Monday, June 29, 2015

the difference between having a dream and living one

I've been fascinated by the phenomenon this weekend of all sorts of people registering their support for the Pride movement by changing their facebook profile pictures to have a rainbow filter.

I guess it's felt like a momentous week. The US Supreme Court finally ruled in favour of Equal Marriage, and it's always good to celebrate when US citizens catch up with people in Wales.

I've watched the facebook thing, liked various people's pictures, and not joined in.

In fact, I've found it hard to get excited at all about an issue I'm often quite passionate about.


Because this week I finally caught up with the movie Selma, a film about Martin Luther King and the American Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. The montage at the end takes us from the horrors of what King and his associates and fellow protesters endured and shows what many of them achieved. But I watched it this week.

The week when a callow white youth sat in a Bible study group in a black church in South Carolina and shot nine people dead just because he was white and they were not. Where President Obama spoke - and sang - at the funeral of the pastor and commented on the pain of seeing the State Flag & the US Flag lowered to half mast over the South Carolina capitol in Columbia, but yet the Confederate Flag stayed high.  

Gay rights and the American Civil Rights movement are different beasts; but they have several things in common. They look to change the rules of society so as to make equal those regarded as 'less' by people in power. They look to change the institutional understanding of the way life is - that some are naturally more privileged than others - and fight to show that all are equally human.

And they are not enough. Neither movement. Neither group. Neither can achieve the fulness of their aims by passing laws and taking away physical barriers and officially enabling the servants to eat with the masters.

They are not enough because a kid with a gun - or a website or a shed load of money or a political will or whatever - still has the power to destroy. All people are created equal under God but not all get to live that way.

I'm not celebrating this weekend because as I look at it, the fight for equality amongst people is a long, hard, slow, relentless battle that keeps on keeping on. Equal marriage has been legal in my country for a little while now, but there will remain for years people who protest its invalidity. The folk who feel uncomfortable with it are pretty numerous, and not restricted to the Daily Mail or Reform. In my church, ordained ministers have received episcopal 'guidance' which forbids us from marrying under its provisions. I have personally heard senior diocesan bishops apologise about this, but any bishops who stand up publicly and say what they think about the 'guidance' apparently receive calls for their resignation. That's a conversation for you.

A conversation - in the church, where people should be more raised up, more equal, more whole, more loved than anywhere. And if it's like that here - it's no better anywhere else. Don't kid yourself. Our arguments may be heated, but they tend to be formal and superficially polite. That's not always the way of the football pitch, the playground, the office, the street corner.  

Having a dream is one thing; but living it (as Dr King knew all too well) is a costly thing and it means that we don't get to wake up from it. We don't get to turn the rainbow off our profile picture after Pride weekend passes, and we do get to take the flack for it. We live with it because it matters, and because it matters we keep on keeping on.

And we spot the moments in others' journeys where we stand shoulder to shoulder and pray together and understand. And keep on.

Oh yes, we rejoice on the good days. But for the rest, we pray, we weep, we work, we believe. People are people, by the grace of God. And one day it won't be a temporary victory to say so.

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