Washington State Catholic Pastors’ Refusal Continues to Inspire

From New Ways Ministry

While we were in Washington State last week doing educational programs on Catholic support for marriage equality in anticipation of that state’s referendum on the issue in November,  Sister Jeannine Gramick, co-founder of New Ways Ministry, and I met with several pastors and parish leaders who earlier this year had refused the local archbishop’s request to use their parishes to collect signatures for petitions  to put the new marriage law to a ballot test.

Our discussion was lively and encouraging.  For one thing, we learned that there were many more parishes that had refused to collect signatures than had made the news accounts back in April.  We knew about a handful, but it turns out there were probably close to twenty that abstained from the collection.  In fact in one deanery (a geographic division) of the diocese, the pastors of all twelve parishes had met and agreed corporately not to allow signature collection.

The pastors we met  said they mostly had two reasons for their refusal:  1) they believed that collecting signatures would cause great divisions in the parishes; 2) many of the parishes have an explicit welcome to LGBT parishioners and their families, and they felt that collecting signatures would be a sign of inhospitality.

Response from parishioners has been universally positive about the decision not to support the signature campaign.  A number of the priests said that the announcements of the decision received standing ovations from their congregations.  The few parishioners who disagreed expressed their thoughts quietly and respectfully, and the priests felt that the decision helped to open up avenues of dialogue.

Fr John Whitney, SJ

During our discussion, we learned about one pastor, in particular, who has been very public and vocal about not supporting measures to defeat marriage equality.  Fr. John Whitney, SJ, of St. Joseph Parish, Seattle, has added a section to the parish’s website about the upcoming referendum.  In that section, he includes a letter describing his decision as well as his perspective on Referendum 74.    He begins:

“Many of you may have read in the media that St. Joseph, among other parishes, has decided not to allow the gathering of signatures for Referendum 74, which aims at repealing the marriage equality bill passed by the State of Washington. This referendum is supported by the Archdiocese of Seattle, who has asked the Knights of Columbus to collect signatures at various parishes. Although many of you have offered support for the decision not to allow signature gathering here, I believe all of you deserve an explanation of the reasoning behind the decision.

“The primary reason for not allowing this petition is the nature of the worshipping assembly. Women and men of all opinions, orientations, backgrounds, and motivations are welcomed at this altar, and are encouraged to pray for wisdom and unity, even as we all work to create social policies that respect our faith and support each other. The Church should not be a place of coercion, but of discernment, as each member of the Church (as well as each citizen), decides whether a proposal such as Referendum 74 makes us more or less like the Kingdom described by Jesus. To have petitioners at the doors seems to me inappropriately coercive and contrary to the mission of the Church, especially in the Sunday assembly.”

Fr. Whitney goes on to describe why he feels the church is not the place to debate the referendum:

“Further, the nature of the piece of legislation makes it inappropriate to be brought into the context of our worship, I believe, since Referendum 74—like the marriage equality act it seeks to overturn—concerns civil marriage, not the covenant of Catholic marriage, which is a matter of faith and exists in the Church through the ministry of every couple. Although the Archbishop has the right and responsibility to speak and educate the community about legislation, I believe that this level of involvement around the issue of civil marriage is ill-considered, and risks placing the Church on the side of injustice and the denial of civil rights. Thus, I cannot in conscience allow such signature gathering at St. Joseph. I am not telling others how to vote, but I think that a Catholic, in good conscience, can oppose this referendum and should not be pressured to support it in the context of Sunday mass.”

In addition to his statement on the parish website, the pastor also posted Archbishop Peter Sartain’s letterrequesting signatures,  and an FAQ sheet from the  Washington State Catholic Conference on why Catholics should oppose marriage equality.  Fr. Whitney explained his approach:

“Finally, I want to be clear that the Archbishop empowered pastors to make the decision about whether or not to allow signature gathering, and that we are not acting in opposition to his leadership. I am committed to offering his words directly to this community, when that is requested, and to encourage all members of the community to read them respectfully and thoughtfully, as part of the formation of conscience for any Catholic. In those rare situations where I may disagree with the Archbishop’s conclusions, I do not intend to use the pulpit or bulletin to debate, since that is not the place. As I have said, I think such debates belong outside the Church.”

