When Anyone Is More Free, Everybody Wins

It’s been years since I felt quite this patriotic on the 4th of July. It’s been years since the arc of American history has bent quite so dramatically toward justice.

All week, I’ve had the old Jesus Jones song running through my brain:

Last Sunday in church, we recognized George and Jack as the first legally married same sex couple in Dallas. They got a long ovation. That would have been historic enough.

But then, I invited all the other same sex couples who have been legally married over the years –or who will be soon– to also come down to the front. As you can see, it’s a beautiful group of folks. (And we had several other families who were out of town for summer).

Northaven has same sex couples who were legally married in other jurisdictions back as far back as the late 1990s. We have other couples who were married in other states just in the past few years. 10178135_10153259335153891_7212478360076850368_n

The moment in this picture is when it all became real to me. It wasn’t just about George and Jack. It wasn’t a publicity stunt. It wasn’t just some disembodied movement for “human rights.” It was suddenly about the Civil Rights of a specific group of people I love very much: some of the good people of Northaven Church and their loving, beautiful families. (Listen to audio of this moment here)

Their lives are better off today than they were last week. And the truth is, we are all better off too.

George said it best, moments after they were married last Friday…

GeorgeandJackWeddingRight after their wedding, George and Jack took off their glasses and wiped their eyes. It was an historic and beautiful moment.

The first same sex marriage in Dallas County. A couple together 54 years. Onlookers crowded the courtroom gallery….mostly also couples who’d soon be married that day too.

In the midst of it all, the media asked George and Jack, “How do you feel?”

I believe they said something about it being surreal. I’m pretty sure they confessed as to how they were never sure they’d live to see the day.

But then, George looked up and said this…

“It’s a good day. A day when everybody wins and nobody loses. Everybody wins.”

Everybody wins.

When any American gains Civil Rights under the law –no matter who they are, or whether or not we agree with those rights– Everybody Wins. The arc of justice bends into a wider circle. Our Union is more perfect, and everyone is a little more free.

This is an important point not to miss on the 4th of July.

One of the big hashtags immediately following the ruling was “#LoveWins.” In fact, there’s even a big People Magazine picture of George and Jack this week, with that expression as the headline.

So it might surprise you to hear I’ve tried to avoid using it. Because “Love Wins,” implies, by definition, that somebody has lost. I understand that the idea is that love wins, so everybody wins.

But we are forever playing games of “winning and losing,” especially in the political arena. We are forever pretending that rights are a kind of scare resource and zero sum game. As such, we are forever pitting ouselves against each other and drawing circles of inclusion and exclusion.

Perhaps we’re compelled to this by something deep in our genetic code, latent from some tribal period? Who knows?

On this issue, the false binaries are drawn as follows:

Same Sex Marriage “Wins.” Traditional Marriage “Loses.”
Civil Rights “Win.” Religious Values “Lose.”
Gays and Lesbians “Win.” Straights “Lose.”

The media certainly makes big money framing the debate like this. Politicians whip up their base with that kind of rhetoric. I’m well aware there are those who believe I have contributed to this binary way of seeing and acting.

But in a very real way I believe these binaries are red herrings and falsely stated. The truth is far more beautiful, and far more inclusive of us all.

So, on this day we celebrate freedom, the message is very clear…

George was right. Everybody wins.

Happy 4th of July, everybody.

Whether you know it or not, you are a little more free today than you were last week.

And that’s a good, good thing.

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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