D Gregory Smith

My Thirst for Justice

Filed By D Gregory Smith | October 21, 2012 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Marriage Equality
Tags: bishops, Catholic church, justice, Montana, mosaic, peace, religion, religious faith, Vatican II

From an address I gave last weekend to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bozeman:

I grew up in the 70's. A Roman Catholic.

Back then, the emphasis was less on "Roman" and more on "Catholic". Catholic as you might know means "Universal".

My religious training as a kid was very ecumenical, non-dogmatic, fresh on the heels of Pope John's Vatican Council - designed to open the windows and doors of the church for some fresh air - and as such, there was a heavy emphasis on social justice and the dignity of the human person. I had wonderful teachers - nuns, priests, parents, and peers - bigstock-Golden-Rule-23674010.jpgand we all believed steadfastly in this principle probably first espoused by Confucius:

"Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself."

This, it seems, is one of the crowning principles of justice.

"Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself"

I loved it - I still do. It guides my life even today.

But what I wished for myself was peace - and it was jeopardized, in some part, by the dogmatic underpinnings of shame in the faith that taught me those strong tenets of social justice. Something wasn't quite right - and it took me decades to reconcile it.

I was born, some theologians and churches - including my own church - have said, "disordered". Simply because of something that flowed from the depths of my being, from my heart: I wanted to fall in love with another man.

Words like "disordered" or "unnatural" get thrown around a lot by people who really aren't willing to try and understand. They may find it more comfortable to sit in judgment, without trying to sit in empathy or compassion. Possibly because they lack the imagination to believe that God could truly surprise the world.

But seriously, if that's not something God would do, there's not much point in being God, is there?

But there it is. This is who I am.

And I'm not alone. There are millions of people, like myself, who are born out of the course of "normal". For some it's sexuality, for some it's different senses of beauty or reason or silence or vision or purpose or justice. It's part of the beautiful mosaic of humanity that creates an amazing picture out of seemingly random shapes and colors.

All it takes is imagination.

I realized that sense of justice that I was raised with, that sense of "Do not impose on others what you do not wish for yourself" must be followed by that which is like it "Do not take away from others what you do not wish to take away from yourself."

LGBT persons must not be oppressed, must be included, must be loved - not only in spirit, but in person. For me, this is peace. This is justice. This is seeing the mosaic for what it is - a purposeful work of art.

And keeping me and my sisters and brothers and friends from achieving the same level of happiness as they enjoy is unjust. It's unfair and it's spiteful.

This is the civil rights issue of our day. This is the moral rights issue of our day. And I'm not just talking about churches and theology here. As one nun I know and love reminded me recently "freedom of religion also means freedom from religion." I don't have the right to force my religious beliefs on anyone, but conversely, no one has the right to force theirs on me.

And my religion is based on love.

And promotes justice.

I'm embarrassed to acknowledge that the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church has spent millions of dollars to fight equal marriage rights. The people aren't following, for the most part. Catholics approve of marriage equality more than any other religious group. Maybe because we haven't forgotten the strong sense of justice Vatican II worked so hard to promote - even if the bishops have. I pray that someday the leaders who are pushing this will be embarrassed, too.

But I'm not holding my breath.

I'll continue to work for justice without them.

Right now, in Montana, there is a campaign to have fairness for all couples - regardless of sexuality. It represents everything I believe: that I deserve the same protections as my parents had. It's called the Fair is Fair Campaign - and I have enough bumper stickers for every car in the parking lot....

I left Montana for 10 years, but I promised myself when I moved back, that I would not hide who I am, that I would "suffer the slings and arrows" if it meant that a kid who grew up here would have a better, more peaceful life than I did. If it meant that a child wouldn't suffer as much guilt and shame as the clients I've treated. If it means that someone won't look to suicide as a viable option at fourteen or fifteen or sixteen years old.

Because there's nothing shameful about being who you were created to be.


And, because love is always optimistic, I hope and I trust that just maybe, someday, sooner than later, we'll all believe that.

(Golden Rule graphic via Bigstock)

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