He closes with a hope and prayer for unity among Catholics, even those divided by the marriage equality issue:

“It is of primary importance in all this, however, that we know we can be one community, united in heart and mind, only if we believe that every person is loved by God and valued in his or her humanity. We must listen to one another with respect—to the reality of our experiences and the grace of our call, in Christ. Hearing and loving each other is the root to true discernment, for it is in this communion that the Spirit is present and the Church—the true Church, for whom Christ was crucified and to whom he gave his body and blood—made flesh.

“May we hear God in our midst and always live to do God’s will in our world.”

On the website, Fr. Whitney provided a link for people to easily respond to him and/or to the archbishop.

We need more pastors like Father Whitney who speak forthrightly and who encourage respectful dialogue among their parishioners and between parishioners and their pastoral leaders.

–Francis DeBernardo, New Ways Ministry

U.S. Episcopal Presiding Bishop On Gay Clergy and Contraception

From Queering The Church:

 

In the Catholic Church, US bishops have been in a froth over health care funding for contraception – even though the overwhelming majority of ordinary Catholics have been practising birth control for decades. In the UK and Australia as well as the US, Catholic bishops are mobilizing against marriage equality – even though most Catholics support it. Just a handful of Catholic bishops are grudgingly acknowledging that there could be value in alternative legal recognition for same –  sex partnerships, while most Catholics just do not see these relationships as even a matter of morality at all.

In the Anglican / Episcopal church, where governance is more democratic and leadership is more in touch with their members, things are different. The English church has a formal working group engaged in studying the issues around human sexuality, which has just announced the appointment of expert advisers to assist its work, and the US Episcopal Church is even further ahead. There, says the presiding bishop, “it’s a done deal”

NEW YORK — The movement toward legalizing same-sex marriage and the acceptance of gay people as clergy and lay members of religious groups is “a done deal” that represents “phenomenal” progress, the top figure in the Episcopal Church told The Huffington Post during a recent visit to its newsroom.

In an hour-long conversation with HuffPost staffers, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, touched upon subjects that ranged from her views on how to interpret scripture and challenges that face the church as its demographics change to debates over contraception and the relationship between religion and science. Read more of this post

 

A Bishop Talks About (gasp) Sex

Many of you have probably heard the news that (from New Ways Ministry Blog):

“On the second day of  New Ways Ministry’s Seventh National Symposium, From Water to Wine: Lesbian/Gay Catholics and Relationships in Baltimore, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson of Australia summoned the Catholic Church to rethink its teaching on sexuality- for heterosexuals and lesbian/gay people.  (The full text of his talk can be found on his website.)

The National Catholic Reporter news account of the bishop’s talk cites his call for

‘a new study of everything to do with sexuality’ — a kind of study that he predicted ‘would have a profound influence on church teaching concerning all sexual relationships, both heterosexual and homosexual.’

‘If [church] teaching on homosexual acts is ever to change, the basic teaching governing all sexual acts must change,’ he said. . . .

‘If the starting point [as in current church teaching] is that every single sexual act must be both unitive and procreative, there is no possibility of approval of homosexual acts,’ Robinson said.

Bishop Geoffrey Robinson

He proceeded, however, to question that natural law argument, especially as laid out by recent popes, and to suggest that a more nuanced reading of divine commandments in scripture and of Jesus’ teaching would lead to a different set of moral norms — starting with a change in church teaching that every sexual act or thought that falls outside a loving conjugal act open to procreation is a mortal sin because it is a direct offense against God himself in his divine plan for human sexuality.

‘For centuries the church has taught that every sexual sin is a mortal sin. The teaching may not be  proclaimed as loudly today as much as before, but it was proclaimed by many popes, it has never been retracted and it has affected countless people’, Robinson said.

‘The teaching fostered a belief in an incredibly angry God,’ he added, ‘for this God would condemn a person to an eternity in hell for a single unrepented moment of deliberate pleasure arising from sexual desire. I simply do not believe in such a God. Indeed, I positively reject such a God.'”

Terrific.
And “Amen”.
This is startling- not only because of its sensibility- but for the courage of a man who has jumped over the traces, so to speak, of his fellow magisterial wizards. Dare we hope that this is the first voice of many?

Guest Post: An Authentic, Catholic History Of Marriage

By Terence Weldon

With British bishops on the attack against proposals for gay marriage claiming that they are defending “traditional” marriage, it is important to remember that their representation of marriage history is misleading. When Mexican bishops made similar false claims about the history of marriage, I responded with a post on the history of marriage, as described by a specialist on the subject – a Catholic, Jesuit professor of history at a Catholic university.

