if you don’t know me by now

It was the end of boot camp: Ft. Dix New Jersey, 1990. Drill Sergeant Armstead stepped on to the bus that would take all of us off base for the last time, sending us on to our next step in being a new soldier. I don’t know if he did this for every class; I can’t imagine that he did. As he was saying goodbye, and in his short, bulldog-ish gruff way, began to sing a familiar song: “IF    you-don’t-know     me      by     now …”  he barked as if in cadence. On the bus that day, with his drill hat tipped low across his face, I could swear I saw a tear roll down his face when he “sang” it to us that last time.

This past week I’ve had two facebook friends let me know that they will be voting YES on the proposed amendment that will read as follows on the ballot:

     Limiting the status of marriage to opposite sex couples.
     “Recognition of Marriage Solely Between One Man and One Woman.”
o YES         o NO

I’ve aired my hurt feelings in the same place these people let me know their intentions, facebook. I’ve asked for wisdom and taken some time to really sit with the words offered. Here is what I want to say to them, to myself, and to you.

First, facebook for me IS real life. I spend a great deal of time checking in and seeing what my friends both far and near are up to. It has challenged and enhanced my friendships, it has kept me connected to some people who I have met only once, and some—like my beloved—I see nearly every day. The relationships I have on facebook are real and they hold value—the kind I can and have and will cash in on—in my life. My personal page is cluttered with quotes and pictures from things that interrupt my daily sight-lines. These bits and scraps are a real part of me and I share them with you all because I want you to know me, laugh with me, challenge and inspire me. If you are my facebook friend, you are so with my permission and because I hope for a mutual relationship with you.

Secondly, above any other tenant of belief that I hold,  beyond any other thing I know to be real and true, I know that LOVE is at the center of my faith. Love God, love neighbor, love self. You know what happens if you believe this? Love manifests itself in the most unusual places: in broken families and republicans, smelly hippies, pussy riots and Fox news, in old ladies who lunch, closeted queers, and people who you can only understand through flailing body language and broken spanglish. Love is sneaky like that. And you know what else it is? It’s fierce. It can break a heart and rip a crack in your preconceived ideas faster than you can scream: “FUCK!”

Well, it can—that is—if you let it.

A dear friend and priest asked:  do you want to be prophetic (to them) or pastoral (to yourself)? Good question. And you know what, I want both. I have been both; it’s not like I just realized I had these friends. No, I’ve known about some since the last election cycle, some since the Chick-fil-A debacle, and still some I am learning about with each day that passes. I have been salt and light. I have invited you to my wedding, been a part of your life celebrations and you have been at mine. I don’t know what else I can do—my life and love is an open book; come, sit with me, read and listen. But one thing that can’t change—that won’t change, is our gender. We are two women. [cue] If you don’t know me by now, you will never never know me, ooooooooo.

This was what someone said to me:
“Rachel, I think it’s pretty simple to sum up. [His] beliefs are that the term “marriage” is meant between a man and a woman, period. I don’t think he has any “issues” w/the term civil union. You won’t ever change that and it doesn’t make him right or wrong, nor does it make anyone who wants the amendment passed “right” or “wrong”. It is his belief, which he is entitled to, just as you and others are entitled to your belief. Just because he doesn’t feel the same way as you do does not mean that he doesn’t love or care for you (and I’m pretty sure you know that – I am sorry, but shame on you).”

[cue] All the things that we’ve been through, you should understand me, like I understand you…

If you want to hang your hat on a set of beliefs that exclude and draw lines, that dictate your superiority to mine, that is fine by me. But please do not expect for one single minute that you have the right to call me friend on facebook, not even for one more minute. If you would like to take this up face to face—even over email, I would welcome that conversation. I have thought long and hard on this. I have asked for counsel and prayed. My friend Shirley said it best, and so I say: “…bless and release them, for they know not what they do.”

9 thoughts on “if you don’t know me by now

  1. I live in New York and when our marriage equality law passed, our Town Clerk, who was a very good friend of mine, announced that she would no longer be a marriage officer because marrying same sex partners conflicted with her religious views. I went to her and told her I no longer wished to be friends with some one who considered me “less than.” She was very shocked by my reaction and couldn’t understand it. Are these people totally blind to their bigotry?

  2. I just know I love you. And you do love fiercly. You are a friend that I hold near and dear even though we have never touched. You are just as important as anyone else in ALL areas. I vote for you.

  3. You can’t move through the world with people if you are expected to do all the moving. The best example I ever set for my daughter was when I set boundaries with abusive family members. It’s not ok to hurt people and destroy lives and then want to share a turkey leg and some stuffing at Thanksgiving. No thanks. ❤

  4. I’ve had the exact same conversation a couple of times, Rachel, and the one thing I’ve been struck by is the insistence of people like this that “what they believe” should be the last word. I’ve tried to ask whether this is all God wants of them, whether maybe treating faith like a dictionary where you look up the answer and proclaim it isn’t enough. I’ve tried to suggest that there might be a responsibility to examine the consequences of their beliefs, and to maybe experience some healthy doubt if said beliefs are helping to defend an obvious injustice. Unfortunately, some people just aren’t willing to take on that kind of responsibility. Some of them even make a virtue out of ignoring that responsibility. Point being, you’re just asking them to go down a path that they don’t have the courage to even acknowledge, much less travel. You, on the other hand, spend your life on that path of doubt and struggle and wrestling with the angels. Maybe someday they’ll be able to join you, but meanwhile, don’t worry: The company’s better here.

  5. “And you know what else it is? It’s fierce. It can break a heart and rip a crack in your preconceived ideas faster than you can scream: ”FUCK!””
    Man, that line, powerful, fierce and beautifully written. I am honored to be on your friend’s list after reading this. Beautiful post.

  6. Rachel- my name is Charlotte. My husband and I are retired and live in Northern California. We have read your blog off and on for a little over two years. Our grandaughter’s friend showed us your site when she “came out” to her family. We have known her for years and wanted to understand and show her our love and support even though it was difficult to relate. My husband Bob and I find your posts enlightening since we come from a Lutheran background and have some family history in MN. We feel that fear is often driven by a lack of knowledge so we have always sought understanding so that wisdom rather than ignorance will drive our views. We have a question. When we first started reading your blog, you were telling some stories in a number of blogs about a girl that you were helping that you referred to as “Sam”. What ever happened to Sam? Did her evangelical pastor family accept her or reject her? Did they stand by her or shun her? How is she doing today? We ask because our grandaughter’s friend’s family has really struggled. Feel free to email us if Sam’s information is too sensitive to post. We pray often for you and your Sweetie- you are good souls.

  7. Oh Charlotte! It is SO sweet of you to comment, chime in and follow up about “Sam.” I promise to write a follow up post shortly. The short story is she is doing really well. I feel like the branch on my family tree just got bigger–thank you for your words and for that gift.

  8. Dear Rachel-

    I trust that you are doing well in spite of your lack of writing- Bob and I check your blog often and it seems that you have been silent since November. We hope that you and your partner are well.

    We would still love to hear how “Sam’s” story developed. It would help us to help another. Perhaps some hope could be shared.

    May you be well, loving the richness of this life.


    Charlotte Kemp

  9. Bob! I am SO very sorry I’ve been inactive, and yes, things are well – all things considered. I will absolutely follow up on that story for you and hope things are wonderful for you and yours too. xo

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