When Hate Stays in the Closet

One of the best constructed responses to marriage equality opponents. Best thing I have ready today.

The Weekly Sift

answering the most sympathetic and reasonable arguments against same-sex marriage


I found the Marriage Conservation Facebook page when one of my FB friends linked to something “hateful” posted there. And it’s true, you don’t have to read very far to find nasty comments cloaked in self-righteousness.

But that’s not what I found interesting.

In general, I try to discourage my friends from winding themselves up by seeking out other people’s bile. Once in a while I run into some blessedly innocent person who doesn’t understand the depth of irrational hatred in the world, and who (sadly) needs to be disillusioned a little. But I believe that for most of us, the idea that there are crazy, nasty, ugly people on the other side comes to mind far too easily.

What’s harder to hold in mind is all the good, decent, well-meaning people who are trying their best to do the…

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Mamma Dog and the Pile of Yarn

outreach centerThis morning, at my church, we held a ribbon cutting ceremony for our new Community Outreach Center.  The center is an expansion of the Matthew 25:40 Mission that has been a part of our church’s work in the community.  The mission literally grew out of it’s Director’s (Mark Cook) trunk.  The Outreach Center will provide a warming center during the day for our community’s homeless population while connecting people in need to the support and services they need.

As part of the church service that preceded the ribbon cutting, the kids participated in a Blessing of the Blankets.  Just before Rev. Christana Wille McKnight lead the congregation in the blessing, I got to tell this story:

Once upon a time, on a day very much like today – rainy, windy and cold – there was a dog who didn’t have a place to live.  On this rainy, windy, cold day the dog laid down in an alleyway to get a little relief from the weather.  Nearby was a pile of yarn that someone had thrown away.  The pile of yarn saw the dog and rolled over to it and tried to cover the shivering animal.  It meant well and it tried really hard.  It helped a bit.  The dog felt a little warmer and a little drier and was grateful for the effort.  But still, the dog was damp and chilly.

Later that evening, a young woman cut through the alleyway on her way home and saw the dog, covered in yarn, shivering quietly.  She picked up the dog, yarn and all, and brought her home.  While the dog huddled in the corner of the kitchen, the young woman gathered up all the yarn and brought it to her loom.  Turns out the woman was an artist and had a real skill for weaving.  Within a few hours she wove that yarn – in and out, left and right – until she had woven a beautiful blanket.  When she was finished, she took that blanket to the corner of the kitchen, wrapped up the dog and went to bed. puppies under blanket

In the morning, the young woman came down to the kitchen to find that the dog had given birth to 3 adorable puppies.  The blanket was now wrapped around the Momma dog and her 3 puppies, keeping the whole family warm.

What makes a blanket different from a pile of yarn is vision, leadership and organization.  We must always be grateful to those who share their vision, extend their leadership and bring organization to our pile of efforts.  For it is through these gifts that our pile of yarn becomes more beautiful, more durable and more effective.

The 3 sisters – Hope, Faith and Love

???????????????????????????????????????The theme in February at First Parish Church in Taunton is Hope.  I have been thinking a lot about Hope and Faith lately.  This story, which I told at our Time for All Ages, came from that thinking.

This is a story about three sisters – Hope, Faith and Love.  I think their parents might have been hippies.  Every day, the sisters work to fight injustice.  They march against unfair treatment.  They help kids being bullied.  They sit with parents with sick kids.  They help families struggling to pay the rent and put food on the table.

Each morning, Hope wakes up first and, in her wee happy voice, she sings, “I hope today will be a good day.”  Her cheery optimism helps get her sisters up and ready for the day.  The sisters sing together over breakfast, hum while washing up and dance while getting dressed to start the day.  Bellies full, clean and neat, the sisters head to the door.  Sometimes Hope’s sunny mood dims a little as she considers their work ahead and the challenges they might face.  “I hope today will be a good day, but I am not sure.”

Faith chirps up in a voice strong and determined.  “I have faith that our work matters.  I have faith that things will get better.”  Hand in hand, the three sisters set out to protest, to protect, to educate, to feed and clothe, and to heal the broken places in the world.   They march arm in arm.  They speak truth to power.  They hug and cry with the suffering.  They sing with the brave.  They keep their hands busy with their life giving, world saving work.

The sisters have many friends and partners, but not everyone welcomes them.  Sometimes they meet people who put them down.  Sometimes they meet people who push them down.  Sometimes they are even beat down.  In these dark times even Hope’s optimism and Faith’s determination waiver.

Love in usually pretty quite.  Usually she shows her strength with a gentle touch, a loving smile or a warm embrace.  In the dark times, when the sisters are at their lowest, she shows her true power.  “Get up!” she shouts.  “Stand up!”  “Keep moving!”  When the sisters are almost at the breaking point, it is Love’s power that brings them through.  Love reminds them  why they work so hard every day.  Love reminds them of all the wonderful people with whom they struggle.  Love reminds of all the beauty they work to protect.  With Love, they rise.  With Love, they push forward.

And so the sisters work together each day.  We will find them when we work together for justice.  We will find them when we act with compassion.  We will find them when we stand up and we will find them when we are shoved down.  Each contributes in their own way to help us do what we know is right.

