No. We are not more.

haitquake1In September, 2010 I had the privilege of traveling to Haiti with a team of missioners from the same local church where I served. We were there to make a small contribution to the clean-up effort following the devastating magnitude 7.0 earthquake that struck that country on January 12, 2010.

As was the case with my trip to the U.S. Gulf coast following Hurricane Katrina in 2006, the visual image that made the strongest impression was the sheer vastness of the destruction. Of course, video shot by news organizations had provided the world with a keyhole view of a smashed home here or a leveled school over there.

Those sights were heart-rending enough.

But when you arrive at one of those places and drive and drive and drive and see nothing but smashed buildings, uprooted trees, twisted metal, broken wood, piles of debris, and garbage everywhere, it jolts a new sense of proportion into your brain. You can’t say much besides, “Holy crap! I had no idea…” and then let your voice drift off on the wind.

As we began working in Haiti, shoveling rock and sand and passing cinder blocks down the fire brigade line, we talked. Folks on the team talked with one another, but we also talked with some of the residents who were working with us.

One such conversation with one of my teammates remains firmly planted in my brain to this day. After passing blocks for a few hours, we were sitting down taking a break. He pointed across the street to one of the flattened structures and said, “Do you see what is missing in that pile of rubble?” I had to confess that I did not and so he continued, “There’s no rebar sticking up. That is why there was so much destruction and death from this earthquake. The quake itself was pretty bad, but the majority of buildings around here aren’t built with iron rebar between the cinder blocks.”

He continued and explained, “They do it that way because they can’t afford the steel. It is a lot cheaper to build that way, but it also means that a building that might otherwise hold up in a moderate quake instead collapses completely and crushes the people inside.”

It was a case of a foundational weakness… invisible to most… that led to untold damage and destruction.

I think that image also forms a darned good metaphor for the current conversation about human sexuality taking place in the United Methodist Church. Because for me, the question of how we view all of our brothers and sisters – those folks standing beside me who are just as surely created in the image of God as I am – is a foundational issue.

It is not something that is on the periphery of things. It is not one issue in the deluge of lots of other issues. It is not something we have to figure out how to prioritize or budget for. It is not something that stands in the way getting the “real” work of the church done, as seems to be the underlying message of the current United Methodist “We Are More” campaign.

It is foundational. It is that upon which everything else rests.

For me, deciding to view the question of how we will treat LGBTQ people in the United Methodist Church and respond by saying, “We are more than this,” is akin to touring a home in Port-au-Prince, Haiti a month before the earthquake and saying, “Look at the beautiful paint and lovely furniture and the decorations on the walls of this house. Look at the view out of this window. There is so much more to this house than the simple lack of rebar in the walls. Why focus on the negative when there is obviously so much positive here to see?”

Because just as a house is ultimately not more than the foundation on which it is built, a church is finally not more than its collective, agreed, and encoded decision about how it views God and how it views all people.

Either the rebar is there, or it isn’t.

Bishops are fond of telling us to “keep the main thing the main thing.” I for one cannot thing of a “mainer” thing than to make up our minds about whether ALL people (and yes, all means all) will be able to sit at the table of grace or not.


Continuing to pray for my church…

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