Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gay Religion: news of religion and GLBT folks: Four Reasons to NOT Oppose Same-Sex (Gay) Marriage

Gay Religion: news of religion and GLBT folks: Four Reasons to NOT Oppose Same-Sex (Gay) Marriage

By Richard Molling

There are four reasons why I believe that a person should not oppose same-sex marriage. Notice that not opposing is quite different from actively supporting. I am not asking anyone to shout their support or campaign for the concept. I am asking everyone to not stand in the way of making same-sex marriages legal for those who want to marry.

Many people have very strong emotional feelings about gay or same-sex marriage and strident rhetoric is often the result of venting those feelings. Rather than succumbing to my feelings, this article is my attempt to prompt others to engage in a reasoned, logical thought process while maintaining an open heart.

Reason 1 – A Christian’s Command to Follow Jesus

In matters of faith and religion the easiest approach is to simply defer to what your church and its leaders say. They are presumed to be experts in this area. That’s how I grew up.

As a Catholic youth I was taught that all religious questions and answers were to be found in the Baltimore Catechism. My only task was to memorize them. There were no other questions and no other answers. I was very frustrated by that stance because I had lots of other questions and many of the answers I was being given didn’t seem adequate. I was afraid to speak up because of the constant reminder that failure to follow the teachings of the Church would lead to an eternity of Hell fire and damnation.

As a young adult I had the good fortune to be schooled by Jesuits. Instead of memorizing pre-established questions and answers, they taught critical thinking and applied it to all areas of our lives including religious matters. They required us to think. To challenge underlying assumptions. To understand issues from multiple points of view. To develop our own rational answers to questions. To be able to logically defend our conclusions. Through this process I learned that there are very few easy answers.

As a person of faith, questioning religious positions is extremely difficult. But religious positions have been wrong before and need to be questioned. Remember that the Bible has been used in the past to justify slavery and to keep women subservient to men. So, before automatically condemning homosexuals on religious grounds and denying them access to marriage, we owe them a dose of critical thinking.

Christians are called to be followers of Jesus Christ, and one of the best ways is to live according to the lessons found in the Gospels. What you won’t find in the Gospels is a Jesus who extracted Bible verses and used their literal translation to brand people as special sinners. What you will find is a Jesus who used Scripture as a whole to declare that we all fall short. He told us to clean up our own acts first and not to judge others. He used parables and stories, not selected quotes, to teach important lessons. He said that we are to be known by our love and compassion for others, even our enemies. He showed us how to do that by reaching out to everyone and by including society’s outcasts in his circle of followers.

Nothing Jesus said or did had anything to do with condemning homosexuals or homosexuality. The only group that Jesus chastised was the religious leaders. In the 23rd chapter of Matthew he denounced them for placing heavy burdens on the shoulders of the people and for acting superior to others. He accused them of being hypocrites who talked about the letter of the law but failed to observe its spirit.

The concept of homosexuality was unknown in Biblical times. People then were aware of sex acts between men, but those acts were primarily a matter of demonstrating power and control over another person or simply satisfying lust. Two free men couldn’t have sex because the passive role was only acceptable for inferiors such as women, slaves or male youths who were not of age. People didn’t understand the concept of emotional and physical love between two men. They didn’t understand that this was an innate attraction not a choice. That level of understanding wasn’t achieved until relatively recently. Even the term homosexuality didn’t come into existence until the German psychologist Karoly Maria Benkert coined it in the late 19th century. Since in Biblical times women were considered inferior and the property of a man, sex between two females never even appeared on the Biblical radar screen.

Instead of judging the perceived shortcomings of others, Jesus demonstrated true love towards all.

“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’”
The Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 22, verses 34-40

Try to observe Jesus through the eyes of the Gospels. Try to imagine what he would do today. Would He condemn gays and lesbians? Would He try to deny them civil rights? Or would He draw them to Himself and shower them with extra love to make up for the pain they have suffered? Would He have harsh words for today’s religious leaders who attack homosexuals and same-sex marriage? Would He marry his gay friends and subsequently have His credentials removed by the church?

Reason 2 – Founding Principles of the United States

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”
The Declaration of Independence

When those words were first written, there were many unspoken exclusions beneath the surface equality. Women were assumed to be excluded. So were people of color, non-property owners and non-Christians. Those groups of people were viewed as having been created without the portfolio of unalienable rights enjoyed by white, Protestant, land-owning males whom God obviously favored. Since then, our society has expended enormous effort and achieved significant success in ending those exclusions and extending liberty and justice to an ever-widening circle of people. That effort of inclusion reversed course when it encountered homosexual people.

The primary driver of anti-gay attitudes is the conservative Christian community. One of their religious dogmas brands homosexuals as sexual perverts and unrepentant sinners. That religious belief system is being used to justify the exclusion of gays from Constitutional rights and protections. That approach is in direct violation of the First Amendment that prohibits the establishment of a state-approved religion. Have we forgotten that many of our ancestors fled their countries because their government was ruthlessly imposing some form of religion? Now we are busily creating yet another form of religious governance here. The inherent potential danger of this approach was highly visible in past horrors like the Spanish Inquisition and continues to the present in the theocratic forms of extreme Islamist governments that exist in parts of the Middle East. There are very good reasons to maintain a separation of Church and State even if it is your church today, because tomorrow it might be someone else’s church.

Others argue that marriage must be preserved for heterosexuals, but they are willing to concede some form of civil union or domestic partnership for gays. The concept of separate but equal was found to be constitutionally invalid in racial relations and isn’t valid here either. Any proposal short of full recognition of same-sex marriage remains discriminative by its very nature.

