Parsing Politics and Finding Cool Stuff on the Internet
Gary Johnson does just that:
“This ‘pledge’ is nothing short of a promise to discriminate against everyone who makes a personal choice that doesn’t fit into a particular definition of ‘virtue,’” reads a statement from Johnson’s office, which is accompained by a video:
“Government should not be involved in the bedrooms of consenting adults. I have always been a strong advocate of liberty and freedom from unnecessary government intervention into our lives. The freedoms that our forefathers fought for in this country are sacred and must be preserved. The Republican Party cannot be sidetracked into discussing these morally judgmental issues — such a discussion is simply wrongheaded. We need to maintain our position as the party of efficient government management and the watchdogs of the “public’s pocket book”.
“This ‘pledge’ is nothing short of a promise to discriminate against everyone who makes a personal choice that doesn’t fit into a particular definition of ‘virtue’.
I want to focus on three pragmatic issue points regarding same-sex marriage. They may span the general topic of same-sex marriage or something specific to New York.
Steven Taylor explains just a smidgen of the falsehood in the claim that marriage has never been redefined before. His piece is worth a full read but I will give you a paragraph or so:
“…the very fact that there were laws forbidding interracial marriage demonstrates the degree to which marriage has been a creature of legislation. And, as I noted the other day, the involvement of government in marriage is essentially escapable. So, at least from a legal point of view, marriage hasbeen redefined in living memory.”
Taylor delves into the story of Jacob of the Torah who had an interesting “marriage”. Indeed marriage has evolved since the days of marriages arranged by fathers, bride prices, bigamy, and sanctioned adultery.
2. “Same-sex marriage was legislated by liberal thugs, liberal tyrants, and (insert any other foaming at the mouth ad hominem, non-reality based stereotype)”. These sad canards crop up at the NRO, even to the point of comparing the New York state legislative process to fascist North Korea.
Faith in Public Life has continually brought the cut throat discussions in politics back to where they should be: to a humanized form. Ad hominem stereotypes distort and distract conversations to the point that we are no longer are talking about humans equal to us (and made in the image of God: imago deo) but “the gays”. FIPL provided a few news ads and commentary that helps with the now everpresent topic of same-sex marriage post-New York.
3. “Gays are going to sue religious organizations for discrimination”. This was an issue for the four Republican legislators in New York. Would there be enough protection for churches and organizations that may have objections to serving same-sex weddings or events so that they are not liable for discrimination? In a brief paragraph, yes, those protections are in place:
One of the most striking things about the week-long battle was how much of it hinged on the canard that worked so well for anti-marriage activists in California: If gay marriage is passed, religious organizations will be forced to marry same-sex couples, and businesses that object to homosexuality will be sued for refusing to provide their services at gay weddings. Under current law, religious leaders already can’t be compelled to sanctify a same-sex union, making this bill’s provision a politically motivated redundancy. Whether passing a same-sex marriage law without a religious exemption for businesses makes a difference is a more murky question. City and state nondiscrimination laws might have required businesses to provide their services at gay weddings—a protection the law passed yesterday supersedes. But it’s hard to imagine too many people in the wedding industry turning down money, and which gay couple would want to hire a homophobic organization anyway?
Let’s first take a look at Presidential candidate Rick Santorum’s lamentation over New York (this is almost the most foaming at the mouth pro-family you can get today):
I have long opposed the redefinition and nullification of marriage, the central building block for society. Indeed, as a U.S. senator I co-sponsored the Defense of Marriage Act and the Federal Marriage Amendment. As a citizen, I actively campaigned against the judges in Iowa who ordered gay marriage there. I also was one of the first to step out and encourage the leadership of the House of Representatives to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court when the president refused to do so. Unlike others in this race, I believe it is the role of the president to weigh in when states try to redefine the meaning of marriage. Marriage is defined in the federal law as a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife; any state that redefines marriage is wreaking havoc not only with the definitions of the federal law and the majority of states, but, even more importantly, with the single most important and time-tested institution of every successful society.
