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Less Backlash More Back and Forth

It saddened me when Arizona and other states passed initiatives attacking the GLBT community, an often demonized and misunderstood minority. As an American, I saw equality for all fall; as a Christian I saw love held less important than tradition.

Since the passage of these Jim Crow style initiatives, there has been backlash against the initiatives’ supporters, specifically against the LDS Church. I understand the need to express anger. Surely I would lash out against a law declaring love between a Protestant and a Catholic invalid and illegal?

But I suggest that we move away from retribution and toward understanding. As Americans, we must tirelessly fight for equality for all, and at the same time as Christians, we must help those mired in tradition to understand that Christ commands that love, not tradition, be our guide. The latter can be achieved only through honest dialogue, not by punishing those who disagree.

A final note, it concerns me that of the triumvirate of intolerance—LDS , Catholic and Christian Fundamentalist churches—the LDS Church is bearing the brunt of the backlash. Is it because of the three that church is an easy target, an often demonized and misunderstood minority?

I sent this off to the Arizona Republic and the East Valley Tribune. The Republic only allows 200-words, which probably made this a better post than most of the stuff I write.

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Traditional Values from Hollywood

This weekend we went to see Four Christmases. First off, as a movie I think it totally delivers. I enjoy Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, I also like Starbucks and McDonalds. They served hot buttered popcorn at the theater and it was generally very pleasant. Exactly what I wanted.

Of course, the point of the movie is that we really all need to get married, childless relationships based solely on having fun are completely empty. How many movies are like that? Hundreds, right? I know a number of couples who just do not want to have children. I know a number more who haven’t decided one way or another, but aren’t sure. I know a few other people who are just happy being single, and don’t need to be permanently attached to another adult. I wonder if those folks would find this little inoffensive romp from Vince & Reese so inoffensive.

I am very happily married. I love my children and my church. I suspect, although I can’t be sure, that such a traditional set up is so traditional because it works well for many people. But whether it is generally best to live the life of JimII it certainly is not always best to live that life.

It relates to marriage equality in that I feel confident that I am unqualified to tell any specific person what his or her path to happiness is.

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AAARRRGGG!!!

So, here is the headline that caught my attention, “Hate Crimes, Racist Incidents Escalate After Obama’s Election” The article is here. I started thinking, “Man, I wish people would be more careful with this stuff.” I thought that because I seriously doubt whether anyone knows if hate crimes are on the rise. Sure, people have some compelling stories, but are they really on the rise, or are they just being showcased? It will be months until an credible method of monitoring such things will be available.

Then, I started reading the comments and the first person to post complained about the lack of outrage about the Prop 8 protesters attacking the Mormons. “What,” I thought, “is the matter with people? It took like 10 seconds on google to find people in the GLBT community calling for an end to this. Lots of people object to this behavior”

Then I looked a little further down, and people were justifying the violence against Mormons because “they are not Christians.” Uh, they are Christians, and since when is it okay for Christians to attack non-Christians.

Are you kidding me!

So, I think the deal here is that most people are decent, not crazy people. Looking at stuff on the web can be like watching local news that reports a fire everyday, even if it’s a fire from another state. I may need to stop reading comments on popular blogs.

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Choice?

I’ve often heard people ask whether being gay is a choice. See e.g., Bill Richardson’s response to Melissa Ethrige’s question. (Warning, it makes one cringe worse than any episode of the Office but here is the link.) I think it is a weird way to put things. For example, did I choose to like big band music more than classical music? Did I choose to like chocolate? If choose means to consciously, willingly pick between alternatives, then the answer is no.

The other alternative presented is “being born that way.” But, the opposite of a characteristic with which you were born, is not a characteristic you choose. It is a characteristic affected by your environment. Nature versus nurture. I am sure that is what the serious thinkers are looking into when doing research or writing white papers. But I think rephrasing the question “is it a choice” would allow for a more honest every day discussion.

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Outrage & Justice

A friend who is Mormon was expressing concern about the lack of voices decrying the vandalism and intimindation being directed against the LDS church in response to California’s rejection of Prop. 8. I was pleased to find a condemnation (which may be late in coming, I don’t know) in the first article I found on the topic.

While claiming it was incorrect to assume the suspicious powder came from gay protesters, the Utah Pride Center, an advocacy group of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, decride all vandalism aimed at the LDS Church in a written statement released Friday. “The Utah Pride Center is deeply troubled by the recent vandalism of LDS churches and the suspicious mailing to the LDS Temple,” the statement read. “These actions are deplorable and make our entire community fear for our safety.” . . . Equality Utah, [a] political advocacy group working for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people has released a statement urging civil and peaceful expressionas and conduct. “There is no room for violence, vandalism or indimidation–Equality Utah objects to these acts,” the organization’s statement said.

Full story. If you follow the link you will get the details on the attacks the Mormon Church has had to endure.

This Slate article is in line with what my Mormon friends report about the Church’s policy, which is more accepting that many fundamentalist churches. They condemn homosexual acts, but do not see homosexuality as a choice and would accept someone who was openly gay but chose celebacy as a response to his or her feelings.

Now, I would find it unimaginably horrible if someone said it was fine that I was attracted to women but a sin if I acted on it. I think the LDS community is wrong and it causes serious harm to its members who are gay. My point is only that the church’s position is less hateful than many churches, and it is unfortunate that it is bearing so much of the outrage over the injustice that is Prop 8, Prop 102, etc. [UPDATE: I think the “only” is misplaced. The lack of hatefulness is a significant difference.]

