Grasping Thorns

“But he who dares not grasp the thorn Should never crave the rose." ― A. Brontë

The Case of Two Walter Scotts

Walter Scott

UPDATE, again: You may also follow the following new link. Thanks to The Daily Dot for reposting it. While I miss the family photos on this version, I enjoy the fact that the quotes are blocked alongside the text rather than in it, since the latter always feels like a reading-hiccup to me.

http://www.dailydot.com/opinion/walter-scott-police-children/?fb_action_ids=10206373025508350&fb_action_types=og.shares

UPDATE: Please follow the link for the article. Thanks to Bustle for publishing it. Special thanks to my editor, Rachel Krantz, who added images that broke my heart. All over again.

http://www.bustle.com/articles/76683-walter-scott-a-black-man-was-shot-to-death-but-my-white-husband-also-walter

Dear Reader, Thanks so much for your interest in reading this personal essay (and many thanks to those who directed you to it). Bustle has picked it up, so I’m pulling it down temporarily (per their request), and will post in the link to the published version ASAP. I’m grateful for this interest, since Bustle’s readership is much, much more than this humble, personal blog, and I very much think this (i.e. cultural racism and — God help us — how to overcome it) is a conversation we need to have. Thanks, again — especially for being the lovely, inspirational people that you are, xoxo

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In Memoriam: Grace Hagood Downs

 

At Grace’s memorial service in Easley, her husband John read a lovely tribute; this part, in particular, struck me: he said, “When I first met Grace many years ago I thought she was tough, serious, and impervious. She seemed very powerful to me. But when I really got to know her I learned she was timid, scared, and self-conscious. She wanted so much for people to like her and she was always afraid they didn’t despite the obvious.”

I was only beginning to understand this about Grace. Whenever I saw a hint of it, I was surprised. Hint #1: Soon after meeting her, she came to my office to make sure she understood the course goals for the 101 class she was teaching, and admitted that she was having trouble wrapping her head around the syllabus. I had been approached, at this point, by probably half the class; but hearing from Grace surprised me. I think I just blinked at her. In my mind, she was such a natural teacher; Grace of all people could teach anything, could make anything work. I remember thinking to myself: doesn’t she know that?*

Hint #2: I came home from work Friday, August 19th, to a Facebook message from Grace. She said, “I don’t want to be ‘that guy’ by pestering you, but do you think we’re going to hear about the AD positions today? I’m ready to be put out of my misery either way.”

Grace had interviewed for an Assistant Director position earlier that week; we were overly optimistic to say we’d let applicants know our decision by Friday and were behind schedule. Of all the people who interviewed, 11 in all, I was surprised to get the “please-put-me-out-of-my-misery” email from Grace. Because of course she was picked for an AD position. Of course she was. Didn’t she know that? She had interviewed brilliantly once before already. The only reason she didn’t get it the first time was that the positions are so competitive; those TAs who have gone through the interview process more than once often have a bit of an edge.

It was Graces’s turn. She was perfect for an AD position focused on technology. The second half of her interview was nothing short of a love fest, in which I reminded Chris and Graham that Grace volunteered to help with First-Year English orientation last year, even though she was teaching undergrad classes. Who comes to FYE orientation when they don’t even have to?

Grace.

Didn’t she know she was going to be an AD?

Apparently, she didn’t. I made her pinky swear over the computer, and she took it up a notch to “super pinky swear,” so I told her that we petitioned for her hire and were in the process of working out the financial details.

Sorry Bill and Chris. Please don’t fire me.

I trusted Grace completely. And I was right to trust her. She didn’t even tell Mary Fratini. And she was so happy. She changed her Facebook profile photo to a storm trooper singing in the rain; and, lest anyone doubt her current mood, she changed her cover photo to read:

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I messaged, “Dream Team 2013!” And the last thing she messaged me was “it’s gonna be AWESOME” — awesome in all caps.

Grace was high on life. She had just married the man of her dreams, she was on the path to motherhood (she had already talked to me about both adoption and pregnancy — she was keeping all options open), and she was going to be a FYE Assistant Director.