My emphasis is made on the last sentence. There is a general lamenation that traditional marriage is fleeting. To some, passing legislation to allow people of different sexual orientations dissolves traditional marriage. But wait, same-sex marriage has been legal in some states for some time now. Why has the family been doing better, not worse, since then? David Frum gives a personal take:
I was a strong opponent of same-sex marriage. Fourteen years ago, Andrew Sullivan and I forcefully debated the issue at length online (at a time when online debate was a brand new thing).
Yet I find myself strangely untroubled by New York state’s vote to authorize same-sex marriage — a vote that probably signals that most of “blue” states will follow within the next 10 years.
I don’t think I’m alone in my reaction either. Most conservatives have reacted with calm — if not outright approval — to New York’s dramatic decision.
The short answer is that the case against same-sex marriage has been tested against reality. The case has not passed its test.
Since 1997, same-sex marriage has evolved from talk to fact.
If people like me had been right, we should have seen the American family become radically more unstable over the subsequent decade and a half.
Instead — while American family stability has continued to deteriorate — it has deteriorated much more slowly than it did in the 1970s and 1980s before same-sex marriage was ever seriously thought of.
By the numbers, in fact, the 2000s were the least bad decade for American family stability since the fabled 1950s. And when you take a closer look at the American family, the facts have become even tougher for the anti-gay marriage position.
Mataconis sums up Frum’s point:
Indeed. We’ve lived with same-sex marriage, and more generally increasing acceptance of homosexuality, for long enough now to know that the gloom-and-doom preachers were wrong and that the world isn’t going to end just because two women, or two men, go down to City Hall and get a marriage license.
Marriage, as both religious and secular thinkers have acknowledged for millennia, is a social institution that is older than the state and that precedes the state. The task of a just state is to recognize and support this older, prior social institution; it is not to attempt its redefinition. To do the latter involves indulging the totalitarian temptation that lurks within all modern states: the temptation to remanufacture reality. The American civil-rights movement was a call to recognize moral reality; the call for gay marriage is a call to reinvent reality to fit an agenda of personal willfulness. The gay-marriage movement is thus not the heir of the civil-rights movement; it is the heir of Bull Connor and others who tried to impose their false idea of moral reality on others by coercive state power.
A humane society will find ample room in the law for accommodating a variety of human relationships in matters of custodial care, hospital visiting rights, and inheritance. But there is nothing humane about the long march toward the dictatorship of relativism, nor will there be anything humane about the destination of that march, should it be reached. The viciousness visited upon Archbishop Dolan and other defenders of marriage rightly understood during the weeks before the vote in Albany is yet another testimony to the totalitarian impulse that lurks beneath the gay marriage movement.
Because a same-sex marriage is not reality for some heterosexuals does not mean it is not reality for others. You gotta love the comparison of Bull Conor and the use of fire hoses (powerful enough to peel bark off of trees) on African Americans in preventing them to vote to marriage equality (legislatively achieved through many measures, not in totalitarian fashion by a dictator). As Sullivan notes, we live in a republic, not a church. I am left wondering what aspects of life are on the sacrosanct list never to be touched, altered, or changed for the sake of doing something about an ever growing group of humans.
(Photo: A young boy waves a flag during the 2011 NYC LGBT Pride March on the streets of Manhattan on June 26, 2011 in New York City. Thousands of revelers had reason to celebrate since New York state legislators approved a bill legalizing same-sex marriage which Governor Cuomo signed in to law on Friday June 24. By Jemal Countess/Getty Images)
The passing on Friday of the New York state law allowing same-sex couples to marry (which kicks in in 30 days) was monumental. The population of the Empire State alone (19 some million people) outnumbers the five other relatively small Northeastern states (and Iowa /D.C.).
