One Step at a Time

On Monday, February 13th, Washington State Governor Christine Gregoir is scheduled to sign into law the Marriage Equality Bill, making Washington the seventh state in the United States to not discriminate between same-sex and hetero-sexual couples. As imagined, there is loud commentary on both sides of this issue. But in the background can be heard the soft steps of a group of individuals marching from Vancouver to Olympia in celebration of Marriage Equality.

On Saturday, my family took part in this march. Littlest, at 5 years of age, was the youngest marcher. I believe his grandfather, at much more than 5 years of age, was the oldest. It doesn’t really matter how old the marchers are, for anyone of any age can be an activist for positive change. And in the case of the Love for All: An Interfaith March for Marriage Equality, the marchers are activists for justice and equality for all persons to marry, regardless of gender.

As we drove to the where the march began on Saturday, my oldest son asked from the back seat, “Mom, is there a chance this could get…violent?” I heard real fear in his voice. Because as a middle schooler, Biggest knows how people can be. He knows that most people are good in their deed and word, but not all. So he was right to be apprehensive.

“Yes, I suppose it could. But Dad and I will do everything it takes to keep you safe. And I want to believe that most people will support us as we march into Longview. People might say mean things and that is their right. But I don’t think anything bad will happen.”

“Ok.”

And in the time my kids and I marched along the highway, nothing bad did happen. Instead, lots of good happened. A group of 24 people marched along, some holding signs, others coffee cups. We were connected. We were a community. And people by and large supported us and our march. It was good to have our right to march affirmed, or at least not threatened. We have the right to raise our voices in political activism. We have the right to our opinions and to state those opinions. It is our right, as is the right for others to disagree with us. We have these rights because we are citizens of the United States of America and the US Constitution and its amendments give us those rights.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” ~ The United States Constitution

Over the years I have been part of many protests and rallies. I believe in speaking up, of stepping up. Born a Libra, in the late 60s, raised in the Northwest, I always thought of myself as “average” in my beliefs–somehow not realizing that not all folks look for the connections we have between us all and instead look for ways to separate and judge. And when as a young adult I realized that every kind of “ism” is still alive in this nation and around the world, although perhaps hidden or in small pockets, I realized that I had two choices. I could choose to be silent and hope to be untouched by such things, or I could speak up for justice.
And so I have been. The first time I ever contradicted someone was at college. A group of “skin heads” came on campus to protest a guest lecturer. I was naive, thinking that my words would somehow change their minds. But it set into motion a very big part of who I am: a believer in justice for everyone. I really do believe everyone should be able to live a happy and whole life. After all, this is the United States.
But the reality of life in the United States is that many, many people will never be able to do so either because of the myriad of social and economic obstacles they face, or constrictions on people based upon Biblical interpretation. When we take away their ability to have families that are loving and accepted, how can their constitutional rights ever be upheld? For me, the words of Martin Niemoller are always near and apropos:
“First they came for the communists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out for me.” 
I believe the key to ensuring justice for all citizens lies at reconnecting us. Because when we are united, we are stronger. And when we come together in community, the “other” is given a name, a face, a person. And when we connect with people with real names and real lives, it is much harder to truly believe they are without the same rights as ourselves. Knowing a person, as a person and not as a labelled thing, creates transformation. When we are united, there are more voices to speak up. And when we speak up, when we give testimony and share our truths, we can transform our whole community into an even better one.
My belief in the power of transformation is why I try to give my children many opportunities to know all kinds of people as people and not simply faceless labels.

Later, as Littlest and I brought up the rear of the march, I asked him if he knew why we were marching. He looked up at me, wearing a bright yellow Spongebob hat and covered head to toe in a yellow rain poncho. “No. Not really. Its something about love though.”

And that is precisely right. This march for Marriage Equality is very simple. It is about love.

My children are being raised in a progressive Christian home which is to say we talk about what we do much more than what we do not do. And it is pretty simple, living by one commandment especially:

“Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. ” Matthew 22:39

Although many folks would view my family as not living a very faith-filled life, I say we do. Because in our words and our deeds we aim to treat all people as we wish to be treated. In our home, we practice a faith that is not fear or shame based. Instead, we practice a faith that is love and respect based.

And because I am a believer in transformation and the Constitution, I believe everyone has the right to their own faith and their own way of living that faith. However, I do not believe that our lives of faith should infringe upon others’. And it is upon the intersection of those rights that we marched.

One of the marchers was told that by participating in a march for marriage equality he must be “gay” and that he is “un-American”. And while I must accept that person’s opinion, I do not have to be silent about that opinion. It seems to me that that opinion is based on fear, judgement, and bias. And it has nothing to do with justice and love.

My family and I will continue to walk towards justice and love for all, even those whose opinions differ from ours. One step at time, I believe we can become better people. We can demonstrate through what we do, and not simply what we don’t do, what it means to love our neighbors as ourselves. We can speak up for others, especially for those who may not have the ability to speak for themselves.

I took this photo on Saturday morning and it represents so much to me. A flag and an umbrella. One symbolizing the strength of the US and its Constitution, the other symbolizing the protective rainbow of Covenant.

One step at a time, both that flag and that rainbow walk towards Marriage Equality.

I am happy to have asked my children to walk with the March for Marriage Equality. And I am thrilled that they did.

ps. The outpouring of support from gay and straight people has been huge. One woman thanked me over and over for marching. She said her dear uncle lived with his partner for 50 years and could only be called “friends” and she thanked us in his memory. Each marcher has their own stories–stories which remind us why the March for Marriage Equality is so needed.

If you or someone you know is looking for a church that embraces all people and encourages deep conversations about faith and living a faith-filled life, please visit www.ucc.org for a listing of local United Church of Christ churches. The First Congregational UCC of Vancouver is one of the organizers of this march. 

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11 thoughts on “One Step at a Time

  1. Good on Ya. I admit that I am too often too quiet when confronted by injustices. But I’m trying to learn to be less so.

    Thanks for reminding me to keep trying, even in the face of seemingly insurmountable ignorance and malice.

  2. I love your message, Kristina. I grew up in the Unitarian Church in Sacramento and remember in the 60’s when our minister married two gay people. In sixth grade Sunday school, we visited a different church every week and talked about how most religions are alike in their core values. You are so right about fear and unfounded fears are so prevalent now. I appreciate your walk and your commentary. Be well! And happy Valentine’s Day–to all, especially those in love.

    • Hi there Patty! So many things connect all of us, and when we find those connections, we also find our compassion. Be well and let’s go for a run again!

    • Hi there Linda! I love it when you have the time to drop by…its as close to a coffee klatch as we can get due to geography. I often think of you and the stories about your kids. You are a great mom. And TG loves you all the more for it.

  3. As always, Kristina, spot on! You can’t believe how proud I am of what you and First Congregational Church are doing. Looking forward to seeing all of you Wednesday in Olympia.

  4. My daughter and her partner (in Seattle) are not (yet) legally married, but they have been together for over 20 years, have an eight-year-daughter who knows her (sperm donor) dad and his partner as dads (they live in Chicago). I suspect there will be wedding bells in our family one of these days.

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