And Tango Makes Three is one beautiful story

a sweet story

a story that pretty much hits the nail on the head about love

the preciousness of love no matter where it happens or two whom, whether penguins or people. 

But this book, since being published in 2005, has topped the American Library Association’s Ten Most Challenged Books List. A parent complains that it is anti-family, or pro-homosexuality, or goes against the Bible, or something else, and a library director moves the book to the nonfiction section where, it is said, the book is less likely to “blindside” anyone. 

Or, the book is banned from the library completely, and a memo comes out explaining why: “First, it is a picture book that focuses on homosexuality. Second, we did not feel that such information was vital to primary students. Next, we did not believe the book would stimulate growth in ethical standards, and the book is too controversial.” 

Wow. So when did an appreciation of diversity become irrelevant and “not vital” to primary students, some of whom may have two daddies or two mommies? When did growth in mutual understanding or compassion become separate from a growth in “ethical standards”? And when did controversy become a sign that indicated something unworthy of exploration in an educational environment? 

The absurdity of it all makes me think of a sign posted outside a New York City restaurant: “If you don’t like gay marriage, blame straight people. They’re the ones who keep having gay babies.” 


The situation with the banned book, however, is actually quite mild, compared to the intensity of the ignorance, the cruelty, the prejudice, the violence that’s out there. We know it only too well. Just one very public example is what happened to Matthew Shepard on Oct. 6 1998, and I’m not going to get explicit about that because it is an all ages service. But I will say that on the 15th anniversary of that tragic event, Fox News contributor Sandy Rios made the horrific claim that it “wasn’t true.” It was “a total fraud” and a “fairy tale” used as “propaganda” by LGBT activists. It was “part of a long-term conspiracy by liberals to create a society that is accepting of gay people.”

Ridiculous. It’s ridiculous, where people can go in their heads when confronted with something that does not necessarily conform to their sense of the way things ought to be. 

And it’s tragic, above all, when we remember what’s at the core of the whole thing, which the banned picture book illustrates so well: 

They bowed to each other. And walked together. 

They sang to each other. And swam together. 

Wherever Roy went, Silo went too.

That’s what we’re really talking about. Committed love relationships between mature adults who have chosen to be together. Something infinitely sweet. To cherish and be cherished is the most amazing thing in this world, and every day, people suffer and even die from the unfulfilled longing for it, gay and straight. Whenever we see such cherishment in the world, the reverse of banning ought to be our mission. Our mission ought to be to stand up and cheer, to stand back and behold the miracle that is worthy of the name God. We all ought to. Whether in penguins or in people—whether straight or gay—it is God made manifest. It is holy. It is the Sacred, it is the Mystery, it is the Divine. 

How dare anyone ban that!

Gimme that sound of love again….

Let me tell you about Glennon Doyle Melton. She’s a parent who wants her children to know that whoever they love, that love is ok, they are fundamentally ok even if it’s just like the love of those two penguins at Central Park Zoo. “And I better make sure,” she says, “that my children know beyond a shadow of a doubt that in God’s and their father’s and my eyes, they are okay. They are loved as they are. Without a single unless. Because the kids who bully are those who are afraid that a secret part of themselves is not okay. To that end,” she says, “I wrote this letter to my son” [and I’m quoting from just a part of that letter]: 

Dear Chase,

Whoever you are, whoever you become, you are loved. You are a miracle. You are our dream come true.

Chase, here is what would happen in our home if one day you were to tell your father and me that you are gay.

Our eyes would open wide.

Then we would grab you and hold you tighter than you would be able to bear. And while we were holding you, we would say a silent prayer that as little time as possible passed between the moment you knew you were gay and the moment you told us. And we would love you and ask you one million questions, and then we would love you some more and finally, I would rush out to buy some rainbow T-shirts, honey, because you know Mama likes to have an appropriate outfit for every occasion.


Back in 2013, when the Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman), I received a call from a reporter who wanted to know about Unitarian Universalism’s stand on gay rights. What does Unitarian Universalism have to say about it? 

