I am horrified. I am deeply embarrassed and ashamed of my fellow sisters and brothers in Christ. While I, as a straight woman in a heterosexual union, spent two Fridays ago embracing several co-workers and exchanging rainbow cupcakes around the office in celebration of the civil-rights victory, many others were writing hideously calloused and rote “laments” about “the erosion of morals,” wringing their hands in fear of losing their own religious freedoms and bemoaning the un-democratic process of the Supreme Court. I can’t even begin to address all the sloppy and self-serving exegesis flying around the Internet but there are a few things I think it’s important to say.
1) ALL SCOTUS decisions are un-democratic and it’s the rancid height of apathy to only be complaining about it only NOW when it relates to gay marriage. Think about it: nine people, who are appointed (as in, not voted into office) by the president (who is also, technically, not directly appointed by a popular vote) FOR LIFE, can overrule any law of the land with a single vote. I mean that both ways: one voting session and one tie-breaking vote, which is how gay marriage became legal in the US last month. This has ALWAYS been true about the Supreme Court in any of its decisions and it’s awfully convenient to be crying “tyranny” only now.
2) Another thing that has always been true is that the ban on gay marriage has always been un-Constitutional. Even if the Bible were to define marriage as being between a man and a woman as clearly as the most unfortunately outspoken opponents of homosexuality think it does, the Bible and the Constitution are not the same thing and, at least as far as I can tell, the only reason gay marriage was illegal in this country up until last month is because of the strong influence of conservative Christian views (which, of course, is not “religious freedom” for anyone else). But the separation of Church and State is a very, very good thing, because it at least in theory means that the government cannot mandate your religion. The goodness of this, though, might only be obvious to you if you’re not a Christian in this country.
3) Speaking of being unable to mandate religion, the “attack on religious freedoms” argument is as common as it is baffling to me. In the first place, legalizing something doesn’t necessarily compel it and actually, legalizing gay marriage gets the state out of an institution I can’t imagine being any more personal than marriage (which, for those who claim to be republican – it used to mean ‘small government’ – this should be a really good thing, too). But more importantly, I don’t see how it’s not obvious that using the “religious freedoms” argument is not a pruriently self-interested double standard. So you want the protection to “exercise your religious freedoms” (what does that even look like in terms of same-sex relationships, really, because I’m mostly seeing the breaking of fellowship and megaphoned bigotry from the Church in general – yes, there are always exceptions – at this point) but you’re completely fine with denying someone else their Constitutional rights to the pursuit of happiness? That can get grotesquely individualistic real quick and co-opting Christ for self-actualization is as rampant in this culture as it is wrong. And I have said before that I am pretty bothered by the trump card that is “this is just who I am” in all its many forms.
But this is usually the part where I hear that Christians are called to “deny themselves” or about how homosexuality is a sin and should not be supported, etc. All right, then, what sin of yours should we outlaw, discriminate against and exclude you from society because of? It’s so easy to claim self-denial as the Christian way when you’re in the comfort of privilege without having any idea what you’re asking others, who are starting out (legally, socially, economically, etc.) much lower than you to give up. But let’s be very clear about one thing: you are not being “persecuted” in a country that decides to grant equal access to the LEGAL benefits of marriage to all its citizens- stuff like power of attorney by default (as in, without petition), tax breaks, visitations rights and the rights (indeed, responsibilities) to make medical decisions for your spouse in the event they are unable to. (For reference, you WOULD be being persecuted if, say, you get your head cut off for not renouncing Christ, but in that case, Jesus says to keep from retaliating and leave justice up to the Lord, not create a seething cultural mess that has left countless people homeless, isolated and/or dead.)
4) Even if homosexuality were definitely a sin, crying “moral decline” about it when you’re not vocal about any other evidence of moral decline is intolerably hypocritical. We’re going to call gay marriage moral decline but we’re not, as a church, going to get pissed off about the environmental destruction, the violation of everyone’s rights by our government every day they secretly and unlawfully conduct mass surveillance, the Wall Street Bank bailouts, the handsome bonuses to unduly powerful people who ruined the economy of an entire nation and thus the lives of millions, the human trafficking that reaches its peak during the Super Bowl (funded by a “non-profit” that pays zero federal taxes) but continues daily in every major city of this country as you read this, and on and on?
Really? GAY MARRIAGE is the evidence of moral decline? Two people who want to make a consensual, lifelong commitment of LOVE and LOYALTY to each other is evidence of moral decline? Because they happen to be of the same gender? My point is again, not to take a stab at what Scripture says (because then I would have to point out all the very clear commandments to care about the earth, look after the poor, care for the orphan and the widow and the part where it says that the love of money is the root of all evil, the part that condemns greed and lust and charging interest, and there just isn’t room for all of that today). My point is that it is way past time to stop circling around this issue like vultures, using it as a political pawn and engaging in petty, pious fights about it, especially when there there are a) actual people involved that need the care of Jesus and b) huge and actual threats to the only planet we have – ones which Christians are obligated to care about – that need us to unite and stand up in fight.
It is truly astounding to me that two people of the same gender wanting the same legal rights as two people of the opposite gender has so crippled, distracted and divided the body expressly called by God to be salt and light to a bloody, battered world because of six fairly ambiguous verses (and only three in the New Testament). This is not about whether Christians should “support” gay marriage or not (again, there’s not room in this post for such a discussion). This is about the exorbitant amounts of energy we seem to be willing to spend debating, fighting and hurting each other about it to the, yes, I’m going to say it, sinful neglect of AFFIRMATIVE commands God has given us. This is about, as it seems to me, our addiction to division. This is about the failure of the Church to live up to its call in a most dangerous kind of failure indeed: the one where we think we are doing good when really, we are doing bad, thinking we are defending morality and truth when really, we are destroying people and ourselves, both actively with our un-Christian ethic of exclusion and passively, by neglecting real and present (as in, not future) threats like environmental degradation, unchecked greed of stateless corporations, blatant racism coupled with the fact that we have to have a discussion about whether shooting nine black people in a Church because, as the shooter said while he was murdering them, they were black is actually racism, and the lethal levels of loneliness we continue to let stand.