Friday, March 9, 2012

Peg Laurence, Ellen DeGeneres and the New Reality

Do not remember the former things,
or consider the things of old.
I am about to do a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
Isaiah 43:18-19a

On the front page of The North East Independent, a local weekly newspaper, there is a story about Peg Laurence, a local lawyer who died last Friday at the age of 63. She was remembered and celebrated as a community activist and a renaissance woman who loved golf, sailing and football.

As I read of her many causes and commitments, I was impressed by the scope of her life. She must have been a wonderful person. But what most caught my attention was the picture that went with the story. The caption said, “Peg Laurence (left), shown with partner Lise Iwon . . .” It was not a story about a gay woman. It was just a story about a woman who happened to be gay.

This is, in the words of Isaiah, “a new thing.”

The judge who married them in Massachusetts told about how they met in Law School 32 years ago and it was “love at first sight.” Nieces and nephews recalled the importance of “Auntie Peg’s influence” on their lives and the lives of their children.

While the political debates go on about gay marriage, the day to day reality is changing. As Isaiah proclaims God’s message, “now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?”

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reported that the organizers of what was supposed to be a national boycott of J.C. Penney to protest the company’s hiring of Ellen DeGeneres as a spokesperson, have given up. The Times wrote that, “The Christian family group called announced Thursday that it's backing off a nationwide boycott of J.C. Penney.”

In that context, shouldn’t the word “Christian” be in quotation marks? Admittedly, they call themselves a “Christian Family Group,” but apart from that self-definition, what would indicate that they are in any way reflecting authentic Christian values?

We should be very careful about deciding who is or is not a “real” Christian. And even though it turns out that “” actually only has about 40,000 members (as Ellen DeGeneres said, “I guess they rounded up to the nearest million), I don’t really want to throw them out of church. But it does trouble me that the name is unthinkingly ascribed to the most narrow minded of those who claim to be Jesus’ followers.

And how is it that Christianity is so often identified with preserving the status quo? We wrote the book on “New.” Literally.

As the passage from Isaiah illustrates, the idea of God’s ever-creating newness is a biblical theme that predates Christianity. But it is hard to think of many themes that are more central to Christian faith. As Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Corinth, “When anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!”

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Bill, for commemorating Peg Laurence--she was indeed a wonderful person.