Bishop Michael Curry Preaches The Power Of Love To Find 'Hope In Troubling Times'

Sep 20, 2020
Originally published on September 20, 2020 11:18 pm

The head of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Michael Curry, preached love when he presided over the marriage of Meghan Markle to Prince Harry.

"When love is the way, we actually treat each other, well, like we are actually family," he said at the time.

His message of love resonated well beyond the hallowed halls of St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. Now, in his new book, titled Love is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times, he offers a road map on how to love one another.

Curry, a descendant of enslaved people, is the first Black man to lead his church and is a strong advocate of same-sex marriage. But he didn't always know he wanted to be a religious leader — he just knew he wanted to "serve." His father was a minister, but he says his dad didn't care if he was "ordained or a lawyer" — as long as Curry understood that he was "put on this Earth to do some good."

"I remember, at one point, he and I had a conversation about something — I think I got on his nerves — and he said, you know something? The Lord didn't put you here just to consume the oxygen," Curry said of his father in an interview with NPR's Weekend Edition.

His father was also involved in the civil rights movement, and when Curry went to college, he started reading Dr. Martin Luther King's writings and realized, "Maybe this is a way that Michael Curry can make a difference."

Curry spoke with NPR about his views on love in a divided time, his relationship with the church and his new book.


Interview Highlights

On reconciling the different wings of the church

LGBTQ folk have been put down by the church for so long, and so their struggle and pain — it's real. It's deep. I've not experienced that, so I can't speak from that place. But I can say that I know what it is to be put down. What applied for us, I came to realize, must apply to others — that if we're equal in the eyes of God, we should be equal in the eyes of the law. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all people are — all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. Those words were true. They were right. What the founders didn't realize was they didn't just apply to them. They applied to the Indigenous people. They applied to the Africans enslaved. They applied to their wives and daughters — that they apply to us all.

On how to talk to someone with differing beliefs

Nobody does anything for no reason. There's always a story. And sometimes, if you can get behind the presenting question, whatever that happens to be, the relationship will have the — sometimes can have the capacity to help you navigate the difference. I mean, in the book, I said, I was learning to stand and kneel at the same time — to kneel in the sense of acknowledging that I'm not God, and you have as much right to your perspective as I do to mine. But I've also got to stand — to stand for what I believe and humbly trust is the right thing. And it doesn't change everybody's minds, but it does create a different atmosphere, and atmosphere does make a difference, especially over the long haul.

On the fight for racial justice

It's a painful moment, but there's hope in it. You know, George Floyd — for one human being to have their knee on the neck of another human being and to snuff out the breath of life that God gave in them — we saw that. And to hear that man cry for his mother — thank God for that 17-year-old girl who had her iPhone or her smartphone and filmed it. I think many of us saw that and said, that's not who we want to be. That is not the America we want to have.

NPR's Ian Stewart and Hadeel Al-Shalchi produced and edited this interview for broadcast.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

The head of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Michael Curry, preached - there is no other word for it - when he presided over the marriage of one Meghan Markle to a certain Prince Harry.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MICHAEL CURRY: When love is the way, we actually treat each other, well, like we are actually family.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: His message of love resonated well beyond the hallowed halls of St. George's Chapel at Windsor Castle. Now in his new book called "Love Is The Way: Holding On To Hope In Troubling Times," he gives us a roadmap on how to embrace the most basic of Jesus's teachings to love one another. Bishop Michael Curry, welcome to the program.

CURRY: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: This is a very timely book. Two months before an election, as you note in your book, there doesn't seem to be much love in the country. You have written this book around a series of questions that you are commonly asked. Before we get to some of the answers, I'd like to talk about your journey. You are a descendant of enslaved people. Your father was also a minister and involved in the civil rights movement. Tell us about your journey to ministry.

CURRY: Well, it's funny. I grew up in a home where there was just an understanding that you were put on this Earth to serve. And whatever you did with your life - I mean, my father didn't care whether I was ordained or a lawyer. He didn't - I mean, he said, whatever you do with your life, you've been put on this Earth to do some good. And I remember, at one point, he and I had a conversation about something - I think I got on his nerves - and he said, you know something? The Lord didn't put you here just to consume the oxygen. But I took a course in college where I actually started reading Dr. Martin Luther King - not just listening to the popularized versions of sermons but actually reading what the guy wrote. And I finally started realizing, wait a minute. Maybe this is a way that Michael Curry can make a difference.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: And you have been a transformative presence in your church, the first African American to lead the church. But beyond that, you are an advocate of same-sex marriage. And you detail in the book how hard it was to reconcile the different wings of the church.

CURRY: LGBTQ folk have been put down by the church for so long, and so their struggle and pain - it's real. It's deep. I've not experienced that, so I can't speak from that place. But I can say that I know what it is to be put down. What applied for us, I came to realize, must apply to others, that if we're equal in the eyes of God, we should be equal in the eyes of the law. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all people are - all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights. Those words were true. They were right. What the founders didn't realize was they didn't just apply to them. They applied to the Indigenous people. They applied to the Africans enslaved. They applied to their wives and daughters - that they apply to us all.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, this almost caused a schism in the church. And I'd like to get to the advice portion of this because it gets to the heart of your message in this book. How do you talk to someone who believes something fundamentally different to what you believe and still have a loving conversation?

CURRY: Nobody does anything for no reason. There's always a story. And sometimes, if you can get behind the presenting question, whatever that happens to be, the relationship will have the - sometimes can have the capacity to help you navigate the difference. I mean, in the book, I said, you know, I had - I was learning to stand and kneel at the same time - to kneel in the sense of acknowledging that I'm not God, and you have as much right to your perspective as I do to mine. But I've also got to stand - to stand for what I believe and humbly trust is the right thing. And it doesn't change everybody's minds, but it does create a different atmosphere, and atmosphere does make a difference, especially over the long haul.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Well, then let me ask you this. As someone who has been an advocate of racial justice, I'd like to ask you about this moment. There is this huge cry for equality by a new generation of Black people in America. What would you like people to think about?

CURRY: Well, you know, I mean, it's a painful moment, but there's hope in it. You know, George Floyd - for one human being to have their knee on the neck of another human being and to snuff out the breath of life that God gave in them - we saw that. And to hear that man cry for his mother - thank God for that 17-year-old girl who had her iPhone or her smartphone and filmed it. I think many of us saw that and said, that's not who we want to be. That is not the America we want to have.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I can hear people thinking, sure, some people might've felt that, but there's a large portion of this country also that doesn't see a problem in quite the same way.

CURRY: That's OK. You got to start somewhere. And so let's start where we are. And part of what we can do is really face into the past. Where have we gone wrong? And maybe it wasn't us. Maybe it's previous generations. You know, Shirley Chisholm years ago used to say, you know, we all came over here on different ships, but we're all in the same boat now. Everybody won't get onboard, but that's all right. I don't know any movement that start with the masses.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Bishop, I must ask you about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. As you know, they had a tumultuous break from the royal family, and they're now living in the United States. Have they sought spiritual counsel from you?

CURRY: Oh, I - now, I wouldn't tell you even if they did. That would be a private matter.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Indeed. But what would you say to them, as they've also faced quite a lot of attacks?

CURRY: Well, you know, what I'd say to them would be what I say to anybody facing hard times. Keep your head up and love. Love not as a sentiment, but love as a commitment. Love that seeks the good - the welfare of others, as well as the self. Unselfish, sacrificial - that is the love that can change the world. Keep your head up and love.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That is Bishop Michael Curry. His new book is "Love Is The Way: Holding On To Hope In Troubling Times." Thank you very much.

CURRY: Oh, thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.