Momentous Emotions

It’s Friday, June 26th at 10am, and I am dishing out chicken cacciatore. Mornings at Meals on Wheels are always a bit hectic, as we dish-out, pack and deliver over 265 meals. And on this particular morning I am attempting to keep a steady flow as I accidentally slop red sauce all over myself.

Somewhere in the middle of the 265 meal trays, my wrist begins to buzz incessantly. I look down to see a text from a dear friend that reads, “WHOOOOO HOOOOOO!!!!!” I know. Instantly I realize what has happened. I look around the room: Is there anyone in here who can hug me, who can celebrate this monumental time? No. I keep moving chicken from my right to my left.

And I am bitter. I clench my teeth. Why can’t I shout for joy here? Why won’t anyone hold me if I need to cry tears of relief?

A volunteer enters. I hear him speak to another staff member about the SCOTUS decision. He’s intrigued by the statements of dissent. I wonder what else he will say. My heart picks up its rhythm. Will he say something insulting? Will I have to break the rules of work appropriateness and tell him that, “I am a lesbian and this political decision matters more than you will ever comprehend!”? Nobody engages his conversation and he leaves.

When I finally finish scooping food, I take a quick jog up the stairs to sit in my office and look at the computer. I see MARRIAGE EQUALITY in big, bold, rejuvenating letters. I breathe a very deep breath. I sit and stare at the screen for a few more seconds before I go back downstairs to finish packing meals.

I pack my car with eight meals destined for Crozet. My wife texts me: “We’re legal everywhere!!! All 50 states!” I sit in the car in the parking lot and begin to cry. But they aren’t tears of joy. We’re legal? What does it mean when it’s illegal to be who you are and to love who you love? In my typical jest I reply to her: “Wanna move to Alabama?”

My tears are on again, off again for the entire 20 minute drive. I have a difficult time forming thoughts to explain my feelings. You know how you feel after you’ve had the worst headache in the world and you thought it would never end and it finally dissipates? It is kind of like that. It is the feeling you get when you’ve been fighting the world to gain some sort of humanness and dignity and the world finally begins to acknowledge you. A permeating balm. Deep breaths.

The post-delivery ride home is cluttered with different thoughts: I wonder how to prepare myself for the right-wing backlash; I think about the black community and how their “legal” rights haven’t amounted to true equality and freedom; I begin to smile as I receive more and more messages of support and jubilation from friends. More tears, more guttural breathing.

I return to the office and quickly finish up; I feel my excitement mounting. I’m finally ready to celebrate! I look at Facebook and Twitter and I’m overwhelmed by how many of my straight friends are celebrating and spewing rainbows.  I have an idea: I should get my lovely wife a present! I stop by Fifth Season and pick up three succulent plants; she’s a sucker for succulents. I pick Lindsay up from work and our typical hello kiss holds a special, hopeful spark. She loves her succulents!

We begin to rearrange our evening so that we can celebrate with C’ville Pride at the downtown mall. I finally have a moment to sit and think and I receive an email from my best friend. She wants to know how to respond to her Christian friends who are claiming that this move towards equality is against God’s will. “How do you respond to claims about homosexuality and the Bible?” she asks. I pen (type) this response:

When people attempt to quote particular verses to prove capital T truth, it gets us absolutely nowhere. Jesus actually held quite a bit of contempt for those who proof-texted Hebrew scriptures in his time. He often reimagined and recreated Jewish scriptural norms. Jesus was a very devout Jew, but he spent his life (and his death) trying to help others move past restrictive piety and oppressive literalism.

I can quote Jesus saying lots of different things, like when he tells people to give up all of their possessions. I am assuming that your Bible thumping friends will claim that he was just using a metaphor to make a point.

The questions surrounding homosexuality and the Bible are thick and can never be explained with a simple: “The Bible says this!” The Bible doesn’t “say” anything. Christian scriptures are a widely diverse conglomeration of words written by folks who were inspired by God and attempting to figure out what that meant for their current contexts. We do the same thing today. We take the words (that have been partially translated into our own language) and attempt to make sense of them.

Every thought we have about those words is preceded by particularities we have gleaned from a lifetime of experience. We all come at the Bible with a different lens. I can spend hours explaining to you how everything in the Bible points toward justice for the oppressed and love for the outsiders. That’s my lens, and it works for me.

This conversation about predetermined thought doesn’t even begin to scrape the surface of hermeneutics (the interpretation and exegesis of texts). People want to begin this conversation with: “Well, the Bible says that homosexuality is a sin!” That’s the wrong place to start.

What is the Bible? How did those words get there? What was happening in the world of the writers? What happens when we translate Koine Greek to English? How did the particular books of the Bible come together? How were they collected? Who decided what went in the Bible and what was left out? How has the Bible changed?

And those are just a few questions about the Bible. Similar questions can be asked about the Christian tradition, American Christianity (which happens to mirror Empire), and the purpose of the church.

When “Christians” claim that the Bible says anything, my heart sinks. That claim is absolutely absurd.

None of us have a rightful claim on absolute Biblical truth. For me, I do the best I can to understand the trajectory of God that I have witnessed in scripture and in the world. I believe that trajectory looks a lot like justice for the oppressed and the annihilation of the status quo. I commit my life to these things because I believe the way of Jesus is worth it.

I hit send and walk out of the door to celebrate. Our evening is filled with friends, food, beverages and holy conversation. Lindsay and I meet a friend at Jack Browns and reminisce about how we first fell in love over Elvis burgers and Woodchuck on my balcony at the Urban Exchange. Our beautiful friends (and tremendous allies) let us know they’re driving from Staunton to help us celebrate at the Pride event.

Through out the evening I feel the usual tug of justice pulling at my soul: Should I really be celebrating when there is so much more work left to do? How can I smile when churches are being burned in South Carolina? How can I laugh knowing that I can still be fired from my job because I have a wife? No, I tell myself. Celebrate. Breathe peacefully. At least for 24 hours, allow this milestone to sink in and give hope and proclaim justice.

Then, the celebration! I’m wrapped in a rainbow. I give hugs and receive smiles. Look at those faces who just received more validation, more acknowledgement of their humanness. Look at them. Hours ago they had less protection under the law. Years ago they had no hope of ever possessing the ability to be authentic. This solidarity feels nice.

On June 26th, 2015, I experienced every human emotion. Jubilation because of progress, disgust because of ugly reactions, thankfulness because of solidarity and support, pride because of accomplishment, fear because of the future, indignation because of ignorance, absolute anger because of Biblical misuse and religious control-mongering, admiration and amazement because of brave souls, weariness because of the long fight, guilt because of celebrations in light of massacre, hope because of seeming hopelessness; ferocity, serenity, woe and wonder.

Let us dance forward, encountering the fullness of human experience. But above all else, let us continue to collide with love-seeking justice. Let it be so.

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One thought on “Momentous Emotions

  1. Julie Hughens

    Amen, Brittany! Thank you for so eloquently sharing your experience, your feelings, your passion and intellect. My year of seminary changed forever the way I view the Bible – for the very reasons you state. I’m so grateful you and your lovely wife are in our life!

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