In 1978, to help pay my way through college, I had a job as a waitress. One of my friends at the restaurant was a striking woman - tall, with tattoos and piercings that were unusual for 1978, her hair cut and dyed in a kind of punkish style that became popular years later. She and I spent a fair amount of time together. Eventually she told me that she was going to move to the east coast and asked me if I could store her things until she got settled and could come back for them. My friend was a lesbian and she yearned to live in a community where she could be herself, without prejudice and fear of repercussions. A few months after she left, she returned and got her stuff and moved away for good. I’ve never seen again, but I hope that she found the life she longed for.
A few years later I lived in a different Chicago neighborhood, off of Broadway and Belmont, a an area with a high population of gay and lesbian people. I remember some of the first gay pride parades streaming down Broadway. Occasionally I went to a lesbian bar with my girlfriends, we were heterosexual women, but we went to this bar because when we were there no one bothered us, we felt safe in a room full of other women.
I think a lot these days about racism, sexism, genderism, and the various groups of people that are subjected to prejudice and marginalized in our society. Family Systems theory, which I have studied for twenty years, suggests that our society creates groups to scapegoat in order to project our anxiety onto that group and therefore not deal with what is at the root of our cultural angst - that being, according to this theory, centuries of unresolved conflict over the class differences between rich and poor and middle class white people. A Christian moral ethicist once wrote that when a society begins to make women full and equal in its culture it then opens the door for other segments to move toward equality. When women are considered property that society doesn’t even see other groups of minorities. The point is, when people are anxious they always look for someone else to blame and thus alleviate some anxiety by projecting it onto the scapegoat. Jesus was a scapegoat between Jews and Romans, between belief in the one God and the Emperor. Life would be better if we could work at the root cause of our conflicts and the anxiety within our selves instead of looking for someone to blame. The emperor of Rome didn’t need to be so jealous and insecure, the early Christians and Jews could have been faithful to God and still have been obedient citizens. People of one faith do not need to disparage people of another, nor do we need to condemn others in the name of God, as if God is jealous and insecure. Any understanding of God as one who condemns human beings because of their faith, race, ethnicity, gender, or any other limiting criteria is a human construct because every religion has the same core value, “do unto others as you would do unto yourself.”
Clearly I am just trying to process another senseless tragedy, this time the killing of 49 people, gay and lesbian, at the Pulse night club in Orlando. As Christians we have moral and ethical values that state that we are to love everyone, respect the dignity of every human being. Which means that the burden is put on each one of us individually to work through the challenges of what it means to love as God loves. Love, instead of projecting our fears and worries, and demonizing other people.
Paul in the letter to the Galatians describes a new reality, birthed into existence with the resurrection of Jesus. There is, he says, no distinction between one human being and another, we are all alike in God’s eyes. No male or female, no Jew or Greek, all the same to God.
But in reality, we are all different. No two people are the same. In the earthly realm we live in, it is our differences, our unique, God given differences, that enrich the world. Each person, each segment of society, rich and poor, educated or not, black, white, brown, male, female, gay, lesbian, bi, transgendered, all of us, is made in God’s image. Our creation story in Genesis reminds us that every expression of creation, every manifestation of humanity, reveals an aspect of God’s nature. It takes all of us as a whole, combined together to see the fullness of God and then to realize that for all the differences we see among us God sees us as one and the same, loved equally for being exactly who we are, made in God’s image. Made good to do good. Seen this way, there is no us and them, there’s only God’s beloved, you, me, everyone.
a reflection on the readings for Proper 7C: Galatians 3:23-29