Here follows that post, republished:

In Mexico,  Cardinal Norberto Rivera has attacked the Supreme Court ruling that upheld same sex marriage in Mexico City, calling it “evil”. It is not surprising that a Catholic bishop should oppose marriage equality, and while I sharply disagree with him, I must respect his right to express an opinion.  He also says it is wrong to go against Christian doctrine that recognizes only marriages between a man and a woman. Again, barring a quibble or two about the effect of disagreement in conscience, even as we disagree with this, it is clear that this is orthodox Catholic teaching.

However, in invoking Christ himself, he goes way too far.

He called same-sex unions “inherently immoral,” saying they “distort the nature of marriage raised by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament.”

This is sheer garbage.

I am not aware of any Gospel passage that endorses marriage as been between one man and one woman. Can any reader point to me one?  Christ most certainly did not raise marriage to the dignity of a sacrament – not even the institutional church did that, until the twelfth century, after half its history had passed. Exploring this history has proven fascinating.

Compare the first two accounts I found. This is Wikipedia:

…..first-century Christians placed less value on the family but rather saw celibacy and freedom from family ties as a preferable state. Paul had suggested that marriage be used only as a last resort by those Christians that found it too difficult to remain chaste.[2]

Augustine believed that marriage was a sacrament, because it was a symbol used by Paul to express Christ’s love of the Church. Despite this, for the Fathers of the Church with their profound hostility to sex, marriage could not be a true and valuable Christian vocation. Jerome wrote: “It is not disparaging wedlock to prefer virginity. No one can make a comparison between two things if one is good and the other evil” (Letter 22).Tertullian argued that marriage “consists essentially in fornication” (An Exhortation to Chastity“) Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage said that the first commandment given to men was to increase and multiply, but now that the earth was full there was no need to continue this process of multiplication. Augustine was clear that if everybody stopped marrying and having children that would be an admirable thing; it would mean that the Kingdom of God would return all the sooner and the world would come to an end.

This negative view of marriage was reflected in the lack of interest shown by the Church authorities. Although the Church quickly produced liturgies to celebrate Baptismand the Eucharist, no special ceremonial was devised to celebrate Christian marriage, nor was it considered important for couples to have their nuptials blessed by a priest. People could marry by mutual agreement in the presence of witnesses. This system, known as Spousals, persisted after the Reformation. At first the old Roman pagan rite was used by Christians, although modified superficially. The first detailed account of a Christian wedding in the West dates from the 9th century and was identical to the old nuptial service of Ancient Rome.[3]

There are obvious difficulties with relying on Wikipedia as a source – but it does at least provide us with references to substantiate its claims. Now look at the Catholic Encyclopedia:

That Christian marriage (i.e. marriage between baptizedpersons) is really a sacrament of the New Law in the strict sense of the word is for all Catholics an indubitable truth. According to the Council of Trent this dogmahas always been taught by the Church, and is thus defined in canon i, Sess. XXIV: “If any one shall say that matrimony is not truly and properly one of the Seven Sacraments of the Evangelical Law, instituted by Christ our Lord, but was invented in the Church by men, and does not confer grace, let him be anathema.”

This can do no more than quote the council of Trent, which claims that the sacramental view of marriage has “always”  been taught – totally disregarding the verdicts of church fathers such as Tertullian, quoted above. On marriage as on so much else, the Vatican likes to refer to a “constant and unchanging tradition”, or to claim that it has “always taught”. These claims are seldom supported by real evidence, and must be received with scepticism.

Then I found an impressive on-line history of marriage , in a lengthy outline by Stephen Schloesser, a Jesuit priest and professor of history, which he submitted to Massachusetts Senator Marian Walsh in 2004, during the turmoil in that state over gay marriage. Here are some extracts  – the introduction, and (mostly) just a summary of the main paragraph headings:

Maybe the most frustrating thing I have heard in the recent debate is this claim that has become a mantra: that we are in the process of changing some allegedly unchanging 3,000-year-old institution called “marriage.”Of course, the decision to grant marriage licenses would be a “change” in marriage practice – but“marriage,” whatever that is, is always in the process of being changed. To pretend that its alteration is somehow a rupture in what is otherwise a three-thousand year continuity is just silly.

It seems helpful to me to recall what traditional marriage is: it is a community’s legal arrangement in order to pass on property. In it, a male acquires (in the sense of owning and having sovereignty over) a female for the sake of reproducing other males who will then inherit property.

