OK --- so I had to read this morning some of the stories popping up online about the holy grail --- that mythical vessel that over the centuries has metamorphosed into the cup Jesus drank from during the last supper. Two Spaniards with modest academic credentials claim to have located it in a museum in Spain. Here's the Huffington Post report. They've written a book. They always write a book. Just in time for Easter.
The grail legend seems to be pre-Christian, Christianized as a symbol perhaps during the 12th century C.E. It comes in various flavors and forms, many kind of fun, all unlikely.
Problem is, Monty Python already nailed it --- back in 1975.
Tomorrow is April 3rd, fifth anniversary of the Iowa Supreme Court ruling (in Varnum v. Brien) that empowered same-sex couples to marry in the Hawkeye state. About 6,000 couples have been married here since. The sky hasn't fallen. A huge majority of the unions have survived. A few couples have discovered an inconvenient truth --- once hitched, it's a challenge to stay in harness.
Varnum v. Brien has had great symbolic, as well as practical, consequences.
At the time of the ruling, equal marriage prevailed only in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Today, same-sex marriage is legal in 17 states and the District of Columbia. That portion of the Defense of Marriage Act that prevented the federal government from recognizing marriage equality has been ruled unconstitutional.
Iowa, squarely in the middle, neither bleeding-heart liberal or stone-hearted conservative, gave hope to LGBT people and to equal marriage advocates nationwide and encouraged everyone to work harder. The decision helped change the nature of the national conversation.
If polls are to believed, public opinion has shifted radically. More than half of Americans apparently believe now that it's OK to be gay, and to marry, compared to 35 percent five years ago. That tide seems to continue to sweep in.
Many in more gracious expressions of Christianity say, "thanks be to God."
But Varnum v. Brien and later voter initiatives and court decisions have been hugely symbolic, too, for the fundamentalist and evangelical church. There, advocates grabbed a modified version of Fred Phelps' "God Hates Fags" flag and ran it up the pole. The all-male Roman Catholic hierarchy grabbed pom-poms and rushed out to cheer.
As obsession grew, the hard shell cracked --- and living water began to pour out onto the ground. Increasingly desiccated, that sorry, hollow post-Christian thing just rattles like an angry snake now when shaken.
So be careful about the symbols you choose --- and the degree of faith you place in them.