Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Trouble in the Bathroom

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).


Melody said...

Thank you for this thoughtful and authentic post on an issue that affects us all. Too long have we in the church kept silent about the often crippling pain people face because there is no room in the church (or family, social circle, etc) for who people really are.

Michael Westmoreland-White said...

There are many aspects of this case that are troubling. One that has not been mentioned much is that we are wasting undercover cops on stakeouts in bathrooms!

A 2nd troubling aspect is the way the GOP has rallied around Sen. Viddler who apparently frequented a D.C. brothel, but could not abandon Craig fast enough. Gay sex is the ultimate political career killer for Republicans. Sad.

Yes, Craig is a hypocrite. But he's not the only one.

Anonymous said...

Is this ever interesting...we are to be open but yet here poor republican Craig was attempting to reach out and be accepting and you look down on him. Hummm if you are for gay sex then be consistent. I wonder why the cops need to be in the bathroom anyway... is it because of this "gay" sex thing? This normal behavior as one would want us to believe. Hummm is this the way it works... Let Craig come on out of the bathroom. Maybe if we were more open we could let them "meet" on the sidewalk. If sex is an open gift from God then let him do it in the bathroom why are you bothered or troubled over it? Can 't Craig be who he is? The logic on pro-homo agenda is just a bunch of liberal double talk. The hpocrites are here... I wonder why the UMC is a declining church.. I wonder... the Episcopals understand why... my goodness they are leading the way....

Gay clergy... yep now that's biblical.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh... I'm doubting now that my previous post will show up unedited (or even at all)... We'll see... it would speak volumes if denied...