- Justin Utley
Sermon on the Amount
Over thousands of years of rulers, kingdoms, religions, cultural clashes, societies, and customs have defined, refined, and redefined our roles, responsibilities, behaviors, fashions, perceptions, potentials, restrictions, and destinies... all based solely on one thing: our reproductive organs.
They've been used to decide who can and cannot rule a kingdom. Who can and cannot be a healer. Who can and cannot run a business. Who can and cannot have sex. Who can and cannot reproduce. Who can and cannot raise offspring. Who can and cannot marry. Who can and cannot divorce. Who can and cannot be a head of the household. Who can and cannot vote. Who can and cannot wear a dress. Who can and cannot show ankles or elbows. Who can and cannot show their face or hair in holy places and must hide their face with a veil.
The truth is, be it intentional or unintentional, we allow our environment and society to shape our perceptions, to teach us to categorize and label ourselves as well as each other. We've let roles define us. We've let religious culture and rhetoric divide us.
For instance, a member of my extended family recently told me that although they don’t agree with my lifestyle choice and can’t sympathize with my struggle with same-gender attraction, that they still love me anyway.
I understand that may be a reconciliatory step forward in the eyes of some. However, it is still tangled in a web of misunderstanding and subtle bigotry.
My reply to this was “I don’t struggle with same gender attraction at all. I don’t struggle with any gender attraction for that matter. I understand myself completely. I think perhaps that you and your religious beliefs are the ones with the struggle. My sexual orientation is not a choice, and who I love is not a lifestyle. My lifestyle consists of music, gym, and spending time with my friends, my family, and a wonderful husband. How is this lifestyle any different than yours?”
So, for a moment, lets strip away all the biased basis of our religious ideals. Deconstruct what we each consider to be masculine, feminine, or gender neutral, and turn off all the noise and distractions coming from those who don't understand and choose not to. Let’s remove all of our labels and our price tags, past our egos, past our insecurities, down to our core...
We are not genders. We are not sexual orientations.
We are not nationalities or ethnicities.
We are not the color of our skin.
We are not minorities or majorities. We are not religions or tribes.
We are not Mormons or Buddhists.
We are not apostles or apostates.
We are not saints or sinners.
We are human.
We all share the same DNA and fabric of life.
We all share the same chemical elements and functions.
We laugh. We cry. We love. We grieve.
At my core, I am no more male than I am female. I am no more cisgender than I am transgender. I am no more Italian than I am Japanese. I am no more chosen than the Virgin Mary, and no less chosen than the last one picked in dodge-ball. I am no more or less of anything else than I am a member of a human family. Our family.
As a family, you and I should have no more or less rights to life, love, and liberty than any other members of our family. As a family, we are obligated us to stand up, speak out, and protect the members of our family who are being misguided, mistreated, misrepresented, and misunderstood. If God is no respecter of persons, then the same is true of those who speak ill of the members of the LGBTQ community and its allies. We are a family. We stick together. We hold people accountable for their words and actions, and lack of action, regardless of who they are, who they think they are, or who they claim to speak for.
Life isn't about the amount we can say we've suffered and comparing the weight of our crosses. It is true that some of our burdens we didn't choose to bear. Yet some of our crosses we've built ourselves. Our self-worth and value to our friends and family shouldn’t be based on the amount of faith we profess, but on the amount of grace we have… the grace for ourselves, and the grace we have for one another.
We all come from a variety of backgrounds, with our own unique experiences, our own variable and relative truths, and alternate perspectives. There is so much beauty in this diversity because it challenges our comfort levels of understanding ourselves and the world around us. The diversity of our lives and experiences are filled with precious opportunities to learn lessons of love. If we choose not to embrace our differences, if we choose to remain ignorant about the uncomfortable, if we never seek to understand what we don’t know (or don’t want to know), then we fail at one of the most basic commandments and universal laws of all. To LOVE.