Yesterday's sermon began with a confession. The priest has an obsession with McDonald's french fries and all things Disney. It was to his greatest pleasure that the Episcopal Church held its General Convention in Anaheim.
He went on to compare the proceedings to riding the Tower of Terror. Is everyone familiar with that ride? At the top of the elevator, it opens the doors to the beautiful surrounding of Anaheim before dropping you, seat off your chair and all, then stops and takes you up and down in quick succession.
Let me get you up to speed on the proceedings of the Episcopal Church. A few years back, New Hampshire elected an openly gay man living with a partner as their bishop. Several parishes balked as did many of the dioceses in Africa. Some parishes left the Episcopal Church of the United States to join Anglican dioceses of Uganda and other African countries. Nevermind that some of those same African countries punish homosexuality by imprisonment or even death.
Fast forward to Anaheim and my priest was reporting that homosexuality is an issue that we'll struggle with in our generation, just as other generations struggled with whether to wear clothes of mixed fibers, to eat meat given to idols, to own slaves, and to have women priests.
I listened as the priest reminded us that the Bible speaks to divorce many more times than to homosexuality. He pointed out that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah was about homosexual rape and that any rape is wrong. He reminded us that even though the Church denounces divorce it has come to accept that it is a part of our current culture. I remember my own grandfather after his divorce would never remarry because he believed that in the eyes of the Church he and my grandmother were still married.
As the priest reported that the Episcopal Church will begin exploring the possibility of gay marriage, my stomach bottomed out as if dropped in that service elevator.
As anyone who's ever darkened the door of a law school, I understand that marriage is at heart a contract. Why else would divorce court be so expensive? But that's the state side of marriage. I've always believed that the religious side of marriage was to procreate. Something that can't be done the natural way in a gay marriage.
If I were Empress of the World, everyone would have to be married by the state - both straights and gays - for the contractual agreement of marriage. (Don't even get me started on the perils of living together - that's a whole other blog.) If a straight couple then wanted to be married in the church, they could. But in my mind, a church marriage for gays would be out of the question since I held firm to that procreation belief.
That's when my beliefs were challenged. Right then and there, sitting in the fourth pew listening to my priest.
What about couples who choose not to have children? Or enter a marriage knowing they can't have children? Or older couples on a second marriage after a beloved spouse passes away?
My procreation argument was blown out of the water.
To me in my religious mind, I must now accept either that only couples who procreate should be married or that marriage should be available to all couples who truly love each other.
It's that love/hate relationship with church. Where, like as the doors open at the top of the Tower of Terror and you get comfortable in that view, suddenly your comfort is challenged. To me, that's what being religious is all about. Because if you're comfortable every time you listen to a sermon, you're just going to a church where you'll hear what you want to hear.