(It is interesting to note here that this week I was having a discussion on Facebook about President Obama coming out in support of gay marriage, when the gentleman on the other side of the discussion asked me if I was a lesbian. Why is it my lovelies that some folks automatically go there?)
Back to the story, my friend went on to tell me how she had been so damaged by her community that she has difficulty looking at herself in the mirror to this day. They told her she should die. They told her she should kill herself. By now my friend has tears streaming down her face. And she looks at me and says, “that is why I keep silent” about this issue now.
How sad is that?
We wondered together how many people there were in churches like us. Who knew deep in their hearts that “God has gay children.” How many of us are there that are afraid to speak out because they fear the backlash they might receive or in the case of my friend, the backlash they have already experienced?
My friend is one of the most loving, caring, giving people you will ever meet. The people in her current community value her advice and seek her out to pray for them. They trust her with their children. The sad part is she feels like all that would be negated and ignored if they knew her stance on gay marriage. As of now that is not a trade she is willing to make. I do not condemn her. With her past experiences I don’t know if I could do it either.
This week Rachel Held Evans wrote an amazingly powerful post called, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell.” It is a quote from Huckleberry Finn by the great Mark Twain. Huck faces a moral dilemma over his friend Jim who is a runaway slave. Huck’s neighbors have Jim locked in a shed and are going to return him to his owners for the $200 reward.
Huck has been taught in church that Ephesians says, “Slaves obey your earthly masters”. and has been convinced that by being a friend to Jim he is going to go to “everlasting fire.”
This is the scene Evans quotes,
I felt good and all washed clean of sin for the first time I had ever felt so in my life, and I knowed I could pray now. But I didn’t do it straight off, but laid the paper down and set there thinking- thinking how good it was all this happened so, and how near I come to being lost and going to hell. And went on thinking. And got to thinking over our trip down the river; and I see Jim before me, all the time; in the day, and in the night-time, sometimes moonlight, sometimes storms, and we a floating along, talking, and singing, and laughing. But somehow I couldn’t seem to strike no places to harden me against him, but only the other kind. I’d see him standing my watch on top of his’n, stead of calling me, so I could go on sleeping; and see him how glad he was when I come back out of the fog; and when I come to him agin in the swamp, up there where the feud was; and such-like times; and would always call me honey, and pet me, and do everything he could think of for me, and how good he always was; and at last I struck the time I saved him by telling the men we had smallpox aboard, and he was so grateful, and said I was the best friend old Jim ever had in the world, and the only one he’s got now; and then I happened to look around, and see that paper.
It was a close place. I took it up, and held it in my hand. I was a trembling, because I’d got to decide, forever, betwixt two things, and I knowed it. I studied a minute, sort of holding my breath, and then says to myself:“All right, then, I’ll go to hell”– and tore it up.
Rachel goes on to discuss her own feelings of trepidation about going against “what the Bible clearly says” in the interest of obeying her own conscience. Then she says something that should shake us awake from our slumber,
But another part of me worries that a religious culture that asks its followers to silence their conscience is just the kind of religious culture that produces $200 rewards for runaway slaves. The Bible has been “clear” before, after all—in support of a flat and stationary earth, in support of wiping out infidels, in support of manifest destiny, in support of Indian removal, in support of anti-Semitism, in support of slavery, in support of “separate but equal,” in support of constitutional amendments banning interracial marriage.
In hindsight, it all seems so foolish, such an obvious abuse of Scripture.
…But at the time?
Sometimes true faithfulness requires something of a betrayal.
She then relays a story about a recent trip she took which found her serving communion in a church that accepts gay people. And as she shared communion with one man in particular the disapproving words of her own sunday school teacher came to mind and she couldn’t help but remember Huck’s words, “All right, then, I’ll go to hell”. Thankfully she and I both believe that won’t be necessary.
I have been continually amazed by serendipity lately. As I was sitting down beginning this post yesterday I received an email from my husband with a link to a stunning article on the belief blog called My Take: The Christian Case for Gay Marriage by Mark Osler.
Mr. Osler uses the example of Peter extending the sacrament of Baptism to uncircumcised, unclean Gentiles. Osler poses the idea and Peter asserts by his question, “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” that we have “no moral authority to deny baptism to to those who seek it, even if they do not follow the ancient laws. It is the flooding love of the Holy Spirit which fell over the entire crowd, sinners and saints alike, that directs otherwise.”
He also uses the example of Christ who at the last supper offers the bread and the wine not just to the disciple who would take care of his mother but also to the one who would deny him three times, the ones who would desert him and even the one who would betray him to be killed.
Osler issues powerful challenges to the prevailing wisdom. He states,
It is not our place, it seems to sort out who should be denied a bond with God and the Holy Spirit of the kind we find through baptism, communion and marriage. The water will flow where it will.
Intriguingly, this rule will apply whether we see homosexuality as a sin or not . The water is for all of us…
Peter and Jesus offer a strikingly inclusive form of love and engagement. They hold out the symbols of God’s love to all. How arrogant that we think it is ours to parse out to stingily!
Sadly my friend’s current community as well as her former community are still trying to withhold the water. Sadly too many beautiful hearts like that of my friend have been silenced by people who say they follow Jesus.
I received a beautiful note from my friend this week thanking me for lunch. It was the first time she felt safe to be able to express the fullness of the love that was in her heart. She compared our conversation to, “breathing my first breath of fresh air”. It is my prayer that now that the waters of love shut up in her for so long have been released that the dam that has held back the water in her community would break apart and she could lead the way in offering the love of Christ through Communion, Baptism and Marriage to all, not just the ones we think are worthy.
Jesus, Peter, Osler, Evans and my friend are the reasons why I will no longer be silent. I cannot betray the voice of the Holy Spirit that cries out in my heart, “who can withhold the water?”. You may try to dam the river, but the living water of the “Holy Spirit is relentless, as Osler says, “making us all into something better and new.”
- Mark Osler’s Christian Case for Gay Marriage (queeringthechurch.com)
- My Take: The Christian case for gay marriage (religion.blogs.cnn.com)
9 thoughts on “Who Can Withhold the Water?”
You may be interested to read this article 🙂
And possibly this one, too.
this blog is very informative. i am really impressed by the comments which people have given over here. i am sure many people will get more and more knowledge from this. lista de emails lista de emails lista de emails lista de emails lista de emails