An exploration of Equality and Religion and related matters

I feel really nervous writing this post. I know I’m potentially opening up a can of worms. But I also feel like I have to write this post. It’s tricky to write, given that I’m essentially on many levels “an outsider looking in” and in other ways vastly unqualified, so bear with me.

As I said in my previous post, as a progressive Catholic, I support marriage equality and other forms of equality. I’ve been informed by listening to others – those with more knowledge than me, or more life experience, or with a somewhat different point of view. I also listen to my own heart and conscience, trying to empathise and understand as much as possible, then compare the new information with what I knew previously. As I’ve grown up, from a young teen to now a young adult, my thoughts and views have grown and expanded, to lead me to where I stand today.

Something I didn’t mention in the post is how some people I know say they support “gay rights”, but, for example, wonder why the same-sex attracted can’t just have “something different”, equal to marriage but by another name. I think you’ll agree that that sort of distinction is just disguised discrimination, yes? After all, things change over time as our society changes and becomes more aware.

It gets a little more complicated however.

Marriage equality requires legal acknowledgment of the right of LGBTI+ people to be who they are. To live as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, etc. and not have to deny it. Of course, not every LGBTI+ person wants to get married, just as not every straight person wants to. There’s a truckload of “stuff” associated with the hows and whys of that (involving oppression, mainstreaming, etc.) which I could go into, but won’t. The fact remains that some do want to get married, meaning that this decision by the Supreme Court is a very visible acknowledgement of LGBTI+ people.

To illustrate, here is the closing paragraph in the ruling given by the majority opinion (the Yes vote) of the US Supreme Court:

“No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered.”

I think the above statement is vitally important because of the reasons given by those who have difficulty accepting anything other than heterosexuality as normal. I’m not talking about the “reasons” which can be brushed aside fairly easily, like “think of the children” (eye-roll; it’s been proven that the kids are just fine, thanks), or whether it is “natural” (how do we know that it is or isn’t?), or “what’s next? Polygamy or bestiality?” (I mean, what? Why would minds jump to that conclusion – especially the latter?); things like that.

I’m talking about reasons like “marriage being about more than just happiness” (emphasis mine) – which I saw on a Christian website. I agree with that, in a sense, but I do not see why that has to mean the LGBTI+ are left out.

Let me clarify. I have been raised to view marriage as a union in which a man and a woman two people work together and grow together, sharing some common interests (for example, a belief in God) and committed to each other for the long haul, even through disagreements and such. This doesn’t mean happiness shouldn’t be a part of marriage – that’s silly. Just the same, it won’t be perfect all the time; disagreements happen. But we are all “seekers, not saints”, as the chaplain at my uni is fond of saying. As another said, it’s better to look for an “unfinished stone block” than a “marble sculpture”.
(Of course, this does not excuse situations of abuse and violence etc. within families and marriages. If that happens, then by all means leave!)

The most perfect love, I believe, is the ideal that Jesus (and through Him, God) showed through his compassion for all, regardless of background. The Bible passage, 1 Corinthians Ch 13, Verses 1-13, says this best in Biblical terms in my opinion – there is also a song that uses these words beautifully (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yLFCuaRiug). We’re imperfect and must strive for that ideal. It’s not meant to be easy.

So, with that in mind, why must it (in the eyes of some) be restricted to two people of opposite sex? Why is the relationship between two people of the same sex “wrong” in their eyes?

There are Bible passages which, it is true, appear to criticise homosexuality. But taking into account the context of the passages and the times, compared to now (including the languages used in writing them and how they must be translated for us to even attempt to understand)….Do the criticisms hold? I don’t know.

There’s an American group called Soulforce (www.soulforce.org), whose founder, Reverend Doctor Mel White, has studied this. They offer the opinion that the Bible is a book about God rather than human sexuality, noting that, “only six or seven of the Bible’s one million verses refer to same-sex behaviour in any way — and [in the opinion of Soulforce] none of these verses refers to homosexual orientation as we understand today”. The pamphlet this comes from is called, “What the Bible says – and doesn’t say – about Homosexuality”, available here (http://www.soulforce.org/pdf/whatthebiblesays.pdf). Its opinion about the Bible has been challenged somewhat by another man, Daniel B. Wallace (https://bible.org/article/review-mel-white-s-what-bible-says-and-doesn-t-say-about-homosexuality). But I believe the message is still important.

After all, as Rev. Dr. White says in his booklet, “Even when we believe the Scriptures are ‘infallible’ or ‘without error,’ it’s terribly dangerous to think that our understanding of every biblical text is also without error. We are human. We are fallible. And we can misunderstand and misinterpret these ancient words—with tragic results.”

