Prop 8 v. People in the Glass Houses

8ball_0.jpgLast Sunday, my friends, my husband, and I attended our home church. We arrived in time for the lesson being taught in our Sunday School class about Old Testament prophesy. Questions arose, but went unanswered. Problems were acknowledged, but went unresolved. Then, out of nowhere, the topic of gay marriage was introduced to the room of college-age students. This could have been an uncomfortable moment for some folks anyway, but the instructor then proceeded to call for a vote... "This is a safe place to give your opinion. How many of you do not consider homosexuality to be a sin?"
I found the teacher's lack of foresight in initiating that conversation to be appalling.  You don't just jump into a debate on gay marriage in a room where the average age is 19, and all are assumed to be Christians, without some preparation.  And you definitely don't put people on the spot the way the teacher did to my friend, Eric and, in a secondary capacity, to my husband, Jonathan.  Jon was outraged by the whole thing and raised his hand to support Eric on that issue. Whether Jon has his own doubts about the sinfulness of homosexuality is beside the point; he would have raised his hand at that moment in support of our friend, one who had just been publically isolated, regardless.  I was proud of both of them for sticking their necks out.
From there, the best case scenario would have been to launch an even-handed debate on the topic, complete with prepared remarks from Eric and Jonathan and their opponents, and rounded out by the instructor's Biblical insights on the topic. Unfortunately, no one was prepared for that scenario, and so the matter was tossed haphazard into the Sunday School ring to be kicked around by the students. Those who were brave enough to state their opinions did so half-heartedly. Nothing was resolved.  What's worse, the instructor continuously referred to homosexual persons as "them," including the air quotes. He may have been kidding, but that doesn't matter. More than 20 young people left the room after that lesson confused and irritated.
So, I'd like to take this chance to postulate on the sensitive issue of gay marriage. If I'd had any clue that the Sunday School instructor was planning to light this match last weekend, I would have come with all of this prepared.

Two weeks from today, Americans will participate in democratic vote which will elect a new President of the United States. On a state-by-state basis, however, several major matters are up for a vote, as well. Proposition 8 on the California ballot is one of those State issues.  If Proposition 8 passes, an amendment will be made to our state constitution stating "only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." This will effectively eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry in the state of California.
I will be voting NO on Prop 8.
Yes, I am a Christian. Yes, I believe that homosexual behavior is a sin. Yes, I believe that churches should be able to choose whom they marry in their individual, sacred halls. 
But no, a thousand times no, I do not believe that the State of California has any business dictating what a definition of marriage should be based on religious reasoning, especially considering that the people who are disenfranchised by such a definition are law-abiding tax payers.
Hard core Christians have a tough time distinguishing between the duties of the church and the duties of the state, but in this country, those two entities are meant to be separate.  Our founding fathers, whose words and writings Christians point to in order to illustrate evidence of the Christ-centered bedrock of our country, designed our government with the flaws of fallen empires in mind.  In fact, every empire or regime in history which has tumbled from greatness first allowed religion and government to be mingled or, in some cases, to be inseparable.  And so, our founding documents make it very clear that Church and State are to be operated separately rather than in tandem, and that each should be considered sovereign.
The rabid packs of Christians who hop up and down holding giant signs that scream, "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and STEVE!" are beneath contempt. After all, God doesn't call any one of us to condemn whole groups of people for their actions in an attempt to shame them into changing their collective mind. Rather, as mortals on earth, we are given only the capacity to consider our family members, friends and peers on an individual level, then treat each of them as we would want to be treated ourselves. It's a simple canon to follow, almost childlike in its composition, but I think that's because God knew we'd misconstrue whatever He said, regardless of complexity.
Who among us can say definitively that God's definition of Marriage is exclusively what it says in the New Testament of our Bible?  Let's not forget that God Himself has changed the rules of marriage many, many, many times. Don't you remember? Let's take a walk down Memory Lane:

In the very beginning, He designed one man and one woman and placed them in a garden, lord and lady over flora and fauna. 
Then, after the fall of man, it appears that the strict one man/one woman definition of marriage disintegrated.  Men were still encouraged to marry, but also encouraged to take concubines. Here it is important to note that these women never married, were in fact kept from marriage in order to please one man in a sexual capacity. 
Men could also marry multiple women.  Only the wealthiest could afford to do such things, of course, so the lesser men slept with their servant girls, fathered bastard children, etc.  Naturally, there was nothing equal about these leniencies in God's law.  If a woman attempted to sleep with another man, she was fair game to her womanizing husband and could be stoned to death in the town square.  Correction... was supposed to be stoned to death in the town square
Also, a woman about to marry had to be a confirmed virgin in order for the marriage to be considered lawful.  If not, once again, death was an option. This rule was not reciprocal.
All that changed again (and for what most Christians believe to be the FINAL time) with the advent of Christ and his bridging of the God Gap between mortals and Heaven. Suddenly marriage received a new definition. One man, one woman, symbiotic in every way, a relationship of respect and submission and protection and loyalty, a relationship which was meant to simulate the relationship between Christ and the church. Adultery, sodomy, incest... all of these were out of order. The days of harems and "take the witch out and burn her" were gone, much to the chagrin of generations of men who were unfortunate enough to born post-God-sanctioned-hedonism.