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One of my first thoughts after hearing she had passed was of a ghost Grace, shaking her fist at the universe and saying, in true Grace-fashion, “Oh for fuck’s sake. You’ve got to be kidding me!”

But then I imagined ghost LB, one of Grace’s good friends who passed away last fall — yeah: it’s been a really tough year — being so very excited to see her. In my imagination, LB says “this is so great!” and Grace responds “No! This sucks!” before settling in for a nice, long catch-up chat.

When I shared this little interchange with Will Garland, he said, “I really love these ghosts.”

I said: “Yeah. Me too.”

Because I’ve always loved the interchanges between Grace and LB. A few of my favorites from Facebook are as follows:

1) Grace to LB: “So, what do you want to be called? Half the people at school know you as Hotspur anyway, if that’s what you prefer.”

LB: “I call myself Hotspur, but I’m wary of using it as a public name because it’ll be ruined the first time someone uses it in anger or disappointment.”

Grace: “When I’m disappointed or angry, I promise to call you ‘hon’ or ‘babe.’ Cool, right?”

LB: “I’ll accept Lieutenant Commander, bitch, bastard, and instructador de muerte.”

Grace: “Is that like instructor of record?”

2) Grace to LB, discussing their new office: “Which desk did you take? Refrigerator desk or filing cabinet desk? I took computer desk because I’m a greedy bitch.”

LB: “I took file cabinet desk b/c I need magnets to keep me amused”

Grace: “Sweet! We’re gonna have an awesome office.”

3) LB: “I brought in a jar of agave so I can eat waffles in my office, but it looks like a jar of pee.”

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Grace: “Please label your jar so it is not confused with the actual pee that I store in the office.”

LB: “I just saw your comment. Love.”

Grace: “You’re welcome! I’ll be here all week. Tip your waitress.”

LB’s mother, Lindell, told me that after LB died, she won $25 worth of books from the library book sale within the week. After Grace died, she won another $25 worth of books within the week. So, now I imagine ghost Grace and ghost LB being funny, as they flit around and rig contests for free books.

When I read at LB’s memorial, I closed with a Victor Hugo quote that I thought was perfect. For Grace, I’m going to read a comedy piece, because fun and laughter and a dash of “inappropriate” humor is our Grace. Thanks to Stephanie Boone-Mosher for sending this to me . . . it’s even more perfect, because Stephanie read this in reading group when both Grace and LB were there. She was so proud when she read it, because she made Grace *crack up* and usually it was the other way around.

So, to close:

I’m Sorry I Didn’t Write A Comedy Piece

by Wendy Molyneux

The other day while sounding out the words on a Web site called The Rumpus, I saw this article asking for women to submit more comedy pieces. So I put down my giant chocolate bar, stopped crying, and thought, yes, that is what I will do.

I will write a comedy piece. But just as I sat down in my bay window (filled with pillows that I knitted myself while waiting by the phone for potential husbands to call) and opened my pink Mac laptop, I happened to see a lady walking down the street with a baby of her very own.

So then I started crying again because I don’t have a baby. I cried big rolling tears that fell down onto my “Mrs. Stamos” T-shirt that I purchased off of eBay and photographed myself in for my eHarmony profile. I always say, “Dress for the job you want,” and the job I want is being Mrs. John Stamos! So, once my shirt was soaked, I had to go change it. I walked into my closet, which is gigantic because women love to wear lots of expensive clothes and shoes all the time, and I thought, “I know what will make me feel better! I will feel better if I try on all my clothes and shoes to the tune of an upbeat Motown song such as ‘My Girl.’”

And so I did that. I tried on all my clothes, and I felt better until I tried on one pair of pants that didn’t fit me anymore. And then I totally started to cry again, because I am so fat.  I cried for a little while on the floor while my cats crawled all over me, purring and being symbols of how lonely I am. My cats love to be symbols of my loneliness. Sometimes, I have to be like, “Stop signifying so loudly guys, I’m watching Grey’s Anatomy!”

