Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Marriage As Dream & Discipleship...For ALL God's Children

Between them, Gingrich and Limbaugh have had 7 marriages. And they want to abolish my one.
Steve Silberman, Wired Magazine

As usual, all of the actual rules of Traditional Marriage are casually discarded when it comes to the law (all that dreary, annoying stuff about "till death do us part" and "in sickness and in health" and "for as long as we both shall live") and the only one that's maintained is the one that is easy and cost-free for most Traditional Marriage proponents people to fulfill (the one about needing "a man and a woman").
Glenn Greenwald, Salon Magazine

Commitment is the ability to sustain an investment, to honor values over momentary feelings. The irony, of course, is that while we want happiness, it isn't a moment-by-moment experience; the deepest, most enduring form of happiness is the result of sustained emotional investments in other people.
Hara Estroff Marano

I only perform a couple of weddings a year and this year they come on back to back weekends at the end of the month. I've had the pleasure of watching both of these grooms transform from adolescent teenagers through college into men of "the real world." In just a couple of weeks, they will commit their lives to love, cherish, serve and honor their respective wives for the rest of their lives. In short, they will sign up for a tremendously challenging journey of commitment which, according to pyschologist Hara Estroff Marano, leads to the purest form a happiness: the result of a sustained emotional investment in one person. Folks a lot older than I--still married, re-married, divorced, single or celebate--understand a lot better than I what kind of insane commitment this really is. At the altar, Pastor Dale promised (warned?) both of us: "Tom, Lindsay will change. Lindsay, Tom will change." Drunk on love, I chuckled half-heartedly believing him. It's only been 5 years...and, of course, he's right. As we change, our sustained commitment to each other percolates a deep happiness that would be unavailable outside of marriage.

Yet the opportunity to pursue this kind of happiness is not available for American gays and lesbians. Outside of witnessing the heartache observed in my own gay and lesbian friends, it would be hard for me to even imagine not having the opportunity to have my marriage recognized by both God and the state of California. After all, we live in a democracy. The opening quotes from Greenwald and Silberman (above) exemplify their plight, having their own basic liberties shelved while having to endure watching their heterosexual opponents run roughshod over the sanctity of marriage in a seemingly endless charade of infidelities, emotional stalemates and divorces.

For a Christian, legal marriage embodies both dream and discipleship. What human being do you know who grows up and doesn't long to find that one other person to love (and be loved) for the rest of their lives? And what other "laboratory" besides marriage do you know of that is more conducive to creatively and consistently experimenting with the kind of service, forgiveness, honor, respect and giving to our "neighbor" that Christ called us to? Yet both the church and the state, by and large, withhold from our gay brothers and lesbian sisters both dream and discipleship. Why?

-Because it was Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve

-Because every time it mentions marriage in the Bible it is between a man and a wife

-Because we can't cave in to the gay agenda

-Because "marriage" is a sacred, religious term and "civil union" is not

-Because God calls it an "abomination"

-Because marriage is (mostly) for child bearing and rearing

-Because same-sex marriage is unnatural

-Because both church and state have historically denied them legitimacy

-Because scientific studies show that people aren't born gay

Without wasting the time to rebut each of these traditional pre-emptive strikes against same-sex marriage, we would like to reframe the conversation and advocate for liberating our gay brothers and lesbian sisters into the fulfillment of both the dream and discipleship of marriage. First, why should Christian churches recognize same-sex marriage between two disciples who pledge allegiance to the kingdom of God together?
-Because when the Bible, a library of diverse & inspired documents, refers to "homosexuality" it never refers to same-sex marriage or orientation, but instead to what it actually was in that historical context: same-sex temple prostitution, same-sex military rape, same-sex pederastry (a wealthy man who owns a young boy for sexual gratification)

-Because God's People are commanded--over and over again in the Bible--to reject fear and embrace the vulnerable, left-out, marginalized. Gays and lesbians, throughout the centuries, have been grossly misunderstand and pushed aside and neglected. They continue to be equated with pedaphiles and molesters.

-Because many communities within the American Body of Christ, over the centuries, have been silent or complicit with the wrong side of history on too many vital social issues, including slavery, women's rights, civil rights and various wars (including our current adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan).

-Because the heterosexual agenda is the real issue in US culture. We are inundated with sexual hints and innuendos on TV, movies, billboards, print ads, commercials, music and magazine covers.

-Because divorce within "traditional marriage" is widespread within the Body of Christ. Limbaugh and Gingrich as just two examples of conservative leaders who champion "traditional marriage" in order to block same-sex marriage, but then define "traditional marriage" on their own terms, getting married over and over to different women.

-Because scientific studies are "contested" and abused by both sides of the debate to bludgeon their opponents with "the truth."

-Because conservative Christians rarely get the opportunity to hear the stories of gays and lesbians, who have, since an early age, experienced sexual feelings that the mainstream has labeled "distorted" and "perverted." They are hard to find since fear and manipulation have driven them into the closet.

-Because gays and lesbians have a lot to teach the Body of Christ about what persecution and vulnerability really feel like.

-Because gays and lesbians, just like heterosexuals, should have a real option (recognized by their faith community) to experience covenant love that requires discipline, fidelity, service and forgiveness.

Second, why should gays and lesbians be allowed to fulfill the dream of marriage within a democractic government?

-Because the US is committed to "a wall of separation" between church and state and...

-Because what constitutes "marriage" is contested within faith communities (some religious "options" affirm same-sex marriage as equally sacred as heterosexual marriage). Appeals to the US as a "Christian Nation" or a Judeo-Christian sexual ethic are not legitimate since many Christians communities, in fact, do recognize same-sex marriage as blessed in the eyes of God.

-Because the Declaration of Independence proclaims "liberty and justice for all."

-Because the US Constitution demands a government that will "secure the blessings of liberty" for all of its citizens.

-Because we all learn in our 12th grade Civics curriculum that the very best of American democracy exalts majority rules, but never at the expense of minority rights.

-Because a country who goes out of its way to breathe life into marginalized people groups (like gays and lesbians) becomes a more humanizing and dignified community. Compassionate policies can work to transform victims and oppressors.

My good friend Ty, a gay Christian who models Jesus' call to love our enemies better than anyone I know, tells me prophetically that every heterosexual must have their own "coming out" experience, coming to grips and empathizing with the plight of gays and lesbians who have been sidelined by both church and state and joining them in solidarity. This "coming out" process has been a vital aspect of my own discipleship journey in these last few years, de-constructing the simplistic, fear-based narrative that the church told me in my youth, while intentionally re-conditioning my mind and heart towards love and hospitality, seeking out creative ways to advocate both dream and discipleship for my gay brothers and lesbian sisters.

--Theological Autopilot

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