This morning I was doing that thing I do – watching the news on the elliptical machine at the Y – and as my heart rate rose, I felt myself getting angrier and angrier. Truthfully, I was already in a funk when I arrived, having started my day with way too much internet surfing. I’d come across the story of the family-owned pizza parlor in an Indiana town that was effectively put out of business yesterday when an employee made the mistake of answering a reporter’s question as to “how she felt” about the Religious Freedom Act. This simple, small town Evangelical gave the wrong answer, and the rest is predictable history: social media outrage, death threats, family closing up shop, etc. etc.
So I’m on the elliptical, and I’m fuming. I’m composing a Facebook post in my head – yeah, I do that – and wondering how I can make my point without bringing a mountain of grief down on that self same head. (I often do that, too.) What I came up with off-the-cuff was this:
There is something very wrong afoot – possibly even evil – when a powerful consortium of entertainers, media heads, thought leaders, politicians, and high-profile corporations (from Apple to Walmart) are creating an atmosphere where small town working people can be run out of business and turned into social pariahs… while posturing as righteous, embattled defenders of the downtrodden. Go ahead, powerful consortium… Pursue your utopian goal of a “diverse” nation where everybody holds the exact same views and beliefs. But please, stop the moral preening. Stop acting like you’re a scrappy band of counter-culture rebels, “speaking truth to power.” You ARE power. You ARE the culture. The tables have turned. Try showing a little graciousness in victory.
So, yeah. That was probably too harsh. But I was upset. Here’s the thing: I am not an Evangelical Christian. I am a liberal Presbyterian. In fact, my church, PC USA, just made news by becoming the first of the major mainline protestant churches to allow gay marriage. Some of us were elated, others a bit more circumspect, while still others were unhappy with the decision. And you know what? That’s okay. Christians can agree to disagree on any number of issues. So can Americans, by the way. Personally, I am glad that gay marriage is becoming the law of the land, and for a fairly conservative reason: I believe marriage is good for people and good for society. Having said that, I understand why some people – especially orthodox Christians, Jews and Muslims – hold the male/female model as a sacred paradigm. Not only is there scriptural support for that view, but it’s a model that has served civilization well for a very long time. I get where these people are coming from, and more importantly, I happen to know – and love and respect – many of them . . . and hearing them reduced to “haters and bigots” by this POWERFUL consortium gets me so riled up I can hardly stand it…
So, this is what I was thinking as I left the elliptical machine and hit the Cypress Wetlands Trail out back, still on the mental and emotional warpath. And the first thing I saw there – I kid you not – was a bright red cardinal flying around and around in circles. Seriously, my favorite bird in the world was right there in front of me, whirling like a crazy, over-caffeinated dervish. My friend Maggie says I should never ignore a message from a bird, and this one came through loud and clear: “Why are you tying yourself in knots over this? You’re just spinning and spinning and getting nowhere. People will think what they think (just like you!) and there’s nothing you can do about it. Calm down, unwind your brain, look around at this beautiful place, and just breathe…”
And so I did. And it was good. Nature almost never fails me. I made a lap around the wisteria-laced wetlands, and when I returned to the place where I’d seen the whirling cardinal, guess what I encountered? Right in front of me, in the exact same spot, a little brown rabbit scurried out of the brush. He looked at me and I looked at him, and I remembered. Easter was coming. Not only did I need to buy some candy – my daughter’s 13, but we still do the basket – but EASTER WAS COMING.
I thought of the one who really did come for the downtrodden. The one who came for the broken, the outcast, the despised… whoever they might be. He came for the gay teenager, for the evangelical pizza lady… he even came for the powerful preeners. He knew we were all soul sick and in need of healing. He loved us all. No litmus test, no qualification, no exception.
Holy Jesus, we need you now as much as we ever have. Every day, we find new and inventive ways to put you to death. But that never stopped you before; don’t give up on us now. Come rise in us, again. Work your miracle. Create in us clean hearts, O God. Bring us back to life.