God is our shelter, our strength,
ever ready to help in time of trouble,
so we shall not be afraid when the earth gives way,
when mountains tumble into the depths of the sea,
and its waters roar and seethe,
the mountains tottering as they heave.
Yahweh Sabaoth is on our side,
our citadel, the God of Jacob! Selah.
Psalm 46 Jerusalem Bible
Not weighing in on a pro- or con- basis with regard to the Supreme Court decision to give same-sex couples the ‘right to marry,’ there is one thing I have noticed in today’s news, coming from a Christian candidate for the United States presidency. He says that faithful, bible-believing Christians have no choice now but to resist this new ruling by non-violent means, imitating the tactics of Martin Luther King, Jr., using civil disobedience. What struck me very odd about this line of reasoning is, in the case of the civil rights movement, what was being resisted was not giving people rights, but withholding them. In other words, a black American did not have the same rights as a white American because of a variety of laws in a multitude of jurisdictions, as well as racial prejudices that were ten generations deep. To use civil disobedience to resist laws giving people rights rather than withholding them is a new thing.
If I am a Christian whose faith ‘tells’ me that homosexuality is a sin, and homosexual unions a form of blasphemy, then I should have the right to not cooperate with a law that contravenes what I believe is the moral law. In the case at hand, now pointing to myself personally, still without taking a position on the issue, there is nothing in my everyday life that the new ruling is going to change or challenge.
If I am offended by the sight of a homosexual couple pushing a baby in a shopping cart at the grocery, then I will be offended whether the couple is married or just cohabiting. If I run a catering service, and this hypothetical couple wasn’t married before, but are now planning their wedding and engage my company to supply the wedding cake and the feast, then, yes, if my faith tells me that assisting others to sin makes me an accomplice, I will have a problem. Fifty years ago I could have had the same problem if the couple were a black heterosexual couple, and my church supported segregation. If I had served the negro, my white customers might find out, and boycott me, ruining my business.
The two examples, though, aren’t quite the same, of course. We now know that black people are interchangeable with white people. Many of us know that heterosexual and homosexual people are also interchangeable.
In other words, except for what they do privately with each other, they live like anyone else, working a job, paying taxes, serving in the military, adopting children, perhaps even procreating them with the assistance of artificial insemination (a strategy used also by childless heterosexual couples), going to school, even becoming recognized leaders in every field of study, innovation, and government. I had to leave ‘going to church’ out of the list for reasons everyone knows.
Many of us also know that heterosexual and homosexual people are not interchangeable, whatever the evidence or reasoning, because ‘the Bible says so.’ Embarrassingly enough, the same argument was used to keep black skinned people at first in inhuman slavery, later in even more inhuman segregation. It wasn’t about who could or couldn’t live next door to me, a white man. It was about who could make a living wage, have his kids educated, and not be looked at as a ‘nigger.’ It was also about who I could or couldn’t marry.
So there are some similarities between the struggle for equal rights waged by Martin Luther King, Jr., and the leaderless hordes of shameful gay people. In both cases, the struggle was, arguably, won by both communities.
When the black man was finally declared to have exactly the same rights under the law as the white man, what rights did the white man lose? Being able to have a black servant, eat in a café where the cooks and waiters were black, have a shoeshine from a black shoeshine boy, or have a one night stand with a black woman, all this and more without having to reciprocate?
A white man could still marry a black woman, but only if he went to live with the blacks. But a black man marry a white woman? Oh my God! Blasphemy! and maybe a lynching. Yes, the white community in America lost so many rights and is even now an endangered species in its native land, because the black community was finally invited to full participation in the life of the nation, to ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.’ Right!
I ask myself, again without taking sides, what rights do I lose by this ruling that grants ‘marriage equality’ to people who the country, maybe even the world, has never before dared to grant? If I, a man, am married to a woman and have a family, and the next door neighbor is two women married to each other, raising a family of children that might be mothered by either or both of them, results from failed man-woman marriages, or maybe even from artificial insemination with ‘off the shelf’ semen, how do I deal with that? What do I tell my children?
‘Don’t go there. Don’t play with those kids. Their mothers are lesbians.’ Right, that’s what I might tell them, opening up a Pandora’s box of questioning in their young minds, some of which they might be afraid to ask me. Worse yet, they might decide on their own, that what is going on next door, is quite alright with them. Or they might read the Bible and arrive at different conclusions. Or I might not tell them anything, except when they ask, ‘Dad, umm, Jamie next door has two moms!’ It would be then I might have to tell them what I, their dad, think of it all, and guide them gently to see things my way. Ain’t that what parents are for?
Before I finish this dialog with myself, I want to return to what I read in today’s news, about civil disobedience as the only choice for the true Christian in the face of this new legal reality.
Regardless of what I think about marriage, who is eligible, even what marriage is, I need to remind myself of one thing. In the past, protest movements were initiated to equalize social and legal rights, without taking away any real rights from anyone. That’s what the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s was about.
This single ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS for short—are they slyly alluding to the philosopher Duns Scotus of the middle ages? and if so, why?), this single ruling extends the right to marry, that is, have a legally recognized partnership contract (whatever they call it is immaterial) between two consenting adults, irrespective of their gender, without taking away any of my real rights.
If no one is taking away any of my rights, no one is taking away any of yours. Except, of course, if the right to discriminate against anyone is a real right. The Gospel, I don’t think, sanctions discrimination in this case or any other. As for St Paul, well, he does write ‘have nothing to do with a brother Christian who does so-and-so,’ but he also writes, ‘I can judge people who are inside [the Church], as for those outside, God is their judge.’
Once again, I think all this that some are so furious over or at least anxious about is really just another challenge for us to ‘let God be God.’ If there is someone I do not personally like for whatever reason, I must be satisfied to at least know that I’m not them. If I don’t understand them or what they do, that’s precisely why. I can only understand someone if I love them. And if I don’t want to understand—it’s my choice—what then?