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06.03.09

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Bullhorn:

Dave Grishaw-Jones, Senior Minister at First Congregational Church, makes the case for tolerance and respect. "Proposition 8 would just make Jesus mad," he writes.

By Dave Grishaw-Jones


I'M LOOKING out my office window at a world desperate for love and tenderness. I walk the halls of a neighborhood school and I hear bullies taunting skinny adolescents. I flip on the news at lunch and pastors are sneering at gay activists, cheering the court's unimaginable validation of Proposition 8. I check my email before bed and I see that two more friends have lost their jobs. There's a callousness out there that breaks my heart. This week I saw a bumper sticker that said: "I DON'T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT YOU." Really. Just like that.

In the Bible I'm reading, Jesus has absolutely nothing to say about men marrying men or women marrying women. He does, however, have a lot to say about generosity and forgiveness. And he's deep into turning the other cheek and beating swords into plowshares. It's really not that complicated. Proposition 8 would just make Jesus mad. Christians? Rolling back human rights? Limiting civil liberties? Are you kidding? The Christian Right's obsession with homosexuality is both troubling and deceptive: "Let's get the 'base' all worked up about sex so they miss the stuff about feeding the hungry, sharing the wealth and loving the enemy." It's way beyond exasperating. And it makes me cry.

Over the years, I've officiated at a dozen gay and lesbian marriages. Some were legal at the time; some were not. Without exception, however, these couples were committed to loving one another and determined to grow together. A few were already raising children. They include lawyers and teachers, pastors and physical therapists, elderly parishioners and eager grad students. My religious tradition has always taught me that human rights are human rights: they belong to all of us, for we are one human family bound together in a single spirit. Children of God. I'm always honored to bless a couple making an extraordinary lifetime commitment. Call it what you will. I call it marriage. In a world desperate for tenderness, they give me hope.

I may be way off course here, but my faith compels me to love my neighbor, even to treat his needs or hers as if they were my own. It takes some courage, this faith; but it reveals, at times, the essential mystery of life itself. We are one. One planet, one family, one spirit, one body. Jesus inspires me to work for my neighbor's liberation with all my strength, with all my heart, with all my soul. Because our causes are really the same. A rabbi I know reminds me that the great teaching of Judaism can really be translated: "Love your neighbor who is yourself." Let that sink in for a bit. Love your neighbor who is yourself.

"Prayer is meaningless," wrote Abraham Joshua Heschel, "unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism and falsehood." That pretty much describes my spiritual practice these days--as a human being, as lover of life, as a Christian pastor. I pray daily for the energy, the chutzpah, the humility, to ruin the pyramids of callousness and hatred that stand too tall over religious institutions around the world. And when we're done with that, let's feed the hungry, share the wealth and end war once and for all. For straight kids and gay kids. And for God.

The Rev. Dave Grishaw-Jones is senior minister at First Congregational Church, the United Church of Christ, in Santa Cruz.


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