It’s a great photo. But, of course, one dad happens to be a professional photographer. These days though he takes few pictures: Leonard is a stay-at-home dad while his partner Dan works. Their children are solid proof that love, no matter how manifested, does indeed work.
Is anything lacking here? From where my camera focuses, these dads have everything required to propel their sons into healthy, fulfilled adulthood, beginning not leastwise with their rambling four-bedroom home and its recently redesigned nursery room of perhaps too many toys. From where I sit, these guys have got it together.
These men didn’t adopt. They arranged the births with the help of a young woman in need who played surrogate mom for them “one step removed.” One of the men is father to the children; they are physically his offspring. But to see this family, you’d never guess any distinctions in parenthood. You hear a lot of fussing and gurgling in that household these days. And like any other family meeting life’s unexpected twists, they were overwhelmed when the second go-round delivered a set of twins.
Against this backdrop of domestic bliss experienced in truly generous proportions, I hear the chorus of so many Christian leaders hammering away at any idea of gay union. The facts, the evidence of so many stories like Leonard’s, argue otherwise. As Leonard himself once simply put it to me, “I’m called to live a gay life and have responded to that vocation.” Gay partners, both men and women, in our time are bravely forging a new way to fulfill the most venerated of all biblical vocations, the call to love.
So what of these other biblical calls, so-called, peppering us from so many pulpits? Well, what is seen to be biblically correct, the black-and-white defined for all time right-and-wrong, has in fact been undergoing enormous shifts—you could say like everything else connected to our vital human condition. Check the record in even my own lifetime …
In the South, we once preached that God’s law prohibited African-Americans worshiping in the same church as us. “Build your own churches!” we said. “God’s Law demands it!” Mercifully, in our own time that “biblical” truth was left to die a natural death so that in many christian churches today blacks and whites can be heard singing Amazing Grace in one voice.
Then there was that commandment that God never intended interracial marriages. They even came up with a fancy word for it, although I have yet to find linguistic traces for miscegenation in the bible. But ministers insisted the bible said whites and blacks couldn’t mix. Well, who stares anymore when an interracial couple passes by on the street?
Only last Sunday a charming young couple sat ahead of me at Mass, a black man with his white partner. At the sign of peace, they turned around to smile and shake my hand, and later, as they took communion I could see that at last we were coming around to accepting what marriage is really all about.
Changing truths! Do truths change? As a former nun, I’ve seen many “commandments” in my own little community of sisters find new expression in today’s world. Maybe we’re simply digging deeper to find the same basic truth: that life is about love. And that that never changes. If anything is changing, mercifully it’ll be us!
That same Sunday, after my church experience with the inter-racial couple (the expression itself is already dated), I delighted to see in the Sunday New York Times marriage announcements a photo of two men announcing their union. How brave of the Times to print it! How brave of the couple themselves! Our culture and our religion will one day follow suit. One day we won’t be the least surprised to see same sex announcements.
I smoothed out that delightful photo of Trevor, Ethan, and Garrett with their Kodak-perfect smiles that speak a thousand love words, placed it on my fireplace mantle, and lit a lavender candle beside it. It burns that we may soon leave all this verbal violence far behind us. I know love will win out. It always does. It’s only a matter of time—and a few brave souls to help us move forward.
I’d like to be around when these three boys pay tributes to their dads, airing their treasured memories of how their dads read to them and took a day off for a day at the zoo together. Maybe how when one dad caught the flu, the other took his place at work and hired a nanny for them. But maybe by then they won’t need to tell the stories: two dads will be just another commonplace in this great pulsing kaleidoscope we call life.
Yes, one day, I expect gay marriages will be pretty normal. Who knows, maybe on that day the pulpit itself will at last be abandoned as last-ditch defense for a belief on its way out.