Thursday, September 22, 2011

An Appeal to the Angels of our Better Nature - A blog on the Defense of Marriage Act

The planets have officially aligned.  Its Friday afternoon, work was light, Emerson requested a late afternoon nap, and we are having a very rare Salt Lake rain shower that is seriously whetting our whistle for the impending Autumn here in the Wasatch front.  What a truly magnificent start to the weekend... and I'm about to launch into something very ... uncomfortable.

This week, in particular, I've been thinking a lot about people.  And culture.  I've been extremely disturbed by recent political developments in my home state of North Carolina this week.  NC passed legislation that brings the state that much closer to passing the Defense of Marriage Act, which, as I'm sure you know, specifically defines marriage as an institution between exclusively one man and one woman.  As I'm sure you also know, this legislation aims to bar many of our neighbors, friends and loved ones from legally entering into the one of the most basic and true expressions of human love and partnership: Marriage - which  is ideally a loving partnership of two consenting adults who want to spend their lives together loving and growing in unity (and all of the institutional benefits (and drawbacks as the case may be)) that go along with it.  

While, I fear that my feelings on this issue are so impassioned that I will not be able to adequately articulate them on the page, I need to throw this out. I've struggled with whether or not this blog is a waste of time and breath but someone was kind enough to point out to me yesterday that even if it falls on deaf ears, we have a responsibility to check in and be present when we feel things are going off course.  So I write this if for no other reason then, I feel I have a responsibility as a mother, an advocate, and a member of the human race to do so.

The way I see this, the issue breaks down into three pieces - legality, religiosity, morality.  Let's ease into this:

In its most basic essence, a marriage certificate issued by the State, is binding legal contract between two individuals.  The contract is not signed or sanctioned by the church any more any other legal document -  a birth certificate, death certificate, or for that matter, a state tax return.  I find it interesting that the symbol of our justice system is a blind fold.  When it comes to basic contractual law, on which I am admittedly no expert, morality, religious doctrine, sex, or social status, play no roll.  I'd love to expound on this point but the truth is, from a purely technical perspective, its pretty simplistic.   Questions of personal religion and personal ethics have no place in a legal contract issued by a non-theocratic state and to introduce them corrupts the very necessary black and white (gasp!) protection and responsibility that a contract is designed to provide.

Now the hard stuff:
As much as we'd like to say the bible is clear on homosexuality, the truth is - its really not.  As I am so passionate about this issue, I've spent a lot of time researching this.  Yes, there are two Old Testament passages about homosexuality being unclean: one in Corinthians I 6: 9-10 and one in Leviticus.  The Corinthians passage simultaneously calls out idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, drunkards, slanderers, and swindlers in addition to homosexuals.  Last time I checked idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, drunkards, slanderers and swindlers can all still get married, bless their poor spouses... I'll be honest while I haven't encountered any male prostitutes, I can name pretty much someone in every other category that is legally married in the eyes of the state.  The Leviticus passage (20: 13) simply calls for a man who lies with a man to be put to death.  I ask with a mild attempt at hyperbole, "while we're at, it where do you draw the line at your literal interpretation of the scripture?" 

In the new testament, Paul also mentions the sin of homosexuality in his letter to the Romans.  I could go into the context of Paul's letter to the Romans and explain my understanding of how the politics, audience and circumstance of the time in which he was writing shaped his message, but that's another blog.  The real point is, Jesus Christ, in whom most of the people driving this legislation profess their faith, never mentions the issue of homosexuality in his teachings.  Ever.  Not one time.  He does, however, have quite a bit to say about loving one another, and about treating each other with fairness, and kindness, and humility.  In fact, he built his ministry on these teachings.  He talks about all of  humanity being equal in the eyes of God from the lowliest among us to the most fortunate - the lowliest, in fact, being more favorable in the eyes of God. He talks about forgiveness and not casting stones.  He gives us one of the most simple and one of the most challenging directives ever issued to human kind- Love thy neighbor.   

I understand that faith and religion are very personal things and there are probably no two people on the planet who have the exact same interpretation of their faith.  I understand that people believe what they believe and I respect that very much.  What I don't respect is when others try to force their personal interpretation of what is holy and what is not upon the general population.  What I view as an abomination is people who use faith and religion as a weapon to create hate, to create an "other", and to punish their fellow man. 

There's a fine line between religiosity and morality.  When I say morality I am specifically referring to the argument that homosexuality is a "choice" or that it can be "cured" like a disease.  To be honest, I don't really understand how this argument is the slightest bit relevant.  I quite frankly view it as a cop-out and a distraction that people hide behind so that they don't have to address more difficult questions.  I disagree with these perceptions of homosexuality (as does science) but I also always come back to the question of "does it matter?"  In a free society, whether an individual chooses to share their life and love with someone of the same sex or of a different sex should not make them more or less entitled to the same rights as every other citizen in the United States.

So there's my 2 cents, my soap box if you want to call it that.  I know that it might not line up with the ideals of 100% of my readership, but I hope you will respect my need to speak out on an issue that is incredibly important to me and I hope that you will take the time to consider a different perspective on this divisive issue that, in one way or another, effects our human conscience.  Whenever I think about this issue, I always hear the below quotation from one of history's most admirable leaders spoken in another time but a time also wrought with difficult questions of unity and freedom and equality:

"I am loth to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stre[t]ching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature." 
~Abraham Lincoln

We've done it before and I hope as a nation we can again find the strength and courage to appeal to the better angels of our nature.


Dianne G. said...

A most eloquent essay on a provocative and divisive subject. Jesus preached acceptance of ALL people; infact, the very people you mentioned are the ones He embraced. I don't condone a society of rampant immorality as we see in so many areas of our country today, but I do believe in acceptance of all people and their right to live as they choose.

By the way, that is one of my favorite quotes by Abraham Lincoln.