Having recently been diagnosed with a rare and troubling medical conditionlate-onset maturityit has become unavoidable that I begin to take the world and its woes more seriously.
The coming election, the war, and the painful issues that are dividing our nation are no longer things that I can ignore by simply crawling under my desk, despite the fact that, in doing so, I found my guitar capo. (I had dropped it recently while playing a Neil Diamond song for the pleasure of colleagues passing in the hall, even though none of them stopped to listen. One of the sad ironies of middle age is that, after I finally learned how to play the hits of the 60s, nobody wants me to.)
Dont get me wrong. I am not one to shun controversy. I have always been a passionate observer of life, but mainly by peeking from behind the door of the janitors closet down the hall. Now that the world calls out to meand a court order says I cant peek out at people from the janitors closet anymoreits time for me to enter the fray.
This will not be an easy task for me. Take the war, for example, a controversy that has caused a chasm not seen in this country since Charlton Heston dressed up as Moses and commanded the waters to part. (Actually, at the time he was commanding a neutral blue background to part. Technicians added the real water later, when Mr. Heston was safely out of the studio.) Much of the nation is against the war, and the restwhich is to say, mainly Florida, which gets to vote twice, I thinkis for it. What is neededand this is where I come inis a voice of reason in this tempest of division. In the crucible of public debate, I will be the pestle. Or maybe its the mortar. Whatever.
FORTUNATELY, others have already tried to resolve these conflicts and bring our nation together. Our political leaders have courageously called Americans to join and fight our common enemy, which, apparently, is gay marriage.
And who can blame them? Without question, the sanctity of marriage is central to our way of life. In fact, we like it so much that many American couplesabout halfwant to do it again. With somebody else. This 50 percent failure rate is a number weve all grown comfortable with (its an easy fraction to remember). So do we really want an entirely new demographic group to come in and mess that up, and maybe do it better than the rest of us?
Frankly, I dont much like the sound of "Bobby has two dads." I much prefer the more traditional "Bobby has a mommy and a daddy, whom he sees every other weekend, depending on whether daddys new girlfriend is in town."
See, its that kind of reasoning thats most helpful during these difficult times.
And I get that from an experience as a young teenager when my church struggled with a controversy of its own. Back in the late 1960s, members of our Southern Baptist congregation had grown complacent in their faith. There was an evil in our midst, and that evil was, you guessed it...slacks.
Thats right, slacks. But thanks to our pastor, a man ever-watchful for the temptations of the flesh (as well as for choir members who tried to park in his space on Sundays), we stopped Satan and left him quaking in his boots. Or possibly his flip-flops.
It was during Vacation Bible School in the heat of an Indiana summer. Some of the teacherswomen who selfishly worked for Gods favor by spending their mornings teaching little kids about Jesusstarted wearing slacks. They had already tried to wear shorts because of the heat, but the pastor was quick to point out that the heat of Hell was much hotter, so theyd better wear dresses like the Bible says (or would have, if God hadnt forgotten to put it in).
The pastors ultimatum was questioned by some church members, specifically the womens husbands who were themselves unable to help out in Bible school because they had to work downtown in air conditioning. They reminded him that these were fine Christian women who should be trusted to know what best to wear. The pastor responded by saying, prayerfully, "Not as long as Im pastor of this church." Which gave the husbands an idea. For the betterment of the kingdom, the pastor soon resumed his successful house-painting career. (I wont even mention that the next pastor preached against the sin of pantsuits, because that would weaken an otherwise inspirational story.)
Ill never forget how that controversy was settled in my old church. It is a reminder of what lay leadersparticularly husbands who appreciate home-cooked mealscan do in a time of crisis. Im grateful that I was a part of it, at least the part I could see from inside the janitors closet.
Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.