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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Lenten Reflection: Letting Jesus Wash Our Feet on Our Journey to Love

All Saints Pasadena, April 1, 2015
This morning's gospel reading was most of John 13. I'll focus on John 13:34-35 specifically.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
The commandment to love one another is astonishingly simple and also frightfully difficult. It just sounds so much easier to say that to actually do. Because of that, and because my posts this week are revolving around the drama around so called "Religious Freedom Restoration Acts", I'll consider the issues of love for some of the parties concerned.

Many feel that they aren't acting in a discriminatory fashion when they wish to deny services to others. When confronted with historical facts about race and gender discrimination, they often respond that those Christians were mistaken to discriminate against people who could not help the way they were born. In contrast, they feel that they can serve this ultimate command by Christ by pointing out that by serving those who choose to be immoral (those who elect to live in a gay lifestyle), they are in fact acting out of love. This benevolence manifests itself as a parent would direct a child to avoid danger and head in the right direction. It's done out of love and is not seen malicious.

I get that, possibly because I grew up in a devout, ethnic Roman Catholic family, even though I know that most LGBTQ do not feel it's a choice.

I also see that Christians want to support and love those who seem discriminated against simply because they are choosing to live out their faith in the manner that seems consistent with their reading of the bible. This truly is love to me, as many people who are beset upon by others may find themselves needing help and healing. The modern RFRAs, though I disagree with their wording, operate out of this desire.

Then also we have to see that government leaders may have reasons other than brutal political machinations when moving forward with these so called Religious Freedom Restoration Acts. They may sincerely believe that their love of Christ and their fellow like-minded believers commands them to ensure that the population is not put at a disadvantage culturally because of their faith. In other words, they are legislatively trying to stem the growing shame that a culture intent on secular diversity is creating around those of similar faith.

On the cultural side that I come from, it's difficult to accept that love can be expressed when it harms another person. I personally am amazed when the state of Ohio argues in court that marriage equality is not needed because LGBTQ have too much power to be considered a disadvantaged group. This flies in the face of the fact that minorities typically don't have more power than the majority, that LGBTQ mean income is less than cis-hetero mean income, that the significantly higher suicide and homelessness rates of LGBTQ is inconsistent with the idea that LGBTQ are in fact in positions of privilege, and that murder rates of transgender people are unacceptably higher than in the cis-hetero population.

I believe that love should not harm others. The concept of "tough love" may have its place. Sometimes it helps dislodge a co-dependent situation. But we aren't facing such co-dependency here. Tough love just makes life tough.

Ironically, to those who favor these RFRAs, when LGBTQ and their allies try to support each other in love, this is considered persecution and a leftist reflect action. I don't see a difference in mutual support between the first example above and this one. Yet most on both sides use this assistance as a stick to pummel those who disagree with them. Love is kind and disagreements mean that you have people trying to lovingly support those they agree with and frankly I don't see a problem.

The most shocking development of this week has been the frightening force that big business has had on the political process in Indiana, Arkansas, North Carolina, Louisiana, Georgia, and in the past Arizona. Those favoring LGBTQ equality have benefited when huge companies like Apple, Google, Starbucks, Walmart, and Salesforce come out of the closet in their favor. Smaller regional companies such as Angie's List and the various Chambers of Commerce have also been astonishingly pro-diversity. Traditionally conservative companies such as NASCAR, the NCAA, and sporting entities have also weighed in favoring diversity to the surprise of most of the country.

Is this out of love? Is this a reflection of the love that Christ asked during the Last Supper? Unfortunately, I must be cynical and feel that it's not likely so in the larger corporations. These companies recognize that the country as a whole now favors non-discriminatory policies. To go against this would be to put their future economic viability and stature at risk. Moreover, companies such as Walmart and NASCAR may be dominant in places that would prefer the modern RFRA laws, but their greatest growth in market share is clearly in urban, populated areas and in younger, pro-diversity segments. They risk stunting their growth opportunities in these large markets. So I think the cold, cruel calculations in those companies happen to fall on the side of diversity, but it's the sort of support that can be bought. It's not love as Jesus intended.

There are exceptions. I truly believe that the CEOs of Starbucks and Angie's List have consistently been on the side of diversity for a long time. It's in their leadership that even with Indiana's changes, Angie's List still will not expand in Indiana until a true non-discriminatory law is put into place.

We may love Christ, but the Gospel is exasperatingly challenging. I find it hard to love those who harm me. I might say "impossible" but I'm truly trying to allow for that love to exist. In light of yesterday's Gospel reading ("Lenten reflection: When Hugging Jesus Separates Us from God"), at least I'm not always acting in fear and moving away reflexively. I'm trying to move closer, trying to make that journey to walk in His way of love.

May all our feet be washed by Christ on our journey to love.

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