someone you want to start a family and spend the rest of your life with and get to it. The world will celebrate with and praise you to the point that you’ll feel like a king or a celebrity for a few months. All because you’ve announced you’re getting married. It’s an odd phenomenon really. I’ve always postulated that this has a lot more to do with thousands of years of cultural indoctrination than anything else. Civil societies need women to be married. At least they believe they do. As well they prefer children to have fathers. Thus the brouhaha over someone’s announcement of a planned marriage. You’d think they announced they found oil or struck gold.
Truth be told I was never a big fan of the marriage myth for most of my life. I understood its creation and origin from the anthropological viewpoint and never saw it as truly necessary in the modern world. Especially because so many muggles and mainstreamers had it so inextricably tied to religion in their minds and religion was another one of those “not for me” things as well. My first twenty-five years were all about truth; hence running fast and far away from anything that reeked of manmade indoctrination. Of course that mission statement and how it showed up in the real world changed as I got older and wiser.
As already established I eventually found a surprising joy and comfort through the practice of organized religion in addition to being “spiritual but not religious”. There is something mysteriously satisfying and fulfilling about throwing in 110% with a church community to not only worship the great mystery of the beyond but also as a means to serve others and make the world a better place. Now don’t let my overly optimistic take on it cloud your predisposed view of traditional Christianity as its currently practiced in America and the rest of the world.
I’ll be the first to admit that for the most part the majority of Christians are bat-shit crazy and the last reason they think they’re Christians is to “help make the world a better place.” Most will tell you they’re Christian because they “don’t want to burn in hell” or some other nonsense about saving their soul in the afterlife. But I can safely assure any reader that there is sanity to be found within certain circles in the Christian community. Especially within the Methodist denomination. This is coming from a very committed former agnostic.
But before we jump too far into the Koolaid pitcher, I must admit that I find myself quite stymied and even angered by this recent so-called controversy over the good Dr. Ogletree presiding over his son’s wedding. (Yes it was his son’s wedding… Imagine that.)
See, the thing for me, for people like me, is that the ONLY way you’re ever going to get me to even dip a toe in the water of any kind of organized religion is if its members and leaders are honest, rational, filled with integrity and a desire to make the world a better place AND super-badasses intellectually. Character traits that admittedly we do not normally associate with organized religion of any ilk, especially not the Big Four. I thought I had found such an oasis in Methodism. I truly did. In so far as the way it is practiced and preached at my particular church in Manhattan, a church I am proud to be a card carrying member of no less, by all accounts reason, kindness, rational thinking, tolerance and open mindedness are not only present, they are encouraged. I feel safe there. There’s no obligation to leave one’s brain at the door so to speak.
I felt honored and proud when the church’s head pastor, Reverend Stephen Bauman, wrote an open letter to the entire Conference back in 2006 defending the view that homosexual people should be allowed to become ordained ministers and as well should be permitted to get married if they so desire. It’s a logical, rational and loving viewpoint for the modern times we live and love in. Why not? Fear of “degradation of the traditional vows of matrimony between a man and woman…”? As any intelligent person would suggest, if two same sexers getting married can scare you into believing your own marriage is at risk you’ve got problems that no amount of “defense of marriage” bitching is going to fix. Truly the only thing that’s ever going to challenge or degrade traditional marriage between man and woman is a sick heart or a weak marriage in the first place.
One of the things I’ve loved about being a Methodist over the last ten years is just how open minded, loving and inclusive the official doctrine of the denomination is. We are taught that “all are invited to God’s table” and that “God loves us all”. Some of us take these ideas seriously. And literally. We’ve read the Gospels and other stories of Jesus of Nazareth and we believe his heart was pure and true when he encouraged us to serve God with all our heart and love our neighbors as ourself. We find it a helpful discipline. Challenging. But beneficial to the spirit.
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard so-called Christian ministers recount the lessons of the bible stories of Jesus at the well with the Samarian woman, or with the woman accused of adultery where he forgave her, said “go now and sin no more” and “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”; or Jesus supping with the deceitful tax collectors of his day. On and on the stories go, brainwashed ad nauseum into the minds of planet earth’s youngest people as powerful lessons about how open minded and loving and forgiving this Jesus was.
It is needless to state here that as Christians we take the lessons of these stories seriously, as sacred, into our own lives as good examples to follow ourselves. We are either practicing the ways and means of Jesus or we’re not. We follow him and his example because it makes sense to us intuitively. Not because of anything a church or a religion or any so-called leader says. Peons and cretins perhaps do what they’re told because they are told to. But thinking people do only what they feel in their heart is right, the world be damned. There is more to the Ancient Greek movement of Solipsism than mere selfishness. It’s a mentality that makes rational sense. Let no man tell another what truth is. Each unto ourselves belong our beliefs about what is good true right or righteous.
For that reason I cannot in good conscience blame my fellow Christian or Methodist brothers and sisters for their anti-gay views just because they don’t agree with my own views. I don’t expect them to believe as I do just because I say so. But I do hope to help show them a different way of viewing things, influence them towards a certain direction. One that is more kind, more loving, more inclusive; more like the one Jesus himself took. After all that’s the tie that binds us all if nothing else does.
After everything else is tried and tested and shown to be mere window dressing, the hymns, the false hierarchy, the costumes, the stories myths and legends, all we really have left is the real heart of the matter: just what was Jesus trying to teach us? I believe it was and is to be as kind and loving, tolerant and inclusive in our feelings and actions towards each other as possible. And then do it even more.
Judging others to be “wrong or bad” because they don’t sexually desire or love the same kind of people we do just doesn’t match up with that mandate. Plenty of people already tried that in order to defend slavery years ago. It was bullshit then and it’s bullshit now in regards to homosexuality. It’s time we faced this reality and lovingly welcomed all of our kind to the table, regardless of how uncomfortable it makes us.
There’s real growth potential there for those who are willing to take it on. The Disciples did. Paul did. Jesus did. Are we willing to follow in their footsteps? Or are we just talking a good talk? That’s the question each person who claims to be a Christian needs to ask themselves.
– Posted by The Ambassador using BlogPress on an iPhone