Saturday, September 15, 2012
A Voice to Speak the Truth: For Louise Brooks
The life of Louise Emerson Brooks was celebrated at All Saints' Church, Pasadena, on September 8. I was asked to reflect on her commitment to justice.
It is a deep sadness and an enormous privilege to be here today. I first loved Louise because she loved Susan, my longtime partner in ecclesiastical subversion. But I quickly came to love Louise for her many gifts, particularly for the passion she brought to justice making.
And the Word became flesh and pitched a tent among us and we saw the glory of God. (paraphrase of John 1:14)
These words from the beginning of John's Gospel have always been at the heart of the spirituality of Anglicans and Episcopalians. We are people, it is said, of the incarnation, the doctrine that God took on human flesh in Jesus. But these words are about more than a doctrine, they are about our experience of God. They show the path to glory, which is to say, God's vision for the world. Which is to say that they lead us on the path to justice. God's pitching a tent among us was and is God's most fundamental act of justice making.
Why this little lesson in Anglican spirituality? In contemplating Louise's passion for justice, a passion that I dare say touched everyone in this room (she did not, after all, keep very quiet about it), it occurred to me that her work for the establishment of God's justice lived and thrived at the very heart of these words and this spirituality. Louise's great gift was enabling people who have no voice to have one. She took flesh and enabled it to have a word, and in doing so, justice was made. You might notice that is backward from "the Word was made flesh," but that is how it works. The Word was made flesh so that flesh might speak the word, or, to use another important concept from John's Gospel, The Truth became flesh so that those in the flesh might speak the truth. And when that happens we see glory and justice is made.
We watched that happen this past summer at the Episcopal Church's General Convention. Louise's last big project was Voices of Witness: Out of the Box, in which she enabled transgender women and men to tell their stories. It was beautifully done and it caused justice to be made. Three years ago when the word "transgender" was spoken most of our bishops suddenly had to take a phone call or use the toilet. The ones left had stayed only because they had no idea what the word meant. And you should have heard some of the stupid things they said.
Louise heard them and it didn't take her long to figure out what to do. She made a movie. And it worked. In three short years there was a total turn around and church canons were passed by wide margins to protect the civil and ecclesiastical rights for trans people. Three years. That's warp nine in the church. Louise helped give people a voice and justice was made and a bit more of God's glory revealed.
I think I can safely say, on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons and our allies, both church identifying and not, thank you Louise, and thank you Susan for making the church and the world a better place to be, for giving us glimpses of the glory of God, and a voice to speak the truth that makes justice and sets absolutely everybody free.