As it turned out, the day was perfect; no wind, no rain – certainly no thunder or lightning. A gentle breeze kept the waiting guests cool and an inky, overcast sky provided a magnificent backdrop for the green Stellenbosch vineyards in the foreground and the familiar grey Cape mountains in the distance.
My faith – the Christian faith – has at its core the notion of God as love. As one studies the other religions of the world, one comes to appreciate that they all say roughly the same thing; God is love and our job is to allow Love into our lives to love us, so that we – in turn – may love others. The learning in all this is of course that God loves and God is love. So, in short, Love loves; it knows how to do nothing else. This is why there is really no such thing as atheism unless you do not believe in love at all. For where there is Love, God is. The two are one.
The happy couple made their entrance on horseback preceded by several flower girls laying a pathway of petals before them. As is so often the case with weddings, the joy found its expression in tears amongst the 90 or so guests awaiting their arrival. But the tears quickly turned to laughter. I have never attended such a joyful wedding ceremony. The marriage officer was a Russian Jewish lady with a happy face and a naughty smile who tapped the traditions of most of the major faiths to create a rich and deeply spiritual occasion; the couple’s hands were wrapped in a strand of jewels to symbolise two becoming one; the congregation tied red cords around one another’s wrists to symbolise connectedness and our unity of witness and support for the couple; the mothers drank wine and then served some to their children’s new spouse – a symbol of welcome into one another’s families; the oldest Granny blessed the couple. Rings were exchanged and the service culminated in that marvellous symbolic Jewish ritual of stamping on wine glasses.
You know Love when you feel it; it wraps you up and holds you tightly even if you are just watching it unfold. This is why so many people cry at weddings. They are being moved spiritually not just emotionally. No one present at this wedding would disagree that Love – or God if you prefer – was present on that day. She – or He if you like – was infused in every petal, every playful glance, every small gesture of kindness and care, every giggle and every tear.
A short sermon which – appropriately for a South African wedding equated marriage with rugby – preceded the legalities of signing of marriage registers and certificates. Then – to Mendelsohn’s wedding march and in a hail of rose petals – the couple made their way up the aisle and disappeared for their photos.
“I will always be proud to introduce Grant as my son Theo’s husband,” said Theo’s mother as she concluded her speech later that evening at the reception. And again, the tears came for many as Love stood for itself. It was not being judged as gay or straight or for how it chose to express itself in the bedroom. It was just love.
My purpose in writing this story as I have, is not to persuade you that homosexuality is right or wrong. That is a fool’s game. My purpose is simply to give Love a chance to speak for itself without our age-old preconceptions, judgements and stereotypes telling the world who or what Love is and what it should look like. Usually we are so busily expressing our fear of what is different or other to ourselves (this fear is usually expressed in moral judgement), that we miss Love. We miss God. Because the uncomfortable truth is that Love cannot exist outside of itself – and most believers would believe that God is Love. So, is there not also a revelation of pure Love that God just may not physically be capable of homophobia? What if God is not physically able not to love? What then? Where does that leave us? This realisation is surely what gave Archbishop Desmond Tutu the faith and courage to say: “I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place,” and “I would not worship a homophobic God.”
Towards the end of the evening I looked across the dance floor and saw a sight I will never forget; Theo was dancing – proper ballroom style dancing – with Grant’s 75-year old father.
Two families had become one and Love had triumphed.
Justin Foxton is founder of The Peace Agency.
His writing is dedicated to the memory of Anene Booysens, Emmanuel Josias Sithole and Suna Venter.