It feels like an avalanche. DOMA is history. We’re in twelve states now, thirteen soon, with California. Plus Washington D.C. (I know, whatever, it isn’t a state, but it is something.) I heard on NPR that lawmakers were switching sides on the issue like some kind of a fad. I don’t doubt it. They can feel it, and so can you and so can I. We’re at the balance point. We’re tipping to the other side. This is happening.
This. Is. Happening.
And now I’m getting all teared up, because for me it’s about healing the wounds of shame, and I’ve got people in this. Real people, that I love. But I don’t want to write about that today. It’s here, if you want to read it. And I already came out as a Christian to my gay friends; generally they were very accepting. Today I just want to write about myself, and being a straight Christian woman in Idaho, and feeling the fear.
There is real fear.
There is this one passage in the Bible. About half of my religious friends can go like a year without ever seeing or mentioning it, and the other half have it on the tip of the tongue. So, yes, it’s one of those. I’ll go ahead and reprint it here. Secular readers of mine, steel yourselves. It goes like this. (Eph 5, NIV)
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
Now. We’re used to reading this and exchanging the word “wife” for “woman” and the word “husband” for “man,” because, you know, there’s one of each, and it we wanted it all to be just be that simple. But what if it wasn’t that simple? What would it mean for this passage? If men married men and women married women?
I know lots of you are making a nice division between civil law and religious sacrament, as in, this passage only applies to a marriage between a man and a woman because that’s still the only kind that really counts — but you know it’s too late for that, too, because there are also gay Christians, already, and they are married to one another, and do you want to know how they read this passage?
Try it. Right now. Read it as if you were the wife. Then go back and read it as if you were the husband. Switch it up it in the middle. Go crazy.
(that’s the scary part)
Did we know that this was coming? This unintended consequence? I think so. I think we all saw this coming, and not just Christians. I think this is exactly what all the fuss has been about. Because if this is true — if gay marriage is true — then binary gender roles in marriage are not true.
(that’s the really scary part)
If gay marriage is true, then binary gender roles in marriage are not true.
And then you have to go back to the passage — hell, you have to go back to the entire New Testament — and then it isn’t an enforcement of the way things are here down below, but a radical, terrifying, almost-impossible call to the kingdom way, for everybody, right this minute. Right now.
Look. There’s selfless (Christlike) submission, and there’s selfless (Christlike) leadership, and basically, you have to be ready to do either, anytime. You have to be ready to be selfless no matter what. Nobody gets out of this. There’s a way to follow the kingdom path no matter what social role you find yourself in, from king to slave. And when you do find yourself, wherever you do find yourself, the very next step is to give it all away. Give up the solid ground of ego and selfishness. Step out of inequality and oppression. Step onto thin air.
(that’s the really, really scary part)
I believe in just exactly this kind of magic. I believe in the kind of kingdom where the powerful and the weak lie down together. I believe in the end of empire, and the end of patriarchy, and, yes, I am the girl who will say, let’s burn it all down.
But now — right now — for a moment, I just want to validate the fear. I feel it, too, so much more because I live in a very red state these days and drink the water. There’s a kind of vibration in the air. A shifting of the walls.
What happens to us, when those old walls come down?
I want to tell the truth about the fear. This truth, that the really scary thing is not gay kids or even gay parents, and certainly not beautiful couples wearing their best clothes and swearing their lives to one another. It’s just the same thing we were always afraid of, which is our own dark selves. And our confusion, and the likelihood of being wrong, and that in all the dust and smoke we’ll lose our way.
But it’s no use. We have already lost our way. That happens on, like, page 3. And the truest faith is not only of familiar ground; it is also of searching. And humility. And stepping out onto thin air. It is scary, but it’s the only way there’s ever been to right a wrong. And we can do it. We can right this wrong.
This is the really scary thing: that we might have been wrong.
Can you see us now, Matthew Shepard? This is happening. We’re still scared. But this is happening.