This law, and many other important events, are going to be almost magnified in importance as we approach the 2012 election. Each candidate, including the incumbent, will be asked what they think about the new law in New York, if it should or shouldn’t come down to the state legislatures deciding on such matters, and if this could possibly be a national law in the coming decade.
One of the major issues that stood out in crafting the same-sex marriage law in New York was religious protections for churches, organizations, and the like. The Right has let out some steam on this issue, comparing New York to North Korea and insisting that anti-same sex marriage is not anti-homosexuality but really pro-marriage. What has been surprising and refreshing is to see many members of the Right and Republican Party rebuke their own side and agree with passing this law. This floor speech is worth watching for it captures some of the roots of the small government / libertarian in most Republicans as well as religious protection:
Even Presidential candidate Michele Bachmann has some nuanced respect for the New York law.
David True calls those paying attention to see that this law is not solely about saving same-sex couples from an encroaching government with its “moralistic” laws but “ it is about claiming the legal right (with the help of government) to make a huge commitment, indeed, one of the most profound and traditional commitments one can make.” True describes marriage as “an unfolding story”, one that can have “us appreciate what has come before” as well as recognize the “cultural revolution” upon us as part of the timeline.
Marriage in this view can even be compared to God. Both marriage and God are infinite spheres (the former of love and commitment, the latter of the same as well as a divine expanse of justice, judgement, and redemption). Neither can be fully grasped with words here on earth. If anything, words at times can hold these two back and muddle their true essences. In the end, participating with both provide more than words ever could.
(Pictured: The First Presbyterian Church of NYC on 5th Ave & 12th St., which was on the Pride Parade route. The congregants passed out water and hung a huge welcome banner, complete with triangles.
Believe it or not, but Jon Huntsman could possibly be someone I’d vote for over Obama in 2012. Huntsman has a great track record as an executive (two-term governor of Utah),which Obama in retrospect may have needed more than he thought, and is focused on two very important things: job creation and returning civility to our public debate. First, the economy:
We must reignite the powerful job creating engine of our economy – the industry, innovation, reliability, and trailblazing genius of Americans and their enterprises — and restore confidence in our people.
We did many of these things in Utah when I was governor. We cut taxes and flattened rates. We balanced our budget. Worked to maintain our AAA bond rating. When the economic crisis hit, we were ready. And by many accounts we became the best state for business and the best managed state in America. We proved government doesn’t have to choose between fiscal responsibility and economic growth. I learned something very important as Governor. For the average American family there is nothing more important than a job.
Second, civility. When was the last time you honestly heard a Republican candidate speak like this?
I don’t think you need to run down anyone’s reputation to run for President. Of course we’ll have our disagreements. I respect my fellow Republican candidates. And I respect the President. He and I have a difference of opinion on how to help the country we both love. But the question each of us wants the voters to answer is who will be the better President; not who’s the better American.
Jonathan Chait sees the divide between Huntsman and the GOP that may hold him back from succeeding:
The posture of maximal opposition to Obama is the one single thing upon which the entire party agrees. The notion that a dissenter against that consensus might win the presidential nomination is not merely a longshot but totally absurd.
Then there is matching him, his resume, and his message up with the GOP pack:
Huntsman will continue to get a good press (hiring John Weaver, John McCain’s image-guy/strategist was a smart move) and that press won’t be enough. Nor will many people vote for Huntsman because of his foreign policy credentials: as Spencer Ackerman says, being a diplomat don’t give you much suction or juice these days. Anyway, when the C-word comes up we know that Huntsman is going to say something sensible about how America shouldn’t be too worried too soon by too much of anything that China might do. Most of the other “leading” contenders will advise Americans to press the panic button and this, I am afraid, will be more effective than anything Huntsman can say.
Huntsman also comments on the New York state bill to legalize same-sex marriage:
… Huntsman was asked specifically about the growing likelihood of a same-sex marriage bill being passed in New York. Would he seek to overrule Empire State lawmakers should he end up in the Oval Office? “I would respect the state’s decision on that,” he replied.
