is a snippet from a fiction project I’m working on:
It had been a long day. Not just because it was a wedding
day but because the protesters unsettled her. She knew there
were jack-asses abundant in the world, people who hated people
who loved. But that these people would come to her house,
line up in front of Lakeview as if they had a right to assemble
on the hill above the house where she had grown up, where
generations had grown up, seemed a sublime invasion.
Man + One Woman = God’s Plan’ said one sign. ‘Queer Love is
Satan’s Bait’ another said. The one that bothered her the
most said simply, ‘God hates homosexuality. Repent and reproduce.’
I’m happy to say that nothing like that happened at Shawn
and Chipp’s holy union service earlier this summer. The weather
was fine, friends were joyful and Shawn’s father made a beautiful
toast to the two grooms. On their service bulletin it said
“A union of any kind is a time to rejoice. Love has no limitations.”
From the smiles on everybody’s faces you could almost believe
there weren’t people in the world hell-bent on sexual bigotry,
all in the name of their God.
Then there was another happy day I shared with Shawn and Chipp.
On a bracingly clear and beautiful September Sunday I drove
over to the West Stockbridge United Church of Christ for Shawn’s
official installation as pastor. Friends and family had come
from far away and congregational members had set up a lavish
reception table in the church hall. I was the guest preacher,
and honored to be there.
On their bulletins, the church has printed its statement of
Welcome to all who have no church home, need strength, have
doubts or do not believe. Welcome to grandparents, to mothers,
to fathers and single parents. Welcome to new friends and
old. Welcome to people of all colors, cultures, abilities
and sexual orientations, to old and young, to believers and
questioning believers. Welcome to everyone!
I had worked with Shawn for four years when he was the organist
to the church I serve. It was hard to see him leave, but he
wanted to be back in the parish. The West Stockbridge United
Church of Christ seemed a good choice. Open and affirming,
they were completely unfazed by Shawn’s sexual orientation
and welcomed Shawn and Chipp warmly.
And then I got this in an e-mail from Shawn just last week.
I’m reprinting it here with his permission
Last night, on Sunday, October 28th the West Stockbridge UCC
held our annual Harvest Dinner which is a fundraiser for the
church, but also serves as a social event in town and also
for people in surrounding towns. For about two hours before
and during the first seating of this dinner, two men stood
in front of the church building near the street with signs
expressing hatred and homophobia. One sign expressed that
our church is a “House of Sodom.” They were shouting angrily
at everyone who passed by them to enter into the church. The
town police came to try to get them to disperse, but they
refused. Later, a Massachusetts State Police trooper did get
them to leave.
For many in the church, it was their first outright experience
of homophobia and was somewhat jarring. For me, it is a little
creepy that there are people out there keeping tabs on area
churches to note which ones are taking Open and Affirming
stances and calling GLBT clergy [to be their pastors] so they
can come and picket church events. I also wonder what kind
of religious group these people are coming from where the
priority is to berate one group of people rather than feed
the hungry, clothe the naked......have they read the gospels?
It sickened me to read what had happened at the Harvest Dinner.
It is one thing to write a scene in which there are
fictional gay picketers protesting the wedding of two fictional
gay men. It is another thing for a real-life person I know
well and deeply care about to become the object of real-life
bigotry and hate speech.
Shawn will take it all in stride—he’s a very balanced person.
And it may make the West Stockbridge church bind more closely
together. But such incidents are real and frequent. Such Bible-based
bigotry is not to be tolerated.
In Chris Hedges’ compelling book, American Fascists: The
Christian Right and the War on America, he quotes Karl
Popper, making a never-more-timely point:
We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right
not to tolerate the intolerant. We should claim that any movement
preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we
should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution
as criminal in the same way as we should consider incitement
to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave
trade as criminal.
And Shawn’s questions should be raised again and again until
people who call themselves Christian finally get it.
“What kind of religious group are these people coming from
where the priority is to berate one group of people rather
than feed the hungry, clothe the naked? Have they read the