In Roman law, the authority of the paterfamilias over his wife and children was absolute, even to the point of death. (Even during the enlightenment), Catholic reactionaries opposed the idea of women and children having independent rights and insisted that puissance paternelle (the absolute power of the father) was rooted in nature.

In Judaism, polygyny is found throughout the Old Testament until the inter-testamental period.In general, a survey of traditional Old Testament marriage makes the reader very grateful that we are not bound to follow its precedents or precepts.

Early Christianity was really not into marriage. St Paul counseled his followers: “It is better not to marry.”Augustine (following St. Paul) counsel ed marriage as a remedy for concupiscence – i.e., satisfying male sexual desire in a non-sinful way.In general, during the early medieval Church, all sex is a problem, and all sex is equally a problem.

Marriage, both in the Roman and the early medieval periods, was the moment that marked the passing of the rights over a woman from her father to her husband. She wasn’t a person under the law.

Serial polygyny was regularly practiced by early medieval kings famous for their Christian piety. Their marital practices did not trouble the Church. Concubinage was also widely practiced among the European elite, and this practice was unproblematic, even in the eleventh century. Divorce was also completely unproblematic until the twelfth century.

In the twelfth century, the idea of marriage as a “sacrament” – i.e., as something fundamentally regulated by the Church – was established along with priestly celibacy and primogeniture.

The simultaneous appearance of these practices shows the way in which the preservation of property suddenly became an issue of great anxiety: celibacy prevented church property from passing on to priests’ wives and children; primogeniture insured that property remain intact as it passed on to only the eldest son; and Church surveillance of marriages made sure that an authority larger than, say, the most powerful warrior / aristocratic families on the block, was overseeing the passing on of dowries – e.g., Eleanor’s region of the Aquitaine. Women became the means of medieval corporate mergers: families consolidated power and property, both by means of dowries as well as by being the producers of male heirs.

Marriage as an “emotional unit” as opposed to an “economic unit” was largely an invention of the early nineteenth century. Bourgeois marriage was a classbound arrangement.

Conversely, for the males, prostitution is seen as an integral part of the new arrangement of marriage.

Divorce, finally legalized again in France in the 1880s, emancipated men but perhaps not women unless they had reserved some independent means. It too was part of the new emotional understanding of marriage, i.e., as something not arranged by parents but rather entered into partly because of emotional desires.

It is hardly coincidental: this is also the period during which the idea of “homosexuality” – and then, later, “heterosexuality” – was invented.

Catholic ideas about marriage and sexuality are in constant conversation with the wider society/culture’s evolving values and needs.

As late as the Code of Canon Law of 1917, the official position continued to be depressingly materialist: the purpose of marriage was considered to be “procreation,” while a secondary end was a “remedy for concupiscence.”

This genuinely two-millennia-old view changed on New Year’s Eve, 1930.(following the Lambeth Conference decision to approve contraception). The papal encyclical Casti Connubii introduced a fairly shocking innovation: one of marriage’s “second ends” was the “unity” between the spouses.The 19th-c. invention of marriage as an “emotional unit” in which two persons came together not merely to procreate but in order to form a sphere of emotional support – a thoroughly modern meaning of marriage – was accepted by the papacy.

On October 29, 1951 came a second important innovation in Catholic views. In one of the most insignificant settings possible – i.e., not an encyclical or synod but rather an address to Italian midwives -Pius XII suggested that couples, as long as they did not use “artificial” contraception, could arrive at a moral decision to be sexually active in a way that did not lead to procreation.

Between the years of approximately 1948 to 1963, the Catholic bishops of New England lobbied furiously against the legalization of contraception. John Ford, a Jesuit moral theologian who was the most aggressive proponent of the anticontraception stance (and taught in Weston, Mass.) admitted letter that the “natural law” argument had failed; if the point of “natural law” arguments was to convince any “rational person” (unlike, e.g., Scripture, which would convince only a religious believer), and if all these rational persons were rejecting the Catholic position, then what did that say about the law’s “natural” aspect? Eventually, the bishops abandoned this fight and made a distinction between public policy and personal religious practice.

To summarize: when one compares the 1917 Catholic view of marriage – “procreation” as a primary end, “a remedy for concupiscence” as a secondary end – with the 1969 view expressed in both the Vatican Council and encoded in canon law – “the community of the whole life” that includes both the “unbreakable compact between persons” as well as the “welfare of the children,” one can see that the change in Catholic doctrine and law has been nothing short of astonishing.

