What does ‘boldness before God’ mean to me?
It is easier at first to say what it doesn’t mean. It does not mean adopting a ‘Crusader’ mentality fueled by fear and anger. It is easy enough to find myself in such a place if I conclude that our religious and political opponents are so strong that they will always prevail against us.
Yet one of the great discoveries of the LGBT movement has been that by simply telling our stories we have melted the opposition based on fear and ignorance. In fact, that is so much the case that our opponents are really now on the defensive sensing that public opinion is slipping away from them and that the ‘gay menace’ to family values just isn’t being believed as before.
The boldness that accomplished this feat was not due to being more politically astute than our opponents. I am grateful for all who have done the political legwork to pass LGBT friendly legislation and to oppose that which would harm us. All that was and still is necessary, but what really wins the day is when ordinary LGBT people stand up and tell their personal stories of struggle and survival and their humanity shines forth in the midst of all that. As St. Paul said,
“When I am weak, then I am strong.” Indeed, it is by our willingness to reveal our weakness and our humanity and fragility that we have won over the hearts and minds of others for whom we seem to be strangers to them. That kind of boldness is a high-wire act with no net below and people admire and are drawn to that kind of courage and vulnerability.
Nothing comes close to comparing with that kind of testimony. Political argument regarding Constitutional principles of equal rights, theological ‘deconstruction’ of Terror Texts, sociological data about families and children and their well being in same sex families, the exemplary record of lesbian and gay service members, all of that is good and helpful, but what really persuades the heart and mind of the wavering politician or civic leader or religious person is our personal stories and our having the boldness to share them. Our opponents can try to muster arguments to all the other reasoning, but when it comes to personal testimony they do not have an effective reply.
I do not know where this will take us in the future when the last bastion of LGBT fear and hate collapses or is sidelined into well deserved obscurity. It is my hope that those who have been through the fiery furnace will not walk out of it indifferent to the sufferings of others who are still enduring their own afflictions in this society of ours. I hope we will not forget the courageous LGBT people in places like Africa or the Caribbean or other societies were oppression is fierce and unrelenting.
May we not retreat into suburban captivity of materialism and indifference to our own kindred in other lands. May we have the boldness to remember our own oppression and hold it up as a reminder to our friends and allies that the struggle for human dignity is not over just because we managed to get civil marriage passed in our State Legislature or have Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell abandoned for those LGBT people in the military. May we have the boldness to endure and persist when the going gets easy and the temptations to go soft and lazy abound.
What we have been through is not just for us. It is a revolution in human consciousness that is meant to change the course of history and our understanding of humanness. Those are grand words, I know, but nothing less does justice to what has happened. And if we minimize them out of timidity we will fail to be the beacons of hope and justice which God has bestowed upon us.
This calling is ours to embrace with all humility and never forget that the source of our boldness lies not in ourselves or in our cleverness, but rather in that power which is made perfect in weakness.
Longtime LGBTQ+ advocate and activist Rev. Sarah Jeane Flynn transitioned in 1978 following the dissolution of her marriage. Now retired from the clergy, she serves on the advisory board of the Vermont Department of Corrections. Born in Chicago in 1938, she earned her bachelors in anthropology and history from the University of Texas in 1961 and that same year married as a male. She moved to New Jersey to study at Drew Theological School, where she earned her M.Div. in 1968. For years she served as a United Methodist supply pastor in Connecticut and became pastor of a small parish outside Hartford. In 1995 she became a member of an Independent Catholic Church and was received as a priest in that communion. In 2003 she and her partner Joanna Cole moved to Burlington, Vt., where they became the first same-sex couple to be legally married in the Episcopal Cathedral of Saint Paul, on All Saints Day, November 1, 2009.