Friday, March 15, 2013

Gay Marriage -- The Time for Change Is Here


It's been about fifteen years ago now that I learned that my brother is gay.  At the time, I still had fairly conservative views about homosexuality.  Although I opposed discrimination against gays and lesbians in the public sphere, I believed that as far as the church went -- while we should welcome them into the church, they shouldn't be ordained, hold leadership positions, or be married.  When my brother came out, I had to wrestle with my own views on this subject.  As I've said before, I had to figure out how my view of scripture and my understanding of God fit with this new reality.  What was once an academic question was now very personal.  Ultimately I came to the conclusion that I needed to look at the few verses that applied through the lens of  Jesus' message of love and inclusion.  I've been a quiet advocate for the inclusion since that point.  I've not been on the front lines, but I've tried to be a constant witness of God's welcome.

I saw a lot of myself in Sen. Rob Portman's beautifully written commentary published today in the Columbus Dispatch.  Rob Portman is a leading figure within the Republican Party.  He was on the short list of VP possibilities.  Many thought that had he been chosen, Mitt Romney would be President.  I don't know if this would have been true, but the point is, he is an important political figure.  In this column he reveals that his son is gay, and that this revelation has led him to reconsider his position on homosexuality and gay marriage.  He notes how he and his wife have had to make sense of this family reality and the teachings of their church.  In the end, like me, he concluded that  "it came down to the Bible’s overarching themes of love and compassion and my belief that we are all children of God."   I couldn't put it any better than that. 

While he (and I would agree) believes that the government shouldn't force religious communities to perform weddings for gays -- this is an issue of religious freedom -- the government shouldn't interfere with one's choice in marriage partner.  He approaches this question from a conservative perspective, where individual freedoms should be respected.

One of the rationales offered by opponents of gay marriage, is that by allowing gays and lesbians to marry, this will undermine the institution of marriage.  But Portman responds by suggesting that not only doesn't gay marriage undermine the institution, it could actually benefit the institution.  
 We conservatives believe in personal liberty and minimal government interference in people’s lives. We also consider the family unit to be the fundamental building block of society. We should encourage people to make long-term commitments to each other and build families, so as to foster strong, stable communities and promote personal responsibility. 
One way to look at it is that gay couples’ desire to marry doesn't amount to a threat but rather a tribute to marriage, and a potential source of renewed strength for the institution.

I'm no longer a conservative.  I'm left of center, but I affirm his conservative principle at this point.  By granting gays and lesbians the right to marry, our society can strengthen family bonds.  We can affirm and support the building of strong families.  We are at a tipping point in our society.  A small majority in some polls support gay marriage, and the younger you are the more likely you are to support giving full rights to gays and lesbians.  It's time to end the discriminatory practices encouraged by the Defense of Marriage Act, a congressional act signed by Bill Clinton, that the former President rues having signed, and which the current President believes is unconstitutional, a view with which Sen. Portman now concurs.  

Thus, he has concluded:
I have come to believe that if two people are prepared to make a lifetime commitment to love and care for each other in good times and in bad, the government shouldn’t deny them the opportunity to get married.

The Supreme Court will have an opportunity to rule on at least some of this soon.  That ruling will have an affect on the lives of many Americans, including members of my own congregation and my family.  As the Senator notes, were all at different places in this journey, but at least we can rethink this question, recognizing the human element in it.  Portman suggests that this change occur through a democratic process, state by state, rather than through judicial intervention.  I'm more open to judicial intervention  but either way, the time has come for change -- for the good of our families.  

Right now, in the state of Michigan, a judicial decision on adoption by gay couples is pending the Supreme Court decision.  Currently, gays and lesbians can adopt as individuals, but not as couples.  So if, for instance, the adoptive parent dies, the partner has no rights to custody.  This seems anti-family to me.  See there are important human issues at stake.  And from a faith perspective, I believe that God desires that we show love for one another, and that this love requires us to evolve on this issue.   

I want to commend Sen. Portman for his courage.  I hope and pray that by his coming out with this statement he will enable others to do the same.  Whether or not we have a family member who is affected, we all know someone who is affected.  We needn't wait for someone close to us to come out to make the change.  We can do so, because it is the right thing to do.  I must say that his statement is encouragement to me to be bolder in my own statements and actions.

   

14 comments:

Liberty Newspost said...

How can you justify your position and call yourself a Christian? The Bible is clear on the issue.

Robert Cornwall said...

