Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Joyous Couples in Florida Marrying in Droves on Feast of Epiphany: Connecting the Biblical Story to Today

Epiphany: if I remember my long-ago classical (and biblical) Greek, the word is comprised of a prefix, epi, that has the connotion of "upon," and a root verb, phanein, that means "to show," "to flash forth." Epiphanies suddenly flash forth in the middle of the ordinary.

They reveal our "ordinary" world to be quite extraordinary, full of revelatory potential, if we but have eyes to see the underlying revelation. An epiphany shows us the world we inhabit daily as an entirely new, unexpected world shot through with subversive meaning, with revelatory import, with transformative potential.

How can I not think of the strange, revelatory juxtaposition of the "old" feast of Epiphany on 6 January this year with the opening of marriage equality in Florida yesterday and today? Twitter today is abuzz — aflash — with photos of the huge numbers of same-sex couples being married in Florida right now. The New Civil Rights Movement captures some of the tweets (and pictures) to be found at the hashtag #FLMarriage. The tweet at the head of the posting is one Tony Plakas has made to the #FLMarriage discussion at Twitter.

We are living in an epiphanic moment:

1. The clear joy on the faces of fellow citizens long denied rights and privileges available to everyone else, as the door opens for them to share those rights and privileges.

2. The shared humanity of these fellow citizens, who are far, far from the ugly stereotypes of them shopped around by those opposed to their enjoying rights and privileges everyone else has — shopped around by followers of Jesus, in many cases.

3. The question: has it been worth all the millions of dollars wasted for years now to keep these fellow citizens from enjoying rights and privileges we ourselves take for granted, in a world in which there's such pressing need?

4. The question: where does hate go, when it battles on and on to construct society in its image, and society ultimately chooses to deny hate such power? 

5.  The question: what do these photos of joyous citizens of Florida say to all of us in the U.S. about the kind of society we need to be building, in which those on the margins are drawn into participation, into the center?

For me, the photos of couples marrying today in Florida are epiphanic. They flash forth some critically important transformative messages, out of (or upon) the "ordinary" lives we lead day by day.

I'd like to think they do the same for everyone seeing them. But one of the messages of the biblical story of the epiphany seems to be that some of us see, while others don't, isn't it? Because their eyes are not open. Because they do not intend to open their eyes and look.

We are living in an epiphanic moment. Today we're living in an epiphanic moment.

And as Chris Morley reminds us, even on this day of epiphany, when fellow citizens long denied rights and privileges accorded to everyone else in the world are brimming with joy, the pastoral leaders of the Catholic church in Florida have issued a shoddy pastoral statement about how "deeply disappointed" they are.

Can they simply not see the joy on the faces of droves of their fellow citizens, fellow human beings, today? And if not, then why not? And what does that imply about their ability to be credible moral leaders, if the rest of us see the joy, the shared humanity, and think that today's epiphany is a moment for a nation bent on justice and inclusion to celebrate?

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