Share this post:

Marriage Equality V. Religious Freedom

Marriage Equality is now the law of the land. Finally, each marriage in this country will be protected and afforded the equal opportunities, rights and benefits they deserve. No government will be allowed to stand in the path of those who wish to marry. For those who have known the trauma and hardship it has taken to advance to this day, it is, indeed, a day worthy of robust celebration

Marriage is after all, a celebration that aches to be shared with as many people as possible. The joy of love (if you’ve ever been so fortunate to have been there) is an experience that you want to blissfully shout out from the mountaintops. Yet, the deepest bond of love asks for more from those would-be partners. It longs for commitment, patience and reliable presence through all of life’s ups and downs in ways more substantial than mere romance affords. Knowing this, we long to make ceremony of our intentions publicly. If one looks to the “traditional format” of a wedding, it is the act of standing before our highest powers and saying “I am here for my Love, above all others, and will be held responsible for my commitment.” The witnesses to this act not only verify the union and encourage accountability of the betrothed, but also stand in a place of honor to assist in the protection of that union. It is an act of equal commitment from friends, family and community that says, “I will help you succeed together.”

That we now have a government standing along side us as an honored witness and protector for our marriages will only strengthen our wider community’s understanding and LGBTQ acceptance.

Still, many will disagree we should be celebrating. Cue, the religious objectors. Cue those who think strong communities are better separate than equal. Cue those who cannot fathom life without prescribed gender roles and static sexual orientation. Cue the onslaught of “Christianity is under attack” speech and Religious Freedom Reformation Acts.

As momentous as Marriage Equality is, expect to see more, not less, religious pushback. Expect to see more discriminating business owners citing religious objection. Expect louder, fearful cries from ecclesiastics who have never, on their darkest days, have ever been forced to marry anyone they didn’t want to. Expect to hear more agonizingly hateful sermons proclaiming “end times” and “abominations”. Expect to continue to hear more quotes from GOP candidates and Christian Conservatives on the “true” definition of marriage, religious freedom and rights of conscience.
And if you can, in the midst of all that, rejoice. Rejoice by celebrating your freedom to marry. There will be clergy there to unite you. Families by your side. And finally, the rights and protections afforded you equally by your government.

Pardon me, Justice Roberts, but you’re damn right I’m going to celebrate. In our history, the LGBTQ community has gone from being targeted enemies of the state (you think I’m exaggerating?) to, finally, being protected by it. Pardon me, if for a moment, I take the religious cries that “the sky is falling” to be a bit melodramatic.

Religious freedoms, so far as the eye can see, have been well tested, judged and protected in this country. In fact, we’ve spent ample time clarifying the bounds of where religion has it’s rule in a pluralized society so much so that ordinary, individual citizens have had to labor to define themselves apart from it. Believe me, Jesus is going to be just fine.

To faith communities already in the swing of Marriage Equality, having long embraced the LGBTQ community, thank you for your efforts. Were it not for your willingness to marry, support and bless these unions, we may well been relegated to “civil unions”. That being said, we still have a very long way to go.

Christianity is still synonymous with being anti-gay and there are many who expend great effort to color God that way. If the Church feels any kind of pressure at all over this decision, it should be in living up to its own expectations of peace. By continuing to side with theologies untenable to preserving human dignity, religious objections become impotent to their proclaimed higher calling of compassionate life. The rite of marriage is an act of unity and preservation. It is a coming together. A fusing of spirit. By standing together as any witness, we stand together in community saying, “I wish you peace. I wish you all happiness. I will fight for you toward success. I will comfort you in trouble. I am by your side.”

It’s time, Church. It’s time to be a gift-giver rather than a wedge. It’s time to make peace instead of starting a new fight.

How many more times, I wonder, will the high court of our nation have to remind us to treat others as we wish to be treated ourselves? It is a lofty ideal we aspire to, fail quite often, rarely arrive at without leadership instructing us to do so, but upon occasion in history, we are find we are capable of more than we might have imagined.
Ready? Set…Go!

 

Originally posted to Huffington Post: Religion



Share this post:

Affirming Faith Voices Crucial For Advancing LGBT Civil Rights

It didn’t take long for Michelle Shocked’s ‘misunderstood’ anti-gay rant to make the headlines last week. Her choice of language was repugnant. (A few days later, she apologized.) Although she has received more press in recent days than she has had in the last decade, for now, she only has cancelled concerts to show for it. But this isn’t a blog about her. It’s about the missing voice of affirmative LGBT faith leaders in the media.

