Saturday, November 7, 2015

No Secrets

"Nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have whispered behind closed doors will be proclaimed from the housetops." Jesus, Matthew 12:2-3

An article in my college's newspaper is causing quite a stir in my newsfeed. Many of my friends are pleasantly surprised that an article recognizing the fact that LGBTQ alumni exist was published in the school newspaper. For me, there is an underlying reality all of us at the college knew: we have gay and lesbian friends here, and we're not quite sure what to do with that reality.

For many reasons I won't go into now, we weren't certain where the line was between loving our neighbor and holding people accountable for their sin. The presence of sin, in my experience, wasn't called into question then. "Love the sinner, hate the sin," was fairly common, of course.

I wept as I read the article. The alumni interviewed arrived at Milligan after I had left. I didn't know them, though I knew other LGBTQ students who have gradually come out as the years go by. The tears weren't just for them, or their fear and love of that place intermingled. It was for so many who kept secrets because they feared what would happen if they didn't.

My freshman year, near the end of the year, a young woman showed up to a dorm event wearing maternity clothes. She was a senior, beautiful, blonde, and pregnant. No one had known. She talked later about how nervous she'd been. What might happen? She and the child's father married later, I think. I don't remember her name or much else about her. However, I do remember my classmate who disappeared for a semester. I'm ever more certain she had a baby and that was how it was handled--a 1950s style go-stay-with-your-aunt, never talk about it sort of way. Premarital sex, of course, was against the rules, both the school's and the faith in which it was founded.

A friend came to me one day. She was a year younger, worried about a mutual friend. That friend was angry and struggling, which included drinking too much. Drinking alcohol, except for communion, was against the rules for students whether they were on or off campus. The Dean of Students was rumored to have spies around the bars just in case you dared to drink. Asking for help for someone who needed it was complicated by the need to not get a struggling person in even more trouble. Looking back, I wonder about the difficulties I caused for the person I spoke with in an effort to get that young woman the help and support she needed.

For the record, I just kept my bottle of whiskey well hidden in clothes under my bed my senior year, after I realized I was done with all the rules I'd willingly agreed to at not quite 18 years old. In retrospect, I chose to be oblivious to a lot that happened on campus. Because I opted to follow the rules, I assumed most people did. I realize I was wrong. In some cases, following the rules had to be torture.

Now, I shudder at the thought of a faith that demands keeping secrets. I know the response I learned as a child and young adult, "Don't do anything you'd have to keep secret." It doesn't hold water.

Life happens. Decisions of all sorts are made. Things don't pan out like you thought they would. I could go through a long, long list of possible derailments that happen to people. Mostly, I shudder at the thought of a faith that demands keeping secrets.

Jesus spoke the words I quoted at the beginning in response to the Pharisees, in response to religious people who wanted to make sure they were appropriately pious at all times. These leaders, too, had a faith that demanded secrets, that some things not be talked about, that some things were simply not acceptable.

And Jesus condemned them for that sort of faith.

Let us have faith that will hold secrets we would have not dared to speak aloud. Let us have churches whose faithful know the worst and cry out, "Welcome." Let us trust in a God who knows all the things we cannot say, yet loves us with an everlasting, unshakeable love.