At this point I still had not written my comedy piece written by a woman. So I went back to the window, opened my pink computer again and looked at pictures of cute baby ducks for awhile until I felt like writing. But then I remembered that I hadn’t made anything for dinner! Every night, I like to make an elaborate dinner. Then, I set it on the table and open all the windows. My fondest hope is that the wafting smells of a home-cooked meal will lure men who are passing by to come inside and eat dinner. And then after they eat dinner, I hope they’ll eat something else. If you know what I mean. Get it? Eat something. I mean dessert. I want them to eat dessert. Because the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. Also, they are always leaving the toilet seat up! Am I right?

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Anyway, twelve hours later after I had cooked, baked, cried, sewn a blanket for my hope chest, called a telephone psychic, had all my favorite Cathy comic strips laminated, and then stayed up all night trying on all my clothes and shoes again, I finally felt ready to write my comedy piece. I decided to start by asking myself, “What’s funny?” That is a tough one for me because I have no sense of humor. I mean, I assume that I have no sense of humor because all of the funny things that are made especially for women like me, such as Sex and the City27 Dresses, and yogurt commercials don’t even make me laugh. But I guess my humor deficiency is one of those womanly crosses I have to bear, along with P.M.S., making seventy cents on the dollar, and paying for my own rape kit. You know what they say though, you can’t make the willing pay for their own rape kits! I think they say that. Probably somebody said that. God knows I didn’t say it myself! I only say things like: “What are numbers?”

Oh, there I go again on one of my tangents. I guess it’s time for me to get serious about writing this comedy piece. Emoticon. I mean, I probably shouldn’t even try to write a comedy piece since Christopher Hitchens wrote an article in Vanity Fair saying that women just aren’t funny. He’s probably right. And even if he isn’t, I think it’s great that we live in a country where you can say anything you want, like that women aren’t funny or that Christopher Hitchens is a huge douche who runs a successful child pornography business and has an inability to get an erection unless he’s reading Nazi literature.

Well, would you look at that? I’ve totally run out of time, and now instead of writing a comedy piece, I have to go report to my regular day job knitting tampon cozies and being best friends with everybody.

Oh well, I probably would have been terrible at it anyway.

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*Note #1: I realize, of course, that meeting with me about the syllabus was, also, quite possibly Grace’s indirect way of telling me: “Oh for fuck’s sake. This syllabus is bullshit.” But, I maintain that Grace Hagood Downs could. teach. anything.
**Note #2: All images are from Grace Hagood Downs’s albums on Facebook, except for LB’s desk, which is one of LB’s photos.

In Memoriam: LB Long

I remember the summer of 2011, when, as Associate Director of First-Year English at USC, I got the list of our new graduate teaching assistants. I saw the name “Lacey Long” and thought: “What a lovely name.” Each August, when we have our teacher training before the start of the semester, there is always one, in the haze of new names and faces, I remember. The year before, it was a red-haired girl with a fun and quirky personality, whose interesting fact in the icebreaker exercise was that she juggled. For the 2011 year, it was the smallest person in the room, with slicked-back short brown hair and glasses. Her introduction and interesting fact? “I’m Lacey Long, but I go by ‘LB.’ I look like a twelve-year old boy.” She laughed so freely when she said this. I thought: “What a lovely person.”

Of my many memories of LB in the two years I knew her, I’ll share two of my favorites:

I was in 701A, our Teaching Critical Reading and Composition class, and I was demonstrating how I would lead freshmen through a close-reading of a poem. I don’t even remember the title of the poem, but LB loved it. The comments she made in class were brilliant, of course, but at the time, that’s not what struck me. I’m used to hearing smart graduate students say smart things. What struck me was her excitement, her glee, her joy. She was like a child opening a Christmas present, as she unpacked the meaning of the poem. Perhaps that was the image that led me to respond the way I did, which in hindsight, was completely unprofessional.

I laughed, my glee, I think, nearly mimicking hers and said, “You’re so CUTE.” That got a laugh out of everyone, LB included – but she was. That was the only way to describe her at the time, and, in my five years of co-teaching 701, it remains one of my favorite memories.

The second memory is one I like to call: LB and The Mouse. LB shared an office with a number of new graduate teaching assistants, one of whom found evidence suggesting that a mouse was sharing their office space as well. She reported to us, we told the appropriate University office, and employees of that office promptly brought and arranged mouse traps.

