On Saturday (15th June) I spoke at the Boston Pride Interfaith Service at Old South Church, a service designed to show support for the LGBTQ community. Members of many faith communities and philosophical traditions came together to affirm the dignity and equality of all people regardless of sexual orientation or gender expression: Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and others were all represented, as was the life stance of Humanism.
I was asked to provide a reading to preface the offering, which was held in support of PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Humanists have long supported the queer community – the 1973 Humanist Manifesto II stated unequivocally that “individuals should be permitted to express their sexual proclivities and pursue their lifestyles as they desire” – so I think it is important that we seek representation in such events.
I chose to read a poem by Algernon D. Black, formerly a leading light in the Ethical Culture movement. You can hear the whole service here, or listen to me speak at the link below. The full text of my remarks follows.
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without supernatural beliefs, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfillment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.
Our only life is this life,
Our only world is this world,
Our only hope is each other,
And this is enough.
This poem, “Call to the Living”, is by Algernon D. Black
This is a call to the living,
To those who refuse to make peace with evil,
With the suffering and the waste of the world.
This is a call to the human,
Not the perfect,
To those who know their own prejudices,
Who have no intention
Of becoming prisoners of their own limitations.
This is a call to those who remember the dreams of their youth,
Who know what it means to share food and shelter,
The care of children and those who are troubled,
To reach beyond barriers of the past
Bringing people to communion.
This is a call
To the never ending spirit
Of the common person,
Our essential decency
Our integrity beyond all education and wealth,
Our unending capacity to suffer and endure,
To face death and destruction
And to rise again
And build from the ruins of life.
This is the greatest call of all
The call to a faith in people.
This is also a call to give generously: a portion of today’s offering will be donated to support PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and their work with transgender youth. So heed this call, dig deep for this worthy cause, and you can feel especially proud this Pride weekend!
As a son of the tradition of the great Hebrew Prophets, who courageously and forcefully spoke truth to power, I feel called this morning to depart from the usual code of polite civility and deference which governs interfaith discourse in this community – usually expressed by avoiding conflict and disagreement with restrained silence.
Friends, who have gathered together here from so many faith traditions – among us, so many faithful Roman Catholics, such as Marcia and Ken Garber whom we honor today – we cannot keep silent in the face of the relentless and unending onslaught of attack and rejection that our community continues to face from the hierarchy of the Catholic Church – and particularly, the Archdiocese of Boston. The incredible news in today’s newspapers of the summary and tyrannical cancellation by the Archdiocese of a Mass at St Cecilia’s Church, whose grave heresy was its public proclamation that “All Are Welcome” during Pride Week, fills us with outrage. The obfuscation of the Archdiocese and its inevitable lame backtracking…the ignorance and raw bigotry reflected in the mindless statements of extremists who seem to have forced the Archdiocese’s hand, are chilling and appalling. They include the absurd blasphemy that, after all, according to Catholic teaching, “Pride is a sin”.
Cardinal O’Malley…enough already!
O God, we need You now to open up the eyes, minds and hearts of those who claim authority in the name of Saint Peter. I speak as a colleague and an equal to those claims – representing a far older tradition than the pomp and power of Rome. We pray that they will realize the pain and hurt they have caused so many… and that they will join us as people of many faiths, in understanding the teachings of the Rabbi of Nazareth as a call for a Gospel of Love and Justice, rather than as a basis for the prerogatives of power.
No one who witnessed Rabbi Berman speak so passionately could suggest that interfaith gatherings are irredeemably kumbaya-ish!