July 23, 2011
The Christian case for marriage equality
Legal same-sex marriage begins tomorrow in New York, and I love that the Times ran this article (The Clergy Effort Behind Same-Sex Marriage in New York) spotlighting the efforts of members of the clergy on behalf of marriage equality, noting that it’s a common but erroneous belief that churches and religious people are polarized against the advancement of LGBT equality. While some of the most conspicuous campaigns against equality have been waged by churches, in fact, there are religious believers working on both sides of this issue.
What makes this surprising or counterintuitive for a lot of people is a pair of major misconceptions, perpetrated largely by the preaching of the fundamentalist religious right wing, that moderate, liberal or progressive Christianity is just a watered down version of fundamentalist Christianity with weaker versions of the same beliefs; and that in supporting LGBT equal rights, we’re just capitulating to the permissive amorality of popular culture.
What we want people to understand is that we’re actually doing this because we truly believe it is right. Not because it is easy or just happens to be popular at the moment.
We are not, as socially conservative preachers often accuse, saying we believe in equality for political expediency, to be popular, to duck uncomfortable criticism, because we’re insecure in our faith or because we don’t know all the same Bible verses from Leviticus and 1st Corinthians that they do. We support LGBT equality, including in legal marriage, as an expression of our faith, not in spite of it.
We think that the narrative arc of the Bible is one of an ever-expanding conception of grace and compassion for our fellow humans. It’s a story of each successive generation seeing a new reflection of God in the world and the people around them. We don’t think that that story ended 2000 years ago, but that we’re asked by Christ constantly to see all people anew as creations of God.
I do take issue with one characterization of the debate from the article, when it says “Yet the passage of same-sex marriage in New York last month, just two years after its defeat here, attests to the concerted, sustained efforts by liberal Christian and Jewish clergy to advocate for it in the language of faith, to counter the language of morality voiced by foes.”
Because we absolutely believe that this is an issue of morality as well. We believe it’s immoral for the government to create second-class citizens and second-class families. We believe it’s immoral to withhold civil rights based on sexuality just as it would be to deny those rights on the basis of race or religion. We think that the bigotry enshrined by the Defense of Marriage Act is immoral. We believe that to scapegoat gays for divorce, child abuse, and a host of other cultural problems is immoral. We believe it is a moral edict of our faith to stand up for the most vulnerable and marginalized people in our society.
We are not attempting to undermine morality, but to support a morality of compassion and respect for all of our citizens.
We believe, as Victor Hugo wrote, “to love another person is to see the face of God,” and that nothing can make that wrong.