LB, unaware that the University employees were setting up the traps at her officemates’ requests, just as promptly threw every single trap into the trashcan. When she realized what had happened, she told me, “I know they’re terrified of seeing a mouse, Nicole, but, really – I’m just as terrified of seeing a mouse that’s dead, having been killed in a trap.”

That night, I ordered some humane mousetraps – the catch and release kind – and I have to admit that I was in love with the idea of catching and releasing a mouse. We never caught him, and, seeing no more evidence, finally concluded that he had, as LB said, “moved on.”

I emailed her Anna Laetitia Barbauld’s “The Mouse’s Petition” (published 1773). Barbauld was with her friend, Doctor Priestley, when she saw a caged mouse that he planned on using in one of his experiments. She left a poem, from the mouse’s perspective, tied to the cage; and, according to legend, Priestley was so touched that he released the mouse. The poem will forever remind me of LB, especially my favorite stanza:

“The well taught philosophic mind/ To all compassion gives;/ Casts round the world an equal eye,/ And feels for all that lives.”

LB felt for all that lives.

Two quotes play in my mind when I think of her now. The first is an adaptation of Emily Brontë’s line in Wuthering Heights about her young heroine, Catherine Earnshaw, who also dies too young: “She burned too bright for this world.” When I think of LB, I wonder if she felt too deeply for this world. Sometimes, I think it was painful for LB to feel; and I’m glad that she’s no longer in pain.

The other is a quote by Victor Hugo, and it’s one that helped me after my grandfather’s death. The quote seemed applicable to him, because like my grandfather, Hugo wrote this as an old man, toward the end, looking back on his life. But, in a way, it’s just as applicable if not more so to our LB. Like LB, Hugo was a writer; like LB, he was a “Free Thinker.” He advocated for the least of these; his burial reflected his morals (he asked to be buried in a poor man’s hearse), as LB’s green burial reflects hers.

So, to close:

“I feel within me the future life. I am like a forest that has once been razed; the new shoots are stronger and brisker. I shall most certainly rise toward the heavens. The sun’s rays bathe my head. The earth gives me its generous sap, but the heavens illuminate me with the reflections of – of worlds unknown. Some say the soul results merely from bodily powers. Why, then, does my soul become brighter when my bodily powers begin to waste away? . . .

The nearer my approach to the end, the plainer is the soul of immortal symphonies of worlds which invite me. It is wonderful yet simple. It is a fairy tale; it is history . . .

I have been translating my thoughts into prose and verse; history, philosophy, drama, romance, tradition, satire, ode, and song; all of these I have tried. But I feel that I haven’t given utterance to the thousandth part of what lies within me. When I go to the grave I can say as others have said, ‘My day’s work is done.’ But I cannot say, ‘My life is done.’ My day’s work will recommence the next morning. The tomb is not a blind alley; it is a thoroughfare. It closes upon twilight, but opens upon the dawn.”

A New Hampshire Wedding: Top Ten List

This past weekend, my family and I drove 16 hours from warm South Carolina to brisk New Hampshire to attend an exceptional wedding. As part of my wedding gift, I have decided to write a recap, a “top ten” list if you will, to commemorate the McLeod-Williamson nuptials. So, without further ado, my top ten moments from 09.27.2012 are as follows:

10. Getting there: My mother thought I was crazy to take the children (Arina, who is 8; Jack, who is 2) on a 16 hour car ride, but I insisted they had to go.

“Alec and Michael are their godparents!” I wailed, and I earnestly explained that there must be some sort of rule about godchildren attending their godparents’ wedding. (Note: I’m not Catholic, despite my fascination with Catholic rituals, so Alec and Michael are more of the modern godparent variety; see Bruce Feiler’s “The Godparent Trap” and note that Alec and Michael are “better godparent[s] than Martin Amis” and are “Values Dad[s]” of the highest caliber.)