The answer, while brisk, nevertheless sets Huntsman apart from his fellow Republican presidential candidates. Other members of the field have offered sympathy for state sovereignty on matters of marriage. But they have usually couched that by saying they would support a federal ban on same-sex marriage as well.
(Photo: Republican Jon Huntsman speaks during a press conference to announce his bid for the presidency at Liberty State Park June 21, 2011 in Jersey City, New Jersey. Huntsman, until recently the U.S. ambassador to China under President Obama, emphasized his record as a two-term governor of Utah. By Spencer Platt/Getty Images.)
Paula Kirby went from being a devout Christian to an Atheist. She makes some interesting conclusions on God and how the masses have viewed the divine over the ages.
One of the things that had struck me during my Christian years was just how many different Christianities there are. Not just the vast number of different sects and denominations (over 38,000 by one reckoning), but the huge amount of difference between individual Christians of the same sect or denomination, too. The beliefs and attitudes of an evangelical, biblical, literalist Christian compared with a liberal Christian are so wildly different that we might almost be dealing with two completely different religions.
No matter what religion you believe in, you have to view God in a subjective lens:
Like every other Christian I have ever known, I had clear ideas about the kind of God I believed in and, on the basis of those ideas, I accepted certain bits of Christian dogma while utterly rejecting others. Again, let me stress: this is par for the course. In practice faith is always a pick-and-mix affair: believers emphasise those bits that sit comfortably with them, whilst mostly ignoring those bits that do not, or concocting elaborate interpretations to allow them to pretend they do not mean what they actually say. So this was the question I faced up to in 2003: What was there to suggest that the version of Christianity I believed in was actually real? Was there any better evidence for the version I accepted than there was for the versions I did not?
The Bible could not help me. Both kinds of Christian – the ultra-conservative and the ultra-liberal – find abundant support for their views in the Bible provided they cherry-pick enough (and, of course, they do just that, filing the bits that don’t suit their case under the convenient headings of “Metaphor” or “Mystery”).
I myself tend to stray away from overemphasizing sin, heaven, and the like when I talk about God, my religious beliefs, and even when I am reading the Bible. Sure, the daily lectionary has me reading portions of the Bible that mention sin and heaven. I try to read up on the Greek and Hebrew, which usually have their original translation as vastness instead of heaven.
This has fostered some inner-thoughts as I have had several discussions with friends lately on the topic of same-sex marriage / homosexuality and how those two are seen or should be treated by the Bible and government. Plethora of verses are mentioned to denounce the two and I have up to this point said that they talk about pederastery, not what we know today as homosexuality. Re-reading these texts has me constantly asking questions. I try to focus on the context of the letters and laws in the Bible and keep them under the umbrellas of love, compassion, and justice. One other important topic that has played into that discussion is defining the role of marriage. Is it meant for pro-creation (child bearing) or as a covenant between two individuals? Attending a wedding can answer that question very clearly. Weddings usually mention nothing about sex or bearing children but forming a lasting relationship with your partner. If these marriage ceremonies are merely man-made, why then are they not changing in form and substance towards emphasizing “what the Bible says” about marriage?
I finish my reflection with this quote from Kirby:
This is why subjective experience cannot tell us anything about God. Knowing what kind of god someone believes in tells us a great deal about that person – but nothing whatsoever about the truth or otherwise of the existence of any god at all.
Kirby is partially correct. Our experiences of God can tell some but not all of who God is. Looking back over time, we can see the many views of God and the roles the divine has played in people’s lives. They, just like ours, are merely reflections from a mirror, not the full picture.
I am at a friend’s wedding this weekend so time for posting may be slim. Stay tuned!
