Living Your Life and Using Your Life

This week, one of the NYT’s advice columnists responded to a question about inviting unsupportive relatives to a wedding. I’ve thought about this question before, and not just in the context of LGBT couples: For me, the point of being present at a wedding is to bear witness to the relationship at the heart of the ceremony, to support the couple’s initiation into a new life stage together, and to stand with them as part of their marital community. It’s not just dressing up and eating free cake. How is it possible to fulfill the role of witness without valuing the relationship you’re witnessing?

I read through the comments from the article, and this one struck me:

Remember, your life is not a teachable moment for the rest of the world. It’s YOUR life. This same philosophy, btw, can hold true for any social minority in any way. I’ve been the person with the hidden handicap in the room, and the “unknown Jew” in the room, and the non-cisgendered supportive sister of a gay man in the room, and believe me, I was not put on this earth to educate people. —Jen in Astoria

I wonder if there’s something in the Adventist (and larger Christian) tradition that makes us _want_ to be teachable moments for other people, to be witnesses, or teachers, or Daniels who show others “the right way.”

There can be moral and good and helpful sides to that teaching impulse. There can also be an awful lot of ego involved. If trained to believe that others’ access to truth and salvation depends on you, it could be quite the challenge to just be, living your life honestly instead of using it to instruct others.

Of course others will draw lessons from their dealings with us whatever we do. But people can tell when we’re just being and when we’re using our own bodies as object lessons and other people’s bodies as our audience. Isn’t the second option a tad dehumanizing, even if voluntary? Are we each obliged to use our lives rather than to live them?

Meanwhile, overseas…

Well done to the Hon. Maurice Williamson, Member of Parliament for Pakuranga, New Zealand. New Zealand passed marriage equality legislation today.

All we are doing with this bill is allowing two people who love each other to have that love recognized by way of marriage. That is all we are doing. We are not declaring nuclear war on a foreign state. We are not bringing a virus in that will wipe out our agriculture sector forever. We are allowing two people who love each other to have that recognized…

But I give a promise to those who are opposed to this bill right now. I give you a watertight, guaranteed promise. The sun will still rise tomorrow. Your teenage daughter will still argue back with you as if she knows everything. Your mortgage will not grow. You will not have skin diseases or rashes or toads in your bed, sir: the world will just carry on. So don’t make this into a big deal.

One of the messages I had was that this bill was the cause of our drought—this bill was the cause of our drought! Well, if any of you follow my Twitter account you’ll see that in the Pakuranga electorate this morning it was pouring with rain. We had the most enormous big gay rainbow across my electorate. It has to be a sign! —Maurice Williamson


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