Sunday, March 31, 2013

"The Sight of Fossilized Light in a Growing Universe": Rachel Maddow's Resurrectional Reflection on the Struggle for LGBT Human Rights

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In her reflection on what happened in this historic week in the U.S. in the quest for human rights, Rachel Maddow employs the metaphor of "fossilized light." As she explains, fossilized light is "the imprint of light that is gone": the light we see shining bright from many stars in the sky is often "old light" from stars that are now gone or are incredibly far away.

And so all those who have gone before us in the struggle for human rights for LGBT human beings, many of whom are no longer with us, who left us without seeing the pinnacle to which their struggle would bring us as the 21st century gets underway:

There are all sorts of people and all sorts of fights that technically are not still around. But they live, and we can see them. We can see their light in some of the biggest-deal and most difficult things that we do today. Whether or not you see equal rights for gay people as your particular fight--whether or not you even agree with that particular fight--this was a really big historic week for that fight, and therefore for our country. All the work, all the generations of work to get here, in fact, got us here. It worked.

In these prophetic predecessors of the current struggle for human rights for LGBT human beings, we encounter, Maddow concludes, "the sight of fossilized light in a growing universe." They remain with us, shining bright in the orbit of our current struggle, though they are gone.

This is, of course, resurrectional language, and I hear it with Easter ears. It helps me continue to think through the quandary about which I blogged yesterday and have blogged before: how do we celebrate the hope of resurrection without negating and invalidating--without treating as nothing at all--the atrocious unmerited suffering of the victims of history?

Somehow, those of us who are Christians, who believe in both the resurrection of the dead and the passion that led to the resurrection, have to hold these bedrock affirmations of Christian faith together at the same time. We cannot permit glib talk of hope and new life to erase those who have gone before us and on whose unmerited suffering our lives today are built, and we cannot permit our belief in the resurrection to obscure the victims of history in our midst today, with whom the crucified and risen Lord suffers.

We must affirm, stand with, become one with the victims of history, with those who endure atrocious unmerited suffering simply because of who they happen to be, who they have been born to be, where they live, whom they happen to love. The resurrection of Jesus Christ means nothing at all if we who are his followers do not live our belief in resurrection and new life in such solidarity with the wretched of the earth.

A blessed Easter to friends who celebrate this Christian holiday, a happy spring day to all!

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