I used the word “bigot” once, actually called out the people across the street from where I stood on a platform in front of a crowd of protesters against Prop 8. I was asked by a dear friend to rise and say something to the crowd as a representative of the church. The word “bigot” did not come easily to my lips, my God, I was raised in a home where we could not say the words “shut up” or “gee.” I had not prepared myself to say anything at the rally so I can only credit or accuse the Holy Spirit for bringing the word up and out of my mouth.
I’m thinking this morning of the Orlando massacre and how the level of bigotry and the ease of detecting rising so quickly in our land. I am still grieving what took place and did not take place at the General Conference of the church that I am yet representing. Sunday morning I was preparing to share with my little gathering of church what took place at both General Conference and then at our Northern Illinois Annual Conference, when I read about the shootings at a gay club in Orlando, Florida. My heart sank as I read numbers dead and reactions of shock and grief posted by trusted friends. I trembled again at my calling to stand up in front of a group of gathered people and tell how my church and all of it’s representatives, including my self, continue to be bigots. Could it be that I and the church I represent, what I was to share about the words and actions of my church had a part to play in pulling the trigger of hatred at a gay dance club? Labeling one group of people as “incompatible with Christian teaching” because of who they love and how they love, well that is bigotry.
The Gospel lectionary passage for Sunday morning was a story from the book of Luke about a woman labeled “sinner” standing behind Jesus at the dinner table of Simon the Pharisee, a religious law keeper. The “sinner” woman displayed such an extravagance of love to Jesus that only calls out the bigots seated at the table. It is her extravagant signs of love–weeping, washing Jesus’ feet with her tears, and massaging them with ointment–that causes others at the table to complain. It is who we love and how we love that will expose and bring out of the closets the bigots who want to control with whatever is available a love that defies controlling definitions. But love is love is love is love is love…
I did not say the word “bigot” from my church pulpit on Sunday, but I did weep with the woman and with God at the pain and the horror of labeling others as “sinner.”. I did affirm that I wanted the people who were seated there, part of a revolution of love, to know how much they are loved. I shared about our church General Conference and Annual Conference and I told them that only when our feet are firmly planted in love will we be able to know the heights and the depths and the unfathomable riches of love that will carry us forward.