On May 12, 2012, the people of North Carolina voted in favor of a state constitutional amendment stating that the only state-recognized marital relationship is between one man and one woman. The law disallows recognition of domestic partnerships, unmarried cohabiting couples, or common law marriages as having any particular legal rights.
My initial reaction was… visceral, and certainly not publishable here because my reaction was all around my political views about a social issue that had its foundation in radical fundamentalist religious belief. As tough as it is to say that “I have no comment on the details other than to say I voted against the amendment,” I meditated on this for many days and realized that as a spiritual person writing in a spiritual context, that is all that I can say.
In this forum.
If we as citizens are to believe in a true separation of church and state (mentioned by Thomas Jefferson in his writings but not part of any constitutional document,) then we must also recognize the separation of state and religion. We are to march forth as good and responsible citizens and ensure to the best of our abilities that all are cared for equally under the law. For that, we take to the streets and the polls.
Strangely enough (sic) the same holds true on the religious/spiritual side: we must be responsible spiritual beings (or non-spiritual ones) working always to the best of our ability to see that universal acceptance, love and forgiveness is available to all with no airs of “my belief/practice/non-belief/non-practice is better than yours.”
We must keep our Church out of the Constitution, and the Constitution out of our Church.
After many pages of journal writing covered over with as much red ink as prayer, I came back to a conclusion long held, as expressed to us in Psalm 5.
In that song, the Psalmist presents a nearly bipolar message of “dealing with” our enemies, or rather, having God deal with them. The writer spends most of the song describing the wickedness of the enemies, and how God should (will?) put the same in their place. Only in the last verses does the writing get around to the better news that the Children of Israel need not over-stress this matter: it’s up to God to separate out all the problems (the enemies) in the world, and it is up to us to trust through faith that those problems are moving off our collective plates. This is not pacifism; this is prioritization.
That solution leaves no room for pouting.
No room for carrying the grudge or tit-for-tat.
No revenge and no passive- aggressive back stabbing at those who mean us harm in body, soul, or spirit.
That’s easy to preach and very Very tough to do.
Yet I found over those days that if I cannot rely on this simple premise of spiritual act of faith, if I cannot follow my own instruction of Keep the Faith, then I need to choose something else in which to put my beliefs.
Grudgery and ill feeling only leads us to more ill feeling and removes us from what(ever) it is we were put here to do. President T. Roosevelt was famous for saying Walk softly but carry a big stick. For Star Trek fans, one of the Ferengi raisons d’etre is to Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. Good stuff, that, if you are a politician. If that gets in the way, try one that is mis-attributed on popular Youth Mission Trip t-shirts to St. Francis of Assisi (no idea who really said it),
Preach the gospel, always, and if necessary use words.
Keep in mind: in the voting booth, we vote. In the “pulpit,” we preach. It should be our goal to stay clear-of-head enough not to mix up the two.
Knowing this intellectually did nothing to help my bad feelings and anger in the first day or two after this election. But eventually I came around to some flecks of clarity, after waking up the next morning and turning to the Fifth Psalm that begins in wailing and sadness and loss, and ends with promise and hope.
The Psalmist gives us no information on how we get from one end to the other; that good news is left for other writers and other preachers and singers. Together, we take both the beginning of the Psalm and the ending, and in those we see that solution to our ill feelings will never come from within ourselves. Solution (and thus salvation) must grow from the knowledge of where we came from, the certainty of where we are going, and of that which has given us the map between those two very distant points.
As I’ve said before (and remind myself to read more carefully now,)
Keep the faith!
Lectio Divino based on Psalm 5 (in paraphrase)
Oh LORD, give heed to my words.*
Listen as I cry.*
There’s joy, LORD, for those you defend:
they will rejoice for evermore.*