author's note: All of us have our personal "roads not taken". While some members of my family would argue that my passing up law school was the epic untaken path, the truth is, I wanted to be a minister for a long time. The circumstances were never right and I realized a few years ago that sometimes you just need to wait and see what happens because you'll ultimately end up where you're supposed to be. I am not sure I have ever or will ever find my true north. At any rate, the journey is pretty interesting.
I'm writing all of this to explain that every now and then I think about what I would say if I actually became an ordained priest. It's sort of kind of in Episcopalese, and I know that sometimes freaks other Protestants out. It's okay. We don't bite. If someone says, "Peace unto you" all you have to say is "Hey, you too!" and it's good. Okay?
So here we go.
Peace unto you.
(Yeah, this is where you say it back. It's okay. I got it.)
Welcome to the ark. It's pretty comfortable here, isn't it? Have you ever noticed that at times it seems a little echo-y? Maybe a tad incomplete? Are we missing something? Are we missing someone? Have we done everything we're supposed to do to make sure we're all safe as houses?
Let's take a look at God's instructions to Noah the first time around:
That would be Genesis 7:1-3 for those of you following along at home:
1 The LORD then said to Noah, "Go into the ark, you and your whole family, because I have found you righteous in this generation. 2 Take with you seven [a] of every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, 3 and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth.
Sounds like a pretty specific set of instructions, doesn't it? And here is what Noah did. You'll find it at Genesis 7:5:
5 And Noah did all that the LORD commanded him.
You'll notice that as specific as God was with his directions, he did not add a bunch of conditions and clauses and exceptions. He just said, "Take 'em all." and Noah said, "Okey dokey!" and went on a Mutual of Omaha wildlife roundup and all of God's creatures were represented in the ark as the rain came down. Every one of God's creatures. No exceptions.
Noah, had something that many of us are missing right now. He had the insight to know that if we are truly created in God's image, it is not our place to question the wisdom of the diversity of his creation. Noah had no right then and we have no right now; and this leads me to a very important question.
As Christians, we have it made. We are the dominant cultural presence in this country. We enjoy freedom and security, in fact, we take them for granted and don't realize that there are people who cannot enjoy the same safety we feel in this ark we've built. I don't understand it. There's plenty of room for everybody to have an equal share of goodness, of happiness. Allowing people to live and love and worship (or not) as they see fit does not, by even the tiniest measure, diminish what we have. In fact, I can only see how being inclusive and loving and compassionate would have the opposite effect. So, please explain to me why we are slamming the door in the face of so many and leaving them in harm's way? Do we really know better than God? Are we really so wise as to try to correct the God who made these people who are perfect and beautiful just the way they are because we disagree with their very existence?
Are you smarter than God?
I'm not. Hey, I've seen "Bruce Almighty" and will tell you right now, that's one job I don't want. You shouldn't want it, either.
As Christians, we're really lucky because we don't have to wander creation to find the perfect badger to please God. He really doesn't ask much of us beyond that initial acceptance. Well, wait there's that one tiny thing that he mentioned in passing:
John 15:12 This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
Love everyone without condition or limit. That's all. Yeah. I know. At times it can be easier said than done. But people do it everyday without realizing they're doing it. Sometimes it goes by the more common name of parenting. Whether its your own child or the child you have been given charge of by circumstance or simply the professional or spiritual (or sometimes both) oath you've taken as a teacher, you do this. Sometimes it is the conviction we have to be each other's keeper. The important thing about it isn't what we see as a result, it is the knowledge the recipient has that they are loved and cared for, no matter what. There is an emotional "there" that they can go to for safety.
I have to stop and confess something right here. This post is borne of sorrow and outrage. Five children dead in three weeks is not just a tragedy, it's a crisis. All of them the target of hatred. People using your faith and mine to socially liminalize children. All of them bullied, humiliated, being told over and over that they were so far less than they were. Who are we to say that any of these beautiful kids are not exactly as God intended them to be? What gives us that right? If you're not outraged by this, you're not paying attention.
We should feel sorrow about the pain that Tyler Clementi and Seth Walsh and Raymond Chase and the other children felt. No matter how much love they got, there was enough destructive stupidity and hate that it obscured all of the good long enough to make them lose hope. They did not feel parented and protected and loved. Where was their seat on the ark? But the loss is far greater than their potential as artists or professionals. They are lost to those who loved them as siblings,sons, friends. There is someone who was meant to know these people as the loves of their lives and now they never will. In a system choked with children who go unfostered and unadopted, there will be children who might not have had to spend their days shunted from one place to the next: parentless, homeless. Any one of these young men might have turned out to be a great dad. But now we'll never know.
Decades ago, (I'm feeling really old now) I helped people who were born without the needle and thread gene create quilt panels. Those of you who know anything about the 1980s' can guess what those quilts were for. The common saying at the time was that the prejudice against ten percent of the population now had a body count. I hoped that we would never see that sort of thing manifest itself, ever again. And here we are.
You may not think this is your burden. You may not think that the responsibility lies on anyone but the children who reached a place so dark that they saw no other alternative. I've got news for you. We, and I mean we as Christians, are going to take some heat for this. And we should. Until we live out the promise that was made to us and we made in turn to the world -to love each other, without exceptions, without limits- we are horribly remiss. We have no qualms about asking people of other faiths to be accountable for what their brothers and sisters do in their name. Guess what? It's our turn. We have allowed people to terrorize others, to terrorize children. Think about it. We are letting people terrorize children. As Christians we need to speak up and show without a shadow of a doubt that we will not tolerate hate. We should not remain silent in the face of bullying, especially when we have the strength of cultural majority and social acceptance on our side. Do something. Anything less and we are no better than the pitiable monsters who hit the "on" button of that webcam. Please, speak up. Do something.
I'll end this with two sites that you should visit and share with everyone you know:
The It Gets Better Project at Youtube
The SPLC's Tolerance.org site.
Thanks for hearing or reading me out. I hope you'll take this message to heart.
Peace be with you and those whose hearts are hurting this Sunday.
copyright 2010 Jas Faulkner