I woke up at 5:15 today with my head a mash of last night's lousy football game, too little sleep, and thoughts of the day ahead. A friend had said everyone should watch the Colbert interview with Biden, so I decided to pull up the show on the DVR and take a look.
Hearing Joe Biden talk of his son's strength and grace, even in dying, was heartbreaking and brought tears to my eyes, and made me think of my daughter who I'd be waking up in only a few minute for school. Then Colbert shifted the talk to faith and how it has helped him and switches started to turn on in my sleepy brain.
Biden talked about the Catholic Mass and how it made him feel "alone", and I instantly knew what he meant. The most moving moments for me when I went to mass were those in which the church was quiet and in a room of a few hundred people I felt present with my thoughts, worries, hopes, and concerns inside the church. I was alone in a good way.
As I wiped away tears and turned off the interview to go wake up my daughter, the final pieces began to fall into place about what truly bothered me about the fiasco involving Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis and her refusal to issue gay marriage licenses.
Joe Biden framed the incredible sorrow he's known in his life by pointing out that there are others suffering equally or greater than he has. "I feel self-conscious. The loss is serious and it's consequential, but there are so many other people going through this." It is clear that Joe Biden's faith is one in which he seeks solace and comfort for himself, but also one in which he looks for ways to be a better person and have true empathy for others.
Then I look at Kim Davis and her supporters, who include not just politicians, but alleged spiritual leaders like Franklin Graham. To them, the most important message of their faith seems to be the desire to diminish and demonize a population of people. Jesus' message of love, charity, and empathy for others is turned into an exclusive club in which a certain set of people are members for life, and others who are different are viewed as the enemy, who deserve no empathy, compassion, or thought beyond how their happiness can be denied.
From my own Catholic upbringing I came away with the following thoughts. I will not claim them to be right, or having sound theological basis, but they make sense to me.
Jesus was made man to show us how to be better people on this earth. His message included nothing about attacking gay people, or showing them "love" by calling out how much more full of sin they were than you. He never once discussed the issue of gay marriage or how it was a priority for Christians to focus on over charity, love, compassion, or empathy.
Sin is not a cherry picked list of infractions from the Bible, but rather the way in which we fail to be decent people. If we hurt ourselves or others, we have sinned. Claiming you are "saved" is not a license to judge or condemn others for their sins. Most everyone is suffering and failing themselves and each other in ways big and small everyday. Our goal should be to be kind and understand where they are coming from in THEIR eyes, not view them through our own narrow lens and find a few Bible passages that allow us to dismiss them because they are different.
Perhaps Jesus himself said it best in John 13:34-35. "I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."