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“So many gods, so many creeds,

So many paths that wind and wind,

When just the art of being kind

Is all this sad world needs.”  (Ella Wheeler Wilcox, 1850-1919, poet and journalist)

Essie was called “a sportin’ woman” when she was young.  But experiences and the passage of time made Essie embark on a different path in life.  Things she used to do, she didn’t do any more, and she now treated others as she would have them treat her. 

Essie joined a church in her old age and attended church every Sunday unless her arthritis prevented her from doing so.  She loved good sermons and good music.  Daniel, the organist and director of choirs at her church, was outstanding in music.  Essie swayed, patted her feet, and sang with the music.  She clapped her hands and said “amen” when the music stopped. 

The church was proud to have Daniel.  He was nice as he could be.  He’d go out of his way to help or comfort others.  Everybody in the church knew Daniel was gay, but that didn’t seem to matter; his sexuality didn’t seem important. 

On one Sunday, Reverend Hill, Essie’s minister, went to the lectern and opened the Bible as he usually did.  But on this Sunday, he said he thought the congregation needed to be reminded of the ten Commandments since he knew some members of the congregation had put their religion in the freezer and forsaken the commandments.  “Amen,” Essie shouted, “Amen.”  She knew she wasn’t guilty. 

Rev. Hill read each commandment and elaborated with passion on how each commandment was being broken in the community.  Essie shook her head up and down in affirmation of what Rev said and shouted, “Ride on, Rev, Ride on!” 

When Rev had gone over all the commandments, he closed the Bible, walked to the edge of the pulpit and stuttered loudly, “And … and … then, we have men and women…men and women … sinning every day by loving … loving … sinners of the same sex.”

Essie’s mouth fell open.  She looked at Daniel.  He had put his head down.  Essie jumped up and put one hand on her hip.  “You done fell off your horse now, Rev.  You done fell off,” Essie yelled.

The congregation was quiet.  Rev wiped his forehead, looked at Essie then glanced at Daniel.  For a while, Rev said nothing; he just stood there.  Then, he walked back to the lectern and said, “Let us pray.  Lord, help me to accept and understand the things I cannot change and the strength and wisdom to change the things I can.* Amen.  We will now be favored with a song by the choir.”

As she waved her handkerchief, Essie shouted, “Amen, Rev, Amen!  Acceptance and love for one another, Rev,  Acceptance and love.” Daniel played, and the choir sang “Let Us Break Bread Together.”

Postscript:  My mother never condoned or condemned homosexuality.  She didn’t believe she should.

Many indigenous people (e.g., Native Americans) believe that each human is made up of two spirits – male and female, with one or both spirits dominating.

On June 30, 2013, Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, signed “a law making homosexuality or any behavior considered ‘gay’ illegal in Russia” with the possibility of jail time for gay or pro-gay citizens and foreigners. (Chicago Tribune, July 7, 2013)  Who will decide what behaviors are “considered gay” is unclear.

*A rendition of the Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr, American theologian, 1892–1971.

Peggy Tarr

Peggy Tarr has been a columnist for the Evanston RoundTable since its founding in 1998. Born in Bruce Springsteen's hometown of Freehold, New Jersey, she graduated from Rutgers University with a degree...