Cardinal Dolan has revealed way more than he meant to with comments to “Meet The Press” this weekend.
Asked about gay marriage, the Cardinal said the Catholic Church had been “outmarketed” on the issue.
Like “Coke vs. Pepsi?”
Then it hit me.
I remembered the very same reaction to the very first weekend when gay and lesbian folks got married in San Francisco. Remember that? It was some years back, when Gavin Newsome was the mayor and the city started issuing marriage licenses.
I still remember the pictures of joyous couples who raced down to city hall to get married. And I still remember the next Sunday at Northaven Church. We were still in the old building, that’s how long ago this was.
What I remember is that there were tears of joy.
Some of our members literally wept tears of joy in our worship service, because they had seen pictures of couples getting married in California.
But that evening I went home and watched the news. And what I saw astounded me. It was an endless line of straight white Americans criticizing the very same pictures that had brought tears of joy to everyone I knew.
They called it a sham.
They called it a shame.
They called it (and this was the one that most got me) a “publicity stunt.”
This image —of those straight critics, juxtaposed to the tears of joy I saw— popped back into my head, as I heard this quote from Cardinal Dolan today.
So, to Cardinal Dolan, and to all those like him, I sincerely ask:
Holy crap! You still think this is all a stunt, don’t you?”
The driving force is not politics.
The driving force is not “marketing.”
The driving force behind this movement is LOVE.
And that is why the movement is both succeeding, and why far too many organized denominations (including my own) are cluelessly watching their influence and relevance fade away.
This movement is succeeding because it’s about LOVE, not successful “marketing.”
And since you brought this up, since when was the Church’s business ever about marketing, anyway?
I thought we were supposed to be about ministry…
The fact that you think any organized religion should be deeply engaged in some kind of marketing-war speaks volumes (tragic volumes) for who you are and how you see your job.
And, the truth is, it probably is how many others like you still frame these issues.
Let me offer a suggestion, to you and to them.
Jetison the word “marketing.”
Let me theologize with you a bit instead.
The phrase you are actually looking for is “movement of the Holy Spirit.”
The Church is “losing” this “battle”(1) not because it’s not good at marketing, but because it’s failing to see how this is a movement of God’s Holy Spirit loose in our nation today, driven by love.
Gamaliel was right, all those centuries ago, when he warned the Sanhedrin not to stand against the early Apostles. He said:
“If what they have planned and done is of human origin, it will disappear, but if it comes from God, you cannot possibly defeat them. You could find yourselves fighting against God!” (Acts 5: 38-39)
That’s where we are, right now, in our culture, on the issue of same sex marriage.
You can fight a marketing battle.
But you can’t “fight” God’s Holy Spirit, Cardinal.(2)
Surely you know that.
Because you can’t out-market “LOVE.”
In fact, you really can’t “win” a struggle against love.
God’s grand drama of Holy Week tells that story.
It’s not a stunt.
There’s no winning and there’s no losing. There never is when the goal is love.
I am reminded of what George Carlin once said about the difference between football and baseball. In football, the goal is to literally drive the other team off the playing field….to push them off completely. (into the end zone)
In baseball, the goal is just to get “home.”
This is a struggle more like baseball than football. Nobody on the pro-same-sex marriage side is trying to push anybody else off the field. They’re just trying to find a way for us all to get “home” to love.
Too many people like Cardinal Dolan, still seem to believe this is about “winning” and “losing.” Or, worse yet, about “spinning” perceived wins and losses with good marketing.
But in the end, this is only about love, and the incredible ways God is working in the world today changing the hearts and minds of countless Christians on the issue of same sex marriage.
Let those with ears, hear!
(1)I put both in quotes because I can not conceptualize of a struggle for the recognition of “love as either…
(2) And, dear members of our own United Methodist Church…