Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Praying With Our Feet

After the Selma march in 1965, Rabbi Abraham Heschel wrote, "For many of us the march from Selma to Montgomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying."
Yesterday morning at the intersection of Rt. 123 and Braddock Road, love and hate crossed paths as People of Faith for Equality Virginia stood in peaceful vigil while the hate-filled folks from Westboro Baptist showered the morning rush hour traffic with their message that "God hates America" and "God hates fags" and, well, God hates just about everything that they don't like.
I was asked by a reporter what I thought about their Biblical interpretation. I said, "we interpret scripture according to the rule of love, but they seemed to have missed that part." Indeed, yesterday morning, "God is love" was more than enough theology for the day.
We were praying with our feet, as we stood in the blustery cold alongside George Mason students whose Pride coalition had invited us to join them.
I had a brief conversation with one of the kids, Carl -- or Carly, as this transvestite-for-a-day-of-solidarity introduced herself. Carly spoke of growing up in the Roman Catholic church and leaving it behind because the church has so little tolerance for so many friends.
I thought about Carly reading the prayer invitation for today, which includes Jesus sending forth his disciples and telling them that where they are not received and the good news not welcomed to shake the dust of such towns off their feet and move on.
I wonder if much of the church hasn't become those dusty towns whose exclusive orthodoxies are being shaken off and left behind by an entire generation.
Yesterday I prayed with my feet. Today I will pray for Carl and his friends, but I'll pray even more fervently for the church that we might hear in the voice of Carl and Carly a generation longing to hear good news. And, I'll pray for the Westboro Baptist people -- children of the same loving God -- that they might feel that love even in their hardened hearts.
Indeed, seeing the young people of Westboro (and their tiny band included several teenagers) was incredibly sad. To be raised in the context of so much hate and narrow-mindedness is tragic.
I often leave public demonstrations renewed and refreshed. They feed my soul and are, for me, deeply spiritual times of prayer. Yesterday, though, seeing the kids of Westboro, was soul searing.
Monday being my day off, I went home and spent a few hours watching Milk, which I'd not yet seen.
It is a film of deep and beautiful hope. Though the tragedy of his murder and the sadness of a life cut short on the cusp of dramatic cultural shifts deepened my funk for a while yesterday, I am rejoicing today that Rt. 123 and Braddock Rd. was, for a brief while in the early hours of Monday morning, the intersection of love and hope.

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