Oh yeah, and just for kicks here’s something that purports to be historic. Link.

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What’s the Analogy for Marriage Equality?

Analogies are of limited usefulness when trying to change someones mind. If I say, “It’s just like interracial marriage . . .” or someone else says, “It’s just like adult incest . . .”, you pretty much know where we stand. So the analogy ends up being little more than stating your opinion.

I think analogies are more helpful when we are trying to analyze our own thoughts. So, consider the following list of potential or actual changes to marriage laws:

* Allowing fourteen year-olds to marry with parental consent
* Allowing a white person to marry a black person
* Allowing an adult man to marry his adult sister
* Allowing people to divorce without stating a cause
* Allowing an adult man to marry two adult women
* Recognizing a year of continuous cohabitation as a marriage

Why are each of these like or unlike allowing an adult man to marry another adult man, or an adult woman to marry another adult woman? Does this give you insight into your position on recognizing the marriages of gays and lesbians?

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Opposing Equal Marriage Rights (Part III)

In Part II I tried to address those who would shrug their shoulders and say, “Well, look, it’s what the Bible says; I didn’t come up with it.” But, Part II doesn’t end the discussion. Paul says you shouldn’t be greedy. He says you shouldn’t be sexually perverse. He says you shouldn’t be swindlers. I agree with all of these, and in fact, they provide good advice for our times. My point is, that Part II doesn’t “prove” that you should blow off what Paul said, but it should help people understand that just because some folks who don’t like gay people found a verse or two opposing gay sex, the job of the Christian seeking to understand whether gay relationships are valuable before the eyes of God is not done. There is more searching to be done.

So, what to do with two people of the same gender who are romantic in love with each other? If tradition is most important, if the old ways is most important, than we should not recognize their love. Their love is different than what we are used to and it is contrary to the Hebrew law and Paul’s instruction. On the other hand, if love is what is important, if that love has some how replaced adherence to tradition, then we should recognize their love.

Look at what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount about some related topics:

Adultery
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

Divorce
“It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

It seems to me that these scriptures suggest a move away from legalism toward a deeper understanding of fidelity. I’ve suggested before that a major theme of the Sermon on the Mount is this shift.

Of course, most important for me is not my study of scripture on this topic. The fact is, I know several couples in which both people are men or both people are women. It is simply inconcievable that these relationship are lesser than those in which one person is a man and one is a woman. Just as with any question of faith, it is my experience that has the most powerful impact on what I believe.

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Opposing Equal Marriage Rights (Part II)

What does the Bible says about gay marriage? The Bible says absolutely nothing about gay marriage, just as it says nothing about first trimester abortions, or stem cell research. The Bible does talk about men having sex with men and women having sex with women. Here is what it says:

Paul to the Corinthians, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” 1 Cor. 6:9-10.

The Torah: “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” Lev. 18:22.

The Torah: “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.” Lev. 20:13.

The Torah: “There shall be no whore of the daughters of Israel, nor a sodomite of the sons of Israel.” Deut. 23:17. (I had to use the KJV here because sodomites is translated as prostitute in the NIV.)

Then there is this strange little story in Genesis wherein Lot offers his daughters to a mob of men who have come to rape the two male angels that are visiting Lot, just before God destroys Sodom. Then Lot leaves the town, his daughters get him drunk, and they all have sex in order to keep the race of alive. They become the Ammonites.

So, I don’t know what you get out of the story of Lot. The rule seems to be that it is wrong for a mob to rape angels, even more wrong than allowing a mob to rape your daughters. Seems to not really inform the gay marriage discussion.

Then we have the three excerpts from the Torah. First, the Torah say you have to kill them. Does anybody think you should kill gay people? ‘Cuz that’s what the Bible says. The other thing is that we don’t still hold slaves, which is okay by the Torah. We don’t keep Kosher. We don’t execute people who talk back to their parents.

Now, we’re left with Paul. Paul lists homosexuality with many other immoral activities. Paul definitely is suseptible to the same treatment as the Torah. Paul says woman shouldn’t speak in church. He says that you shouldn’t get married because the second coming is right around the corner.

The Biblical case for accepting slavery and pluralistic marriages is much stronger than the case against homosexuality. In short, I think it is clear that Christians need to explore their own hearts to find what they believe on this issue.

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Opposing Equal Marriage Rights (Part I)

I’m not sure how many measures that restrict equal treatment of gay couples will be voted on this year. Proposition 8 in California and Proposition 102 in Arizona are two of them. They ask voters to limit the right to marry to straight couples. Here is the full text of each:
Prop. 8: Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. link.
Prop. 102: Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as marriage in this state. link.

I think these amendments violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution. Jim can marry Julie, but Jane cannot. The only reason Jane cannot is that Jane is a woman. Thus, these laws discriminate based solely on gender. Gender is a protected class.

That said, I think it would be much better to win these initiative fights, and to win them by convincing the population at large that it is the right thing to do. Basically, I think justice minded Christians need to first show others that the Bible does not mandate unequal treatment of gays. Then we must show others that the central message of Jesus Christ demands equal treatment of all of God’s people.