Excerpted from a sermon preached at Metropolitan Community Church in San Francisco on November 7, 2004
Here we are. Many of us are disappointed, depressed, even devastated by the outcome of the election. We cannot imagine four more years and where we will be at the end of the four years. We look back, but only long enough to learn from our mistakes. We may be discouraged for the moment, but we live on hope.
Hope is not found in hollow optimism or in the language of cheap platitudes. Hope thrives in adversity, comes alive in the most undesirable circumstances, and finds kindred spirits with those who choose to love in the midst of loss.
Eleven states passed anti-gay marriage laws, ten of them overwhelmingly; laws that will affect not just gay people. Many across the country believe that moral values won the day. I believe that moral values suffered a resounding defeat.
So, I am interested in conversations about moral values and family values, compelled by the hard work of finding our way through and forward to a new day.
I am interested in changing the public discourse and challenging the assumptions that are the underpinnings of this discourse: The worn out God vs. gays rhetoric; the imperialistic and violent language of both politicians and religious leaders; the abuse of power; the worship of corporations; the blatant double standards in our justice system; the hijacking of religion for political expediency.
We have our own work to do, now more than ever. I want queer people, LGTB people, our allies, sexual minorities and gender traitors, to live boldly in the world, but to live well for the world. I want us to be mature enough in our pride and celebration to also be honest with ourselves: honest enough to ask how our sex cultures, our drug cultures, our consumerism, our narcissisms, our low self-esteem disguised as self-righteousness contribute to the world we say we want to create.
We cannot underestimate how difficult times might be in the next few years. There will be tactics, overt and covert, to squeeze us out and shut us down. All the more reason to be bold with who we are.
So I have a challenge: BE A QUEER FOR FOUR MORE YEARS
I want us to be queerer than ever. Queer includes an array of genders, of families, of loves; means being suspicious of the status quo; means moving outside the norm where we are in solidarity with all the marginalized; demands a persistent refusal to be assimilated; expresses an insistent authenticity, telling and living the truths of our lives.
We must find a way to talk about and live moral values by inviting religiously disaffected people to a spiritual paradigm that fosters the kind of conversations that help build bridges. The conversations needed are those that broaden the dialogue about moral values that are truly suffering defeat-a living wage that barely allows people to survive, standardized testing that leaves far too many children behind, health care that is based on class, assault weapons for purchase, pre-emptive war based on deception, ecological destruction of all life, disregard for different types of families-and so much more.
These are the conversations we must engage in-and we must be willing to find a way to engage the religious and spiritual issues they represent. This discourse must be broad enough to include all those with spiritual impulses whether they accept or reject a notion of God.
We will not use “God or religion” as a smoke screen for our own political agenda, but do the soul searching work of creating an inclusive spirituality that is broad enough and profound enough for our complicated, messy and beautiful world.
A reporter interviewing A.J. Muste, who during the Vietnam War stood in front of the White House night after night with a candle, one rainy night asked, “Mr. Muste, do you really think you are going to change the policies of this country by standing out here alone at night with a candle?” Muste replied, “Oh, I don’t do it to change the country, I do it so the country won’t change me.”
And here we are, holding our candles.