Faith, Marriage Equality, and Lent Madness   3 comments

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Have you been playing Lent Madness? A few years ago two Episcopal priests began an online bracket/elimination game (and an unconventional Lenten discipline) to educate people about saints—some canonized, some unofficial—in a fun and funny way. (Apparently it’s based on something about basketball; dunno). This year’s winner—surpassing such luminaries as Martha of Bethany, Benedict of Nursia, and Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.—is Frances Perkins.

Who? Frances Perkins was an Episcopalian who witnessed the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire and responded with labor activism. She became FDR’s Secretary of Labor and a principal writer of much of the legislation of The New Deal, including the Social Security Act. She fought child labor, sex trafficking and wage theft. And she was noted for her articulate expression of theology and faith through all these efforts: her activism was inextricably linked to her Christianity.

I’ve cribbed the above paragraph from the Lent Madness entries about her by Heidi Schott, especially this one, and it’s well worth your taking the time to scroll through the LM blog to learn about Perkins and many other holy women and men over the past two centuries who have been moved by faith to action and service. I was aware of Perkins as the first female cabinet member, but didn’t know much more about her before Lent Madness, and I’m delighted to have that corrected.

This past Monday, the eve of two days of Supreme Court arguments over Marriage Equality, citizens in San Francisco and other cities held rallies and marches to support the cause. Grace Cathedral, seat of the Episcopal Diocese of California and my church home, organized a contingent of congregants and clergy to join the march from The Castro to City Hall. Two bishops, an archdeacon, several priests and deacons, a few lay religious, multiple Deanery delegates and several other laypersons all held signs, cheered, and walked with over a thousand people. Bishop Marc Andrus addressed the crowd before the march. Most of the Episcopalians wore shirts the Cathedral had made for the event, with the words: “Faith demands justice/Marriage equality now” (pictured above).

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It was a wonderful experience to take part in this not as a lone citizen, but as part of a faith community—to march with my church family as an act of prayer. To state publicly that we were there not in spite of our religion, not separate from our religion, but because of our religion.

The received wisdom on Christianity and homosexuality has too long been that “the Bible says it’s a sin, and Christians who accept it have traded their beliefs for secular humanism,” but that’s finally changing. The theology around the acceptance of homosexuality and marriage equality is rich, has existed for at least four decades, and is now becoming widely known. Christians who oppose LGBT rights used to claim they had the Bible on their side, but can now claim only one interpretation of the Bible; they can say they don’t agree with the theology or choose not to avail themselves of it, but they can’t claim it doesn’t exist.

But I’m getting away from my point, which is the intersection of faith and political action. On the same night that Christians and non-Christians were marching for Marriage Equality in San Francisco, Episcopalians in Chicago and other cities were helping to lead marches protesting gun violence. Episcopalians are also leading efforts on immigration reform, health care reform, economic justice and many other issues (and I don’t intend my focus on the Episcopal Church to minimize the efforts of the many other Christian denominations involved in social justice work; I’m merely citing what is most familiar to me).

Christianity has caused quite a bit of injury and injustice over the centuries by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. Indeed, The Church continues to cause pain, and will probably cause more in the future. It’s important for us to face that and repent of it. But the best way to make reparations and reconcile ourselves to God and the world is to do justice today. Faith demands justice. We do these things not in spite of our faith, not separate from our faith, but because of our faith.

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The author (far left) and other Episcopalians preparing to march. (Photographer: Katie Wilcox. Thanks to Grace Cathedral for permission)

3 responses to “Faith, Marriage Equality, and Lent Madness

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  1. Good reflection, especially heading into Maundy Thursday services tonight. Ubi caritas et amor, deus ibi est.

  2. Nice reflection. I like to think that if we err, we err on the side of compassion.

    Stephen Southern
  3. I really appreciate reading this call for political action among people of faith. I also am in your debt for the news of Matthew Vines, of whom I had been entirely unaware.

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