Getting there (and back) ended up being more fun than I anticipated, though, filled with 2-year old Jack pointing out landmarks (“I see bridge!” and “I see water!” were his favorites) and 8-year old Arina on constant watch for fast food playground equipment (she hoped, of course, that we’d break for a snack so she could play).

Getting to the wedding location — Rye Harbor State Park in beautiful New Hampshire (it’s prime fall foliage, by the way) — was a treat for the senses: the salt smell of the sea; the sound of the waves; and this:

9. Entertaining the toddler: Because they were afraid of rain (that didn’t happen — yay!), Alec and Michael decided to move the ceremony from the water’s edge to under one of the shelters. This worked out fabulously for several reasons, not the least of which: THIS (see below) became the new view.

Toddler boys like Jack aren’t all that interested in wedding ceremonies, but they are very interested in boats. So, during the ceremony, Jack was thoroughly entertained. The only downside was that every now and then the congregation would hear a baby voice saying “I see boat! I see another boat! 1, 2, 3, 4” and so on — but this is much better than Jack screaming “I don’t like the windy!” or “I have a bug in my penis” (his go-to phrase for being uncomfortable, ever since he noticed a gnat on his penis after stripping off his filthy clothes outside).

After the ceremony, Jack was able to give full expression to his glee at seeing water!, rocks!, birds! and boats!

8. Witnessing love: From the moment Alec and Michael showed up, holding hands as they made their way to the minister until the moment we left, with hugs and well wishes of safe travel from all around us, we saw and felt love — of the Romans 12: 9-16 variety.

“9 Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”

This is the New Testament Scripture around which the ceremony was focused — a passage of Scripture often titled “Marks of a True Christian.” I can’t think of a better way of describing the ceremony than using the following words from the selected Scripture: genuine and good; loving and affectionate; honorable and hopeful; hospitable and joyful; harmonious and humble.

7. Finding spiritual restoration: The ministers officiating over the wedding had a progressive theology of the Nobel prize winning Archbishop Desmond Tutu variety. They each seemed to take seriously Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12, the Old Testament Scripture reading:

“9 Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. 10 For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! 11 Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? 12 And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”

Love, in all its forms, they declared good. I couldn’t help but think of 1 Thessalonians 5:21, my favorite as an English instructor, since it emphasizes the importance of critical reading — even of “prophecies,” or Scripture: “Test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good.”

What Alec and Michael understand, and the ministers understand, and the congregation understands (including me and my husband and my children) is this: quite simply, love is good.

6. Eating and drinking: Mimosas. Muffins and coffee cake and pumpkin bread. Ham and quiche and French toast. And an almond cake with amaretto and raspberry filling and butter cream icing. Yum.

5. Enjoying the weather: When one of my New England friends saw the photos, she asked: “Could you have a more quintessential New England weather experience?” Answer: no. Being from the South, I think we were all a little shocked by the chill. And, if it weren’t for the fact that there are no pink Southern states on this map, I don’t know if we would have ended up in New Hampshire at all.

But, I’m so glad we did.

I’ve decided that a bit of chill in the air is perfect for an outside wedding, because it forces guests to be cozy. It wasn’t bad when we all sat together and leaned in to chat, and it was so much better than being sweaty and sticky (e.g. the guests at our wedding in August, in Charleston).

As Alec’s lovely mother told me when I walked up to her and she folded me in her arms: “We have to hug to keep warm!”

In short, bundling up, and hugging, is fun.

4. Making new friends: At one point in his homily, the minister asked us all to look around and to realize that Saturday at 10:00 AM was a unique moment — never again, he said, would the same group of people be gathered at the same place for the same purpose. In essence, the ceremony was one that bound us all — not just Alec and Michael — to each other. Making new friends is a must for the top ten list, and I’m fortunate to have a play-by-play of the friend-making in action. Arina was enjoying herself on the rocks (see below) when she came across a red-haired boy of the same age (the minister’s son).

Their conversation went as follows:

Arina: “I’m Arina, and this is my Dad [who was lingering nearby], Scott.”

Will: “Scotty, Scotty, bo-batie,: Bananafana fo-fatie: Mee-Mi-mo-matie: Scotty!”

Arina: “Hey! Don’t make fun of my Dad!”

