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Saturday, February 05, 2011

Unbearable Sadness

I don't know if you watched Rachel Maddow's Show last night.

One of the segments was on the murder of David Kato, the Ugandan gay man and SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda) activist who was brutally murdered in his home last week.

If you didn't get to see it, I've included a clip of it below.

I strongly urge you to watch it.

The segment caught me somewhat off guard and surprised me with my own reaction. I found myself so unbearably sad that I could not stop weeping.

I wept for David Kato, yes, and all those who grieve and morn his loss.

I wept when the local police official claimed that, while the investigation had only just begun, he was absolutely certain that this had nothing to do with the fact that Kato was a known LGBT activist.

I wept when the local lay pastor refused to bury David Kato saying, "We are not going to promote gays. What I am saying is that you should repent."

I wept for his friends, especially the woman who took the microphone after the local pastor's homophobic tirade and said, "We did not come here to fight. We did not come here to fight."

I wept as I watched his friends take up David's casket so they could bury him themselves because the church refused to do so.

I wept for the continued, almost unbelievable courage of Bishop Christopher, the Ugandan Anglican bishop who has been excommunicated for his pastoral work with LGBT people.

I wept when Bishop Christopher said, "I have known LGBT people and I believe they are going to heaven. Please don't be discouraged. God created you. God is on your side."

God created you. God is on your side.

I remember, in the very early days of the AIDS crisis in this country, when many churches - Baptist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Roman Catholic - refused to bury our gay brothers who had died.

Some were ignorant about the disease, fearing that the dead body in the casket - in the church, in their presence - might somehow still be contagious.

Some were ignorant about homosexuality, fearing that burying a gay man would somehow bring the "disease" into the church - or, worse, convey the idea that the church somehow "condoned" this so-called "lifestyle".

I had thought that those days were over. Silly me.

We have come so far in this country from the days when the homophobia of the church fueled the cruel prejudice that arose from fear and ignorance.

So many landmark things have happened: The Supreme Court reversal of the Sodomy Laws in 2003. More and more LGBT people being allowed to retain custody of their children and be foster and/or adoptive parents. The repeal of DADT in 2010. The growing momentum of Domestic Partnerships and Civil Unions toward full Marriage Equality. The blessing in the church of covenants between two people of the same gender.

It's all been a wonderful, glorious mix of liberation which, I fear, has blinded me from the continued existence of ignorance and fear in this country which is not satisfied to remain here, but is being exported to - and infecting other - so called 'developing' countries in the Global South.

The fact that the church - albeit the Evangelical branch of the church - is part of this has made my sadness unbearable.

I can only imagine what Jesus is feeling right now.

Here's Rachel's segment on David Kato. I encourage you to watch it.

Go ahead. I'll wait. Then, we'll talk.

As Canon Albert Ogle recently pointed out, there could not be a clearer picture of the schism in the Anglican Communion.

This is what it looks like. On one side, ignorance and fear, prejudice and hatred. On the other, unconditional love and hope, courageous witness and pastoral presence.

I did not share this video with you so that you, too, could share in my unbearable sadness. I shared it with you so that you, too, could see and know that our work is far from being over.

I keep hearing the woman who took the microphone say, "We did not come here to fight. We did not come here to fight."

We have much work to do, children. The truth of the liberation of all God's children as promised in the Gospel of Jesus Christ has not been heard "to the ends of the earth."

The work of justice, compassion and reconciliation requires constant vigilance and persistence.

The political cartoon to your right is about the fight in Egypt, but it depicts an image that is applicable in many situations.

In the cartoon, those who are carrying "theocracy" are clearly Muslims, but they could easily be Christian clerics.

I believe this is part of what is going on in Uganda and other countries in the Global South where Evangelicals are spreading a false gospel of hatred and ignorance and fear, hoping to enshrine their prejudice and bigotry into the law of the land, - and, all in the name of Jesus.

There are times to weep and mourn. This is one of those times.

First, you cry. And then, you wipe your tears, blow your nose, pick up your socks and get on with the fight.

It is time for me to repent of my complacency and get on with the fight so that all - all, all, all - of God's children can be free to be exactly who God made them.

Not so that we can sit smugly and say, "Well, I'm free. Too bad about you." Rather, it is time to put my gratitude for the liberties I have achieved for myself and others - and what others have achieved for me - into action.

That - only that - will make my sadness more bearable.

We did not come here to fight.

And yet, if there is a better reason, a more noble cause, than to fight for the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I don't know it.

