Friday, June 26, 2015

Gay marriage, Christianity, and me

Note: I wrote this when SCOTUS was first looking at the gay marriage case. And never published because I was nervous. But with the news today, I didn't want this in my drafts any longer!

With the Supreme Court hearing the case on whether it is constitutional to allow states to ban same-sex marriage, I wanted to collect my thoughts on the subject. As a disclaimer, I am here humbly, one person trying to ask questions and grow in my faith. I don’t claim to know all the answers so please accept this as a process and not an ultimatum. A discussion, not a mandate. This is vulnerable to share because I know I have so many friends and family who come from completely different places. I imagine one person reading this could be completely disappointed in me. Call me lost and liberal and “Satan’s tool.” Another person could shake their head, thinking I have so much further to go or worse, I’m just a Christian spewing more hate. I’m okay with the first response but I hope and pray that this doesn’t come across hateful because that is the last thing I want.

I feel like there’s some amount of context needed. I grew up in a loving family where I never heard my parents speak with prejudice towards others. My mom especially taught me a lot about empathy and putting myself in another’s shoes rather than judging them. Yes, we were Baptists and Republican and heck, my dad had a cabinet full of guns. That sentence is full of stereotypes. But I never felt like my parents were raising me to think exactly like they did but rather to use my own reason and sense. I may not be on the same page politically or spiritually as my parents and to them, that’s okay.

So even though I was raised to have grace towards others, I definitely was shaped by the Christian culture around me, which largely was talking about how homosexuality and gay marriage are wrong. Fundamentally wrong. You know the arguments; I don’t need to rehash them. I do want to say I never saw adamant, overpowering hate towards gays at church as some have experienced. For being in a small-town, conservative Baptist church, the people I grew up with in that community are warm and kind and loving. It wasn’t every Sunday we gathered to hear a pastor beating his hand on the Bible and declaring homosexuality a sin and asking everyone to picket a gay rights parade. It was more subtle, for sure. Snippets of convos, sidenotes in a sermon.

I was just as largely influenced by the small, conservative town I grew up in. It is full of warm and kind and loving people, who also believe that homosexuality is wrong and gay marriage should not be legalized. Most of my friends believed this and the community at large believed this. Our state passed Proposition 102 in 2008, which stated that a marriage is only valid if it is between a man and woman (a policy later reversed by a court ruling in 2014). To this day, I often see posts on my Facebook feed about the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman and how we need to protect it – some in love and with good intentions, and sadly, some full of hate and judgment.

This is where I say I have no idea if being gay is wrong, or more specifically from a Christian slant, sinful. “But the scriptures!” Yes, the scriptures have a few verses about homosexuality. When taken just as a line of text apart from the larger picture of the gospel, they don’t look good for those who are gay. But I also want to view things from the lens of both the context of the church at the time, as well as the whole gospel and Jesus’s mission, which I would argue is largely one of love. I’m trying to be so much more cautious these days about calling most of my beliefs certain. Actually, that’s scary to type out. I’m still learning to live in uncertainty and feel somewhat afraid to share that. But hear me out. It’s easy to stay in a little conservative Christian bubble where we all have a list of things we agree with and declare our collective interpretation of the Bible as truth. But one step outside that bubble and I realize there’s a million little bubbles of people all declaring their interpretations of the Bible as truth. So, who’s right? It can be alarming if your “faith” is only built on a list of belief statements when any of these belief statements are called into question.

The bubble that’s simultaneously more comforting and confusing to me now is, let’s not be so concerned with listing out beliefs and rather, let’s live out Jesus’s example with love and grace and justice and humility. I want to pursue relationships, not laws. I want to know Jesus and I want to know his beloved creation. I want to seek peace rather than regurgitate unproductive arguments (if I have to hear the Adam and Eve vs Adam and Steve argument one more time, Lord help me – !!!!!). I don’t have to have it all figured out. Let me repeat, I don’t have to have it all figured out.

When I listen to the LGBT community discuss the gay marriage issue, I am so saddened to hear their perceptions of purported followers of Christ. Christian friends, the LGBT community feels so much hatred coming from us. Don’t we all know, at least a little bit, what it’s like to feel ostracized? What it’s like to grow up and wonder if something is wrong with you because of _____? So, why, why, why do we have to speak with so much anger and hatred towards this community? Why do we invest so much time and money and energy into passing laws against gay marriage when there are children every. single. night. who go to bed hungry. Who feel unloved and worthless. Who wish they’d never been born. Who are taken from their families and forced into slavery or prostitution – which YES is happening in our own country every day.

I would argue that there are much, much more important debates than gay marriage. Yes, there is the concern that we have never in our history as a country redefined the term “marriage.” Certainly then, let’s be cautious and calculated in changing any laws. But if we use this argument that it’s never been done, couldn’t this have also been used to deny abolitionist laws? To deny women’s suffrage? To deny black rights? In the same vein, it’s hard to see a faith community pick one specific “sin” and focus so heavily on it. The Bible also speaks against gluttony, selfishness, dishonesty, materialism, drunkenness – so why have so many made it their main mission to speak against one specific lifestyle? For example, we go out of our way to support a fast food restaurant which sells unhealthy, processed food – because the owner is vocal against gay marriage and the company gives money to organizations who oppose gay rights. Can you see why the world calls us hypocrites?

By now, you probably won’t be surprised to hear I am all for gay marriage being legal. I would love to see it passed by the Supreme Court. When I think about America, we are SO diverse. A complete melting pot in every sense, full of different cultures and ideas and faiths. I wholeheartedly appreciate the sentiment of our founders forming a country built on religious freedom due to their own experience with oppression. Then, to me it seems like by not allowing gay marriage, one group of people are forcing their own religion and ideals on others; to me, this is oppression. It doesn’t make sense. And the saddest thing of all is it turns people AWAY from Jesus.

I am hopeful for a future where we fight FOR the gay community. Where bullying gay children is no longer acceptable. Where gay teens stop considering suicide as their only option. Where a gay person feels welcome and loved at church. Where we have a dialogue that is wrapped less in what laws we pass and more in what good we can bring individually to our families and communities. Dialogue about how we can show love to each other and share in our brokenness and pain. And so, in some small way, I hope this essay is a step towards a more open dialogue and the future I so hope for.