Will: “Okay. I’m Will.”

From that moment on, they were inseparable, exploring the rocks together. At one point, Will was holding Arina’s hand, as if to protect her from falling, but as soon as I crept behind them with a camera, he dropped it. Still before he left, he gave Arina a lobster claw, which she pocketed (and, later, reluctantly tossed when she realized that it smelled). Lots of adults made friends too, but none of those were quite as entertaining, since they involved neither the Name Game nor lobster claws.

3. Being with family: Number 4 is connected to Number 3, as Anglican bishop Gene Robinson explains in his article “Jesus Would Back Gay Marriage”:

“The teachings of Jesus can hardly be used to support the notion of the modern nuclear family — or even the idea of the biological family. Jesus had some things to say about families and familial relationships that sound harsh to modern ears. Indeed, he seemed to promote a family based not on biological origin but on intention, choice, and shared beliefs.

Matthew’s Gospel records an incident in which Jesus is speaking publicly, when he is told that his ‘mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to [him]. But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:46– 50)’ . . .

According to the Scriptures themselves, Jesus seems to have gathered around him an intentionally chosen group of people whom he regarded as his family . . .  — more deeply so than his own biological family.”

In that light, here is another play-by-play of the friend-making in action:

Me: “Hi, Amy. We haven’t met, but I’m Nicole. We became Facebook friends through Alec, and I love your posts.”

Amy: “Yes! So wonderful to meet you. We think alike.”

I agreed, and, if I had thought about it at the time, I would have told Amy that we’re family: based not on biological origin but on intention, choice, and shared beliefs.

Another favorite family member is sister-friend Natalie (see below), with whom I’ve shared intention, choice and beliefs for almost a decade.

2. Seeing a tandem bike in action:

Really. Enough said.

1. Experiencing joy: I have never been to a wedding that is not joyful, but the amount of joy at this particular wedding set it apart as exceptional. I offer, below, Exhibit A. Our son, Jack, who has been to many weddings, has never smiled for a wedding photo (his smiles are difficult to come by), but you can see it here, creeping across his face. He is catching a joy that is contagious.

On the way home, Scott and I tried to pinpoint what it was that made this wedding different, and my mind jumped back to hearing Jesuit priest John Dear speak over the summer about the Beatitudes. A friend of Archbishop Desmond Tutu (Tutu, interestingly enough, nominated Dear for the Nobel Peace Prize), Dear talked about his friend’s exceptional joy. When he asked the Archbishop about it, Tutu told Dear that he has received a death threat every day since he was a teenager. And then, John Dear said, he danced.

To those who are persecuted (like the LGBT community), Jesus in the Beatitudes promises the kingdom of heaven — something holy, something precious, something miraculous. And you can’t experience that without joy. So we danced.

Ain’t You Tired? To Christians Opposing Marriage Equality

 

When Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-a, made his now infamous comments opposing marriage equality, I was listening to the audiobook version of The Help, Kathryn Stockett’s best-selling novel about the lives of African American maids in the early 1960s. The book details what it’s like to be African American, in the South, during the Civil Rights Movement (i.e. not a Fourth of July picnic). Question: Do you know what else is not a Fourth of July picnic? Answer: Being LGBTQ (or, to a lesser extent, their straight supporter), in the South, today.

I grew up in rural South Carolina, in a town not unlike Mayberry of Andy Griffith fame. For the most part, people in the town who were not conservative Christians moved elsewhere, or they learned to be silent. As for me, I went to college for a BA in English; and then an MA; and then a PhD. And, at some point during that time, I (like Skeeter Phelan) “realized that I actually had a choice in what I could believe.” I made the choice to embrace both a progressive Christianity and the LGBTQ community. Then, I was naïve enough to think that I could share articles and that my conservative Christian Facebook friends would read them and choose to embrace both a progressive Christianity and the LGBTQ community too:

