A Struggle for Marriage Equality
Half of all marriages in the United States end in divorce, a percentage which is even higher in the Bible Belt. An ever increasing number of marriages begin on websites like E-Harmony or Christian-Singles.com. Serious presidential contenders openly talk about their problem with gays and lesbians. Yet, love is not quite considered love when it occurs between people of the same sex.
Every May, when Gallup launches its insightful surveys, the public is afforded a chance to get a sense of what the population as a whole actually thinks about social and political issues relating to gay and lesbian lifestyles. In 2010, for the first time ever, a majority of Americans supported gay and lesbian unions as "morally acceptable" relationships. Despite this, there remains no political party, no religious authority, and no true coalition of consensus which considers "love equality" fundamental to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This seems true to Chomsky's axiom, that the government no matter which party is in power, rests to the right of public opinion.
As a kid who had a Catholic father and a Protestant mother, I was a member of the Community United Methodist Church to which neither parent was affiliated. As I got older I came to suspect that the reason for this was the proximity of the Church to my house, i.e. it was the closest, most convenient place to worship. (Slightly unusual that the fate of my immortal soul should be left to the zoning laws, but that is a separate issue.) Growing up, I felt I had a lot to be proud of with regard to my religion. It was important to me that the founders of Methodism were in a real sense revolutionaries who would not be held accountable to the mainstream clergy of the day who taught in languages the congregation couldn't understand, who sold tickets to heaven for the right price, and who said the only way to understand God was to come to them. As a kid, never once was I subjected to hearing a sermon which told me that I was saved for being a member of the congregation, whilst my neighbors, friends and family who were not Methodists would be dammed. Never was I asked to abandon values or knowledge which was acceptable Monday through Saturday, in exchange for the type of lesson you only get on Sunday. I was never coerced into belief through fear of Hell, in fact I'm not sure if Hell was ever mentioned. Church worship was about all that is good in life, all that is worth fighting and dying for, all that which makes us want to be better people. Having attended Catholic mass, where it was made clear that as a non-Catholic I was not to partake in communion, I was proud to be a member of a Church where anyone who wished to worship Christ was welcomed to participate in the Eucharist. This was my conception of God, and of religion, because it was my only life experience.
Marriage Equality in the UMC
In the Book of Leviticus it says that all of us are morally obligated to stone homosexuals to death. I must confess my own disdain for the idea that the creator of the universe has a vested interest in punishing its "perfect" creations for the crime of loving an individual of the same sex. The idea that a person can be judged and convicted for whats in their heart and mind is an absolutely wicked and entirely religious one, which thankfully has no basis. "Created sick, then commanded to be well" as the late and great Christopher Hitchens has quipped. Yet, moving past this archaic conception is painfully slow. It's astonishing that the murder of a member of the LGBT community, for the "crime" of being gay, getting labeled as a hate crime, is considered enough progress that there is no more to be done.
In the Summer of 2011, New York became the sixth, and largest state, to legalize same-sex marriage. In the Fall, a group of over 160 UMC pastors declared their intention to support the equal rights of gays and lesbians in the Church, including the right to marry a spouse of their heart's choice. Although this stance is in defiance of the official UMC platform, it has found a welcomed if not over-due, reception from dozens of congregations in the New York and tri-state area. Although the declaration is in itself acceptable, if a pastor acts on it, they may lose their ordination. For taking a position in favor of human dignity and respect, the clergy run the risk of losing their jobs.