Note: Occasionally I write a post for this blog, set it aside to attend to something else, and forget about it. The post below came into being shortly after the landmark Supreme Court decision on marriage equality. The time references, therefore, are off, but I think the basic points still hold, so Iâ€™m offering it now.
Every now and then, a text written centuries ago speaks almost eerily to an issue right here and now.
Take this weekâ€™s Collect of the Day from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayerâ€”a brief, structured prayer that connects with the Bible readings assigned for that day. (In case you need to use the word in conversation, itâ€™s pronounced KAHL-lekt.)
Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the
foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself
being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together
in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a
holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever. Amen.
Beneath the euphoria Iâ€™ve felt over last Fridayâ€™s Supreme Court decision (yes, I favor marriage equality), a line of questioning has lingered in the back of my mind. What now? What happens to our dialogue? More important, how do weâ€”all of us, on all sides of this issueâ€”continue to hold our â€œadversariesâ€?
This quandary has a lot of moving parts. In the present, supporters of marriage equality want to celebrate, and well they should. Opponents may want to grieve or express anger, and well they should. Doing either in the presence of oneâ€™s â€œadversaryâ€ is difficult at best: it could too easily lead to gloating from one side and churlishness from the other.
But maybe people donâ€™t care that much whether their reactions come off that way, because they donâ€™t plan to associate with the other side any longer. Maybe they read this Court decision as the permission they have long sought to ignore the other sideâ€”a fulfillment of the wish that the disagreers would just â€œgo away.â€
I wrote about this wish in a recent article. As tempting as it might be, itâ€™s dangerous. Our Collect of the Day, read expansively (i.e., beyond the specifically Christian), gives some hints as to why.
- Ultimately, there is no other side. Note the verb tense in the first sentence: â€œyou have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets.â€ Cast more universally, nothing we can say or do or argue mitigates the truth that we are all humans and will all share this planet for as long as it lasts. Yes, within our species lie significant differences and dynamics that we must address. But the other side canâ€™t go away; ultimately, there is no place for them to go
- We are called to live that reality. Thatâ€™s the essence of â€œgrant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit.â€
- We need help. This is, after all, a prayerâ€”not a declaration or a promise or a resolve, but an admission that we just canâ€™t do this â€œone human familyâ€ thing on our own. Christians believe that help can only come from God. However you parse it, though, the fact that we need help remains.
So what do we do? I think, in the short term, we celebrate or rail against the Court decision with our allies. It is good and right to do so. And then we keep on going with our â€œadversaries.â€ Maybe we continue the dialogue over LGBTQIA issues; maybe we donâ€™t. But we do keep the lines open. Who knows whether, somewhere down the road, on a different issue entirely, that adversary may become your most important ally?