Our children’s Summer Sundays program in our local parish this year, “I Believe,” revolves around the Apostles’ Creed and the Church Year, those “tides” or seasons that teach us the creeds. We sing “Advent Tells Us Christ is Near,” we read a story about the creed, we plant sunflowers in bright pails, we blow big balloons, we color and we craft. We make fridge magnets with the verses of our hymn to take home.
As we dropped seeds into the dark soil, pushing each one deeper into its loamy home, to one day shoot into the bright light and flower, I thought about belief and faith and the Apostles’ Creed, our statement of belief. Would these children be allowed to practice their beliefs? Would the state intervene and silence them, force them underground?
Some say believers are already underground, for belief in Christianity is not fashionable, even considered radical and strange. We are called bigots, narrow minded, living in a fantasyland, stuck in the past. And yet, for many of us, there is ample historical evidence for the resurrection of Christ and his divinity and the authority of Holy Scripture. We have known the Almighty God through prayer and met him in the Eucharist. We have seen his Holy Spirit working through others, nudging and guiding. We have opened our hearts and experienced the glory of God’s grace. These are no small things. This is good news, worthy to be published and proclaimed and protected, news to give hope to our world, news to tell our children, unafraid, with thanksgiving. This good news, gospel, deserves proclamation – and defense – in the public square.
And yet such proclamations are increasingly discouraged. To be faithful to traditional marriage and family, clear Scriptural mandates, is considered unfeeling of those who view marriage differently. Rational debate, healthy debate, is pressured into silence.
The recent Supreme Court decision redefining marriage cites the “right to dignity,” a right not found in the Constitution. The judiciary has legislated law, a prerogative of Congress, the people’s representatives. And if we object to this massive assumption of power by five appointed lawyers from elite schools we are branded “bigots” and deemed “intolerant.” And yet, who are the new intolerant?
The decision itself is based on dubious logic, seemingly seeded in emotion and a desire to restructure society according to personal agenda. Since the argument claims the “right to dignity” of gay and lesbian partners, one must conclude that polygamous unions and incestuous partners also have such a right. Bestiality as well. If the definition of marriage is not limited as it has been since the world began – a committed union of a man and a woman, producers of the next generation, and thus of interest to the state – then any relationship could be deemed marriage as long as it consensual. After all every relationship has “the right to dignity.”
I believe in freedom of religion, and that our nation still believes in this fragile and threatened freedom. We were founded on this principle; it is who we are. I have no desire to impose my beliefs on others, but I have a sincere desire, even a mandate, to live according to those beliefs, and to teach my children those beliefs. Our stars and stripes and our fireworks, our hot dogs and chips and beer, our parades and our picnics every Fourth of July proclaim our diversity of race and religion. Our flags wave proudly reminding us that we are a peaceful people who debate our differences with respect for one another’s beliefs.
And so, this fifth of July I pray for peace within our diverse peoples. I pray that this Supreme Court decision does not give license to the silencing of our conversation. I pray that we may worship in our local churches and temples without fear, that we may keep God’s law, writing it on our hearts and in our deeds. I pray that we will be respected and not slandered for our witness to the truth of God and man and woman.
The Court decision has divided us, not unified us. It has harmed us. It has encouraged a sudden silence across our exceptional land, and lining that silence is fear.
The Bethlehem Star returned last week, not seen since 2-3 A.D. This conjunction of Venus and Jupiter occurred within the constellation Leo and its king star, Regulus, creating the Bethlehem Star. What does this mean? Is Christ returning soon to judge the living and the dead? The appearance in the night sky of this “star” is curious and wondrous. We watch and wait, ever vigilant over our own hearts, ready for Christ’s second coming. And as we watch and wait, we sing with the children about the first Star of Bethlehem. The children twirl, raising their arms in praise. They remind me of the joy of being a Christian and living out the Church Year with other faithful:
Advent tells us Christ is near: Christmas tells us Christ is here./In Epiphany we trace/All the glory of His grace.
Then three Sundays will prepare/For the time of fast and prayer,/That, with hearts made penitent,/We may keep a faithful Lent.
Holy Week and Easter, then,/Tell who died and rose again:/ O that happy Easter day! “Christ is risen indeed,” we say.
Yes, and Christ ascended, too,/ To prepare a place for you;/ So we give him special praise,/ After those great forty days.
Then he sent the Holy Ghost, /On the day of Pentecost,/ With us ever to abide:/Well may we keep Whitsuntide.
Last of all, we humbly sing/ Glory to our God and king,/ Glory to the One in three,/ On the Feast of Trinity.
(Hymn #235, The Hymnal, 1940. Words by Katherine Hankey,1888, for the Sunday School of St. Peter’s, Eaton Square, London)
Next week in Sunday School life will sprout through the dark soil in the bright pails. We will learn about God the Father and how he created the heavens and earth, the trillions of stars he named, how he made you and me, mothers and fathers and children.
And God saw everything he had made, and behold, it was very good.