When the Parade Wraps Up…

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Early evening at the Alberta Legislature Grounds, 2017 

“By reading the scriptures I am so renewed that all nature seems renewed around me and with me. The sky seems to be a pure, a cooler blue, the trees a deeper green. The whole world is charged with the glory of God and I feel fire and music under my feet.” -Thomas Merton

“What happened once I started distributing communion was the truly disturbing, dreadful realization about Christianity: You can’t be a Christian by yourself.” -Sara Miles, Take This Bread

The world was filled with colour yesterday. Not just a rainbow of flags, banners, feather boas, beads, and tattoos, but of a swirling palette of people all spilling into one another and back again. Nature and nurture both sang together and screamed against each other from the same mouths and hearts. In a contrived space — contrived space meaning here planned and intentional space not usually entered into on a daily basis — people exposed their truest selves and the heavens resounded along.

While for a few brief moments during the frenzy it was startling to realize that I indeed was one of Your beautiful creations, I needed time away from the world to process Your creations’ voices. For there were many. Trying to respond to so many voices and so many colours all at once must take at least a good six days of creating, must it not?

You would know.

Did You know how brilliant the Light would be when You first spoke it? Did you need an entire age to sit in awe of Your work before finally collecting Yourself to create again? Certainly our childhood stories would have us learn that You needed no rest until the end, but I wonder. I really do wonder.

I stood in a liminal space shared by dangerous people — people who would condemn us to a hell of their own making in Your name, and people who would defend us all in Your name, and people who would do away with faith altogether most certainly without Your name. I stood in this strange quasi-sanctuary, hearing all of the voices shouting around me and began search to for You: where were You? In all of the humanness, where were You?

The terror happened when I stepped quietly away into creation, finally securing a measure of solitude, and realized that You were everywhere and in everyone. The truth should have brought me a measure of peace, but peace was the furthest thing from my core.

I could see You in the LGBTQ+ Christians and Christian allies who were living out the character and life of Jesus; I could see You in LGBTQ+ people of faith different from my own; I could see you in LGBTQ+ atheists and secular humanists who, while perhaps disagreeing with Your existence, embrace LGBTQ+ people of faith heartily; and I could even see you in LGBTQ+ who sneer at faith and wish enmity upon those of us who choose to live in communion with You.

I was shocked to see You in and with people calling themselves Christ followers, but were decrying our right to live, to exist, to believe, to pray, to worship, to commune, or to be. The greater shock was my own realization that I did not want You to be there among them. No, not those people. Those people were blind and hurtful. They use You to scare us into heaven and away from hell, and coerce us that we are abominations or aberrations or mental health cases or simply unrepentant sinners. They use You to hurt, terrify, anger, subdue, shame, and lie to those of us who do not fit a narrow and restrictive definition of one form of a lens of one historical interpretation of Scripture.

And You were still there. Still present. Still quiet. Still a force of Love so great that I was ashamed for the thoughts I was having.

Advocacy and education must continue, there is no question. I do not believe You’re asking me to stop standing up against oppression and violence, especially against harmful teachings done in Your name. However You are continually asking me to see the You in the them — always. If You are ever-present, then hope is also ever-present for every person. As it was for me, so it is for even the loudest, most foul, most angry and hurtful person bearing a megaphone.

So it is for those people who decry such hatred in theory and approach, but still believe that I must repent. These people do not use anger or loudness to address me; but rather shades of kindness and love that they truly believe are kind and loving.

I know.

I was that person.

We are a far more dangerous kind of people when truly believing that we are loving while condemning others. Blatant anger and hatred is easy to spot, as You well know after facing the fickle crowds of Palestine and religious leaders of Your human day. But friends and family who continually mean well in their doctrines, scientific studies, and truncated family values — people who believe they are showing the most passionate forms of love and inclusion — are harder to spot because we are so tightly woven into community together.

You had your Judas. And You had Your Peter.

I do not condone these theologies anymore, having hidden within them in order to survive. But I once believed that the more loving thing I could do for another person was to gently point out their sin so they could come to saving faith in You, learn to love You as You love them, and go on to live a powerful life of testimony. For some reason, being an LGBTQ+ person was somehow a permanent form of sin that needed more work to eradicate.

I do not condone these teachings anymore, but I understand them. Perhaps this insight gives me a wider bridge from which to cross when relating back to those who hurt us the most. It easy to walk away from Westboro Baptist Church — even conservative Christians do that! But it is not so easy when the person offering condemning or exclusion arrives in the form of a loving grandmother or a best friend or a sincere pastor who loves You like no one else.

Could I not be a Christian by myself? Remain the colours of nature? Commune alone with You?

I’m treading the earth a little more gently tonight. Seeing You in every person and every group has given me reason to slow my steps and walk lightly on the world. This is not to silence my presence (or even my anger or hurt sometimes), but rather to give me time to see You in the most unlikely people. Dare I confess unwanted people?

One day we will all parade together. Even then, we will all not agree on You or who You are or how You move amongst all of us. But I hope as You hope: that we will be one just as You are one, recognizing the very goodness of everyone’s humanity and life.

Amen.

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