The full piece is the most useful outline of marriage history and the church I have come across.  I have selected here only the bits that refer specifically to the history of Christian marriage. There is much more on marriage in other cultures, and on the church and homosexuality. I strongly urge that you read it in full – or download or bookmark it for future reference, as I have done.

Follow Terence’s amazingly energetic and theologically responsible blog, Queering The Church. Amazing stuff.

A Catholic Case For Same-Sex Marriage

Marriage Equality USA logo

Friends Jeannine Gramick and Frank DeBernardo from New Ways Ministry had an excellent Valentine’s Day Op-Ed in The Washington Post. In one of the most well prepared (both theologically and sociologically) essays I’ve read, they make the case for marriage equality:

This month in Maryland and the state of Washington, an extraordinary dynamic is playing itself out:  Two Catholic governors are prodding legislators to pass bills legalizing same-gender marriage. Like Govs. Andrew Cuomo in New York and Pat Quinn in Illinois — whose states recently legalized same-sex civil unions — Govs. Martin O’Malley and Christine Gregoire are acting against the strongly expressed opposition of their church’s bishops.As Catholics who are involved in lesbian and gay ministry and outreach, we are aware that many people, some of them Catholics, believe that Catholics cannot faithfully disobey the public policies of the church’s hierarchy. But this is not the case.The Catholic Church is not a democracy, but neither is it a dictatorship. Ideally, our bishops should strive to proclaim the sensus fidelium , the faith as it is understood by the whole church. At the moment, however, thebishops and the majority of the church are at odds. A survey published in September by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 52 percent of Catholics support marriage equality and 69 percent support civil unions.Those numbers shouldn’t surprise people who are familiar with the Catholic theological tradition. For example, Catholic thinking dictates that we should use the evidence we find in the natural world to help us reach our conclusions. Many Catholics have reflected on the scientific evidence that homosexuality is a natural variant in human sexuality, and understand that lesbian and gay love is as natural as heterosexual love.

In forming our consciences, Catholics also consult scripture and our theological tradition. Here, again, there is little firm reason to oppose marriage equality. The Bible presents us with a marital landscape that includes polygamy, concubinage, temple prostitution and Levirate marriages (in which a man is bound to marry his brother’s widow.) Jesus disputed the Mosaic law on divorce, saying that what God has joined man must not separate, but this dictum was modified in the letters of St. Paul.

When we see the manifold changes that marriage has undergone throughout history, many Catholics wonder why our bishops believe that heterosexual marriage in its current 21stcentury state is a matter of divine revelation.

Those who delve into the theology of marriage will encounter the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo, who articulated what Christians have come to call “the goods of marriage.” These are enumerated in contemporary terms as partnership, permanence, fidelity and fruitfulness. Same-sex couples demonstrate all of these attributes just as opposite-sex couples do, unless one defines “fruitfulness” narrowly as the ability to procreate. But many heterosexual couples cannot or choose not to procreate, and the church marries them anyway.

English: St. Augustine of Hippo

Image via Wikipedia

The deeper one looks into the church’s core teachings, the more one realizes that the bishops are not representing the breadth of the Catholic tradition in their campaign against marriage equality. Nowhere is that more true than in the area of Catholic social justice teaching.Catholic social teaching requires that all people be treated with dignity, regardless of their state in life or their beliefs. It upholds the importance of access to health-care benefits, the protection of children, dignity in end of life choices, and, most importantly, the promotion of stable family units. Marriage equality legislation would be an obvious boon to same-sex couples and their children in each of these areas, yet the bishops are spending millions of dollars opposing it.

Brilliant. If you’re a pray-er, these two deserve all you can give them.

Full story here

The Nail On The Head

He’s talking about the contraception dustup, but he really clarifies something beautifully. Andrew Sullivan in Newsweek:

Debate between Catholics and Oriental Christia...

