Living in This World, Political Theology, Politics

Feel the Burn

The grown-ups at my house don’t watch a lot of TV outside of baseball season, but this being a presidential election year, I have been drawn into watching some cable news coverage. I’m undecided most days; my spouse is not (sorry, I won’t tell you more); our voting age children #FeeltheBern.

When I turn on the foolishly big television intended to make us feel like we’re sitting at the ballpark, and I punch in the channel for the latest debate, press conference or expert analysis, I often find myself watching and listening to distressing behavior at what feels like an unsafe distance. It’s up too close, the red-faced hostility, the fallacious allegations, and the self-aggrandizing claims.

I wonder what the world is coming to, how we will avoid destroying ourselves, and things that matter to us. I feel some mixture of frustration, apathy, and despair. I exercise my privilege, therefore, to press the mute button, or I change the channel to see what’s on HGTV, or I turn the darn thing off and go to bed.

Daddy, Tommy and me – Monumental Methodist Church, 1966

It’s the truth that I grew up starry-eyed about politics because the politician I knew best was my daddy. We practiced our own civic religion; our polling place was at the Methodist church where he learned about faith. I remember vividly walking there from our house and going into the booth with him before I was old enough to read the names on the ballot. I associate goodness with the sound of that lever being pulled to register his vote and open the curtain that revealed us again to the world. Everything about his speech was thoughtful, careful, strong, but gentle.

I wonder how I would have felt if I had been in the Temple courtyard that day Jesus came in and started turning over the tables, knocking over the cages and freeing the birds intended for sacrifice, shouting that his Father’s house had been turned into a den of thieves? Did he not raise his voice? Did he not cause a disturbance? Did he not protest the way things were?

How do we discern the difference between righteous indignation and attention-seeking tirades?

We ask ourselves, what is the underlying intention of the person raising his or her voice? What is the agenda of the person causing the disturbance? What is the desire of the person protesting the status quo?

If we’re people of faith, we ask ourselves, do these loud voice do more than invoke God? Do they align with the values Jesus lived and died to teach us? And, perhaps even more importantly, do they express our Resurrection hope?

I’m not looking for a savior among political candidates, nor do I think that only certain varieties of church-going Christians can express that hope. I am looking for an affirmation of what matters to me, which will allow me to be faithful as I mark a ballot. I hope I’ll feel that burn.

LGBT, Marriage Equality, Orientation, Political Theology

Kiss Cam

Camden yards 042711
Camden Yards

I was a Kiss Cam virgin when we went to see the Orioles at Camden Yards a couple of years ago. The minor league ball field near my house in Maine didn’t feature a big video screen, so I was surprised when, late in the game, the camera zoomed in on one couple after another, and they all obediently kissed. I’m not sure of the criteria used to deem a couple worthy of the Kiss Cam, but one defining characteristic became clear: these were all pairs consisting of a man and a woman.

I happened to be sitting with my Beloved, and I know from the selfies we took with my iPhone that night we looked about as ridiculously in love as two people could. It’s not that we wanted to be on camera, but it bothered me that we wouldn’t even be considered a possibly romantic couple, simply because we are both women.

It’s a silly thing. People are sitting minding their own business when suddenly one of them notices they are being shown on a huge screen and nudges the other. They oblige the crowd, usually, in an innocent fashion. Occasionally you hear a story about the camera falling on a brother and sister (including a brother who ran away, thinking that would be hilarious), admittedly an awkward misapprehension. I’m sure there are friends who have kissed, because why not, and couples who have done so reluctantly because they just barely felt like coming to the game together anyway. When Kiss Cam comes calling, even the President and the First Lady oblige.

The First Couple caught by Kiss Cam.
The First Couple caught by Kiss Cam.

I live my day to day life in a home and in a church/workplace where my status as a woman married to a woman is taken for granted. Sometimes I forget and think I’m ordinary. It’s not that I want to kiss on camera — although I would be more likely to be okay with it than my more private wife would — but I want to think that even we could be included in something so banal. Aren’t we just as cute as the Obamas?

It is, as I said before, a silly thing.

Except that it’s not.

Now I live near a minor league team with a big screen and cameras, and I’ve been initiated into the mysteries of the Kiss Cam prank.  After doing what I’ve described above, the last place the camera lands is on two players from the visiting team, sitting in the dugout. The first time I saw it, one of them good-naturedly bussed the other on the cheek. I chuckled, until I considered the implications, and at the next game I saw something that more accurately reflected the feelings of the crowd. This time the two visiting players looked disgusted.


Not only are couples like us not included, couples like us are the butt of a joke.

When people wonder why we need legislation and the courts to change the status of couples like us and all LGBT people, when states take votes on our rights because the majority rules, I remind myself that the rule of the majority is also the rule of the lowest common denominator. It’s very easy to condemn others because they seem different, or we think we are better, for whatever reasons we’ve been taught and to which we cling. We see this in racism and sexism and heterosexism, too. We see it reinforced by churches and other institutional and moral structures. We make assumptions: “That man and that woman sitting next to each other are a couple. They will fit right into this neighborhood/church/club.”

woman washing feet
Luke 7:36-50

Jesus did not make assumptions in a way that excluded people. In Luke 7, Simon the Pharisee wonders about Jesus’ status as a prophet. A real prophet would know the woman weeping over his feet was a sex worker and therefore would not want her to be in the room, much less touching his body.

A real prophet would never be caught sitting next to this woman, would he?

Jesus knew all about her. He knew everything that mattered. He knew she was an ordinary person with a desire to be in community with God.

It isn’t God who has the problem. God embraces all of us.

The Supreme Court will soon rule on DOMA and Proposition 8. I hope the highest court will find some higher common denominator, a higher sense of our common humanity, when their majority rules. Whether we’re at the emergency room or the swimming pool, paying taxes or buying Christmas presents, adopting a child or bringing home a rescued pet,  sealing our vows in church or going along with the fun at the minor league game let us be ordinary people.

We’re sitting right next to you.


(Cross-posted at There Is Power in the Blog.)