“In the late 1990s, a flurry of books were written about what the Bible says and what the Bible does not say about homosexuality. Outstanding Bible scholars joined the fray. There was a clear winner. The commonly held position today is that the Bible says nothing about same-sex relationships that is relevant to the modern discussion. There are many voices who are still shouting “the Bible says …” but they are seen as irrelevant to our modern discussions of same-sex marriages. They are of the same genre as the recent predictions of the end of the world.
Serious theological discussion has turned to the nature of the marriage relationship rather than the sexual orientation of those who are being bound together. In traditional Protestant wedding ceremonies, the persons presenting themselves for a blessing of their relationships are asked to make promises. They are asked to promise to have and to hold one another from that moment on, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, so long as they both shall live. They are truly joined in marriage when they promise to be faithful in those responsibilities. There is no mention of sexual activity or childbearing. Faithfulness in the keeping of promises is the glue of Christian marriage.
A new discussion of the marriage relationship is a refreshing development. While I am glad to see the demise of legal barriers to gay marriages, and while I am glad to see the growing acceptance of our gay friends in our churches, I am most pleased to see the move to looking at the marriage relationship as an opportunity to experience both human and sacred wholeness.” –Rev. Howard Bess, writing from Wasilla, AK (where Sarah Palin is from)
Enjoy your holiday weekends, yall! Eat some hotdogs and burgers with me :)
“We’re losing on that one, especially among the 20- and 30-somethings: 65 to 70 percent of them favor same-sex marriage. I don’t know if that’s going to change with a little more age—demographers would say probably not. We’ve probably lost that,” - Jim Daly, president and CEO of Focus on the Family.
In part, I am looking forward to what my generation brings to the table as it grows and progresses. I know, however, that there will be downsides to my generation and everything will not be great with this “more open” mentality.
Andrew Sullivan explains like almost no one else can:
It has always seemed chilling to me that gay leftists – when pushed to say what they really believe - want to keep gays in some sort of glorious, oppressed, marginalized position, until the majority agrees with the gay left’s view of human nature, and revolutionizes straight society as well. This will never happen (and in my view, shouldn’t).
Until then, the gay left focuses on demonizing those gays who argue for those who want to belong to their own families as equals, serve their country or commit to one another for life. In this, in my view, the gay left mirrors the Christianist right: they insist that otherness define the minority, even though most members of that minority are born and grow up in the heart of the American family, in all its variations, and of American culture, in all its permutations. No one should be marginalized for seeking otherness. But we are fighting for it to be a choice, not a fate.
He was responding to this piece:
Nobody is saying gay people have to get married—only that it should be a legal option if they want it. If you disagree with marriage, don’t get married.
This is good for the U.S. to think about because just as there are many nuances and shades in different religious groups (literal factual readers of The Bible vs. metaphorical historical readers of The Bible), there are some in the GLBT fold as well.
Linda Hirshman wrote a thoughtful piece about the combo of homosexuality, serving in the military, and marriage in wake of the hearings to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. If you look back to the 1960′s movements for gay rights and anti-war protests, who would of guessed that gays would want to be in the military? On the other hand, many shouldn’t be surprised with the paradoxical GOP:
Conservatives are normally out there urging people to fight and to marry. A conservative president launched two wars, and conservatives tried to impeach the adulterous Bill Clinton. When it comes to gays and lesbians wanting to defend their country or provide a stable, loving union, the right wing is suddenly on the other side.
Why are they fighting?
Gays argue that open service and same sex marriage are matters of simple equality—which sounds good, because everyone agrees that inequality is un-American and bad. But the contest over equality cannot possibly account for the passion on both sides of these issues. Who is against equality, abstractly? The fight is hot because gays are seeking equal access to the very social institutions, marriage and the military, that confer social approval. In America, and in most of western culture, the soldier and the householder are models of social virtue. If gays can marry and serve their country, well, “Gay is Good” as the old movement button says.
