Resurrection Activism: Being an Easter People
Unless you have maintained a media blackout this week you have surely heard of the big splash made by our beloved United Church of Christ in the filing of a law suit in US District Court in Charlotte, North Carolina. The suit argues that the current law in North Carolina, as it pertains to marriage, violates the First Amendment right to religious freedom by prohibiting UCC
ministers and other clergy from officiating at same-sex marriages. Here is why: After the passage of Amendment One in North Carolina in 2012 it became illegal for a member of the clergy to officiate at a wedding where a marriage license is not present. And, since in NC it is impossible for a same-sex couple to obtain a marriage license, any member of the clergy who officiates at a same-sex marriage ceremony in the state may be sentenced to “120 days in jail and/or probation and community service”. In other words, the state of North Carolina is telling clergy that it is illegal to pray in the manner in which they see fit. For clergy like me—and many people of faith, marriage is more than just a civil ceremony. It is also a religious one. And under the current law, even if a member of the clergy is only intending to perform a religious ritual, and not to legally marry a same-sex couple, they could be arrested.
This is pretty big news and has been highlighted in more than one news cycle—in part because of the irony of the law suit turning on it’s head the anti-equal-marriage-argument that equal marriage laws infringe on the First Amendment right to freedom of religion for those who do not want to bake a wedding cake or take wedding photos for a same gender couple! Some key religious conservatives who have battled equal marriage have unexpectedly acknowledged the legal point. Southern Baptist Seminary President Albert Mohler said this week, “Even as we advocate for religious liberty, we have to understand that the guarantee of religious liberty means the freedom of heretics to teach heresy,” he said. “If we deny religious liberty for others, very soon others will deny religious liberty to us. That’s fair warning and this case bears close attention.”
It is also big news because it is yet another “first” for our courageous, historically activist, justice driven denomination. If you have never seen the UCC’s list of “Firsts,” which will make you tear up with pride, check them out here: http://www.ucc.org/about-us/ucc-firsts.html. From the “the Pilgrims to the present” the Congregationalists/UCC’ers have been activists and led transformation throughout our American history in everything from religious freedom to abolishing slavery to women’s rights to civil rights to Marriage Equality. This law suit is a landmark action (in a long line of landmark actions) that our denominations has taken on behalf of justice—and I could not be more proud and grateful for the witness to Jesus’ call to love our neighbor and seek justice.
It also feels like “resurrection activism” by an Easter people—people who believe that God calls us to live and love and act in ways that change the status quo, that demonstrate that we take seriously Jesus’ call to care for the least of these and make the kin-dom of God a reality here and now, and that make the world the kind of place that God intended it to be when God created all of it and us! This kind of activism, called out from our faith and our understanding of Jesus’ Way, is the kind of witness that inspires and transforms. I pray that you might feel the same pride and gratitude that I feel for our denomination. And, I pray that like the women who arrived at the tomb, like the disciples to whom Jesus appeared in that locked room, like the men whose hearts burned on the road to Emmaus—that you will go and tell others about this provocative, bold act of love and grace that has been called forth from the UCC because of the resurrection! May grace and wisdom prevail as the situation unfolds.
Rev. Wendy Miller Olapadeemail@example.com/617.592.5853