There are those Christians who would say that God is unchanging, but I couldn't disagree more. Biblically, all men were not created equal. The ownership of slaves was never specifically condemned, not even in the New Testament. Yet no self-respecting Christian in modern America would hint that we should return to a class system that allows slavery. No, God allowed our society and our humanity to evolve in a way that supported the equality of every human on the planet.
I believe that God designed Man and Woman, Adam and Eve, us. But we should not forget that He then allowed, in fact sanctioned, the relegation of women as a second class for millenia. What would a strictly Biblical God have to say about women working outside the home? Would He approve of women taking birth control, thus securing their reproductive rights? Would He approve of women holding positions of authority over men in the workplace? In the church? On the battlefields of war?
You know... I believe he would approve.  Now.  And that's an important change.  In effect, I believe that the Bible, like our United States Constitution, was meant to be a living, breathing, sweating text. It is supposed to maintain its currency via prophesy and the promises of the Lord our God.
Our Constitution was designed to evolve with our rapidly advancing society, in terms both social and technological. Slavery is out. Women can vote. These were changes not in line with Biblical teaching, but rather in line with a sociopolitical climate which was taking a turn for the better, the informed. Who is to say that a state definition of marriage being changed to allow men to marry men isn't exactly what should be next on the agenda?
Christian churches have every right to interpret the Bible in their own ways. Already, issues as mundane as alcohol consumption and the propriety of dancing push churches to divide along denominational lines. If a Christian church determines that sodomy has always been detestable to God and is, therefore, not to be tolerated today, then that church should not admit gay men to marry in its sanctuary.  (Is there a verse in the Bible specifically prohibiting a sexual relationship between two women? That's not sodomy...) And a church's decision should be considered sacrosanct by the state and, therefore, protected from government scrutiny.

But the state definition of marriage takes into account the legalities of birth rights, death rights, medical decisions, power of attorney, property ownership, etc. None of these things are meant to be dictated by a church. A pastor or priest has no jurisdiction in an Emergency Room. The state does. That's why I believe the passing of a ballot measure to modify our state constitution to prohibit two devoted individuals to marry, whether gay or straight, is a misappropriation of power, especially when the basis for such decision is a religious one.

When Jonathan and I married, we married in the sight of God and we took our vows as Christian individuals very seriously. That day at the alter, I didn't care if the State of California recognized our marriage as "legal".  My husband and I were unified as one in the presence of the Lord. The words spoken to us and by us were merely words. It was the intent of our hearts which joined us. The rituals were done for rituals' sake, not our own. Only by signing our marriage license and filing with the State of California, we were recognized as husband and wife and were then deemed eligible for the benefits of such a union.

Once again, it's a State issue. Tax paying citizens should not be denied the right to any State sponsored benefits. I don't care if those citizens are heterosexual, homosexual, bisexual... as long as they are law abiding, tax paying people, they should have the same right to the State's seal of marriage as I do. Period.

Finally, I would like any person out there who calls himself a Christian and opposes the marriage of homosexual persons by the State to remember two things:

1) Christians do not protest en masse the allowance of marriage to any other group of sinners. Liars, thieves, cheaters, murderers, rapists, pedophiles... go ahead and marry your heads off! It makes no difference to us Christians. Hypocritical? Oh yes.
2) The argument that allowing gay persons to marry one another will destroy the sanctity of marriage and the family unit is feeble at best, especially as the divorce rate between Christians is precisely as high as the overall divorce rate in this country. We've already allowed marriage to disintegrate into nothingness. I think it will be interesting to see whether homosexual marriages fair any better. (On this same note, people used to make the same argument about interracial marriage.  Nice, eh?)

On Election Tuesday, I will be casting my vote against Proposition 8 as a citizen of California. Only if and when my church decides to begin marrying homosexual couples, will I cross that  separate bridge as a Christian. My priorities are straight; my relationship with God is intact. Before you go around judging anyone else, do as Christ compels you and judge yourself first. If you find that you're without sin... go ahead and cast that Yes vote.




Ben Lear said:

Man, I wish I was still registered in California, so that I could also vote no on prop 8. I really like your points above. I would further like to iterate that there is very little in the new testament about the obligations that Christians have to force people to act in accordance with their beliefs. Perhaps there is some precedent for taking actions when Christians themselves are out of line, but I cannot think of a single verse that states that we should force people that do not hold our beliefs to act in accordance with them.

