On June 26, 2015, a whole bunch of people changed their Facebook statuses to rainbow-filtered ones. Oh, and the United States Supreme Court finally realized that discrimination is discrimination and put an end to it, at least where marriage is concerned. (I’m a bit of a realist when I come to the conclusion that discrimination will always find a way.) Needless to say, not only did I recognize this as a great way of showing tolerance and acceptance to others, , but I also knew it’d be a great topic for the blog (because, yes, I’m always thinking about the blog). However, I wanted to take a different tack on the issue.
Normally, I would have just banged out a quick article in the wake of the decision (yeah, I hear you snickering: “quick? You?”) but I had a golden opportunity to actually do some field work. You see, in a couple of days, I’d be leaving on a road trip to the United States (for an audition for the television game show Jeopardy! Yes, really.) which would also take me through five pretty red states (North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas), plus what looks like mostly red areas of what’s lately been classified as a blue state (Iowa) – and the only one of the six that had recognized same sex marriage before this decision (and was actually one of the first to do so). I could see what non-progressives really think, how they’d be grumbling and complaining every chance they got, and get a chance to actually see how Joe Conservative deals with things when love and acceptance win out. It’d be like an anthropological field trip!
I was all set to leave two days later, Sunday June 28. But I really wanted to go to church first before I left, to be with my fellow Christians (even though much of the membership does seem to be more conservative than I), and to be with my God. I was all set to make a prayer request based on the recent ruling, praying for the Church as a whole that we would be unified, as I knew of churches that both supported same-sex marriage and rejected it, and it could be a dividing wedge in the Church and between Christians. However, before I got to, another member piped up with their own request. After a few words I knew that their request was also about the Supreme Court ruling, and I already knew that they did not support it. “Oh, great,” I thought to myself, “they are going to mention how gay marriage is wrong and evil and how the United States has lost favour with God and every other mean and hateful word I’ve heard coming from conservatives all over social media in the last few days. I don’t want to see this in my church. I don’t want to see hateful talk against others.” But, as he continued on, I learned it wasn’t about that. Like me, he has also seen hateful talk. Not just from the opponents, but from the supporters too. It was the Christians of all political stripes acting un-Christlike in their language that bothered him. And that was probably at the heart of my concerns as well. And my fear that merely because someone is conservative they will spout hatred of others made me feel pretty low. (It also reminded me how incredibly human, with our human frailty that fails us constantly, we all are, yet the perfect God still decides to hang out with us. Wow.)
We started on our long journey a few hours later that day. As we were driving through prime Republican country, I was expecting to see a lot of billboards decrying the Marriage Equality Act, but that was not the case (although there were a lot of billboards for fireworks and lawyers, confirming that there’s still a separate culture down there), closest I did see was a plain billboard that had text relating to how Jesus was the saviour (I forget the wording exactly) somewhere in South Dakota, I think near the North Dakota border. Once I got to the audition on Tuesday, there were several dozen other auditioners there mainly from all over the Midwest from all walks of life, a Jewish rabbi, a homemaker, even a Baptist minister from Texas and a woman in a same-sex marriage herself (she made reference to her wife) in the same practice group! But everyone treated each other with respect.
Perhaps this is a non-issue. Perhaps the prominent conservatives who are calling out about this are looking for attention for themselves (because it sure isn’t looking to seek God’s favour! (Luke 18:9-14)). Perhaps people don’t care as much about discriminating against people as the modern-day Pharisees would like to say they do. Perhaps, just perhaps, the ruling is actually God’s way of getting the country “back on track”, as conservatives like to point out (only the opposite way); perhaps God is telling us “the battle for equality in marriage is over. Now you can focus the energy you had denying my goodness to people and use it to focus on what I actually commanded you to do in the Bible: feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and seek out justice.” Will this actually be done by the right-wing now? I doubt it. But we can actually focus our energies on what God commanded us to do now!
One of my favourite passages, that I’ve referenced here before, was Jesus with the adulterous woman in John 8. While everyone else in the story was treating her badly because they perceived that their religion commanded them to, and I guess they had to figure they had to earn brownie points with their god by “slut-shaming” her. Jesus spoke kindly to the woman, while recognizing her as a sinner. But then again, we all are sinners. If the religious right is vocal in wanting to take marriage away from one group of sinners, should they not make all marriages equally invalid, since we all have sinned? All sinners have the same punishment, and to treat one sin worse than another would be to call God a liar. Instead, it seems that one of the most important law for Christians to follow (well, other than the top two) is “don’t be a jerk” (aka Wheaton’s Law).
Christianity is a religion of love, and we are to respond to everything in love. People are not going to say “gee, I want the kind of life he has” with vitriolic comments against the LGBTQ community, like I’ve seen online from conservative Christians. And people aren’t going to think “this person is loving and accepting towards others, he will obviously be loving and accepting towards me” with hatred and mocking of conservatives, like I’ve seen online from progressive Christians. We actually have something in common! Whether you are a conservative or a progressive, we have to work with our community and let them know that this behaviour isn’t drawing people to Christ. Love does. And God is love. God is kind. He doesn’t boast about how righteous he is and, more importantly, he doesn’t keep a record of our sins. He doesn’t care about others’ sins because he knows we all have them. So why don’t we try to be more like God’s example when we deal with others? He is the one we follow, after all …