I believe that God acts out of love and inclusion. And as for the clarity of the Bible, maybe it's not as clear as you think.

RG said...

@Liberty newspost. There are many different ways to view the biblical references in the Bible. I perfer to follow what Jesus himself taught.

John said...

Liberty,

To quote someone you know well: "How can you justify your position and call yourself a Christian?"

To quote someone with whom you appear less acquainted: "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. ... You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye."

Rev. Steven F. Kindle said...

Bravo, Bob! Beautifully said from a gracious heart.

David said...

Ah, we can pray for more "Portman moments". They're lovely. http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2013/03/steve-katz-assemblyman-charged-with-marijuana-possession.html

We can call ourselves Christians while still doubting some other Christians' interpretations of the sacred writings. That seems fare, as long as we aren't hurting anyone..

Actually, I only rise to the disciple level. I watch and learn.

David said...

I know how to spell fair, several ways.

John said...

I honestly don't know what caused me to change my position on this. I didn't know any openly gay people until the last five years, but by then I had already reached the basic position that there should be no barriers to gay people in the workplace and more especially in the church.

I think the first step was intellectual, realizing that my opposition was merely an abstract point of view, formed in isolation if not insulation from reality. I was not gay and I didn't have any relatives or known associates who were gay. But for gay people the matter was life defining and anything but abstract. The whole thing was nothing more than arrogant presumption on my part.

Then there was the dawning of several truths: first, that for most people their sexuality (l, g, b, t, q) was not a matter of preference, but it was fixed, and second, that it was just as possible, if society would permit, for LGBTQ people as for heterosexual people to lead healthy and productive lives with their LGBTQ sexuality fully and healthily integrated, and that the only barrier to LGBTQ couples leading normal lives, was the disapproving judgment of society.

As those notions were percolating so too was the growing awareness that the core teaching of Jesus was that compassion was the core value of Christianity. We were called to be compassionate, we were shown how to be compassionate, we were told that compassion is the mark of a Christian community, that compassion is the hallmark of the Kingdom of God, and that indeed compassion was the principal determinant for salvation. Also, I noticed that while issues of sexuality were not a primary concern of Jesus, they seem to be an obsession of the church. Jesus didn't accuse the woman caught in adultery but he indicted those who would accuse, judge, and punish her.

Genuine compassion includes both thoughts and expressions, not just how we treat one another, but how we value the other, on an intellectual and an emotional level. Lip service isn't enough, nor can we do compassionate service while holding our noses. Meaningful compassion requires that we embrace the other as a brother or sister, that we value and not merely tolerate the other. I don't have to share their sexuality, for me to embrace their personhood. I know a whole lot of people who like foods that I can't imagine eating, but I don't value them any less. I know a whole lot of people in relationships with people I can't imagine being in an intimate relationship with, but I don't think any less of them. I know a whole lot of people who abstain from sexual relationships altogether but I don't think any less of them.

With all of those various points of awareness growing within me my sophomoric judgmentalism of the sexuality of others simply could not survive. And when a number of openly LGBTQ people started appearing in my world I knew that God had prepared me to welcome them.

God works in such cool ways!

Gary said...

Cornwall and Portman have believed lies and told lies and called God a liar. The Bible is crystal clear that God condemns homosexuals. It is also crystal clear about God limiting marriage to a man and a woman. There is no Biblical basis for marriage that does not have both a husband, who must be a man, and a wife, who must be a woman.

Those, like Cornwall and Portman, who support homosexuals and the perversion of marriage, and claim that Jesus approves of what they have done, are liars. Jesus does not approve. In fact, Jesus disapproves so much that he has promised damnation to those who call evil good.

Gary said...

John,

You are an infidel on your way to Hell, just like Cornwall and Portman.

John said...

Hi Gary. I've missued you.

John said...

Talking this over with my wife I see another conincidental change within my thinking: over the past twenty years my understanding of the church as a place of worship and as a shepherd for the worshipful has matured into an understanding of the church more importantly as a prophetic voice in the community at large, compelled to speak out against and resist oppression, marginalization and exclusion in all forms. To be the former without being the latter is cowardice. As James writes, faith and action work together, faith is made complete in action.

David said...

John, your comments are a joy to read. Your thoughts are crystal-clear and concise. It's how we should approach all mankind. Prejudgement is inhumane and the opposite of what we are taught. Unless, a we decide to prejudge someone as innocent and lovable, we're doing it wrong.

John said...

Thanks David.