Over the past twelve years I watched the state-by-state progression of marriage equality with mixed feelings. On one hand, I knew it was never coming to Texas in my lifetime except by a Supreme Court ruling. On the other hand, I was happy my gay and lesbian friends in other states were finally able to have their marriages recognized.
Over the past couple weeks we’ve seen some remarkable events: the Pope issuing an encyclical on the environment which challenges the economic assumptions of Western society. The beginning of the elimination of the Confederate flag from public view. And marriage equality becoming the law of the land in the United States.
At each event, many have celebrated. Others have pointed out that our wins are more symbolic than substantive, that some are left out of the advances, that we are distracted from other important issues, and that our victories are only partial victories.
They’re not wrong.
Conservative Christianity’s views on women, reproduction, and transgender people remain stuck in the Dark Ages. Removing a racist flag doesn’t remove racism. Bigoted bureaucrats are trying to stall marriage equality, discrimination based on gender and orientation still exists and remains legal in many places, and the ruling does nothing for polyamorous families.
But let’s celebrate anyway.
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
The road to justice, sustainability, and the beloved community has no end. If by some miracle we someday got “there” we would barely have time to sit down before someone’s greed, someone’s fear, or someone’s outright hatred screwed it up again. Our work will never end. No victory and no celebration will ever include everyone – not even everyone who fights for justice.
But let’s celebrate anyway.
This work is hard. Whether you’re working in the streets, in the courtrooms, in government, in churches and temples and groves, or anywhere else, there is so much that needs to be done and there is always someone trying to hold back the advance of justice. It’s easy to get tired and discouraged and burned out. Celebrating our successes reminds us we do not labor in vain.
A partial victory is still a victory. If we can never get “there” then partial victories are all we can ever achieve. Papal encyclicals do not dismantle exploitative institutions and Supreme Court rulings do not change the hearts of homophobes. But Martin Luther King Jr. said “it may be true that the law can’t change the heart, but it can restrain the heartless.” Our world is better than it was a month ago. Not all better, but better. Let’s celebrate better.
Many areas need work. Like lots of people, I moved around a good bit when I was younger and I thought moving was no big deal. But when Cathy and I moved from Tennessee to Indiana after having lived in our first house for six years, the enormity of the move quickly became apparent. What should we do first? Clothes? Books? Kitchen? Bathrooms? Should we completely set up one room before starting on another, or do all the furniture first and then put away and then decorate? After a few moments of feeling completely overwhelmed, the answer became obvious: just start somewhere!
Is marriage equality more important than stopping the Trans-Pacific Partnership? I don’t think that’s a useful question. They’re both important. Let’s grab the one we can and go back for the other one next… after we take a minute to celebrate.
If you don’t feel like celebrating, don’t. I know some of my polyamorous friends were less than thrilled with the Obergefell v. Hodges decision – it left them out. One of the necessary steps in dealing with disappointing and frustrating situations is to simply feel what you feel. If you don’t feel like celebrating even though you think you should be happy for those who have been included, then don’t celebrate.
This is especially true if your thoughts on an issue are in the minority. Pagans are almost unanimous on the issue of marriage equality. We agree on the importance of the environment but we differ on the best ways to protect it. A few think our socio-economic system is fine, many think it needs to be reformed, and some think it needs to be blown up so we can start over from scratch.
All opinions are not equally valid, but I don’t want anyone to feel like they have to lie to be a part of the Big Tent. There is no Pagan orthodoxy in politics any more than there’s Pagan orthodoxy in theology.
Sing, feast, dance! Our Pagan celebrations add meaning and joy to lives that are often difficult, painful, and frustrating. Nature is both life-giving and life-taking, but we celebrate Nature anyway. Our ancestors were far from perfect, but we celebrate them anyway. We celebrate the turning of the seasons, the mysteries of birth and death, and the many pleasures of the senses. We celebrate the virtues of our Gods and we celebrate the mighty deeds of our heroes.
The Road goes ever on and on. Our work for justice is not done, but let’s celebrate anyway.