And let us assume (a big assumption, I think) that homosexuality is, in fact, a sin. Then, people wish to legislate against it? Really? I thought that having a moral law with punishments was an experiment that was already tried in the old testament and the general consensus in the new testament was that there was a better way to do things.

Basically, here is how I approach this issue. I ask myself this. Does the ability for gay people to get married impinge on anyone else's freedoms? I cannot think of a way that it would, and so I must vote to allow it (or to not disallow it). As a corollary, you can ask yourself if disallowing gay marriages impinges on anyone's freedoms, where the answer clearly has to be yes, and so I would also have to vote no on 8.

And so, for me, the answer has to be "no" for prop 8. I feel like the government should be involved in protecting people's freedoms. Not too sure that I have been very clear, but I thought I would give my thoughts. This is an issue that I am very passionate about -- not necessarily gay rights, but more the attempts of Christians to legislate morality when all it does is limit others' freedoms.

I was quite happy to see your post on this. Not that it would ever affect my high opinion of you if we had a difference of opinions on any issue (e.g. I think I will vote to Obama -- so we must differ somewhere ;) ), but I was very happy to see another intelligent person agreeing with me and being brave enough to make the same sort of arguments that I would make on this issue. Quite often these kinds of arguments are not well received by those whom we would call "brothers and sisters." Which is a shame, because I feel we all learn something in a dialogue.

Anyway, consider this post a sign of my support and encouragement in your engaging in this dialogue.

VOOF! (can i use that word here?)

Ashley said:

I guess I will offer a slighty dissenting opinion on the Sunday talk. To me, it also really did seem like Prop 8 popped into his head and he just ran with it. However, I was impressed that he asked for opinions and that he thanked Eric for his honesty and differing opinion. I don't speak for everyone, but what I took away from that portion of the talk was that the most important thing we need to do is to think on a more individual level, rather than of entire groups as a whole. For example, when I think about Prop 8 and the reasoning behind it, I will be honest, it seems like a natural thing for me vote 'Yes' for. However, when thinking individually about homosexual friends and/or co-workers, my desire to vote 'Yes' diminishes. The teacher also stressed that when thinking on an individual basis (like about his co-worker whom has chosen that lifestyle)that he even has a hard time with the situation. I liked that he even openly admitted that he does not feel at times that 'Christians' show true love for homosexuals. I agree with this. In a way, I felt like he was trying to call people out for their actions, or lack of. Too often I see many of us just standing around being silent, apathetic, indifferent to the extremists that go about protesting, picketing, generating animosity, and employing scare tactics to get their point across. Which IMO is just as bad as 'holding up the sign' yourself.

Now the question of government and its role in deciding marriage. I do feel that word 'marriage' should be between a man and woman. Does the desire to reserve the word 'marriage' between a man and woman have to be religious based? Not necessarily. Unfortunately that is a moot point because where it stands now various religious leaders have hijacked this issue and politicized it to the point that you question your faith every time you vote. There is no longer any room for not wanting the initiative based on its merits alone.
Does wanting to vote 'Yes' on prop 8 make me a bad person? I sure hope not :). I believe that the word 'marriage' should be reserved for between a man and woman out of tradition, not for religious reasons. Civil unions which include the benefits of marriage already exist and are recognized by numerous states. Regardless of my opinion, whether I vote 'Yes' or 'No' on Prop 8, it is going to deeply affect me because I know that whichever way this initiative goes lots people are going to be deeply crushed by the outcome

Yes, I did leave the room confused but in a good way. Before that talk I was definitely going to vote 'Yes' on prop 8, but as it stands right now, I am on the fence. So in a way, the 'confusion' you witnessed may have had a deeper impact than you originally realized.

Whew, So glad I rediscovered this blog but after this post I think I need to lie down b/c I feel a headache coming on. :)

Steve Morris said:

Here are my two cents on this "hot topic" not sure who said this, but " Error does not become Truth because it is widely accepted; Truth does not become error, even when it stands alone"

The bible says God made the family to be man and a woman and to have a child this is a family. It was the DNA of society. Jesus reaffirmed this in the new testament along with all the writers of the scripture that homosexuality is a sin and the scripture teaches in no uncertain terms that homosexuals with not inherit the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor 6:9-10) What is at stake here are souls of people.

Now people can make their own choice, they do have free-will to do things their way or repent and put there faith in Jesus Christ and be saved, but the choice will have eternal consequences. God has an objective standard and the authority is not based on opinions of men, or society that can and will be wrong.

I'm aware this is not a theocracy, but our nation was founded on the belief of God. "We hold these things to be self evident that all men are created"...delaration of independence.
"It is impossible to men to govern without God and the bible" George Washington.
When you take that foundation away your building on sand.

