The holidays are coming. Thanksgiving is on its way. Christmas is just around the corner and we're all starting to talk family plans for who's going to be there. Not to kill the buzz, but this is where the seasonal tensions start. The time of year where the threat of proximity can ignite our differences. As we begin to stand our ground, we begin the annual reckoning: Who will and who will not be invited home? Who will be at your Thanksgiving table this year? And who will not?
I'll be straight up. This time of year is stressful for LGBT people, particularly those with Christian families. Many LGBTs will spend Thanksgiving separated from their families because of a religious difference. Gay loved ones (and often times their partners and children as well) will simply not be invited home. For those who believe that homosexuality is a sin, it will, perhaps, be an opportunity to induce the kind of starvation that aims to lead to repentance. For others, it may be the sacrifice of a child upon the altar of God -- an act of faith, to do one's Christian duty to separate that which is holy from that which is unholy.
I could write an article shaming the practice of expressing our personal beliefs at the expense of others. I could write about how homosexuality is natural and not a sin. Maybe I should spend time tearing apart the complexities of Law vs. Love? The usual tropes and traps that get us all hurt, angry and tied up in knots over what is and isn't "right" is what we've come to expect anytime we start talking about sexual orientation and faith. Yet many of us feel it -- that inner, spiritual moral imperative to act with consistency to our conscience and we are left wondering if Thanksgiving is the time to do something about it.
As a Christian, I deeply appreciate the reverence and honor that comes with expressions of one's faith. The things we say and do are important because we see them as reflections of the inner man and the Spirit that lives within us. That is why sacraments are, indeed, sacred. They are the visible activities we do to express the typically invisible, divine, spiritual grace we carry within our hearts. Yet we also know, that any ritual is just some thing to do if we don't bother to take notice of the inner longings we hope to express in the action. It could be said that the Eucharist is just wine and bread on any other day, but during a moment of sacred worship, it is a connection to the living God otherwise only known in our hearts.
All that being said, it leaves me wondering, what will our Thanksgiving table say about our inner spirit this year?
There will be many Christian homes praying over Thanksgiving meals with a sense of complete and sincere worship toward a loving God. Our Thanksgiving feast will be transformed by our prayers, turning it into a sacrament of gratitude flowing out from our spiritual being. Instead of sacrificing the fatted calf for our prodigal sons, it will be a frighteningly large roasted turkey and buttery mashed potatoes, but no less propitiatory. Even through the coming tryptophan induced coma, we will make this day one of offering and celebration. In a predictable ritual we will both secretly suffer and deeply long for, we will push back the awkward fear of vulnerability as our overly romantic aunt boldly insists we all join hands and each express aloud one thing we are thankful for.
As you feel the dry, rough skin of your father's hand, or perhaps the pudgy, sticky fingers of your nephew in the palm of your own, you may find yourself feeling both uncomfortable and comforted. When was the last time you held their hand for so long? Aren't you wholly grateful you are not alone today? Your mind will race and grasp for something to say as your turn quickly approaches...
What am I thankful for?
Who am I thankful for?
In that sacred moment, would you ever think to measure your gratitude by the missing? Can you ever truly say: I am grateful there are no gay people here?
There is no way around it; our thankfulness is always celebrated most when we have people in our lives to love. It is always, unreservedly valued by the presence of the most precious, scarcest of good things. We are always most thankful by what we have, rather than by what we have not.
So, dear Christian, as we sanctify the bounty on our tables to God this year, I wonder, who will we blessed with the honor of sharing it with us?