Do you really believe in liberty and justice for all? Do you really believe that people who are different from you in beliefs, skin color, religious affiliation, philosophical outlook or life style don’t deserve the same rights that you enjoy? This country has consistently overcome prejudicial stereotypes and sub-standard treatment of its minorities. How can a person extol the virtues of our system of government and then deny equal rights to gays?

Reason 3 – Faulty Arguments

Many seemingly logical arguments have been used to justify a different approach to dealing with gays and lesbians. Upon closer examination, most of those arguments fall apart because of false logic. Here are some of the most common examples.

One of the most basic arguments is that we are re-defining marriage. Contrary to what many say, marriage has not always been between one man and one woman. Our Biblical forefathers commonly married not only multiple women but had concubines as well. That practice fell into disfavor, but the Mormons reinstated it in the mid-1800s. Black slaves were considered property and hence were not allowed to marry. After the Civil War, blacks could marry other blacks but not whites. All inter-racial marriages were routinely banned in much of the country. Those laws remained on the books in almost one-third of our states until as recently as 40 years ago. Since we have clearly been continuously redefining marriage, we can’t argue against allowing gay marriage simply because it would also redefine marriage.

Some tell us that homosexuals are a special substandard class of sick or immoral people who have chosen a lifestyle that doesn’t deserve recognition or protection. Medical science has demonstrated that those statements are erroneous. The American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association have declared that homosexuality is neither mental illness nor moral depravity but simply the way that a minority of our population expresses human love and sexuality. Therefore there is no legitimate medical or psychological reason to treat them differently.

Some charge that gays live aberrant life styles, don’t create lasting relationships and therefore would destroy the institution of marriage. It is true that some gays live aberrant life styles. Some heterosexuals also live aberrant life styles, but no one attempts to ban marriage for all heterosexuals. It is true that some gays have transient relationships. Some heterosexuals also have transient relationships but no one attempts to ban marriage for all heterosexuals based on that fact. It is ironic that while we criticize gays for their “abnormal” life styles, we are constructing legal and social barriers to prevent them from having normal life styles and lasting relationships. Our current practice of forcing homosexuals to live together without the benefit of marriage actually serves to create the very situation that we then use to say proves that they don’t deserve access to marriage.

Still others claim that they want to protect marriage from destruction by homosexual participation, but heterosexuals are doing a pretty good job of ruining the institution of marriage by themselves. During most years of the 1990s, for every two marriages there was one divorce. These were all heterosexual unions and 50% failed.

We have grown up with heterosexual marriage, so the concept of same-sex marriage seems foreign to us. It may be different, but being different isn’t sufficient reason for rejection. If it were, then no existing forms of injustice or mistreatment would ever change. We could simply say, “It’s always been this way,” and the practice would continue.

Reason 4 – The Golden Rule

Treat others the way that you want to be treated is a matter of simple humanity. There is a version of this “rule” in every major religion and humanitarian philosophy. We are supposed to care about others. We may not rush to help them with monetary or material support but, at the very least, we are not supposed to harm them or prevent them from finding happiness. Most times, most of us find it easy to support the golden rule. Yet we somehow manage to justify excluding same-sex marriage from the Golden Rule.

The Jewish concept of “Tikun Olam” is an extension of the Golden Rule and is a spiritual command to repair the world. It embraces the quest for social justice, freedom, equality, peace and a restoration of the environment. It is a call to action and recognizes that each act of human kindness helps to build a new and better world. You won’t find a shred of human kindness in denying gays the opportunity to marry.

What we all need to realize is that this is not a theoretical academic idea, abstract religious concept or hypothetical political philosophy. This is about real people trying to lead a life of love, hope and happiness. How can anyone justify standing in their way? Having gays and lesbians marry doesn’t affect the marriages of any other people. They aren’t asking you to fight for their right to marry. They aren’t asking you to applaud and celebrate their marriages. They only ask that you allow them to have the same thing that you have – a chance to find love and happiness with a partner of their choice.

If your happiness was threatened by a hostile society, you would feel and understand the sting of unwarranted discrimination. How then can you hoard access to fundamental human wants, needs and desires for yourself and deny them to fellow human beings whose only “crime” is that they were born with a different sexual orientation? On what grounds can such an action ever be justified?

Where Does that Leave Us?

I am not a homosexual but have many friends who are. They have expressed the anguish they have felt by their exclusion from main stream society based solely on their sexual orientation. They feel that such rejection is wrong from a spiritual standpoint, from a civil rights standpoint, from a logical standpoint and from a purely human standpoint. I couldn’t agree more. Anyone who is willing to set aside pre-existing views and takes the time to study the issue as described here would likely reach a similar conclusion. It takes effort, BUT…

To be a truly spiritual person requires effort.

“What does God require of us …
To do justice
To love kindness
To walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6:8

To be a true proponent of our country’s founding principles requires effort.

"Any man who seeks to deny equality among all his brothers
betrays the spirit of the free and invites the mockery of the tyrant."
President Dwight David Eisenhower, Inaugural Address, 1953

To use valid logical arguments requires effort.

“He that cannot reason is a fool.
He that will not is a bigot.
He that dare not is a slave.”
Andrew Carnegie

To be a compassionate human being requires effort.

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
The Dalai Lama

If you agree, then your course of action is clear. If you have any doubts, then simply stand aside and allow spiritual love, civil justice, truth and human compassion to work. That isn’t asking too much when the happiness of so many lives is at stake!

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