Do not be discouraged. God created you. God loves you. God is on your side.

Yes, I know. I know this to be true in the deepest, truest corners of my heart.

Right now, I just need to be sad.


Mama C said...

Well said Elizabeth - we should all be sad now - but preparing to" pull our socks up" and make a difference.

it's margaret said...

Blessed are you who mourn, for you shall be comforted.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.


Ahab said...

While we mourn, we must act. Kato's murder reminds us of the injustice that still festers throughout the world, and of our obligation to resist it.

Amidst the sorrow, there is a glimmer of hope. LGBT advocates have been taking to task those who promoted homophobia in Uganda, as the protests around the National Prayer Breakfast demonstrate. People are waking up, and it is beautiful.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mama C - Amen.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks for the reminder, Margaret. Jesus said some amazing things, didn't he?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Ahab - I think it's our authentic sorrow that grounds our best calls and acts for justice.


Well said.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks, Susan. You know. God knows, you know.

JCF said...

The Supreme Court reversal of the Sodomy Laws in 1986.

Obscenely, Elizabeth, laws banning "sodomy" (in the homophobic, not Biblical, definition) were UPHELD in 1986 (the Hardwick decision). The Supreme Court didn't overturn sodomy laws until 2003! (Lawrence v. Texas)

There is value in a diverse conversation . . . and yet, I have been tremendously distressed by some of my favorite Episcopal blogs, re the David Kato murder. Homophobes have made the most scurrilous accusations (on the comment threads), and have not been moderated.

It's tremendously painful to read. Bad enough that David Kato was beaten to death w/ a hammer . . . now, even in death, his reputation is to be violently assaulted, too?

I'm tempted to cease reading about this case, if I have to have these terrible BIG LIES thrown in my face, about a man who can no longer defend himself.

Lord, how much longer must we suffer? VINDICATE your children you made LGBT!

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JCF - OMG, you're right. I reported history incorrectly.I will fix that right this very minute.

I'm sorry for your experience on other Episcopal blogs. Miraculously, I haven't had to eliminate comments here because of bad behavior. I suspect the last time I put my foot down, publicly, was the last time I'll need to do that again for a long time.

Sometimes, however, it's not a bad idea to let the crazies speak without comment so others can see just how crazy some people on the Right really are.

At least, that's how I understand it. Hope that helps.

Either way, it's awful. Just awful.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks to David for this link:

Anonymous said...

Refusing to bury gays still occurs in places like Texas. I recall reading an article a year or so ago in the Dallas paper about a RC Priest that refused to offer a funeral mass for a gay man because it would be condoning the "gay lifestyle." His life partner and mother had prepared a poster with pictures of his life. They wanted to place it in the Narthax. The priest became irrate and refused to hold the mass.

His mother had taught CCD in that church for years. So the article said.

Perhaps, Uganda is not so different from some parts of this country.

Prayers ascending for Kato and his family and loved ones.

Anonymous said...

with my all respect for your article
but i need to ask who is paints this painting named sadness .. i need to know really who is? please if you know don't regret to till me

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Anonymous - I'm sorry. I don't know.

Anonymous said...

Ops, ok
thanks Elizabeth
I'm glad to connected with you

Anonymous said...

I am not a person who identifies as homosexual. I don't have that urge that always struck me as a strange, simultaneous confession and reassurance (without a particular individual to assure or anything to admit) that has me bursting out with some irrelevant segue about having friends who are gay, or neighbors, a long lost uncle, possibly the college roommate of said uncle - and I don't need any of that to know that I want to be part of the solution - and any 'solution' that involves hate doesn't strike me as much of a good thing - hence 'the' not 'a.' I need to get involved now, with people who need assistance, even if the only help they *need* comes from collecting one more soul who welcomes and accepts them, as they are, a need we all share - it's the great equalizer. I am moved to tears by this article, the sensitivity and insight of the author - but tears that will dry all too soon won't make me get off my duff and reach out. Or be verbally grateful for being reached out to; as I said, we all need to feel worth something, or, at the least, if we're among the more well-balanced, brain/psyche-wise, then maybe just confirmation that we matter, come as we are. Thank you for sharing this article; I wanted not only to pass along my compliments, but to let you know how it will impact my life once I leave this page. I pledge to 'pay it forward' by volunteering before the next week is out in whatever capacity I am needed, wanted, or can be of use to a community that I would very much like to know better - and would quite like to know me better, as well, come to that.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, Anonymous. Please do visit again and, if you leave a comment, please do leave your name.