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Spirituality: Of Babies and Bathwater
by AMY MATHENY
2004-03-01

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Thanks for the many comments about this column. I shouted loud and thanks to all of you who answered.

I have charged us as GLBT people to find faith in our community. That it is an essential missing part of our "identity." But many of us have felt rejected by our families of faith whether it is our churches, temples, or mosques. Even on the news nightly we hear Americans fighting against Gay Marriage as a blessing not intended for us. How do we demand our place in worship and avoid being abused and rejected by our community of faith? How do we not throw out the baby with the bathwater?

No one is better to address this than Rev. Greg Dell. As a United Methodist pastor, Rev. Dell was tried by his denomination for marrying two men. This trial garnered national attention on CSPAN, CNN and other national media. His church, Broadway United Methodist, was even picketed by Fred Phelps. As a straight man and a man of God, Rev. Dell has struggled with his family of faith and his belief in the blessing of marriage for all.

REVERAND GREG DELL

Organized religion is the enemy – at least it is a lot of the time! Nothing radical or weird about that statement, not even coming from a clergy person. Challenging the legitimacy of what organized religion had become was a beginning point for the founders and shapers of a number of faith movements in history: the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures, Jesus, Martin Luther all were among that number.

None of those challengers wanted to tear down anything – except the distortion they felt was corrupting the truth. To the extent that organized religion served the God of justice and life, they were willing to support and be part of it. To the extent that organized religion forgot the real character of God, the founders and shapers were more than willing to throw out the "bathwater" in order to claim the "baby."

That's an important beginning point for talking about faith and religion, maybe especially when we look at Gay Marriage. Organized religions have been main players in building resistance to Gay Marriage. The irony is that the faith those organized religions profess is one of love and inclusion!

First, let's be clear about what religion doesn't do. The church, synagogue or mosque has never "married" people. People marry one another. The role of religious institutions has been to celebrate that God's gift of love and commitment has once more become real. The church is called to offer an affirmation of God's blessing and presence whenever love is claimed. For organized religion to say that faithful love is EVER wrong is a betrayal of what organized religion is supposed to be about! It is an expression of bigotry, not faithfulness.

What shall we do? Some of us will choose to stay within organized religion. We will refuse to allow the distortion of faith to become the rule. Those who understand the gift of love must never tolerate the denigration of that gift. We'll fight for the authenticity behind the distortion that has crept into the religion.

Others of us will choose to leave organized religion – or at least a particular expression of it that has become intolerable. God expects no one to stay in an abusive relationship – even if that relationship is with religion! In fact God's expectation would be just the opposite. Find faithful community! None will be perfect. But it's in community that we can grow, be challenged and supported. We need community like the baby needs bathwater. But when the bathwater becomes toxic, it's time to take action!

So, make a choice. But whatever that choice is, it must be an expression of loving and valuing that which God has given and created. When it is, we can't go wrong!

Broadway United Methodist Church at 3344 N. Broadway in Chicago Phone

773-348-2679 www.BrdwyUMC.org

For questions or comments, please e-mail editor@windycitymediagroup.com We will have religious leaders of various faiths answering questions monthly.


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