Thank you, Rev. Joe Hoffman

Yesterday I began drafting a post after having read the “Dear Amy” advice column in Monday’s Washington Post. I was going to entitle it, “This is the America I Fear,” or something like that. The Amy column included an almost unbelievable letter from a woman in Denver, married six years, who lives with her husband in what was described as a nice, quiet Denver neighborhood. The woman said that two young gay men moved in across the street over a year ago, transforming a run-down house into the pride of the block (yes, there is often a kernel of truth at the root of some stereotypes!). Though they kept pretty much to themselves, these guys would say hello and were considered good neighbors, even going so far as to shovel out the woman’s car when it snowed (why she or her husband couldn’t/wouldn’t/didn’t do this was left unsaid). Apparently all was hunky-dory until one morning the gay guys had the gall to give each other an off-to-work-have-a-good-day kiss out in full public view (horrors!). What ensued after this God-fearing woman recovered from witnessing this traumatic event should be read in the original.

That’s what I was going to write out, going off in the direction that would try to make the point that a social movement that doesn’t change the hearts and minds of people is doomed to fail. Yes, being a good neighbor is a wonderful starting point … but in the face of deep-seated fears and prejudices, neighborliness is just the first step.

But then someone forwarded me the story about a Congregational United Church of Christ Pastor in Asheville, NC. It seems that Rev. Joe Hoffman has had a bit of an epiphany, a raising of consciousness. Over the past few months, the good pastor came to realize that civil marriage laws that do not allow gay citizens the same rights as straight citizens are unjust laws. And even though he would continue to help couples — both heterosexual and homosexual — plan for and celebrate their religious wedding services, he could not in good conscience affix his signature to the state-issued marriage licenses as long as that same state’s marriage laws remained exclusive and discriminatory.

While people like the woman in Denver cause me to shake my head and wonder … people like Pastor Joe Hoffman cause me to pause and thank God that there are still individuals who have the courage of their well-founded convictions and are not afraid to take a stand for what they know is probably not very popular, but is most certainly very right.

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