Sunday, May 13, 2012

Gay Marriage and all the Bigger Issues around It

I am immensely thankful for my experiences in high school. I attended a little utopia of cultural integration, the likes of which exist few places, if anywhere, on earth. The greatest thing about it, is that while there, we, at the end of the day, all managed to work toward our individual goals and exist together. Through experience and instruction in that environment, I learned not to equate "normal" with "good" or "moral", and to regularly question  my assumptions, behaviors and comforts.

Another takeaway from that environment, was getting used to living in mixed environments with people who were different and whose lives were in direct contrast to my own. I live that way now (as is my preference) so when the discussion of Gay marriage came to a head again with our President sharing his view on the issue, I started seeing a firestorm of different opinions from people around me...even within groups. I have a lot of pastors in my life...some hardcore Right-wing, others staunch members of the Christian Left, all of various races. Even within the Black church, I'm seeing disagreement on the issue.

I think the first opportunity for Christians (or anyone for that matter) in situations like this is to examine ourselves, our behaviors and our practices. I've been disappointed and uplifted on many levels through all this...

  • Disappointed because, for many, there has yet to be any mention of the word "love" regarding addressing the struggles of our Gay/Lesbian brothers and sisters. These people are facing deprivation of the very basic necessities of life (not just marriage), and as Christians, we shouldn't sweep that issue under the rug because we disagree with their sexual practices. 
  • Disappointed in some Black people because, at the end of the day, we are talking about denying a group of people their rights, and we should be able to at least empathize.
  • Hopeful because the discussion is being had at all and I can see changes, small though they may be, in the treatment of GLBT people around me. 
  • Disappointed, because the Bible teaches against many things...especially remarriage after divorce equaling adultery, yet no one is talking about that at either a civil or a sacred level. I genuinely think that's because for 99.999% of Christians against Gay marriage, their motives are based not on wanting to apply scripture at a national level, but instead on sexual prejudices and wanting to continue to exclude and "one up" people who are different. 
  • Hopeful, because I see many Christians opening up to treating people of different sexual orientations as equals and welcoming them into the church. 
  • Hopeful because I feel that maybe, we can kick off a genuine discussion of the place the application of scripture plays in civil issues.
So yeah...this is going to be a hard one. Personally, I cannot in good conscience deny people rights that I freely grant to others who are also engaged in "sinful unions" based solely only their demographic, regardless of what I believe about their sexual practices. I'm still mulling over the concept of separation of church and state but honestly, I think we all need to go to civil unions (for both Gay and Straight) and make marriages like funerals with more religious meaning than legal.

I do, however, feel churches shouldn't have to perform ceremonies they feel support sinful behavior...yes, that might result in the loss of their tax exempt status but I'm pretty sure tax breaks are not a God-given right

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Politics is killing American Christianity.

I'm 99% sure of that.

My cousin texted me today, telling me that she's reluctant to get involved with her church because she knows she's going to run into that "Republican Wall" (my words)...any Christian who doesn't bleed GOP red has run into it. It's deeper than just a disagreement and it casts a shadow long before you run into it. It's the reason that, every Thanksgiving and Christmas, I see people posting on the Facebook wall of the Christian Left, asking for ways to cope with their relatives' political assaults or prejudicial talk.

It's the speculation that comes when you hear someone say "I'm a Christian." It's the mistrust of the Ichthus fish on the back of a car. It's that feeling that eventually, if you continue to create deeper relationships without your church buddies, that you'll be faced with someone assuming you're a staunch Republican because you own a Bible. As my cousin said "It means I can never share my life with them." It's deeper than just political differences because, from what I've found, precious few on either side choose to draw distinction whatsoever between their political leanings and their faith. I'm not one to believe that one's faith is meant to be 100% separate from the way you vote, but I do believe that certainty about where God lies in the political system is arrogance in one of its ugliest forms and an affront to the body of Christ. Yes, both sides are guilty, but I have to say I see many more infractions from the Right. I dread any conversation turning political. Any mention of President Obama. Any talk of guns. Because then the relationship stops progressing down a path of revelation and turns to one of conflict and unlikely resolution.

Newest member of club Kindle.

I've had this beef for a probably struck me hardest though, not when a woman bounced jauntily into Bible study with a Tea Party sign after a rally in 2007, but instead when talking about the US population and imigrants, another lady remarked "They're starting to out number us. We have to do something about it." What struck me most about that, is that she thought to even make the comment to me in the first place. It was a conversation between the two of us, so it wasn't a case of "oops, didn't realize there was a minority present". The first thing I thought was "This woman has absolutely no concern for me as an individual, because if she had, she would hold her tongue at the possibility that I were an immigrant or even for the sake that I'm a minority period."

It disturbs me...the whole thing...and I didn't realize how deeply ingrained it was in me. A while back at the gym, I ran into a guy. He constantly berates homosexuals in whispered tones to guys he knows won't object. I've heard his son doing the same thing. I immediately assumed him to be Christian, because, well, hateful speech at that level seems to have become the norm for conservative members of the church.

Then I found out he was an athiest. I was confused. I stereotype atheists as being open-minded and at least, tolerant (something that is quite untrue). It hit me then, how deeply some experiences had shaped my opinion of the conservative Christian. Don't get me wrong, I have conservative Christian friends who are great people and don't need politics to define themselves. They are special people though, whose personal stumbling blocks don't seem to be bigotry and apathy toward other humans.

It all makes me wonder if we can get past this, both as a country, and more importantly, as a faith. I saw again last night how deeply it affects me when I prayed for these people and it was hard.