What do I make of my dream, then, quoting from Part 1 of this epistle?
“I am out on the street in some small town with a woman I don’t know. She is perhaps 35 or 40 years old, and I somehow know that she is a lesbian. She proposes to me that we both take turns putting a nickel in the nearby parking meter, and that as we do this, we offer up a prayer. I am to go first. I rummage around in my pocket, and there are lots of dimes and quarters, and one nickel that I finally discern. I take it out, and as I insert it into the parking meter, both I and my surroundings are suddenly transported. Now the sky is dark and ominous, and I am sitting in a wheelchair feeling very weak. I am struggling to say the prayer that is not yet in my mind. I hear myself, stuttering, hesitant and trembling, say and then repeat, “Lord, you are my strength and my redeemer.” I am crying as I say this. And then I wake up.”
A lot of it, I get. The parking meter is marking my space in this lifetime. I don’t quite realize it, but my time in that space is almost up. The “two hour limit” has almost been used up, and so, even though I have many shiny dimes and quarters, a nickel is going to do. I pop in the nickel, and immediately the next stage of my life here is clear. It’s going to be hard, nothing but dark and ominous clouds on the horizon, and ultimately the catastrophe of death. I’m going to loose my strength, and the wheelchair symbolizes that some day, I will need someone to care for me in my infirmity. It’s frigging scary—if you actually let yourself feel it—no matter how much peace you have managed to scrounge up. But as I have told you in the previous epistles, I am a man of faith, though stuttering with Demosthenes and hesitant and trembling with Kierkegaard. I have worked hard on this problem and I am making the leap of faith. I’m telling God about my faith.
Some of it, I’m not sure I get. Why is it that a lesbian, one that I don’t even know, is inviting me to this disturbing, yet necessary look at my future as a man of faith? One thing I am sure of, lesbians have shown me the truth. I am currently reading “Daring to Be Bad: Radical Feminism in America 1967-1975 by Alice Echols. The radical feminists stepped out of our patriarchal culture to create their own space and lifestyle freed of those oppressive restrictions. My regard for their efforts and the light they shined on our problems could not be greater. If there is such a thing as a mostly male honorary lesbian activist, I deserve the title. There is an implication of these facts for the dream. Whatever prayer I am going to offer up to God for the astounding price of five cents, it’s got to be one that a radical lesbian could say wholeheartedly.
I even think I get the “you are my strength” part. My faith in God is definitely my strength. I can’t tell you how many times I have been in a bad, dark place, nearly hopeless as to how I would cope. I can stay in that black hole just about 5 minutes to 2 hours. Then I find myself saying to this disembodied God in multiple dimensions for whom I have no image, “Ok God, I can’t do it by myself. You have to help me.” It’s amazing, but for me, God offers me an unlimited reservoir of strength, not to mention options which I have not even considered.
But here, dear friends, are the two least clear and hardest parts of the dream. Yes, one of these is addressing God as “Lord.” Better sit down, if you’re still standing. My dear departed mother, Lorene “Red” Sullivan Andris,” was probably the most beloved person in my life. She got increasingly disturbed by my unrepentant homosexuality as she approached her terminal age of 95, but let me tell you, no mother was more there for her son in the rocky path of growing up gay than my mom. You talk about someone being my strength here on this earth, it was my mom. We argued for a good chunk of our lives about whether gay is good or not, visiting every geographic point on that tired map. One time (and Stephen was there to hear this) I said to Lorene, “So, mom, do you think God has a penis.” She didn’t drop a beat. “Yes, God has a penis,” she firmly replied. But mom, I pleaded, “What does God do with it?” So you get my side of this debate. Either God doesn’t have a penis, or God has both a penis and a vagina at the very minimum. “Lord” as an address for my God will not work as the sole honorary appellation. A corollary of this point is that you can probably see one reason why I have SO much trouble with the Hebrew scriptures.
The part of the dream that I understand least, possibly not at all, is, why am I, Jim Andris, addressing God as my Redeemer? I know that I am finite, limited, very human, full of illusion and error. I can’t be saved from that. I don’t believe in original sin. There was no Adam and Eve. I don’t want to believe in a God that will save just us Christians or potential Christians. It’s this kind of chauvinism that causes holy wars. We’re all here just struggling human beings, Christians, atheists, ethical humanists, agnostics, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims. There is no one right sectarian or non-sectarian path. That community that Jon Stratton wanted us to reach out to, that’s not just the Christian community, that’s the human community. Redemption won’t come from a God that has only one son and apparently no daughters. Redemption won’t come from a God who has a penis, or One who makes you leap through the loops of a particular religious point of view. Redemption will come from a God that loves all of us, and especially from believing in such a God. This God, my God, already loves us all.
So God, here is my prayer, worth exactly five cents. I love you and all your children, though from time to time, my frail human mind and body may fail to follow that path. Here I am, God, just as I am. I want to love you. I really do. But I can’t do it by myself, so please give me the strength to do so. Help me to love my neighbor as myself.