Yesterday I attended a Marriage Equality colloquy across the water, at Temple Beth Or in Everett, and was energized and enivened by the speakers, Dr Lisa Davison of Lexington Theological Seminary, and two same-sex couples who told their stories of coming out, meeting the one they love, creating a family, and the subsequent difficulties that they face because they are unable to be legally married.
I've heard the stories before. I've heard Lisa speak at last year's colloquys. I'm familiar with all the arguments and have made up my mind as a Marriage Equality supporter. So why do I still attend these things? Don't I already know what I think?
Of course I know. But what I find compelling about these events is the opportunity to meet and get to know clergy and laity from other faith traditions, both Christian and Jewish. And it's disappointing to me that most UU laypersons and clergy are uninterested in this opportunity.
Yesterday only one other Unitarian Universalist attended. Though I invited all my colleagues to attend one of the six events around the state, very few have taken me up on it. And the reason given is that they have already made up their minds; they know how they feel, so why should they attend?
I understand that sense of "been there, done that". For me Marriage Equality is a no-brainer and my faith tradition is fully supportive. I've led three congregations through the Welcoming Congregation process and know how valuable that effort can be for a church.
But people in other denominations are struggling and they need us as allies, to help them find ways to deal with the political morass that the Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, and others are fighting as they seek to overturn church law that is oppressive and demeaning.
I am uncomfortable with the reluctance of many UUs to engage with clergy and laity of other faiths. It's almost as if they are afraid of being contaminated by Christianity, a fear I find hard to tolerate. It's almost as if they are saying to themselves, "I already know all this stuff, why should I go and hang around and be bored because my knowledge is more advanced and superior". It's almost as if they want to maintain their specialness as the most radical of the Radical Reformers and fear that specialness will be eroded if they rub elbows with the less radical.
I've said it before and I say it again, interfaith work is the antidote to cross cringe in our congregations. When laity work on justice issues with others of differing faiths, particularly Christian, they learn that Christians are concerned about many of the same justice issues as UUs, that liberal Christians are not so different from us, that the cross means something different than they might expect. And when clergy engage with other clergy of differing faiths, particularly Christian, they model for their congregants an openness and understanding that will go a long way toward eradicating cross cringe and contempt for Christian theology.
Having been raised in a Christian home where the cross meant unconditional love, I am fortunate and I understand that others have not had that advantage. But in human life, when we discover something in life that makes us uncomfortable and upset, it behooves us to investigate that unease, to seek its roots, and to deal with it. I have people in one congregation who refuse to go to church because there is a cross visible in the rented sanctuary. Why would someone cut him/herself off from the community over this symbol? There's something dysfunctional about that response.
I often think of myself as a bridge between the UU faith community I love and serve and the Christian faith community which I grew up in. If only we could see ourselves as allies, not as combatants! Perhaps that day will come, as I noticed yesterday that the Disciples and Methodists and Mennonites and UCCs I met are edging ever closer to UUism in their outreach efforts. We are not so special after all!