Copyright © 2011 by Chris R. Glaser. All rights reserved.
In thanksgiving to God for the life, ministry, art, and friendship of Bill Silver, a fellow openly gay candidate for ministry in the Presbyterian Church in 1975.
For another blog and another purpose, I recounted Jesus telling his disciples “a parable about their need to pray always and not to lose heart.” It is the story of a widow—vulnerable because of her lack of marital status as well as her gender—seeking justice from an unjust judge, a judge who cares neither for God nor people. For a while the judge refuses, but finally concludes, “Though I have no fear of God and no respect for anyone, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will grant her justice, so that she may not wear me out by continually coming” (Luke 18:4-5). Jesus’ point is that no one should feel discouraged from praying for the good, because God is all the more swift to grant justice.
God’s swift justice, however, is nonetheless retarded by unjust judges. Jesus’ parable has given me heart in our struggle to persuade the church that it has unjustly judged and excluded lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Like the persistent widow, meeting after meeting, in every denomination, our movement has petitioned for justice—membership, ministry, marriage. After one defeat, one of the last things my supportive father said to me before his death in 1991 was, “The next time you go tilting at windmills, I hope they fall down!” It seems finally we have worn down resistance in several denominations. The windmills are falling.
Yet the ratification of an amendment to the Presbyterian Church’s constitution last week that plucks out the prohibition of LGBT ordination is a mere whisper of justice. The prohibition that dared not speak our name (requiring heterosexual marriage or chastity for ordination) is replaced by an affirmation that also dares not speak our name!
I found myself grieving and angry over hundreds of friends and colleagues who did not live to see this sliver of “More Light” dawn on a church in which they had been raised to believe they belonged but who died being told they did not.
But I didn’t feel my rage at “justice delayed / justice denied” until I watched the Glee episode “Prom Queen” broadcast the same Tuesday evening of the deciding presbytery votes. A vision of God’s commonwealth always makes reality pale in comparison. Though I initially resisted becoming a fan, I believe the program is the most uplifting hour on television. Glee blessedly proclaims the Gospel the church has resisted, in one way or another, throughout our history—that all of us belong, equally, of whatever color, ethnicity, disability, sexuality, gender.
An artist who proclaimed a similar Gospel was Vincent van Gogh, but only after he was removed by the institutional church from his pulpit as a Calvinist minister because he identified too much with the poor and marginalized he had been sent to serve. He went through an idle wilderness period to discern his new call, as a painter of the overlooked and marginalized. His sermons, he wrote to his brother Theo, would be his paintings, offering the consolation that the Christian religion once gave.
Glee gives me the consolation and the inspiration the church is called to offer. When the church fails, Jesus speaks to us any way he can.