When religion caves to political pressure
I remember 15 years ago when I was a quasi-member of the Trinity Episcopal Church. I say I was a quasi-member because I wasn’t really a member of the church. My wife was. I, however, paid the donations -- somewhat reluctantly. Nevertheless, I had recently been hired at a new college, and we knew no one in the new town. So, my wife joined because we needed to meet new people where we lived, and she liked to sing in the choir. I would sometimes go to Sunday services and church functions with her, and we would go to midnight mass at Christmas time. Everyone in the church was very friendly and inviting, so I enjoyed most of the time I spent at the church functions. Joining myself, however, was not something I was tempted to do.
About ten years ago a question came up as to whether the minister should perform a gay marriage. I must admit I was a bit amused when I first heard about it because I wasn’t really a member of the church. I knew, or I assumed, a few members were gay when I had met them at church functions, but I didn’t really care one way or the other if they were.
The Episcopal minister did not object to performing the wedding. His spiritual position was that we all need to find our own way to God. I must admit I was quite amused by the minister’s spiritual take on this because it meant to me that the church basically represented nothing. It was a club. Worse, it was a club that had no principles, which were supposed to be the foundation of the church.
Of course, many members of the church vehemently objected to the minister performing the wedding -- usually the older members -- but some of the younger members thought the ceremony should go ahead.
In short, the church split in two. Many of the parishioners, some who had been lifelong members, quit outright. I felt sorry for the ones who had been lifelong members because that crucial part of their life was now ended. I do not know if they joined other Protestant churches or the local Roman Catholic Church, but I assumed some did.
This upheaval in the Trinity Episcopal Church happened a little after the Supreme Court of the United States had ruled gay marriage was legal, so it occurred to me then and now that this was a matter of caving to pollical power and media elites who had been advocating for marriage equity for a long time.
Marriage equity was the term those with the microphones used to justify the change. I was amused by the term, but I knew the term was what powerful institutions and powerful political forces called it: therefore, it was impossible to oppose. It was marriage equity.
As for my wife, she never said much about it other than to express shocked dismay. Also, at about that time, I was told my contract would not be renewed for the following academic year. The college where I worked had lost over a thousand students, and many of the faculty were being let go. This meant I was too busy pulling out my hair trying to land another job and figure out how I was going to pay the mortgage of a house we had recently bought and my college loans all at once.
Eventually, I did land another job for the next academic year. A few years later, I was invited to a seminar at the old college where I had worked. As I was driving through the town, I saw the Presbyterian Church property was up for sale. It was a beautiful, big old church that I had been in a few times when they did functions with the Episcopal Church. A few years after that, my wife told me she had heard through some former friends that she kept in touch with that the Episcopal Church had closed.
Image: A Quiverful of Fotos