Sister Joan Chittister famously said, "We are each called to go through life reclaiming the planet an inch at a time until the Garden of Eden grows green again." Reflecting on that journey -- a blog at a time -- is the focus of this site.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Defending the Sanctity of Marriage
Here's the text for the radio commentary I gave on Air America's March 26th
State of Belief show defending the sanctity of marriage.
OK -- I'm convinced. The sanctity of marriage DOES need defending and I want to sign up to be on the defense team. I want to be part of making the case that two people making a life-long commitment to each other benefits not only the couple and their family but all of us. I want to argue that such relationships are indeed foundational to so much that is good and strong and solid and healthy about our society -- our culture -- our civilization.
I want to make the case that Britney Spears did more in the 55 hours of her quickly annulled Las Vegas marriage to undermine the sanctity of matrimony than any gay or lesbian couple I have ever known. I want heterosexuals to take responsibility for what has happened to the institution of marriage on their watch -- and I want those determined to save it to partner with gay and lesbian couples yearning for the kind of commitment and responsibility so many straight couples take for granted. I want us to work together to shift the conversation from the gender of the individuals who make up a couple to the quality of the values that make up a marriage – challenging the ridiculous fiction that somehow the orientation of those seeking to love and promise themselves to each other is more important than the values, love and commitment they bring to the relationship.
As a priest and pastor I want to make it perfectly clear that the James Dobsons and Pat Robertsons who claim to have sole possession of “Christian Values” on the issue of marriage equality do not speak for me. They do not speak for All Saints Church, Pasadena. And they do not speak for countless other faithful Christians who understand God’s inclusive love as available to all: rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight. We have Christian Values, too – and they are values of love, inclusion and justice standing in direct opposition to the narrow, exclusivist bigotry being marketed by the rabid Religious Right.
As an American citizen I am horrified by the concerted efforts of these narrow ideologues to derail our democracy with their theology by writing discrimination into the Constitution. In a country where we proclaim “liberty and justice for all” as a core collective value is it unconscionable that the 2006 mid-term election campaigns are once again making gay and lesbian families sacrificial lambs on the altar of partisan politics. In a nation where separation of church and state is an essential aspect of our very identity as Americans it is unacceptable that any faith-based perspective should be allowed to elevate its theological positions above our democratic principles.
Marriage clearly needs a defense team – and so does democracy. Where do I sign up?
Posted by SUSAN RUSSELL at 9:58 AM
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I applaud your efforts to defend the values of marriage. I am sincerely humbled by your true Christian values--that you do not judge people for whom they love, but by the type of love they feel in their hearts. Thank you so much for having the courage to speak out on this issue. God Bless you.
Why is it that you are not considered judgemental in your opinions regarding others who do not think like you? Why is it only judgemental when it goes against your stand? And why is the gay agenda always at the base of everything, every argument, regardless of what it is actually about, and you can make ugly remarks at Dobson and others, but it is unchristian and bigotry when it goes the other way? Why would I be considered a bigot for not agreeing with you, yet you are not a bigot for disagreeing with me? Your writings show a contempt for everyone who is on "the other side". Why is that acceptable?
Actually, I'm sure there ARE those who consider me "judgmental" when I express my opinion about their perspective when if differs from mine. But I'm just not clear how the leap from "difference" to bigotry and contempt gets made.
Here's where I think the fine but important distincition lies: I would defend to my last breath James Dobson's or Pat Roberstson's right to believe what they believe and live their lives in accordance with those values. Meanwhile, they're busy advocating for writing discrimination into the Constitution and placing gay and lesbian families outside the "equal protection" guaranteed all American citizens.
And so while I respect their right to hold a different perspective than mine I will also resist with every ounce of energy I can muster their efforts to inflict their perspective on those who differ from them.
To state that they do not have sole possession of Christian Values is merely to state the truth as I understand it. I leave the judgement where our Lord suggested we leave it: with the One whose quality is always to have mercy.
And as far as the focus on the "gay agenda" goes NO ONE would be happier than I would be to move on to the other aspects of what I consider the Gospel Agenda. But as long as LGBT are the "scapegoats du jour" that's where our energy should and must lie. (I figure it's one of those "inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these" things.)
So, in a nutshell: contempt is not acceptable. Challenging discrimination is.
Thanks for taking time to comment
Okay, if we're playing defense, can I play cornerback?
Great post, Susan. I'm plagiarising it.
This is a thoughtful, articulate, cogent piece, and I thank you for taking the time to write and post it. I think the manner in which gays and lesbians are treated is presently a coalmine canary for America; too many people are getting caught up in the deliberately divisive and unAmerican squabble over what mix of plumbing ought to be allowed in a marriage, utterly missing the _real_ implications for the values for which our society claims to stand — liberty and justice for...some?
The difference between hatred and intolerance is, practically speaking, merely a question of degree, and that is why the very notion of a popular vote to determine whether gays can marry is odious. History shows us that when given the option to vote on it, the majority will virtually always opt to oppress the minority. It matters not at all whether the majority/minority split is along lines of skin color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, nationality, religion or whatever. Not that America cares much about the
rest of the world’s opinion these days, but people in much of the rest of the world are floored that matters of civil rights would be put to a popular vote, for exactly this reason. It’s worth noting that much of the rest of the world has much longer experience running societies than does the USA.
Gandhi enumerated the stages of social change: "First they ignore you, then they ridicule and denounce
you, then they debate you, then you win." The pattern is clearly obvious with any social issue you care to
pick, from slavery to women’s suffrage to segregation...to gay rights.
The flood of gay marriage bans is just like the flood 60 years ago of bans on mixed-race marriage In both cases, God and Jesus and the Bible were invoked in support ofthe bans. In both cases, the rhetoric was along the lines of "protecting the
institution of marriage". These bans, like those bans, will be temporary. They'll probably last more than 4 years and less than 20. In 40 years, most of society will look back with shame and regret upon these bans, just as most of us look back shamefully now at those bans.
Apparently, we've learnt nothing.
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