Now homosexuals can do what they want in our country and if they want to have a civil union that is their choice, but they don't have the right to define marriage for an entire nation.

Jeff White said:

Hello - -

I am the person who led the Sunday School class that morning..... I am the person who spent personal time preparing, thinking, studying Old Testament prophesy - to present a lesson for a group of people whom I've come to care about quite a bit. As I’ve taught this class about ½ time for the past two years, it has been my goal to cause people to think. I intentionally ask tough questions – sometimes questions I know have no good answers. It is my goal to create deep introspective thought in those that attend.

I look forward to the Sunday's that John and Audry come to the class. I appreciate their intelligence, their wit, their thoughtfulness. Audry was correct, I did not originally intended to talk about Prop 8; that came about as part of the group discussion. I was very impressed by Eric's courage to speak - I hoped someone would. I was also impressed by John's support of the position.

The lesson series we've been studying is Amos / Hosea / Micah / Johan. In these prophetic books of the Old Testament, God speaks to man about making God, God in our lives; about social justice; about love for our fellow man. God speaks about the evil involved when the Rich / Strong / Powerful / Intelligent take advantage of those who are somehow less in any particular area. He calls these things wrong.

In Jonah, we learn of a prophet of God who so hated the people of Nineva, that he refused to go and warn them about God's impending judgment. He (Jonah) wanted to see them punished for their evil ways by eternity in Hell - - - - He (Jonah) set himself up as judge, jury, and executioner supplanting the role of God. He was very upset when God spared these people. I see parallels in the way many evangelicals treat our neighbors.

Ironically, as we study the four books, we learn that God warned Israel to "turn from their sin" just as he warned the people of Nineva to turn from theirs. In the end, Israel did not turn their hearts back to God, honoring Him only with their lips, and they ceased to exist as a nation - God allowed the consequences of their sin to overtake them. The people of Nineva, however, repented and acknowledged God. The sinners were saved and the Jews were not. There is a lesson for us here.

The point of the lessons and the illustration I attempted, was that often Christians see Homosexuals as "they", as "them". Often "they" are misunderstood and feared and hated. Sometimes, some Christians look to God to punish sinners. Sometimes, Christians want to help God with that activity. The point of the lessons is that this view is wrong - that God loves us all.

The sin of (wo)man is not that we are homosexual or straight or liars or thieves or adulterers..... those are all just the symptoms of the only real sin there is. Real sin is not honoring God as God – it’s the sin of trying to supplant His position as the being in charge of,,,,, well of anything. Sin is the rejection of the relationship that God offers to us. The rest of it, is just a symptom of the disease. My sin is no less sin than any of the headline sins that our churches point to as "REALLY" bad.

I regret deeply that I've offended. Not only was it not my goal to offend, but further, I think I did a very poor job of delivering the intended message as the message was lost. My only goal in teaching this class is to share the relationship I have with our God with other people so that they can know it too. I ask for your forgiveness for my insensitivity.

Ironically, my views on Prop 8 are really not important. It was your views that I wanted to make sure were thoroughly vetted. I wanted less to influence those views than to create discussion - to cause you to think. At least in that respect, I was successful.

I’ll buy the Starbuck’s for anyone who would like to discuss any of this is person.


ellen talbot said:

Did you pick a red door because that is what you grew up with? A red door on your house? But as for your blog. I appreciate your insight. I also felt unconfortable on the topic of prop. 8. I know for sure that there was at least one person in that crowd who has grown up with a gay uncle. I saw this person squirm in the chair when this topic was approached. I did not vote NO on 8, because I believe that marraige should be sacred and be between only a man and a women. But I also feel sad that two very close friends, no matter gay or not, could not see each other on their death bed, in a hospital, due to the rules of a person must be a significant family member for visitation rights.
So thanks for all your imput and keep coming with your insight, it is great to have the younger minds keep us older minds on our toes!

Mom said:

Well, I agree with Steve Morris' "two cents" above. I also agree with Ellen's comment that I would like to think that a gay couple would have the right to see one another on their death bed or help make decisions if the other person is incapacitated, etc. I do not oppose a legal union for a same sex couple. Marriage is sacred, however, and I believe it should be left alone. I do not believe children should be taught that a marriage is a union between any combination of people. Nor, do I believe that teachers should be "compelled" (to use your word) to teach a new kind of marriage in the public school system to our children. I'll end with this: "If you find that you're without sin... go ahead and cast that Yes vote." I guess this comment was meant to make people like me feel guilty. I do not. I voted "yes," as did the morjority of voters in California and many other states. My decision was not based on me feeling superior to others. I have the right, as do you, to vote for what I believe will be best for society and generations to come on this issue and any other issue. Thankfully, we can agree to disagree on this one. I love you. Mom :o)

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This page contains a single entry by Audrey Camp published on October 21, 2008 5:30 PM.

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