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“There was a time not so long ago when Catholics and other Christians weighed various moral claims to find a balance. Sometimes, the lesser of two evils was preferable. For centuries, for example, Catholic theologians, including the greatest, Thomas Aquinas, argued that human life begins not at conception but at some point in the second trimester. For centuries the Catholic Church allowed married priests. For centuries Catholics believed that extending the end of life by extreme measures like feeding tubes was a violation of natural death, which Christians of all people should not be afraid of. But this ancient, moderate, pragmatic reasoning has been rejected by the last two popes, who have increasingly become rigid, fundamentalist, and hostile to prudential balancing acts in the real, modern world we live in. Their radical fundamentalism—so alien to the spirit of the Second Vatican Council and to so many lay Catholics—has discredited the core priorities of Christianity, failed to persuade their own flock, and led to increasing politicization. And the obsession among Catholic and evangelical leaders with an issue like contraception stands in stark contrast to their indifference to, for example, the torture in which the last administration engaged, the growing social inequality fostered by unfettered capitalism, the Christian moral imperative of universal health care, and the unjust use of the death penalty. That’s why younger evangelicals are also alienated. They want to refocus on issues of the poor, prison rape, human trafficking, and the kind of injustices Jesus emphasized, rather than on these sexual sideshows the older generation seems so obsessed with.”

The Catholic Hierarchy: “Suffer The Little Children.”

Illinois Catholic bishops are taking their ball and going home in the face of federal non-discrimination requirements for foster care and adoption. The New York Times:

Children of the United Kingdom's Children's Mi...

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Roman Catholic bishops in Illinois have shuttered most of the Catholic Charities affiliates in the state rather than comply with a new requirement that says they must consider same-sex couples as potential foster-care and adoptive parents if they want to receive state money. The charities have served for more than 40 years as a major link in the state’s social service network for poor and neglected children.

The bishops have followed colleagues in Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts who had jettisoned their adoption services rather than comply with nondiscrimination laws.

The vilification of LGBT persons by the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church is quickly becoming hysterical paranoia. What I find interesting is that it flies in the face of most of the opinions of people in the pews as well as the experience of many of the clergy and bishops themselves. They know gay people, they minister to gay people, and- I know this from personal experience- many of them are gay people.

Yet, this real-life, personal experience has no credibility in the face of freakishly ideological edicts from Rome. It’s absolutely backward. The experience of the people is supposed to form the church, form the hierarchy.

Not to mention the disregard for social and biological science. This is a church that would rather let the little children suffer. It saddens me.

Where’s the love, people?

Read the full story here

The Real Catholic Response To LGBT Persons

…is set forth in this week’s America magazine- a journal by American Jesuits.

The landmark Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church s...

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After the Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago compared gays and the KKK, after all the fear-mongering anti-marriage rhetoric thrown out by the Catholic hierarchy, finally, a cautious voice of reason:

In mid-December Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a passionate speech in Geneva on the occasion of International Human Rights Day, encouraging nations to support human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people. Much of what she says can, and should, be supported by Catholics. Same-sex marriage has been strongly opposed by the church. But Mrs. Clinton’s speech is referring to the more fundamental right of gay and lesbian people to live without fear and without threat of death. Americans may have become so focused on the question of same-sex marriage that they overlook the dire conditions under which many gay and lesbian people live throughout the world.

In Uganda, for example, there are moves to make homosexual activity punishable by death. This is extreme, but Uganda is far from an isolated case. In Kenya conviction brings up to 14 years in prison; in Tanzania up to life in prison; and in Saudi Arabia the penalties include fines, whipping, prison and death. As Mrs. Clinton said, “It is a violation of human rights when people are beaten or killed because of their sexual orientation….” The Catechism teaches that gays and lesbians should be accepted with respect, sensitivity and compassion: “Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided.” The church should continue to raise its voice in defense of our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters who suffer unjust discrimination.

Bravo, America Magazine. It’s a good reminder- and a fair beginning.

Gays, Marriage Polls, Jesus and Sally Kern

From the Washington Post:

As New York gears up for its second weekend of same-sex nuptials, a Washington Post-ABC News poll finds Americans split 50 to 46 percent over whether the state’s law legalizing such unions is a positive or negative outcome. Reactions to the new legislation — like support for legalizing gay marriage in general — range tremendously across generational, political and religious lines.

Americans have grown increasingly accepting of same-sex marriage over the past decade, according to surveys by The Post and ABC,Gallup, the Pew Research Center and others. The public opposed legalizing gay and lesbian unions by a 58 to 36 percent margin in 2006, but the new Post-ABC poll finds a slight majority — 51 percent — saying such marriages should be legal.

New Yorkers- and Americans in general are increasingly favoring marriage equality.  A majority of Montanans now favor domestic partnerships. It’s becoming more clear that there is no threat from the “Gay Menace”. In fact, Virginia, there is no Gay Menace- and no threat.

