Like many of you, I have been very troubled by the reports of Senator Larry Craig's (R-ID) arrest in an airport bathroom. The reports of what happened disgust me. It would be one thing to have an openly gay Senator who has always voted to give all people the same rights despite their sexual orientation. It is quite another thing to have a Senator tapping his foot, reaching his hand under the metal wall, and pleading guilty to a lesser crime when the Senator has voted against every piece of legislation that would have treated gay and lesbian people the same as every other individual in this country.
While Senator Craig is innocent until proven guilty, he already said he was guilty. He entered a guilty plea. He now is trying to reverse this plea. Today's news story is that he may change his mind and stay in the Senate. He has hired Stan Brand, the attorney who represented Major League Baseball in the steriod cases, and Billy Martin who represented Michael Vick in the dogfighting case. He has hired two people to stand by his side who are used to standing with people who did something terribly wrong - something they knew they should not have done.
The report in today's paper also tells of a family that has forgiven him. His children are standing by his side, telling all that their father was a victim of circumstance. The children are filled with grace - something we are all called to be filled with as we are called to forgive one another - and something that seems difficult to find in this case.
The best piece I have seen on Senator Craig's situation is an op-ed that appeared in Monday's Washington Post. Written by James McGreevey, the former New Jersey governor who found himself in a similar situation, the article tells of the pain and the shame associated with being gay. McGreevey writes of the quest to stay in the closet and the desire to run for public office as an effort to build another closet. It is a powerful statement - one worth reading.
I have watched too many friends almost suffocate in the closet. I have had too many friends come close to choosing death over life as a gay man. I have watched friends go to seminary, hoping that seminary and ordination would be the closet that would cover "it" for life. I have watched friends get married, thinking that this vow would make "it all go away." And, I have watched these same people continue to suffer - through depression, through pain, through what appears to me to be a living hell.
If you have read my blog this summer, then you know that the mantra of this season is making room for people to be who they really are. I do not want to lose another friend because she or he is dealing with something that cannot be shared. I do not want another person to leave ordained ministry because the church cannot accept who he or she really is - a gay man or a lesbian woman. And, I do not want to watch another person fall from power - whether it is the leader of a large church in Colorado or a United States Senator from Idaho - because of the choices they make regarding their sexual passions.
Our sexuality is a complex, beautiful gift from God. Sexuality is also a gift that can cause us to do things we might never have done before. The rise and ease of internet pornography is allowing people to enter places they could once only create in their minds (see the cover article of the current edition of Christian Century to see how many pastors are entering this place). The stress of being in a position of power where everyone thinks you have it all right can cause one to bundle up everything else on the inside and not tell a soul what is really happening. And, despite how good we think we are, none of us are perfect.
Senator Craig, I don't know if you are gay or straight. I have a hard time believing that you are a victim of circumstance - that your tapping your foot or reaching under the partition were not intentional. I am praying for your family, and I am trying to also pray for you. But I also pray that this story - this situation - will open your eyes to the pain of people around you - the ones you have voted against time and again. I pray this situation will also open the eyes and the hearts of your colleagues as we all ask ourselves, "I wonder what kind of pain, burdens, secrets or closets other people are carrying in this place, under this dome, in this city. How can I help them? How can we all seek to be more authentic?"
James McGreevey ends his op-ed with these words, "I pray that the tide of American history continues to sweep toward the inevitable expansion of freedom that recognizes the worth and dignity of every individual - and that mine is the last generation that is required to choose between the affairs of the heart and elected office" (James E. McGreevey, "A Prayer for Larry Craig," Washington Post, September 3, 2007, A15).