  • Because, if given the choice, wouldn’t you want to be honest about the fact that, as David Lose writes, “the Bible seems regularly and simultaneously to offer counsel that we deem both awful and excellent,” and, then, set to work choosing your canon within the canon?
  • Wouldn’t you want to build your canon around Christ’s teachings and example, rather than a code of holy living for Levitical priests or a couple of sentences written by Paul? Isn’t that the point of the WWJD bracelets? Isn’t it preferable to put Jesus’s injunction to love your neighbor as yourself and to refrain from judgment in your canon within the canon, to prioritize these teachings, as Jesus did?
  • Wouldn’t you prefer Jay Michaelson’s interpretation of Sodom and Gomorrah? Michaelson writes, “The Sodomites were rapists, not gays. Sodomy is a crime of violence against strangers, not an act of sexuality and certainly not one of love. It is an act born of hardening the heart against people who are vulnerable.” Isn’t it preferable to learn something about ourselves, about the ways we are inhospitable to our neighbors, instead of judging and consequently alienating a minority group?

Isn’t it tiring to hold onto self-righteousness, and to practice condemnation of the LGBTQ community on a day-to-day basis? As Aibileene says to Hilly Holbrook in the film adaptation of The Help: “Ain’t you tired?”

I speak out against Dan Cathy’s comments, because silence is always interpreted as consent. I boycott Chick-fil-a, not because of Cathy’s comments (noxious as they are), but because Cathy has donated five million dollars of his revenue to anti-gay organizations like Exodus International and the Family Research Council. And, yes: I know that I have and will inevitability make purchases that harm rather than help, but this is one purchase I can do without. I posted as much on my Facebook page, and I have been disheartened to see the response.

  • To those who continue to insist that being gay is a choice: Ain’t you tired? If the LGBTQ community (and science, incidentally) says that sexual orientation is not a choice, maybe it’s not. You have already accepted that the Bible is not a science textbook if you believe, despite Joshua 10:12-14, that the Earth revolves around the sun, rather than the other way around. Maybe, just maybe, the Biblical writers did not have a complete understanding of sexuality and gender. Maybe, just maybe, God does not have their (and our) limited human understanding.
  • To those who continue to fight against marriage equality for the LGBTQ community: Ain’t you tired? Don’t be angry that the Christian conservative boycott against JC Penney did not garner the same amount of attention and support as the boycott against Chick-fil-a. And don’t be surprised. By backing marriage equality, JC Penney supports extending rights to a minority community. Chick-fil-a is contributing funds to organizations that are trying to deny rights to a minority community. Traditional heterosexual marriage is in no danger, whether same-sex couples are allowed to marry or not.
  • To those who continue to insist that being gay is a sin against God. Ain’t you tired? Jesus had more to say about divorce (and much more to say about greed) than being gay (of which he said nothing). Imagine that Cathy took a public stance against the Biblical “sin” of divorce by not only condemning remarriage, but also by sending money to organizations claiming to “cure” those who want to remarry of “adulterous” impulses (see Mark 10:11-12).

Ain’t you tired?

I have a confession. The LGBTQ community, and the people who support them are tired too, but it’s of the MLK Jr. variety:

And you know, my friends, there comes a time when people get tired of being trampled over by the iron feet of oppression. There comes a time, my friends, when people get tired of being plunged across the abyss of humiliation, where they experience the bleakness of nagging despair. There comes a time when people get tired of being pushed out of the glittering sunlight of life’s July and left standing amid the piercing chill of an alpine November. There comes a time.

We are here, we are here this evening because we are tired now. And I want to say that we are not here advocating violence. We have never done that. I want it to be known . . . that we are Christian people. We believe in the Christian religion. We believe in the teachings of Jesus. The only weapon that we have in our hands this evening is the weapon of protest. That’s all.

We protest the “strain of Christianity that continues to insist that homosexuality is an evil affront to God” (see John Shore’s “Another Teen Bullied to Death, Another Reason for a New Christianity”). But many of us are still Christian, and I dare say all of us embrace Jesus’s ethics (a la Sermon on the Mount) and example. Because we embrace these ethics, we protest organizations that seek to deny two consenting adults the right to make a loving marriage commitment to each other; and, we protest restaurant CEOs who boast of financially supporting such organizations.

There comes a time. We are here. We protest. Ain’t you tired?