Friday, April 6, 2018

Three Days and Fifty Years Later

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!
The Lord is Risen indeed, Alleluia!

Those words of hope and joy are etched into our memories.  Most, if not all, of us shouted them out this past Sunday at a vigil service or some other joyous celebration on Easter Day. That Christ is risen is an essential part of the faith we profess. That Christ is risen is what gives us hope and a promise that when we leave this plain of existence, we too, shall rise again from the dead. Alleluia indeed!

Yet only three short days later, Wednesday, April 4, that joy was challenged by an event that took place 50 years before: the assassination of the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. Fifty years ago on that date the life of a prophet of God was snuffed out by a racist bigot. The winner of a Nobel Peace Prize was taken from us by violence, the polar opposite of peace.

That day is etched in my memory along with the days that followed, including Dr. King’s funeral. I was eighteen years old and in the spring quarter of my freshman year at college. This was the second of what would be three assassinations during the first 18 years of my life. There is something so very wrong with what I just wrote. Yet it is true. Violence. Murder. Death. Three leaders in their prime of life, all murdered.

I was in my home parish the Sunday after the assassination. Atlanta was on tender hooks. I will never forget looking up at the altar while the priest was celebrating the Eucharist and seeing his National Guard uniform visible below the hem of his vestments. There was something so wrong with that image as well. (Those were the days when altars were against the wall and the priest presided with his back to the congregation. Priests were all “he’s” in those days.)

Much has changed in the last 50 years and much remains the same. The rights of Black people and
other  minorities have been secured in some ways and remain elusive in others. Sadly, the most recent presidential election seems to have empowered the bigots and purveyors of hate and prejudice to speak out. We would have been fools to think they had gone away. But I didn’t expect the vitriol and nastiness I have witnessed over the last 18 months... even in church.

I have to wonder how many of us queerfolk (of all races and colors) realize that we are also beneficiaries of the work of Dr. King? He fought for our rights even as he fought for the rights of Black Americans. One of the key organizers of the March on Washington, Bayard Rustin, was a gay man... a gay Black man. His sexual orientation was known by Dr. King and all around him. Of course that created problems for some. Nothing new there. No one could be free unless everyone was free, to paraphrase one of Dr. King’s statements. Did you even know that a queer Black man was so involved in the Civil Rights movement?

So the question I pose to all of us is a simple one:  What are we doing to carry on Dr. King’s legacy of the struggle for equal rights for all of God’s children? What are we doing in secular society to combat the wave of prejudice and bigotry that has arisen over the last year and a half? What are we doing in The Episcopal Church to help insure that no matter the diocese in which we live, we will all have equal access to all the sacraments of the church?

There are eight dioceses which still refuse to allow same sex marriage to take place in them. What are the people who live in those dioceses doing to address that discrimination? Remember, if you are a lay person your voice cannot be silenced unless you allow it to be silenced. Make your voice heard. And what are those of us who do not live in those eight dioceses doing to address this form of prejudice? We can speak up and speak out to the bishops and others who cling to ancient prejudices. We can show them that there is another way, a way that embraces all of God’s children, a way that respects the dignity of every human being.

What are we doing? Will we continue to be complacent and complicit with prejudice and bigotry? Or will we follow in the footsteps of the Prophet, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., whose very life was taken in the pursuit of justice and equality for all?  What is your answer?
Yes, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen, indeed, alleluia! Risen for all... regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, gender expression/identity, or any other characteristic of the children of God.

Where is your passion?

Bruce Garner, President Integrity USA ... The Episcopal Rainbow

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