Monday, February 22, 2010

When William Grows Up

When I look into William’s deep brown eyes, I see a window to our souls. William is only a week old. He lives next door. The moment I spot him, I want to tussle his curly black hair and poke his pudgy brown cheeks.  He’s beautiful.
Like most babies his age, he sleeps and eats and burps and potties and then repeats the cycle.  What separates William from some of his fellow infants is that he is a brown baby adopted by white parents.  And both of his parents are mommies.  
As I cradle him in my arms, I stare deeply into his eyes, praying and hoping that just maybe the world will be different for him. 
Maybe when William grows up, his mommies will have their union recognized by the state of Indiana. 
Maybe when William grows up, The United Methodist church will openly affirm people who are gay and lesbian instead of declaring their lifestyle to be incompatible with Christian teaching.  
Maybe when Williams grows up, I will be able to perform marriage and commitment ceremonies for my friends in same-sex relationships. 
Maybe when Williams grows up, my clergy colleague who is a lesbian will believe she has a future in The United Methodist Church. 
Maybe when William grows up, I will no longer counsel parents and children who are haunted by their sexual identity because all people will be accepted just as God created them to be. 
William will be grown up before we know it.  As I gaze into his eyes, I’m certain that we are the only ones who can change his world. 

Monday, February 15, 2010

Let the Good Times Roll!

I am the queen of inserting my foot in my mouth. Perhaps the best example occurred when I was 12 years old. My friend’s mother was pregnant with her little sister. One night at dinner, the family was sharing suggestions for naming their new little girl. “How about Gladys?” my friend’s father suggested. 
“Gladys?” I said. “You can’t name the baby Gladys. That sounds like a cow’s name!”
“That’s my mother’s name,” he replied. 
At first I didn’t believe him, but then I recognized the embarrassing truth: Open mouth, insert foot. 
I will put my foot in my mouth again tomorrow as I reap the consequences of a comment I made 10 years ago as a naive college student. My friends and I were discussing different ages and stages in life. I made the offhand suggestion that by age 25, I would consider myself old. By 30, I expected to be wise. 
I will reach that age of alleged wisdom tomorrow when my birthday and Mardi Gras collide. Other wise ones in my life have had different responses to this new decade. One of my friends was depressed for months after she turned 30. My cousin, however, felt she commanded more respect at 30 than she did at 29. 
I imagine experiencing some combination of all those -- a dash of wisdom, a shadow of age-related depression, the hope of greater respect. And of course, plenty more opportunities to insert foot in mouth. 
Let the good times roll!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Let the Children Come Unto Us

With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil—that takes religion.” -- Steven Weinberg, Nobel Laureate in physics
The plight of 10 American Southern Baptists detained in a Haitian prison for human trafficking has caught the world’s attention. Earlier this month, they were arrested while trying to sneak 33 Haitian children over the border to the Dominican Republic.  The Baptists say they were simply trying to help and planned to return the next day for the children’s papers. 
Charlot with a seminary classmate

The children, ranging from 2 months to 12 years, had their names taped to the front of their shirts. They had been taken from a children’s home, where they were waiting to be reunited with their parents. One little girl with tears in her eyes said her parents were still alive. Haitian officials claim they were attempting to find their families, and the Baptists acted with blatant disregard to international adoption law. 
It’s hard to know whom to believe. On the one hand, I can understand the Baptists’ longing to rescue Haitian children. There were 380,000 orphans in Haiti before the earthquake, one of whom was a 4-year-old named Charlot. I met him at the hospital in LĂ©ogane, where he sat like a little Buddha on his hospital bed. His distended belly cried for protein and nutrients. The woman caring for him begged me to take him to the United States. I later discovered she was his aunt, but she loved him enough to let him go, hoping for a better life.  I could not adopt Charlot because I was a seminary student. I later learned Haiti has very strict adoption laws that would have prevented me. It didn’t matter. Leaving that little boy, weak and starving, haunted my dreams for months to come. Why couldn’t I save him?
On the other hand, I can understand the Haitian government’s response: You may not violate international law to “save” children we are trying to reunite with their families. The Haitian prime minister says the Baptists knew what they were doing was wrong. He wants them to be tried in the U.S. because the Haitian courts have been crippled by the earthquake.  Even so, the State Department has placed the onus of the Baptists’ fate back on the Haitian system.  
The full consequences of the Baptists’ actions remain to be seen. Will their example deter human trafficking by other groups? Or will their behavior make much-needed adoptions of other Haitian children more stringent and complicated? Either way, the Baptists give us pause to reflect on why we attempt to save in the name of religion.