Beloved has a small number of friends, as I mentioned in the last post, who know about us. I learned this week that one of those friends has issued a judgment upon me, of sorts.
Beloved was inviting L. (who is also her colleague) to come to my church. She and another friend have decided to come for a visit (she has done this just once before). L said, "I can't do that." Beloved pressed her, saying, "If I can, you can," referring, of course, to the fact that Beloved identifies herself as an atheist (though I've spoken of how complicated and surprising that label is, given some of her life experience). L persisted, saying, "I can't do that," with increasing vehemence. Beloved didn't give up (she tends not to). L finally burst out with, "She's living a lie!"
Well. I suppose that's true. Or perhaps I'm simply trying to live, trusting that the visibly true things about me... my love of God, my family, my Beloved, my ministry... are the important things, and that anyone who sees the whole picture will understand why I've chosen to try to walk this slender thread of a line.
When I was in my 20's, long before a life in ministry had ever occurred to me, I was invited to participate in a conference called "Women and the Word." The keynote speaker was the astonishing Virginia Ramey Mollenkott. She is the author of "Is the Homosexual My Neighbor?" as well as "Women, Men and the Bible," and "The Divine Feminine: Biblical Imagery of God as Female." She described herself as a radical lesbian, Southern Baptist, feminist evangelical minister. Her keynote was riveting... it was about liberation, of women, of gays and lesbians... and, as they say, "the Spirit fell." It was amazing. I was mesmerized. It opened a door in my heart.
During the plenary a young woman rose to ask a question. She said, "What you are saying feels absolutely true. But if I said one tenth of what you are saying to my denominational committee, they would never ordain me. What do I do?"
Without a pause, Mollenkott said firmly, "Lie." The room exploded... with shouts, a smattering of applause and calls for quiet, laughter... the sound of shock, the sound of truth hurtling home like a dart into the heart of every person in there. When quiet was restored, she said, in an even louder voice, "Lie. Lie, like the Christians who hid the Jews in their basements so that the Nazis wouldn't find them. Lie, because the truth of the gospel must be given a chance to get a toehold. If what I've said is true, it must find its way into the power structures somehow. Lie, and then work like hell for change once you're in there."
Of course, this is a reconstruction based on a memory nearly 20 years old by now. But this is the core of what she said. I've never forgotten it. So, I guess I am living a lie, in the cause of a greater truth.
(As for L, Beloved looked her dear friend in the eye and said, "You self-righteous son of a bitch." Which, I have to admit, warms the cockles of my heart.)