Monday, July 28, 2008

In Memoriam

I've spent a good bit of the weekend, and of today, working on a post that reflects further on the men who rule us--to be specific, on the hows and wherefores by which powerful men collude today to consolidate their rule of Christian institutions, and to weed out alternative voices.

My posting reflects on my own experience as a theologian working in church-affiliated colleges, in which pastoral leaders of a number of churches continue to join together to violate the human rights of LGBT persons, and of those of us who speak out against such violation of human rights. I had intended to tell more of my own story, to illustrate how bishops of one church are quite willing to join hands with bishops of another church, when it comes to assuring that the clerical systems of all churches continue to be dominated by men who present themselves as straight.

But before I could post today, we received word early today that Steve's father died this morning.

And so I have decided not to upload the post I had prepared, refraining from doing so as a statement of mourning. In the wake of such an event, words seem weak and tawdry.

Steve's father stood, throughout his life, in such sharp contrast to the powerful men of the world, who are willing to do anything to secure their power--and the women who all too often do their bidding. He was a man of great patience and humility, always seeking the way of peace in family disputes, never lording it over others.

When some of his children (including Steve) made life choices that did not appear to correspond to their traditional Catholic upbringing, his father was never censorious. As he once told Steve and me, after Steve told him he was gay, he thought through the issue in silence for a day, made up his mind, and then never revisited his decision again.

His decision was to love, accept, and support. While some of Steve's hyper-orthodox siblings have refused for years to affirm or welcome us--and while they treat another gay sibling the same way--Steve's parents simply began to visit us yearly, if we weren't able to visit them. And sometimes we did not visit them, because the stress and pain of the divisions caused by religion among Steve's siblings were simply too much to endure . . . .

I grew up in a world of men who were frequently either weak or violent, or both. Women ruled the roost in the matriarchal society in which I grew up. The men closest to me when I was a child often frightened me, because they were volatile, and their propensity to drink and then engage in shows of liquor-fueled manliness made the drinking doubly frightening. Those who did not drink and act out were often taciturn, causing me to seek the company of the female members of the family, who could at least be counted on to tell stories, teach, give orders, do something other than sit in scary brooding silence.

Steve's father was refreshing to me, when I first met him, because he was a man of great physical and mental strength, who was simultaneously gentle and pacific. I did not know what to make of such a man. He was not at all like the men I had known as a child.

Along with Steve's mother, Steve's father lived his faith in a non-showy way, praying constantly, attending church faithfully, loving, hoping, enduring. I never once heard him pass judgment on those whose lives did not conform to hyper-orthodox moral strictures. As he told Steve and me not too many months ago, if some of his children knew some of the couples he and Steve's mother met as they traveled around the upper Midwest to attend dance gatherings, they'd be horrified. They knew and liked couples who lived "in sin," who were not married or divorced and remarried.

And they did not presume to judge. At family gatherings at which the presence of openly gay family members posed problems for some other family members, Steve's father was always quietly inclusive, choosing one of the outcasts to dance with or sit with.

Of such is the kingdom of heaven. Knowing Steve's father for almost four decades now has been a tremendous gift to me. I pray that he rest in peace and that abundant blessings be with my other family during this time of mourning.


Brad C. said...

Bill, this is a moving tribute. May Steve's father rest in peace and may you and your "other family" find the grace to endure the grief.

William D. Lindsey said...

I appreciate the sympathetic words, BC, and will pass them along to Steve, who is, as I type this, out in the extreme heat doing yard work as a way of meditating and grieving. He is ever his father's (and his mother's son) in the patient way he continues working through it all.

colkoch said...

My condolences to Steve, and also to you Bill. Your description of Steve's father hit me about my own father. A large physical man who did not judge. May they both rest in peace.

Have a safe trip back to MN. I will pray for all of you, especially those of Steve's family who aren't prepared for the eternal truth of our existence. I suspect his dad was.

William D. Lindsey said...

Colleen, thank you so much. I know Steve will also appreciate your kind words. There's a wisdom and spiritual depth, often, in these men who live close to the land, which our church leaders could well afford to study and emulate.