The letter to Santa

One of my responsibilities as the Director of Religious Education at First Parish Church in Taunton is to tell a story or share some thoughts during the worship service.  We call this the “Time for All Ages.”  This past Sunday, I struck  upon a gem.

There once was a 3rd grade teacher – Mrs. Mello – who asked her students to write a letter to Santa with their Christmas Wish List as one of their assignments.  Third graders are learning to write letters and this seemed like a good way to get the kids excited about their lesson.  The children got busy right away.  When the letters were all written, Mrs. Mello collected them and brought them home to correct that evening.

After dinner, she sat in her comfy chair, got out her red pen, and started correcting and grading the letters.  She skimmed through several letters, not really focused on the stream of “Please bring me a new bike…new doll…new action figure…new computer game…”  It wasn’t the content of the letters that was important.  She was looking to make sure that they used capital letters at the beginning of the sentence, punctuation at the end and enough verbs, adjectives and nouns in the middle.  One letter, though, drew her in.

It started off sweetly enough…

Dear Santa,

Thank you for all the wonderful gifts you brought last year.

But then it took an unexpected turn…

This year, could you make sure that me and my family have a warm, dry home.  And could you make sure that my whole family is safe and healthy.  I would really like it if my whole family could be together for Christmas and there is enough food on the table for everyone to get their fill.

I also want a dry pair of boots so my feet don’t get wet when I walk to school and a warm coat so I won’t be cold.

Your friend,

Billy

Mrs. Mello was shocked and saddened.  She had no idea that Billy and his family were going through such a hard time.  She picked up her phone and called Billy’s home right away.

When Billy’s mom answered the phone, Mrs. Mello shared with her the contents of Billy’s letter and asked if there were anything that the school could do to help her family.  Billy’s mom replied that she had no idea why Billy would write a letter like that because the family was doing just fine.  They had a warm, dry home.  No one was sick and there was plenty of food.  Billy had nice boots and a warm coat.

Billy’s mom thanked Mrs. Mello for her call and after saying “Goodbye” she went to Billy’s room to ask him about the letter.  “Billy, why would you write a letter asking Santa for a warm, dry home?  Why would you ask for the family to be healthy and well fed?  Why do you want dry boots and a warm coat?  You already have all of those things.”

Billy looked at his Mom with a big smile and said, “Yeah, isn’t that cool.  I already have everything I want.”

“Mostly dead is slightly alive”

A year ago today, Rev. Christana Wille McKnight began her ministry at First Parish Church in Taunton.  As I look back on the bleak winter days leading up to the early spring in which the Board made the wise decision to answer the door when opportunity knocked, I am reminded of this scene from the movie “Princess Bride.”

 

First Parish Church in Taunton was “mostly dead.”  But, as our wise friend Miracle Max pointed out, “Mostly dead is slightly alive.”  Over the past year, the congregation at First Parish Church created its own miracle, led by our own “Miracle MaxKnight.”

One Year Later, Rev. Christana writes in her blog, “our vision continues to expand, relationships deepen and our ministry grows.”

As we look forward to many years together, my wish for the congregation in Taunton is, of course, “Have fun storming the castle.”

My Easter story

Easter window

from New England Church Project

I have said many times that some stories are true, some are not and some are a little of both.  Many of our sacred texts are like that.  Often we spend a great deal of time trying to prove that a particular story is true or not true and miss the fact that there is truth to be found even in the most fantastical stories.

Today is Easter and Christians around the globe are telling the story in the Christian bible about Jesus dying and then, three days later, rising from the dead.  My reasoning mind tells me that people who are dead do not come back to life.  I have never known of someone who is dead, coming back to life, so I don’t believe that this bible story is factually true.  However, from my personal experience, I know that when someone we love dies, we can often feel them, see them and hear them long after they are gone.  My father died four years ago.  I still see his face when I look in the mirror.  I still hear his voice coming out of my mouth.  So I can believe that Jesus’ friends and family felt him, saw him and heard him.

I can believe that a man named Jesus walked around teaching people to love one another and that there is more to life than just grinding out a living.  I can believe that there were people who felt threatened by this and killed him.  I can believe this because there are other people who have done the same and faced the same fate.  Martin Luther King went around trying to teach people about justice and love for all people.  Some folks really did not like that and killed him for it.  Gandhi went around trying to teach people about peace and freedom.  There were people who didn’t like that either and he was killed.  So, yes, I can believe that a man named Jesus was killed for preaching about love and salvation.

Church window

from New England Church Project

I can also believe that Jesus’ message endured well beyond his lifetime.  I can believe that his message of love so inspired the people who heard it that we continue to preach this message and work to bring love and peace to the world thousands of years later.  I believe it because I see people every day who have been inspired by powerful messages carrying on the work of those who have fallen.  The messages of King and Gandhi could not be silenced by their murders.  Susan B. Anthony never got the chance to vote but she and others inspired a movement that could not be stopped, not even with her death.

For me, this is the truth in the Christian Easter story.  We are engaged in a struggle between Love and Fear.  And Love always wins.  Because Love is stronger than Fear.  Love is stronger even than Death.

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