Today is the Feast of Harriet Beecher Stowe, that wonderfully author whose writings inspired so many to stand up against slavery. She used her voice, through her pen, to help the eyes of so many open to the struggles of people of color in our nation. For her, I am thankful.
Here’s a portion of Psalm 119, the psalm appointed for today. I find myself sticking with the psalms for each of these days, drawing on my own Camaldolese tradition and its practice of always keeping the psalms in front of us, and in our hearts.
169 Let my cry come before you, O LORD; *
give me understanding, according to your word.
170 Let my supplication come before you; *
deliver me, according to your promise.
171 My lips shall pour forth your praise, *
when you teach me your statutes.
172 My tongue shall sing of your promise, *
for all your commandments are righteous.
173 Let your hand be ready to help me, *
for I have chosen your commandments.
174 I long for your salvation, O LORD, *
and your law is my delight.
175 Let me live, and I will praise you, *
and let your judgments help me.
176 I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost; *
search for your servant,
for I do not forget your commandments.
This morning, I am struck by the image of lips pouring forth praise and tongues singing about the promises of God. And I wonder, what does it mean to have a voice? What does it mean to use one’s voice? To speak not against any one group but for the benefit of all people? It is this space that I find myself in now, this idea that some have that speaking for the whole entails speaking against any group. As if there is a limited supply of grace out there.
I have had some direct it toward me and my parish, that, by speaking up for the rights and protection of people of color and people who are gay, we are somehow speaking against “Christianity.” It’s the old argument of having a limited amount of space there… And, I think if Simone Weil, and her wonderful image of, (to paraphrase), if Jesus is the Truth, and you something that is true in the world, then Jesus can’t be that far behind. That quote has always meant a great deal to me.
When we speak–or write, or compose, of create–in a way that upholds any of our brothers and sisters, we will sometimes challenge the norms and the assumptions of the majority. Harriet Beecher Stowe knew this all to well. It was the norm of the culture that slavery was accepted–even explicitly supported by the Bible! Lord knows there is a whole lot more in the Bible that explicitly supports slavery than seems to reject homosexuality.
So, I return to this image of using our lips and tongues to speak of God’s love and justice…knowing that, by speaking for this, we are speaking for the benefit of the whole…of all God’s children.