Living in a Space of Thankfulness

This Thanksgiving season I know of at least one reason: the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson.

In reflecting on how Christianity has changed forever, my mind joyously travels back to a moment of thanksgiving when I witnessed the consecration of Gene Robinson as the ninth bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of New Hampshire on Sunday, November 2nd.

As an openly gay man, Robinson represents an ecclesiastical paradigm shift in the Episcopal Church. It is a radical shift of moving those Christians in the church who have been forced to the margin and now have an opportunity to move to the center to be included as the body of Christ.

The preacher at Robinson’s consecration was the Rt. Rev. Douglas E. Theuner, current bishop of New Hampshire, who will retire in March 2004 to be succeeded by Robinson. Theuner preached about the necessary shift that must take place in the church in order for it to be inclusive of all people, not just with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. He said:

“When we attempt to bring the margins into the center, we necessarily push the center to the margins. If Canterbury or New York, for instance, wishes to help Nigeria or West Indies move toward the center, then for everyone to continue to occupy the space available, Canterbury and New York must willing move toward the margin. We who have been in the center don’t like moving to the margin, event to different places on it, but we must do that if we’re gong to affirm the marginalized. That was the thrust of our Lord’s ministry . . . Welcome to the life where Jesus lived it . . . on the margin!

Justice begins at the margin. In Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center,

African American cultural critic bell hooks states that she begins her analysis at the margin because it is a space of radical openness, and it gives you an oppositional gaze from which to see the world, unknown to the oppressor.

It is at the margin where you can see injustice being done. It is not only a site where you can honestly critique the oppressive structures in society that keeps us wounded as a people, but it is also a site that can heal us as a people — both the oppressed and the oppressor.

It is at the margin where you can see injustice being done. It is not only a site where you can honestly critique the oppressive structures in society that keeps us wounded as a people, but it is also a site that can heal us as a people — both the oppressed and the oppressor.

As Americans we are a wounded people. Our differences have been used to divide us instead of unite us so consequently we reside in a society where human brokenness, human isolation and human betrayal are played out everyday with very little accountability to ourselves and to each other.

Many people feel that their lives are defined by their wounds — that their lives are only a compilation of psychological and physical wounds which they feel they can do little to heal. These people tend to look at every new experience through the lens of their wounds. In other words, they project their past experiences onto everything new that comes into their lives.

Our culture of woundedness has bonded us in our brokenness and keeps us bent over. The sharing of words to describe and honor our pain has created a new language of intimacy, a bonding ritual for us to talk across and among our pains. The trust and understanding we cannot forge in our wholeness as healthy people we do in our illness.

The seductive power of our wounds has a social currency and accepted status in our culture which makes healing that more difficult. Our inability to find connection in and to life keep us bent over and not living in a space of thankfulness.

Ernest Hemingway, in his novel Farewell to Arms, said that the world breaks us all, but some of us grow strong in those broken places. God wants us to grow strong in our broken places to not only mend a sin-sick world that we live in, but also to mend a sin-sick world we carry within ourselves. And we can only do it if we look both inward and outward, healing ourselves of our personal bigotry, biases and demons that chip away at our good intentions.

One of the ways to heal our woundedness is that we must begin to live in a space of thankfulness. When you are in a space of thankfulness you count your blessings, and you consciously and concretely build a life of gratitude. This is not a denial of adversity, hardship and suffering that goes on in our lives and in the world, but rather it is an understanding that there are lessons to be learned in those moments that not only brings us closer to God, but they bring us closer to each other, in whom we see the face of God.

For example, I saw the many faces of God and the principle of love in action despite the objections to Robinson’s consecration outside and inside the event. Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas held placards outside that said “Fag Priest,” “Episcopal = sin,” “AIDS is God’s Curse,” etc. Inside the event were a handful of objecting folks, including Rev. Earle Fox of the Diocese of Pittsburgh who explicitly depicted his abhorrence to gay men’s sexual activity.

And as the Episcopal Church works toward full inclusion, by moving those on the margin to the center . . . Living in a space of thankfulness Robinson helps us to see that the glass toward change is half full rather than half empty.

And as the Episcopal Church works toward full inclusion, by moving those on the margin to the center . . . Living in a space of thankfulness Robinson helps us to see that the glass toward change is half full rather than half empty.

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