Graced and Varied Lives

Rev. Dr. DeWayne L. Davis

This Week at Plymouth, June 28, 2024

“Grace to be born and live as variously as possible”

—Frank O’Hara

This week marks the ninth anniversary of the Supreme Court’s historic decision to legalize same-sex marriage in the Obergefell v. Hodges case. As Pride Month concludes, we also remember the Stonewall Rebellion 55 years ago. The three-day protests and demonstrations by LGBTQ people against police violence and repression inspired the annual pride parades and festivals that we celebrate today. Both of these events, though separated by time, are significant landmarks in the history of LGBTQ rights, explicitly affirming and recognizing the lives, worth, and dignity of LGBTQ people. Despite the current backlash against the LGBTQ community, with the American Civil Liberties Union tracking 523 anti-gay bills aimed at rolling back gains, especially for transgender individuals, Pride provides an opportunity for LGBTQ people and their families, friends, and allies to publicly reaffirm the right to life and dignity of those of different sexualities and gender expressions.

Pride celebrations have evolved into a vibrant testament of LGBTQ lives, loves, concerns, and interests, free from the political struggles over their inclusion in cultural, familial, and religious institutions. Amidst the diversity of opinions, lifestyles, and expressions on display, which reflect non-traditional gender presentation and romantic relationships, a singular theme and aspiration emerge—the worth and dignity of LGBTQ individuals. Frank O’Hara, the prolific gay poet, who championed living boldly and unapologetically but did not live to see the public, intentional, and explicit assertion of LGBTQ rights, articulated this belief in his poem “In Memory of My Feelings.” He envisioned the “grace to be born and live as variously as possible,” a sentiment now etched on his gravestone. With Pride, we embrace the desire to lead lives that are graced and varied, without the fear of having to suppress any part of ourselves that doesn’t conform to traditional expectations.

My faith is strengthened when I think of God’s amazing grace toward LGBTQ people. I was drawn to Jesus because his life, ministry, and relationships embodied radical inclusion. Throughout the Gospels, many faithful resented Jesus for failing to reflect and reinforce their expectations of how a rabbi should act and with whom he should associate. Many more conservative traditions in our time would say Jesus was not so radically hospitable. Some ignore his boundary-breaking engagement with people on the margins. Others stretch the meaning of the text to make Jesus more muscular and masculine according to today’s cultural images, making it hard to see his love and tenderness toward the Other. Yet, we marvel at the grace to be born and celebrate it as a gift. It allows us the freedom to construct lives and communities of meaning, beauty, and belovedness in all its diversity, possibility, and colorfulness, where the worth and dignity of every human being are honored, affirmed, and celebrated. Happy Pride.