Breaking this down shows how many gays are forced to live lives equal to second rate citizens. Whether those who support DADT and are against same-sex marriage intend that outcome or not, this is what is imbued into their realities. In the case of DADT, the government is called to enforce and uphold Judeo-Christian “morals” when last time I checked there was a separation of church and state. No government is to support or trample on any religious institution. The church already calls gays sinners and throws them down into the ranks of being untouchables. Now the church wants to continue having the state enforce their morals in an ambiguous and guised manner.
Many of the hot topic issues today have the ability of being labeled “the civil rights issue” of our time; homosexuality and having openly gay military members serving, both intertwined yet separate, are strikingly resemblant of Plessy v. Ferguson:
The Pentagon noted that some of the resistance it found to open service came from “moral and religious objections to homosexuality.” Without missing a step, the report continued, “aside from that, much of the concern about ‘open’ service is driven by misperceptions and stereotypes,” which were “exaggerated” and “inconsistent with” the military’s actual experience, concluding, without another word about peoples’ religious morality, that the policy should be repealed.
Separating the classes, groups, and or those with different sexual orientations divides our country, our humanity, and threatens our national security. Also, Hirshman singles out the unwritten qualifications required for presidency or high office. Just as our presidents have to have a church / religious experience to be considered ripe for our commander and chief position, so do they have to be normal in terms of having a heterosexual marriage and a glowingly unblemished family. Again, we have a separation of church and state but Judeo-Christian morals and ideals are upheld as normal and “the way”. You’ll be damned to not follow them if you want to be president or a “normal” citizen, so goes today’s wind.
Here is a long essay mulling over North America’s shifts within the same-sex marriage fight. Although I don’t fully agree with it all, it is a good read and makes me think / form questions.
Should the Catholic church be forced to evolve or rethink its stances via laws against its stances on adoption and same-sex parents?
I appreciate the honesty of the author and his lamentations over fanatics with signs hijacking the evangelical/Christian movement. Here’s a big statement worth quoting:
Worst of all, we have failed to deal honestly with the major threat to marriage and the family: heterosexual adultery and divorce. Evangelicals divorce at the same rate as the rest of the population. Many evangelical leaders have failed to speak against cheap divorce because they and their people were getting divorced just like everyone else. And yet we have had the gall to use the tiny (5 percent or less) gay community as a whipping boy that we labeled as the great threat to marriage.
Here are some other worthy quotes:
The former vice president of Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, Ed Dobson, got it right. After he left Liberty to become pastor of Calvary Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, he regularly visited a former parishioner’s hospitalized son who turned out to have AIDS. Slowly, he sensed a call to serve other people with AIDS.
He decided to visit the local AIDS resource center run by the gay community. The director was shocked that the pastor of the largest evangelical church in town would visit. Dobson’s church was soon deeply engaged with the gay community. Calvary placed a church member on the board of the AIDS resource center, bought Christmas gifts for families affected by AIDS, paid for funeral expenses for impoverished people who died of AIDS, and welcomed the gay community to attend the church.
Of course, it was controversial. One church member warned that the church would be “overrun by homosexuals.” Dobson responded in his next Sunday sermon: “If the church gets overrun with homosexuals, that will be terrific. They can take their place in the pews right next to the liars, gossips, and materialists.”
At one point in this essay, I reflected on the topic of “witnessing”. I first knew the phrase as an approach to sharing one’s faith with non-believers (or who we thought were non-believers). I have heard quite a bit before from evangelical circles or individuals that being a good “witness” is important. They were referring to one’s lifestyle and how it may be interpreted by others and especially those outside the church. Christianity is seen by non-church goers as anti-gay (held by 91%) as well within its own pews (held by 80%). That is a witness that is buttressed by the Westboro Baptist Church, wing nut evangelicals, and various other pundits. In the end, the church at large has been branded, as Dobson has noted, as “better at hating than loving”, better at focusing on the differences between other children of God than the similarities, and most notably better at not communicating, listening, or learning others stories (the grey areas – everything is not black and white).
