Thursday, October 29, 2009

Will Maine Discriminate?

“Keep awake—for you do not know when the Master will come for you, in the evening, or at mid-night, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, so that you will not be asleep when he comes suddenly. And I say this to all of you: Keep awake.”
Mark 13:37

There is an old story about a young man going to visit the great abolitionist poet James Russell Lowell when Lowell was an old man. The young man questioned him earnestly about the fight for Abolition; hanging on Lowell’s every word. Finally, he said, “I wish I had been with you then. I wish I could have been part of that great cause.”

The old abolitionist pointed out the window and pulled back the curtain. Below them there were children going to and from their work in the factories. “Look!” said Lowell, “there is your cause! What more do you want?”

Next Tuesday the people of Maine will vote on whether or not they will overturn the legislative approval of same sex marriage. There are Christians on both sides of the issue.

They say that generals are always perfectly prepared to fight the last war. We could say that Christians are always prepared for the last cause.

There are Christians today who talk about how they would have supported the Civil Rights of African Americans a generation ago, even as they oppose the Civil rights of homosexuals today. They say they are appalled that prior to 1967 there were laws prohibiting mixed race marriages, forgetting that at the time the Supreme Court struck down those laws there was overwhelming public support for preventing interracial marriage.

But we don’t get to live in the past. We have to live today.

Hindsight is always 20-20. We know exactly what we should have and would have done about the issues of yesterday. And we believe that we would have stood strongly against the injustices of previous decades and centuries. Today’s injustices seem so much more complicated and ambiguous.

In his great abolitionist hymn, “Once to Every Man and Nation,” Lowell talks writes about how difficult it is to choose light over darkness when it seems that truth seems to be on the scaffold and wrong seems to be on the throne. The Gospel teaches that “the scaffold sways the future” and God keeps watch in the darkness.

New occasions teach new duties,
Time makes ancient good uncouth;
They must upward still and onward,
Who would keep abreast truth.

Eventually, says Lowell, the multitude will “make virtue of the truth they had denied.” Unfortunately, life happens in the present rather than the past. And followers of Christ are given the difficult task of following him today, choosing light over darkness and hope over fear.

I’m praying for the people of Maine to choose light and hope.

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