Something to remember is that the words we read today are interpretations of meaning, originally meant for a particular group of people in a particular context, translated from their original language. Also, we as messy, complicated human beings bring to the reading our own preconceived ideas and understanding. Every person has a slightly different view of the world, shaped by our own experiences. Therefore, when we read the Bible – or another text – we interpret it in our own way, potentially without even realising it. This is a point to remember for reading the Bible generally, not just when looking at LGBTI+ people. A point that has been all-to-often overlooked in the past.

My personal interpretation rests on the central core of Christian teaching: “love your neighbour as yourself”. This is explained, for instance, in Luke’s Gospel, (Ch 10) with the Parable of the Good Samaritan. At the end, Jesus leads the listener to the conclusion that our “neighbour” is the one who has mercy on us, as we have mercy on them. The passage ends with Jesus saying, “Go and do likewise.”

This is important to note, given that a bunch of other behaviours are listed as immoral in the Bible, too. Apart from the often-referenced ones (sex outside marriage, divorce, etc.), others include dishonesty, greed, prejudice, cruelty, selfishness, rudeness…and judging other people.

All I can do is follow my own heart and conscience – informed by what I hear and read. I have seen the love between two consenting homosexual people who care about each other, live together and look after each other, even through the occasional disagreement. I see the hate and confusion some people have towards that kind of relationship and I feel confused myself.

I think that Jesus would want us to try and understand each other rather than piling on hate, or patronising encouragement to “change” in this regard. He extended the hand of welcome to all, even society’s outcasts. He attempted understanding without judgement, while setting up, through his teachings, an ideal world to strive for.

One with peace and unity at its core, free from the shackles of bigotry, ignorance, intolerance, arrogance and fear – on this issue and others.

That is the Christ I believe in.

So please, have a little understanding (a little compassionate love) before condemning or attempting to “change” someone. Too many LGBTI+ people, especially young people, feel isolated even today. Too many commit suicide or self-harm due to that isolation. This must change. The Supreme Court decision is not the end, but is one step on the way towards that change.

Resources:

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2005/05/06/what-my-jesus-would-do/

http://whatever.scalzi.com/2015/06/29/this-new-america/

http://theaimn.com/its-time-marriage-equality-and-why-i-support-it-updated/

https://wordynerdbird.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/outrageous-outrage/

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/jun/30/even-for-a-kid-with-two-mums-you-dont-fully-realise-what-hate-is-until-you-live-it?CMP=share_btn_fb

http://mic.com/articles/121532/there-s-something-important-we-re-missing-with-the-same-sex-marriage-celebration?utm_source=MicCheck+List+B&utm_campaign=7bfa2e0d5b-July_1_20156_30_2015&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_87690a1e0b-7bfa2e0d5b-285602053

http://thewardrobedoor.com/2015/06/are-marriages-supposed-to-be-happy.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheWardrobeDoor+%28The+Wardrobe+Door%29

http://thewardrobedoor.com/2015/07/did-the-supreme-court-grant-gay-americans-dignity.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheWardrobeDoor+%28The+Wardrobe+Door%29

http://thewardrobedoor.com/2015/06/when-christians-really-lost-the-marriage-debate.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheWardrobeDoor+%28The+Wardrobe+Door%29

https://mikewittmer.wordpress.com/2015/06/29/where-you-start-determines-where-you-end/

https://bible.org/article/review-mel-white-s-what-bible-says-and-doesn-t-say-about-homosexuality

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4 thoughts on “An exploration of Equality and Religion and related matters

  1. What I felt in the years leading up to this decision was that there was a fundamental problem with the way marriage was handled in the states anyway.
    Marriage is a religious concept, yet it has endorsement (and is conferred advantages) by the state.
    This is a problem. Because couples of all stripes want advantage to those benefits (shared taxes, inclusion on one another’s medical insurance, ability to visit when only “family” is allowed in the hospital, just to name a few).
    So for the longest time, I thought that the way to go was to drive an axe through the whole thing. Every “marriage” would no longer be called a “marriage” by the state, but rather a “civil union” or something similar. Of course, if you were married by a church and wanted that specific designation, then of course you were “married” too, but the fire and brimstone types could keep slinging the damnation while the gay people got their unions and kept their paws off of “marriage proper”, as it were.
    Now, I’ll take marriage being mandated in all 50 states. It’s a huge step forward. But as we’ve already seen, the haters are going to hate and they’re going to keep fighting it under the guise of “religious freedom”. But this issue isn’t, and never has been, about religion, as much as ultra-religious types would like to pretend it is. It’s about affording rights to everybody regardless of color, creed, or persuasion. The moment we went and started making marriage a part of society beyond its religious implications, it became a RIGHT.

    I never comment at length like this, but I feel pretty strongly about this matter. Anyway, for a Catholic, I think you take a pretty healthy view on it.

    Liked by 1 person

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