Amendment None; 2nd Year Reflection
Tuesday evening had the unsubtle foreshadowing of a low budget horror film. As I drove to campus in the middle of a thunderstorm to study for an Old Testament final, I wondered why I had agreed to meet a friend at the library in the first place. The weather was terrible, my day had been exhausting, and I still had a lot of work to do. On top of that, I was getting progressively more unsettled about the pending results of the Amendment One vote. All of my introvert alarms were going off — and I have many. When I noticed I didn’t have my student I.D. or an umbrella, I considered reviewing for my exam by reenacting a full-blown Job rant or Jonah temper tantrum. But that seemed more dangerous than texting while driving.
When I finally arrived, tired and soaked from the rain, the grad lounge was entirely occupied by divinity students — shocker. Copies of the bright red New Oxford Annotated Bible and Clayton Croy’s A Primer of Biblical Greek sat open-faced and I felt a wave of relief as I realized, no matter what happened that night, I did not have to take a Greek exam in the morning. Before I could get into a reading rhythm, poll results started coming in and shortly after someone announced that the Associated Press had called it: Amendment One would pass. With only around twenty percent of precincts reporting, I thought, “Surely, they can’t already know.” But as I watched for updates, percentages only worsened.
The woodwork of the grad lounge started spinning and I wanted to scream, “How could this happen?!” in my loudest non-library, outside voice. According to my news feed (a highly reliable source of data), ninety percent of my Facebook friends were against Amendment One. All of the congregants in the churches I go to were against it. My moderate Republican parents from rural eastern North Carolina were against it!
I wanted to cry. I ached for those who could be hurt by possible legal side effects, like a woman in my church who would likely lose the health coverage she received through her partner’s insurance, or a parent I knew who could lose custody of the child she had always co-parented if something happened to the child’s birth mother. But most of all I grieved for the immediate human effects. I thought about families — parents with children, couples without kids but perhaps with pets, partners waiting expectantly for children — who were just told by an “overwhelming majority” of their neighbors that they did not count, that they were not good enough, that the vows they lived made them second-class citizens in first-class sin.
And then, as I looked around at the faces of my friends and fellow divinity students who had spent so much time talking to people about the evils of this amendment, who had put all of the energy they had left at the closing of the semester to advocate against this bigoted bill, something strange and unexpected happened. Like the Grinch at the end of Dr. Seuss’s classic Christmas story, I was involuntarily — and probably as creepily, considering the circumstances — smiling. Major cognitive dissonance set in; though I was still incredibly hurt, angry, and sad, a feeling of awe and gratitude was literally overtaking me.
In a room full of current and future ministers, except for me all of whom were straight and several of whom were or would soon be married, in this group of people who should, according to popular demographic, be most in support of a bill like Amendment One, I was surrounded by friends who had fought on and would continue fighting on the side of love and justice. As someone personally marginalized by the passing of this amendment, I felt unequivocally affirmed and supported by those around me, and I realized there was no other place I could be broken by such disheartening news and in moments feel so much hope and courage begin to resurface. As effortlessly as breathing, I released the shards of deep disappointment and despair and drew in the salve of chesed, a word we learned in Old Testament from the book of Ruth meaning “loving, loyal kindness.”
Amendment One passed sixty-one percent to thirty-nine percent, a discrepancy that shows we have much work to do. It is a kind of job security I would rather not have. Too many Christian leaders are failing their congregants and all of us with disturbing and distorted images of God and what it means to be a follower of Jesus. I am grateful to be part of a community that, in the words of Abraham Joshua Heschel, sharpens its sense of the human to better know the divine. I am grateful to be part of a community that will go where the stranger goes. I am grateful to be part of a community that incarnates a chesed polls and percentages cannot amend.