Embodying the Conflict
As we slowly decompress from Pride Month and all of the fun activities that took place both within and outside of our church walls, I feel a strange sense of energy moving forward. It feels like I am caught in the middle of several parts of my identity.
Last week the Supreme Court ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act–a law that denied federal recognition and benefits of marriages between same-sex couples–was unconstitutional. Thanks to this ruling, the US government will begin to provide many federal benefits to same-sex married couples. Yet even though this was a great victory for many LGBT Americans, it still leaves behind a patchwork of rights to some couples, all based upon where the couple either married or currently resides. The Supreme Court also dismissed the Proposition 8 case, which meant that marriage equality is officially back on the table in California. Surely these were decisions to celebrate, and on Wednesday of last week (and later, on Pride Sunday) many of us took to the streets in excitement. It was something to celebrate.
However, just 24 hours before the Supreme Court struck down DOMA and dismissed Proposition 8, they gutted the Voting Rights Act and left it on the steps of Congress to sort out. Simply put, the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965 to protect racial minority voters in covered areas from a system of institutionalized racism and discrimination–any changes in regards to voting (even moving a polling place) needed to be approved by the federal government. Immediately after being gutted, five of the nine states under the VRA began moving quickly with new voter ID laws–laws that will likely have an adverse impact on racial minorities and the poor. It was something to be disgusted by.
In some ways, I almost feel the set of feelings that I felt during the night that Barack Obama won the 2008 Presidential Election–except this time the shoe is on the other foot. I am excited about progress in LGBT rights, but I am so disheartened by this blow to minority rights. And because of who I am: gay, Latino, Methodist, etc. I can’t help but feel like my identities are all stuck in some sort of crazy crossfire. I am connected to these seemingly separate issues because of who I am.
This situation reminds me a bit of the apostle Paul’s words to the church in Corinth (a church who was suffering from lots of divisions and factions):
But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. – 1 Corinthians 12:24b-26
After reading these words, I feel that I am challenged to both rejoice and suffer. And I think that we as a church are called to do the same. We are responsible for supporting each other, being the community, the kin-dom of God. We are responsible for celebrating and grieving. We are responsible for caring and loving. We are responsible to embody this conflict now, and embody the conflicts to come. And I believe it is only in doing so that we can truly create change in our lives and in our world.