Finally to the procreation point:
But everything depends on the definition. If marriage is not about bringing up children, but about how adults solemnize their emotional commitment to each other, gay marriage becomes plausible.
Is emotional commitment between two adults what the state should care about in marriage? What should a state that does not establish any religion understand marriage to be? I think the answer is clear. The state must promote the best setting in which to nurture the next generation of wholesome citizens.
Evangelical wing nuts, such as Bryan Fischer, see marriage as meant for birthing a minimum of 3 kids and should be ready for our youth by the time they are 16. I don’t know why marriage has been hijacked and held up with a ”procreate or your marriage is not a true marriage’ mantle. Many couples, I bet, have contemplated not having kids after being married and spending time with friends and their children. It is extremely ignorant and hurtful to imply that couples who get married and don’t have kids are not fulfilling an unwritten duty.
In the end, this comes down to what we each define as Truth, what black and white stereotypes we hold up as molds everyone truly fits into, discerning how our houses of worship and communities have turned from communal (seen as evil socialism!!!!) into a narcissistic individualism (free capitalism! America!), and asking the questions or taking down the guards to see these situations/battles/ideological wars in a softer, more pragmatic frame of being.
Our political and religious leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future.
They can’t serve our country openly.
VARIETY OF SPEAKERS:
What’s worse, these laws that legislate discrimination teach bullies that what they’re doing is acceptable.
Our government treats the LGBT community like second class citizens, why shouldn’t they?
My time in the classroom has had me listening in to what students talk about and most notably how they address one another. In each one of my classes yesterday, for example, there was at least one instance of someone being called gay. I thought of Andrew Marin and instantly asked a few probing questions about their gay assertions. My second question is usually “do you know that my uncle is gay?” Most student usually do not look up at me when I ask them this and burrow down, trying hard to possibly hide their embarrassment. I don’t take what they say personally and I usually sit down near them and talk through with them about what they are saying and feeling inside when they throw about a usual “he’s gay” assertion.
Most male students are nervous of the possibility of a gay male student hitting on them, touching them, or openly pursuing them. I ask them if this has ever happened to them or anyone they know. I haven’t heard of one student who has had an example of this happening. Truly, the irrational fear of being hit on has found a place in many people, young and old, of white or of foreign descent, and is in dire need of direct addressing.
Some other students then assume fellow students of theirs are gay by the way they dress, who they hang out with, and by other various behaviors they see and judge. One boy said yesterday that he thought a female student he knew was gay because she hung out with all girls. I asked him what if this girl had been abused and raped by her father, uncle, or other male in her life and never wanted to be touched by a man or be around one if she didn’t have to. Instantly, the boy said that that treatment of the girl is totally wrong. In the end, we sometimes never really know.
I don’t know if that sparked a light bulb moment for him, and ultimately that is beyond my powers, but I hope to instill in the students a few things. One, when I am their teacher, each student will be treated by one another with respect and not isolated, put down, or demonized. Second, I want to get across that the label of “he/she is gay” is so ingrained that we don’t even think about its ramifications or where it comes from.
I still am not convinced after studying the scriptures from both sides of the ideological aisle what my final view on same-sex attraction, marriage, or DADT is. What I can stand for is not treating students, citizens, or normal human beings as second rate citizens, looking to talk about these issues first theologically and then politically, and seeing these large, complex issues just as they are: large and complex and needed to be seen under the scope of a human, Godly lens along with the Constitution (which doesn’t say anything about who one can or can’t marry).
I see a big issue with the way fellow humans are being treated. A study polled 2,300 people and found that a third of the respondents believed pets to be classified as family while same-sex couples are not. I do not see this in a dominion theology perspective, in that all creatures and animals should be under the dominion of man. I see a problem with what has become a 21st centuries civil rights dispute which has subsequently placed some humans as second-rate citizens within the United States.