Here’s what I said, in a nutshell. 

First: I said what I said a moment ago, about how committed love relationships, whether between penguins or people—whether straight or gay or transgender—is God made manifest in this world. Unitarians believe in love. We stand on the side of love. (If I was talking to the reporter today, I’d probably also say something extremely tacky about members of Congress, how maybe they aren’t getting enough love in their lives—THAT’S why it’s such a mess in Washington.) 

But now my second point to the reporter: I talked about how Unitarian Universalists have been supporting gay rights for a long time now. Gay rights as human rights, human rights as gay rights. As just an example: in 1970, the Unitarian Universalist Association passed a general resolution urging people to immediately bring an end to all prejudice against gays and lesbians and bisexuals. In that same year it also called for lifting of the ban prohibiting gays and lesbians folk from serving in the U.S. military. Then, in 1996, “transgender” was added to the name of the UUA’s office overseeing all of this: the Office of Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Concerns. 

I said all this, and then I told that reporter a third thing: how I sincerely believe that we Unitarian Universalists are far more faithful to the Hebrew and Christian scriptures than our so-called Bible-based opponents are—the Jerry Falwells and the Sandy Rioses and all the others. Out of the seven passages in the entire Bible (Old Testament to New) that supposedly condemn “homosexuality,” none seem to actually talk about committed love relationships between people of the same sex. Scholars will tell you that the passages are probably talking about ritual forms of sex that occurred in the religions outside of Judaism and Christianity, and Jewish and Christian leaders wanted their followers to stay far away from it. Stay pure. But what we’re talking about today isn’t a religious ritual you can put on and take off like clothes: we’re talking about identity, what people are born as, how the manner of one’s loving flows out of that so very naturally. 

And then I mentioned a curious and astonishingly neglected passage in the Christian scriptures, in which a Roman centurion comes to Jesus and asks him to heal his “pais” which is normally translated as “servant” or “slave.” But then I said that that translation covers over the historical reality of what was happening in that moment. Back in Jesus’ time–back in the time of that Roman centurion–”pais” was a word commonly used to refer to the younger partner in a same-sex relationship. In other words, the centurion was in a homosexual relationship with the “slave who was dear to him.” And Jesus was willing to heal the Centurion’s gay lover. He was. There was no condemnation at all from Jesus. 

There was no banning at all. 

We UUs, I told that reporter, are the ones who are doing the Bible justice, and not those who thump it constantly like crazy! 

And that reporter: she sounded stunned when I told her all this. As if she couldn’t believe that a church like ours actually existed. As if she was mortified that she might have been reading the Bible completely wrong all these years. As if it amazed her that you could be a person of faith and affirm that LGBT people are as normal and as beautiful as a spring day.  

It continues to be so painful to hear of the ignorance and cruelty and violence out there surrounding this issue. It is so hard, as a straight but not narrow ally, to hear so many in the outside world say that same-sex relationships don’t count or shouldn’t even exist. That is so hard to hear. One of my best friends in all the world—my prayer partner—is gay, and the thought of anyone saying or doing hateful things to that beautiful soul…. Terrible!

But I find consolation in something. Comfort. I do. It’s in what Harvey Milk said: “Bust down those closet doors once and for all, and stand up and start to fight.” We can do something about the hate, the prejudice, the violence. It gets better as we make it better. 

It’s books like And Tango Makes Three that remind us of the essence of what’s really going on. Love. Letting love happen. Letting God happen. 

It’s parenting like that of Glennon Doyle Melton. “Whoever you are,” she says to her child, “whoever you become, you are loved. You are a miracle. You are our dream come true.” 

And maybe we have ourselves never heard such words addressed to us. Maybe we have, and we are the lucky ones. But I’ll tell you this. Unitarian Universalism is a religion that never stops saying words like that to its children, who are all of us. “Whoever we are, whoever we become, we are loved. We are a miracle. We are a dream come true.” 

That is what our religion says to us.

That is what our church is all about.