Generous Living Rev Dr Durrell Watkins (Nov 8, 2015) It’s been a busy week! The National Religious Liberties Conference was held over the weekend in Des Moines, IA. The conference was reportedly organized by a man who has called for the execution of same-gender loving people. Hopefully, he means for his rhetoric to be hyperbolic, […]
Rev Dr Durrell Watkins (Nov 8, 2015)
It’s been a busy week!
The National Religious Liberties Conference was held over the weekend in Des Moines, IA. The conference was reportedly organized by a man who has called for the execution of same-gender loving people. Hopefully, he means for his rhetoric to be hyperbolic, but such dehumanizing and violent language does all too often lead to violent behavior. So, such rhetoric is problematic.
The Religious Liberties Conference has nothing to do really with religious liberties. We are, in this country, free to worship where and when we wish, to believe whatever we find compelling, and even to make public our religious affiliations. If we wish to treat tax supported public property as if it were our own sacred space, or if we try to legislate our religious beliefs in an attempt to force them on others, then there will be pushback; but not letting one religion have the force of law in all of our lives is not a denial of religious liberty; it is resistance to religious tyranny.
I’m not terribly shocked that there are people who want to use religion as a weapon of anti-gay oppression.
I’m not terribly shocked that such like-minded people gather for conferences.
But I am concerned that three presidential hopefuls reportedly attended a conference organized by someone who calls for violence against anyone.
Oh, and by the way, the radio shock jock who has organized the conference is not the only one to call for violence against lesbians and gay men. Two of the speakers at the conference were fundamentalist pastors who have similarly called for lethal violence against same-gender loving people.
Marriage equality was a huge victory in this country, but a conference in Des Moines shows that the war on human dignity, on equal rights, on LBGT safety is not yet over. In fact, in some ways, it may be getting uglier than ever.
Also in the last week there was an attack on the children of same-gender loving parents. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints reaffirmed last week its opposition to marriage equality and its refusal to perform same-sex weddings, which is their right.
Beyond their condemnation of marriage equality and their refusal to sanction same-sex weddings, they took the added step of saying that a biological or adopted child of a parent living in a same-gender loving relationship will not be allowed to be baptized in the LDS church until the child becomes an adult, and even then only if the young person leaves their parent’s home and disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation or marriage.
In other words, the children of gay parents will be denied the sacrament of baptism, and even as adults will be denied it if they don’t publicly condemn their parent’s relationship. How’s that for family values?
Now, the LDS is free to practice their religion however they choose. While I believe these recent actions are draconian, they are not trying to force anything on anyone outside the walls of their churches. But still, my heart breaks for the families that will be torn apart by this dehumanizing policy.
But wait, there’s more! Houston, TX voted last week on whether they would extend protections to 15 different groups of people. The Houston Equal Rights Ordinance (HERO) would have protected from discrimination gays and lesbians, transgender people, veterans, the elderly, women, ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, and so on.
However, opponents of equality successfully launched a media campaign telling people that protecting transgender people would give men an excuse to dress as women and assault women in public restrooms. They just made it up! What’s to keep a criminal from wearing a disguise in any case?! The fear mongering was despicable. The ignorance was astounding.
The HERO ordinance failed, and fundamentalists celebrated all over social media the next day, congratulating themselves on taking a stand for morality. But slander and discrimination are not the paths of the moral high ground.
Ignorance, apathy, and hatred conspired to defeat equal protection in Houston. And people of conscience and character cannot remain silent about that tragic fact.
Finally, I want to tell you about a petition that is circulating on the Internet calling for LBGT organizations to stop serving the Transgender community. If you see that petition I beg you to refuse to sign it and further, I hope you will denounce it at every opportunity.
A conference organized by people who call for violence against gays,
a denomination denying sacraments to children who have same-gender loving parents,
a major city denying equal rights protections to veterans and disabled people, religious people and people of various racial, ethnic, and national backgrounds all to prevent transgender people from having legal protections,
and a petition trying to get gays and lesbians and bisexuals to distance themselves from transgender people…and all of that happened in ONE WEEK.
How did we ever become so fearful, so unkind, so lacking in compassion, so disinterested in justice, so inflexible, so unwilling to share something as basic as dignity with our fellow human-beings? And how did religion become part of the problem instead of the possible cure?
I don’t know the answer to that question, but I do know this…we may not have all the answers, we may not be able to fix all the problems, but I make a promise to myself, to you my sisters and brothers, and to the All-Inclusive Love that I call God that I will use whatever influence I have to make sure this different kind of church will always be a voice of hope for the hopeless, a voice calling for peace in a battle weary world, a voice demanding justice for the marginalized, a voice affirming the sacred value of ALL people!
We can do and offer at least that much.
A beggar who couldn’t walk once approached the Apostle Peter asking for money, and Peter didn’t have any. But not having all that the beggar needed didn’t prevent Peter from sharing with him what he did have. Peter told the person begging, “I don’t have any coins to give you, but what I do have I share with you.” And on the spot Peter prayed for the man’s healing, and according to the story, the man who hadn’t been able to walk was healed.
We can’t fix every problem, but we can share hope and compassion and as we do so, we will be part of healing our hurting and fractured world.
That’s what the gospel story is about.
In the gospel lesson today we see a woman giving all she has to the Temple treasury. She doesn’t have much, but nevertheless, she gives whatever she can. From her limited resources, she still wants to share.
Jesus notices the woman, and praises her, but he was not only praising one woman’s generous spirit, he was also criticizing a social system that would allow the woman to have so little.
In Mark 12.40, Jesus calls out those who, in his words, “devour widows’ homes.” The very next verse, 41, begins the story of the widow giving her tiny coins. They aren’t two different stories, but a thought being continued. How can a world where some can have so much allow people like this widow to have so little?
Today, Jesus’ question might be:
How can heterosexuals who can love and marry whomever they choose wish to deny that right and that joy to same-gender loving people?
How can gays and lesbians who have finally won marriage equality not be willing to help their transgender friends and neighbors achieve fairness in their lives (and, let us remember, that many transgender people are also gay and lesbian)?
How can people who love their children not be concerned about the safety of everyone’s children?
How can those who are enriched by sacramental worship deny the sacraments to anyone?
How can those who have be so indifferent or unkind to those who have not?
In our church here in Ft Lauderdale we have a member who in the early days of the AIDS epidemic took in men who were dying and cared for them. And even after she no longer needed to provide that service, she continued to volunteer here at the church for as long as her health allowed.
We have members who collect food for food banks, clothes for shelters,
who volunteer at hospitals and food banks and thrift shops,
who sponsor people in AA,
who work as social workers and nurses,
and who volunteer in various areas of the church in addition to making financial contributions to our ministry.
They are doing what the story of the Widow’s mite encourages people to do…share lovingly, generously, and consistently. It makes a difference. It’s one of the ways we worship, by serving God in others. Thank you for all you do!
Generous people will not demonize the transgender children of God.
Generous people will not call for violence against gays or anyone else.
Generous people will not use children as weapons against their own parents.
Generous people will wish for all people to be treated fairly.
Generous people will try to dismantle systems of oppression.
The best spiritual witness is a life of generosity. We are growing ever more deeply into that profound witness as the Sunshine Cathedral.
Sometimes what we can do may seem like tossing a couple of pennies in a pot, but let us do whatever we can anyway. When enough of us do what we can, miracles happen.
By supporting this different kind of church, however we can, we are making a difference. And this is the good news. Amen.
© Durrell Watkins 2015
I have something to share.
As I give and do what I can, I make a difference.
God bless my desire to live generously.