Cody J. Sanders describes this theologically-based treatment of the GLBT community as “anti-gay bullying“. There are the obvious and flagrant examples of this that are mostly dismissed as Christianist fanaticism wrapped in a warped sense of fundamentalism. Sanders comes down on churches that are under a quieter guise yet still capable of being hurtful and damaging:
More difficult to address are the myriad ways in which everyday churches that do a lot of good in the world also perpetuate theologies that undergird and legitimate instrumental violence. The simplistic, black and white lines that are drawn between conceptions of good and evil make it all-too-easy to apply these dualisms to groups of people. When theologies leave no room for ambiguity, mystery and uncertainty, it becomes very easy to identify an “us” (good, heterosexual) versus a “them” (evil, gay).
Additionally, hierarchical conceptions of value and worth are implicit in many of our theological notions. Needless to say, value and worth are not distributed equally in these hierarchies. God is at the top, (white, heterosexual) men come soon after and all those less valued by the culture (women, children, LGBT people, the poor, racial minorities, etc.) fall somewhere down below. And it all makes perfect sense if you support it with a few appropriately (mis)quoted verses from the Bible.
With dualistic conceptions of good and evil and hierarchical notions of value and worth, it becomes easy to know who it is okay to hate or to bully or, seemingly more benignly, to ignore.
Describing this strand of Christianity as “leaving no room for ambiguity, mystery and uncertainty” rings in my head. Therefore, I put forth an “against the grain” proposition for when Christian theology and same-sex topics collide. I give credit to Andrew Marin and his fine book for helping me with solidifying my ideas.
1) Let’s be bold enough to move beyond signs, sound bites, and short phrases: Marin notes that “it’s easy to stand with a sign: its difficult and bold to intentionally live life with another human to make a significant impact for the kingdom.” Signs, short sound bites and theological musings do not do us or the discussion justice. Let us embrace the humanity aspect in this discussion (which is often lost in our uncomfortableness) and respect the complexity that pertains to it.
2) Let go of control: There is an overwhelming sense of “we need to control” in this discussion. It is well hidden under the guises of “I need to tell them the truth” (as if we fully know what God meant in the Bible when it came to homosexuality: was it against general promiscuity? was it really against monogamous and long term committed same-sex relationships?) or “we need to go back to how marriage was in the good old days / biblical times”. These are all somewhat noble but ultimately can be a roadblock to what God may be working. Let go of the need to see a conclusion in your own time.
I heard of a story of a man who was faithful in walking and supporting a woman struggling with her same-sex lifestyle. It was a six year long friendship. She eventually walked out on the friendship for her own reasons and cut off ties to all of those around her. It did not end in her “being converted” either to believing in God or becoming straight. All the man in this story did was work to be faithful to her in the time they could share.
3) Take up listening and asking as practices of life: this goes beyond the toxic debate of same-sex marriage and is invaluable in any relationship in life. The art of asking questions and listening to others opens you up to hearing stories, feelings, thoughts, and should include closing your mouth while in the process. Also, try open ended questions. They can “require thought and responsiveness”.
4) We are not the solution: This may shock those who feel the “need to speak into someones life if you see them swerving off the path.” What are you to say if a friend tells you that “they have listened to God as you have showed me, and he told me its OK to be gay?” Turning to defensiveness is stepping between that person and God. We cannot be the ultimate solution to someones spiritual journey.
Bill Graham was at a rally supporting former president Bill Clinton after his sex scandal came out. Someone asked him why he, of all people, would attend this event. He replied that “it is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge and my job to love.”
Matthew 7:1-5, written beautifully in The Message, states:
Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.
We can be frustrated with things we do not agree with, understand, or fully comprehend. We are to talk about it with others and not bottle it up. But we will never be without our own specks and logs, blemishes and dirty patches. This should be a humbling lesson to us all, one that keeps us all on the same level of humanity without lowering some to second-rate citizenship.
[Pictured: El mundo en contra / Against the world by eduardo meza
Shot with:Leica M6, Summicron C 50mm f2, Ilford FP4 125]