Many will see the Shocked incident as a typical Christian anti-gay ‘whack-a-mole’, individual and unconnected to the start of Supreme Court oral arguments on Proposition 8 and DOMA. But those on the front lines of LGBT civil rights recognize Shocked as parrot of the pulpit. After Lifeway Christian Resources (a Southern Baptist organization) revealed that 64% of Americans think legal gay marriage is inevitable, you can expect to hear a steady stream of prophetic filibustering this spring. Between now and June, those who still go to church will hear many sermons on the Armageddon inducing powers of homosexuality. The most putrid and sensational will, no doubt, escape from confines of their own dwindling congregations, loose its hated across our public airwaves and further cement the notion that Christians are anti-gay.

Why not? It’s all we ever hear. 3 out of every 4 anti-gay sentiments reported in our public media come from religious sources. (40% of negative rhetoric specifically from evangelical circles.) We often confuse those who speak from lofty perches as having earned the authority to speak for the many, when if fact, they were probably just the first to grab the microphone. An argument could be made that religion-fueled bigotry retains its foothold in LGBT civil rights opposition because it continues to be given the bullhorn. We keep boo-ing the speaker hoping he’ll be quiet, but we’re still filling the room. Walk away and what’s it matter? There comes a time when the onus becomes ours to change the programming. If we change the channel the ratings will fall and the show will be canceled – end of story.

But it is a mistake to steal the microphone from every person of faith.

Author and minister, Rob Bell has sold more books than Michelle Shocked could ever dream of matching in record sales. He is one of the most audible voices of modern Christianity, actively influencing an entire generation of Evangelicals. Recently, Bell publicly expressed his support for gay marriage with emboldened clarity yet, outside of faith-based circles, few noticed. He is one in a handful of articulate, compassionate, and influential religious voices willing to be responsible for moving a generation toward LGBT affirmation. Notable believers like Brian McLaren are crucial in helping Christians understand that the language used by their forefathers is one of an inherited and broken theology that must evolve. It’s important to find positive role models who admit to climbing out of the primordial goo and are willing to build a bridge to safety.

If Michelle Shocked is worthy of a mention at all, it is that she is a Follower being baptized in the rising waters of change. For those who claim a faith tradition, the neutral ground is rapidly disappearing. Silence, apathy and indecision were once an oasis in a rising tide of discrimination. Staying silent meant avoiding controversy – but now we recognize that silence is too easily confused with consent for injustice. For those victims of the current, it is our challenge to give them a recognizable voice that can guide them to safety.



Share this post:

National Coming Out Day 2012

National Coming Out Day ImageOctober 11th is National Coming Out Day.

Much has changed in terms of public awareness and acceptance of LGBT people in our modern history. I wasn’t yet born when the pain of anti-gay prejudice erupted into the Stonewall riots. I have some consciousness of “the Twinkie Defense” but had little clue as to who Harvey Milk was when I was four years old. As a small town Kansas girl, I heard the word “gay” whispered in hushed tones of speculation while eyes winked when a neighbor was referred to as “a confirmed bachelor”. I don’t think any of it set in until some funny lady named Ellen came out on national television to Kansas native and rocker Melissa Etheridge. (Apparently, back then you had to sign in triplicate with a confirmed and “out” witness, but these days it’s a lot more casual.)

Most people forget that Ellen Degeneres paid a heavy price when she paved the way for mainstream “out” entertainers. From “Will & Grace” to “The New Normal” & “The Modern Family”, it might be easy to forget that “Coming Out” can and is for many people, still very, very hard. Lest we dare forget the tragedies of Matthew Shepard, Tyler Clementi or the countless unnamed youth who have lost their lives to silence.

The reality is that coming out is the beginning of openly confronting the stigma and prejudice that keep so many closeted. For every human being who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered, regardless of faith affiliation, most will face some form of religious assault to their human dignity. Destructive religious traditions set out to socially and emotionally shame any and all who do not uphold the conditions of membership, including would-be straight allies.

National Coming Out Day is not solely about outing oneself as LGBT, it is about breaking the bonds of silence. It is about showing ourselves willing to be a part of a community that includes all people. A community that is incomplete without the support of straight allies.

Many straight, Christian allies hesitate to act in public affirmation for fear of facing the same measure of persecution and judgment. The “guilt by association” branding is very real. Just ask Brian McClaren. When the popular straight, postmodern evangelical author and ally recently presided over his son’s same-sex wedding, immediate accusations of disloyalty began. (Pull that thread here, here, and here.) Sure, he may lose a few book sales, but the impact of such willingness to act openly not only blesses his son, his act blesses many who have waited in silence for leadership.

So when you think of the challenges facing our closeted LGBT friends, neighbors and youth this week, think on this: For whatever repercussions you might hesitate to shoulder by “outting” yourself as an ally, consider what it means to those who have been waiting their whole lives for your compassion. To my straight Christian friends, let me blunt: little will change until you match the courage of those who have dared to come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. It is simply not enough to be a friend who says nothing. No burden is fully eased unless it shared by another. We need you. Please come out…