Gospel of Mark, Lent, LGBT, LGBTQ

No permanent enemies (Mark 9:30-10:16)

It’s an article of faith for political organizers: there are no permanent enemies.

It’s encouraging to think that we can form and re-form alliances, and there is scriptural support for this idea.

John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone throwing demons out in your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.” Jesus replied, “Don’t stop him. No one who does powerful acts in my name can quickly turn around and curse me. Whoever isn’t against us is for us. (Mark 9:38-40, CEB)

I suppose the converse is true, too. There are no permanent allies. That’s discouraging. I would have liked to think that we could trust our allies, but one of the things I’ve found since coming out in 2012 is that some people are with you only up to a point. One of the best pieces of advice I received in the midst of that personal and public process was to prepare to be surprised by the people I counted on who would let me down and amazed by the people I never expected to support me who would.

No permanent enemies, and no permanent allies.

In the town where I live, as in many towns in this era of religious and political polarization, the churches have a hard time coming together to do any kind of useful work not just over the ordination and inclusion of LGBTQ+ people but over the ordained leadership of women. Seriously? To me, that seems pretty 1957, but it’s real around here. I’ve heard my spouse say she will graciously stay out of the way if they manage to have some kind of multi-church worship service, as long as some other women are visible in leadership.

It makes me feel like I live in the wrong place, but then I have to remember how called we felt to be here when we discerned whether one of us would relocate, and whether we would get married.

I tell myself that there may be powerful acts done by some of those churches, feeding hungry people, healing broken hearts.

Yet I know there are youth in some of those congregations being taught that people like me are going to hell, and I know they are menacing LGBTQ+ students and allies in our local schools who do not agree with them.

I want to think that just by being here as ordinary people in an ordinary community we may help shift the way people ally themselves. I hope it’s true, in the end, that no one who does good in Jesus’ name can reject the love he lived.

Holy One, I hope it’s true there are no permanent enemies. Help me to make allies for you. Amen.


I’m reading and blogging about Mark for Lent. Want to read along? I’m using the Common English Bible because it messes with my expectations of familiar passages. I am also referring to NRSV-based resources including The Jewish Annotated New Testament, and the New Interpreter’s Study Bible, as well as the online Greek interlinear Bible.

You can find the full schedule here, including links to earlier posts.

Church Life, LGBTQ, Ministry

Dear Mainline Church people (a response to the Nashville Statement)

Dear Mainline Church people,

I’m writing this in response to the Nashville Statement, a pernicious manifesto issued today by a coalition of conservative Evangelical Christians. In a season when the church could be speaking out against White supremacy, agitating for peace in a troubled world, finally getting some clean water for Flint, and mobilizing to help after Hurricane Harvey, they felt it was instead the time to reiterate their condemnation of LGBTQIA+ people and to be particularly specific in their disdain for trans* people.

Now, my Church people, some of you make space for your LGBTQIA+ siblings; we can really be part of the body of Christ with you. Some of you think you do it, but maybe you stopped at making a statement without doing any further work to figure out what might make us feel welcome to do things beyond coming to worship, or worry that if you have a rainbow anywhere on your premises, people will think you’re “the gay church.”

Meanwhile, our Evangelical cousins, empowered by the political success of the right, have doubled down on theology that is exclusive and cruel. They’ve affirmed their own superiority, denied the full humanity of LGBTQIA+ people, and declared that anyone who doesn’t agree and come over to their side of the line they are drawing is not a faithful Christian.

For Jesus’s sake and in Christ’s name, mainline pastors and leaders, have the conversations you’ve been putting off. I say these things with all love. Get clear about what it means to be welcoming and affirming. Fix up the forms parents fill out at Sunday School; why do they need to be gendered? Consider new signage for your bathrooms. Be ready when one of your young people comes out to you, ready to love and embrace that young person instead of setting them on the path of rejection. Have a Bible study and discuss alternative interpretations of scripture used by others to condemn, equipping yourselves for larger conversations in your neighborhoods.

Maybe even buy that rainbow flag for the outside of your church, so we know it’s safe to come inside.

Faithfully,
Martha

Lent, LGBT, LGBTQ, Orientation, The Inner Landscape

Role Reversal

I am the older sister. I grew up taking blame for naughty things my brother did, and taking the spankings, too. At least, that’s how I remember it.

“Memoir is not an act of history but an act of memory, which is innately corrupt.” Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir

I’m reading Mary Karr’s book, and I’m noting how one-sided all our stories are, and impressed by how generous she tries to be when recalling stories about other people. So I will confess I know there were times the spankings were related to my behavior. I know I was far from perfect; in fact, I spent quite a bit of time in the office of the head of the  lower school at St. Agnes in my 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade years. A core unrest whipped me around and around; I climbed out a window, and I kicked my teacher, and I pulled a fire alarm, or so they tell me. I think I am innocent of that last one. But who knows?

By adolescence, I had learned how to control myself a little better – or to pretend to, to pretend to be that professional good girl an older sister and first-born ought to be. As my brother got involved in typical teen-age shenanigans, I became pious and careful. I might disappoint my parents (I did), but it wouldn’t be on account of sex or drugs.

“Now his older son was in the field. Coming in from the field, he approached the house and heard music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what was going on. The servant replied, ‘Your brother has arrived, and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he received his son back safe and sound.’ Then the older son was furious and didn’t want to enter in… (Luke 15:25-28, CEB)

I think in the church we’re very likely to identify ourselves with the older son, to convince ourselves that we’ve always been well-behaved, loyal, hard-working, all the ideals of this American culture. The truth about me is that I have been all those things, but I’ve still managed to leave home, worry my parents, shock everyone who knew me by (1) going to seminary, (2) getting divorced, (3) getting married again, (4) getting divorced, (5) coming out, and (6) getting married again. To my family back home in Virginia, who thought of my brother as the imp and me as the nice girl, I have engaged in a complete role reversal. My brother is the steady one, long-married, established. I am the rogue, the prodigal, the sinner.

When I read this chapter now (Luke 15), I read it differently than at other times in my life. I can only read it as myself. We are all corrupt this way.

I read it as a person whose whole life is viewed differently, as a woman whose choices are well outside the realm of youthful sins, errors or peccadilloes. I read it as a woman whose marriage is considered suspect not because it’s #3 but because my spouse is a wife. I read it as the niece who was not welcome at a funeral, as the sister whose brother would not come to the wedding. I read it as a pastor’s wife subject to never-ending micro-aggressions not only from the people who question our “lifestyle,” but from the people who claim to support us. I read it as a pastor whose employability in a progressive denomination plummeted just for being queer.
When I read these stories now, I am grateful for these stories and Jesus’ assurance that God loves us, and seeks us, and returns us to the fold.

It’s only in some human eyes that I ever left it.

Holy God, sometimes we get lost in the wilderness of judgment, in the dark corners of oppression, in the foreign land of inhospitality. You nose us out, search for us, welcome us home, and in every case, rejoice when we are together again. Thank you for that. Amen.


I’m reading and blogging about Luke for Lent. Want to read along? The full schedule can be found here.