Being Christian Means I Don't Care (A response to "I'm Christian Unless You're Gay")
Last month, the internet seemed to be buzzing with the same sex marriage debate. Equal rights, the right to love and 'hate the sin, not the sinner' being the predominant themes of status updates and blog posts. It brought me back to the November offering, "I'm Christian, Unless You're Gay" by Dan Pearce.
This piece has been haunting me. The trouble is I don't disagree. I don't feel that same sex marriages threaten my religious beliefs. I don't feel threatened by individuals who identify themselves as gay or lesbian. I've read the Bible. I believe that Jesus died for our sins. I believe that Moses led the Jews out of Egypt and out into the desert for 40 years of nomadic life. I believe that G-d has a plan. I don't believe that it's an atrocity for two individuals to choose to share their lives together. In fact, I don't think it's any of my business who wears your ring, as long as they are willing and able to consent to wearing it. But the piece still bothers me.
I admit there are Bible passages condemning homosexual behavior. But anyone reading the Bible should also be reading it in context. Two thousand years ago was still the time of so called pagan gods. Their followers participated in many rituals, some of which were harmless and some of which were humiliating and demeaning, if not downright dangerous, to other humans. Part of the code that Moses introduced to his people was to denounce the pagan ways. Stop building idols. Stop worshiping idols. And don't use sexual acts as a form of worship. Men (and women) are to be treated with respect and dignity regardless of their station in life.
No matter how many times I read the story of Lot, who lived Sodom and Gomorrah, I don't envison a village of upstanding families destroyed because the heads of household happened to be of the same sex. In fact, of all the atrocities made clear in the text I can't help but wonder if a loving marriage between two individuals might well have saved either city, regardless of genders.
I know the ten commandments. In there, I'm warned that I should not be writing this Hub on a Sunday (or Saturday, whichever day you believe to be the Sabbath). Simply using His name irreverantly is forbidden. I'm warned not to commit adultery or covet my neighbor's wife. (To covet is simply to desire for oneself what belongs to another. It's similar to jealousy.) But it does not specify 'thou shalt not commit thyself to a member of the same sex as in marriage.' Moses was too busy transcribing rules against murder, lies and treating your parents with disrespect to clarify marriage's definition, beyond the idea of faithfulness.
I've read the book of Matthew, where the savior clearly states that we all have our own lives to worry about. "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eyes. Then you will see clearly to remove the speck in your brother's eye." Since we are all sinners, this is just another way of saying we are not the ones to judge. I'm not saying homosexuality is a sin. I'm only saying that judgement is not left to us. That's between G-d and those worshiping Him.
Of course, none of that is even relevant to the debate about whether or not same sex marriages are constitutional. Way back in the 17th century, America was a religious sanctuary for those persecuted for their beliefs. The first amendment grants us freedom of religion. That freedom doesn't just apply to who we talk to when we pray or the words we use to pray. It means that, so long as our individual beliefs do not infringe on the inherent rights of other individuals to practice their own personal religious beliefs, we can believe and worship as we please. The choice of a life partner has very little to do with religious worship. It has even less to do with preventing others from practicing their religious beliefs.
But for some reason, churches band together to denounce marriages as immoral. Individuals are berated as sinners for the simple desire to dedicate their life to the love, honor and respect of a spouse who happens to share anatomical features beyond eyes and ears.
Who defines sin? As a secular nation, the government doesn't have a right to judge people beyond the letter of the country's laws. A country's laws are in place to protect citizens from harm. Our constitution grants us rights based on the fact that all mankind is created equal and is granted certain inalienable rights. We have the right to worship in a synagogue, a catholic church or a mosque. We can bow our heads or prostrate ourselves. We can speak to G-d, a patron saint or a block of cheese for all the law cares. But when it comes time to propose, we have to verify that there is one, and only one, Y chromosome between us.
From a legal standpoint, I don't see where the big question comes in. If two people want to dedicate their lives to each other, with all the legal priviliges and responsibilities that ensue, the only question should be whether or not they both are capable of and willing to consent. From a religious standpoint, I can't pretend to know G-d's will. I am responsible for my choices. I can accept that someone else's family may look different from my own. And from a moral standpoint, a dedicated and respectful relationship between two consenting and loving individuals doesn't concern me.
But morality isn't up to the law to dictate. While crime and sins sometimes overlap, they don't always. No one blinks when a telemarketer calls and you pretend to be the housesitter. Marriages break up due to infidelity, but it isn't a crime. The sabbath is either a work day or last-chance-to-get-something-done-before-Monday to most Americans. While you can request a religious exemption, and can not be fired for celebrating the Sabbath, the law only dictates your right to personally practice your personal religious beliefs.
My religion is between me and G-d. I believe that yours is, too. What's more...I don't believe that anyone's religious beliefs should dictate the legality of marriage. I'm Christian no matter who you love, or who you choose to spend your life with. I care that you treat others with respect. I care that your household upholds values such as treating others with respect, appropriate language use, and ethical behavior. If my child comes over to play, I want to know that guns and alcohol are inaccessible and that inappropriate content will not be on the TV. I care that her needs will be met and respected.
Who you share your life with? I only care that they uphold similar values and that they treat you with the love and respect you deserve. Which public restroom they use, which section they shop for clothing in and whether or not they should visit a gynecologist every few years is really none of my concern. People are individuals. Marriages are unique. Let's just accept that and move on.
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