We Are the Champions

It’s over. We won.

same sex couplesI’m talking about same-sex marriage.  In the months following last year’s decision by the Supreme Court on marriage, state after state has had laws banning same-sex marriage ruled unconstitutional.  This week alone, we’ve seen Virgina and Kentucky move forward in the march towards marriage equality.  Different parts of the federal government are providing full rights to same sex couples.  So, this year my partner Daniel (we had our civil ceremony last September) nd I can file taxes jointly in Minnesota and with the IRS.

What many of us thought would take a while for the nation to accept is only taking months.  Step by step, state by state, the cause of marriage equality is advancing.

This is good news and it should be celebrated. But as we start pouring champagne, Progressive Christians need to ask a question: how do we win with grace?

You see, there are winners in this argument over same sex marriage and of course there are losers, those who believe in “traditional marriage.”  As we bask in the light of a new day, there are others who feel their world is crumbling around them.  How do we deal with these people?  How do we treat them?  Do we create space for them to live out their lives with little interference from the state or do we seek give them no quarter?

My fear is that for all of the talk in mainline churches about loving the enemy, we won’t be gracious winners.  It’s a fear that has come true.  Without going into much detail, I have seen how pro-gay folks have treated those who are on the other side and it wasn’t with open arms.

The template that the gay rights movement has used in our fight for equality has been the civil rights movement of 50 years ago.  Those that forbid gay marriage are just like the racists who opposed interracial marriage.

It’s easy to see the struggle for gay rights in the same light as civil rights.  It’s an easy way to get people to understand the movement and casts us in a more positive light.  I used this analogy for a long time.

But at some point, I stopped using that analogy.  Partially because I got to know some more conservative folks who weren’t the monsters I envision them to be.  It’s hard to liken someone to the Klan when you just had a good conversation over a beer. But the main reason is that the struggle for gay equality isn’t just like civil rights.  While there are similarities there are also some big differences.  The general understanding of religious conservative is that they use the Bible to exclude people they don’t like just like the slaveholders of old used the Bible to justify slavery.  The problem with this line of thinking is that it doesn’t take into account that the objection to gay marriage or gay clergy is less about hating gay folks than it is about biblical integrity.  Long story short: I think they actually believe that the Bible forbids same sex marriage.  They actually believe being gay is sinful because they interpret the Bible that way.  This is less about homophobia (though some that does exist) than it is about them wanting to follow Scripture.

Writer Damon Linker wrote this week about gay marriage and if those who oppose it are akin to racists.  His view?  No.

As countless liberals have done before him, (Issac) Chotiner breezily equates those believers who once appealed to Scripture in defense of racism and those who currently reject gay marriage. The first position has been socially, morally, and legally marginalized with no negative consequences for faith, Chotiner asserts, and the same will soon be true about the second. So what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that strictures against homosexuality are rooted far more deeply in the Judeo-Christian tradition than racism ever was. Yes, slavery is found throughout the Scriptures and comes in for criticism only, at best, by implication. But race-based slavery — and the racism that made it possible and continues to infect ideas and institutions throughout the West to this day — receives no explicit endorsement from the Bible…

Which isn’t to say that those seeking to justify race-based slavery or racism couldn’t, and didn’t, twist biblical passages to make them provide such justification. But the Hebrew Bible and New Testament clearly do not teach (either explicitly or implicitly) that buying, owning, and selling African slaves is next to godliness.

The same cannot be said about the normative teaching on human sexuality contained within the Judeo-Christian scriptures — and even more so, within the interpretative and theological traditions that grow out of them. In dismissing this teaching so casually, Chotiner ends up implying that traditionalist churches and religious communities are the moral equivalent of the Ku Klux Klan.

If that’s an accurate evaluation of their moral status, then we can expect that before long traditionalist religious views will be denied legitimacy by the courts, denigrated in the public schools, and thoroughly marginalized in our public life.

While those of us who are pro-gay and don’t see the teachings in Leviticus and others parts of the Bible as normative, there is still a large segment of Christians in America that do.  Is there a way that they can be allowed to follow their consciences without giving up my hard-won rights?

Maybe I’m being a softie, but I don’t know if I’m wiling to go a far as pushing people out of the public square.  I want to respond in love and not with a taste for revenge.  I fear that we will gain our rights at the expense of our souls.

I am happy that society seems to be moving forward on gay rights.  But because I’ve learned to see my opponents as people and not monsters, I don’t want to do it at their expense.  I don’t want to send them to the margins.  I’m not saying this because I’m week or anything.  I’m saying this because as a Christian, I think we are supposed to be different from our sisters and brothers.

I am proud to be gay.  But I also follow the One who said we are to love our enemies and forgive our persecuters.

As the advance of gay rights moves forward,  I pray I can look at the other side with God’s eyes of love and not with a desire for revenge.

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