It is worth noting, however, that the biggest statistical groups who view marriage equality as “Negative” come from “Conservative Republicans” (71%) and “White Evangelical Protestants” (71%).

Most of the weird, anti-gay vitriol comes from “conservatives” (notable exception: Ruben Diaz). The ignorant and hateful things Montana legislators have said on record have been well-documented here and on other sites (not so much in the Montana newspapers) and, you guessed it- they come from elected Republicans.

I have also noticed an element of religious righteousness when the conversation takes place with many “conservatives” whether in person, on tv or the radio. Maybe you’ve noticed it, too. I heard it last night on CNN when some Congressional Representatives had to go “pray about” the debt ceiling vote. Now I’m all for prayer, but they seem to be forgetting Matthew 6.5-6…. The point I’m struggling to make here, is that there is an element here that will not give in- not to science, not to reason, not to compassion, not to anything but radical fundamentalism. For them, that would be abandoning God’s Word- and for a fundamentalist/biblical literalist that means Hell- the ultimate fear meme. It’s that faction that concerns me. And it seems to be safely ensconced in the Republican Party.

A perfect example is Oklahoma Republican legislator Sally Kern, who had this to say about gay persons on July 27th:

To me what is hateful is when those people who say ‘you’re born this way, there’s no hope in change, you’re stuck in this, deal with it,’ that is hate. There’s no hope in that…

We’re losing our freedom of conscience. And if the homosexuals get what they want, and as you said it’s not just homosexuality, its immorality or adultery, all of that, but in my opinion the homosexual movement is the tip of the spear. They’re the ones who right now are beating down the door, have their foot in the door, trying to tear down the moral fiber of America. We have to stand up to that. The reason it’s the tip of the spear- you don’t see ‘Adulterers Victory Fund’ out there trying to promote adultery. God’s people got to stand up to this. (emphasis mine)

Here’s what’s disturbing to me about this: She can say these ignorant, hateful things in public, under the protection of free speech-and feel righteous and supported in doing so. Without serious repercussions from her party or other conservatives. In fact, they’ve been portraying themselves as victims. (seriously, watch this) I would love to hear an elected conservative make an “It Gets Better” video. None have done so. I would love to hear the uproar from thoughtful conservatives against the unreasonable lines of thought and logic. It doesn’t happen. Maybe a few gasping voices- but no uproar. That’s a fact.

I don’t want to bash- it’s not productive, but I do want to ask the question: Where are the reasonable voices for equality in the Republican Party? Why don’t we hear from them as much as Sally Kerns or Ann Coulter?

I have strong feelings about Christian Fundamentalism. I am firmly convinced that the enormous richness of scripture- and the whole Christian Tradition- becomes diluted with simplistic personal interpretations and wanton literalism. The Bible is a complex and varied collection of documents and literature- it is not to be simplistically reduced to quick and glib personal statements. Broad themes can be construed, yes, but not without a great deal of thought and research. And most scripture scholars would agree.

I have spent a great deal of my life studying the words and works of Jesus Christ. I have read the Bible- a lot. I have studied scholarly interpretations of scripture and worked with experts in the field- I have three degrees in theology, in fact- and I have never, not once, found a reason to believe Jesus would ever condone this sort of ignorant, non-loving nonsense. That’s not the Jesus I know and love. That particular Jesus is a creation of very frightened, and perhaps even, unenlightened people.

The real Jesus was interested in showing the love of God. He lived for mercy, justice and peace. He died for compassion and integrity and truth. I believe he’s interested in my truth. Not only interested but invested in it. And my truth is this: I am a man who simply wants to love and be loved according to my created, inborn nature- an inborn nature I spent years questioning, examining and reflecting upon.

That’s all. It’s quite simple really. I’m just asking the world to trust the reality of my experience. Arguably, the people I’m speaking of could say the same thing- but I would argue that they’ve abandoned experience in favor of biblical literalism.

There’s also this difference between us: my worldview doesn’t condemn anyone else to eternal fire and damnation. It doesn’t threaten anyone else at all, really. People like Sally Kern may think they’re being threatened, but I think they’re just scared- too scared to look at the reality of life with open hearts. Their hearts are set in stone- immovable, inflexible, afraid.

That’s not the way I want my heart to be. I want it to be open and accepting and generous and kind. I’m happy to let other people give love and receive love wherever they can. Without limits. Because that’s how I believe it works best.

And the good thing? The American People are starting to think so, too.