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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5


Saturday, April 20, 2013

Is Anti Same-Sex Marriage Rhetoric A Barrier To Peace?

The following is the result of having discussed same-sex marriage on a couple of conservative blogs. Not all conservatives overstated their case against same-sex marriage; but some did. What follows is for them.

Until the latest terrorist attack, same-sex marriage had become a focus of attention again. This time, it was because the Supreme Court just heard arguments in support of its legalization. Those who were opposed paraded a host of analogies they say could really happen if same-sex marriages are allowed. All of these comparisons live down the same slippery slope from one another and their purpose is to infuse fear for what the future could hold. However, each of the comparisons made seem to unveil more about the mindset and priorities of same--sex marriage's opponents than to inform us of the effects of legalizing these marriages.

We are told that if same-sex marriages are legalized, then comparable events, like the legalization of bestiality, the legalization of adult-child marriages and other relations, and the legalization of polygamy could happen. Of course, all of these predictions are voiced in the interrogative. It goes like this, if we legalize same-sex marriage, what will stop us from legalizing _____________? The implication being that our current laws against same-sex marriage is the last line of defense before we are totally occupied by unrestrained sin. The logic employed here  is that same-sex marriages represent one of the most base human relations people can have.

However, there are both logical and Biblical reasons why we should at least question the thinking mentioned above. First, let's take a look at the logic of the analogies. On the one hand, by asking if we will legalize bestiality, adult-child partnerships and similar kinds of relationships, and polygamy once we legalize same-sex marriages, many are implying that either same-sex marriage is more similar to these practices than heterosexual marriage or equal to it.

In either case, those who make these comparisons cannot get past, and are thus fixated on, the sexual dynamics of same-sex relations. The fact that the domination, abuse, violence or the threat of violence that exists in some these other relations take a back seat to gay sexual dynamics is an indicator of that fixation. In addition, that they see same-sex marriage as being more comparable to bestiality than heterosexual marriages is another such indicator. If someone was trying too hard to impress people, we might be tempted to say that person is overcompensating for something. And overcompensation is what we see here in the comparisons. It is as if just saying what the Bible says about homosexuality is not enough. So some are eager to go well beyond.

What do the Scriptures say? Certainly the Bible does not have a favorable view toward homosexuality. In fact, it speaks against it in the most serious way. According to Paul, homosexuality, along some very common household sins, can disqualify one from the Kingdom of God (I Cor 6:9-10). But does that justify the range of talk from hyperbolic rhetoric to hate speech against same-sex marriage?

Paul also wrote about homosexuality in Romans 1 when he spoke of those who decided to worship the creature rather than the creator. He went on to say that God gave them up to an unclean heart. But as much as he spoke against homosexuality, Paul tells us that Romans 2:1 is a coming. And just as he listed a host of other sins that comes from worshipping the creature rather than the creator and merits God's judgment, Paul tells us that Romans 2:1 is a coming. What does Romans 2:1 say? It says that all who judge others condemn themselves because they too practice the same sin. See, Romans 2:1 makes Paul's statements on homosexuality and other sins personal about ourselves rather than informational about others. Romans 2:1 demands that, after reading Romans 1, we stare in a mirror to see our own sins rather than judging the failures of others from a far. And this is another problem those who use inflated rhetoric against same-sex marriages have.

Yes, homosexuality is wrong, says Paul; but he writes this in a section of Romans where he calls everybody a sinner. So we cannot preach Romans 1 to homosexuals without first reading how it condemns us. Thus, those who are honestly referencing Paul to condemn homosexuals cannot distance themselves by overstating their case. Any attempt to do so is an exercise in self-righteousness. For the message of Romans 2:1 is that we cannot use what Paul wrote in Romans 1 to judge anybody without first condemning ourselves. This is because we are all sinners and we all deserve condemnation. We cannot distance ourselves from homosexuals or other sinners because we are all in the same boat.

So what does how we speak against same-sex marriages have to do with peace? How obvious the answer is depends on which end of the whip we live. For if we are among or benefit from the persecutors who have power, we will be clueless. But if we are among the persecuted, it cannot get anymore obvious. When we see how mere sinners like homosexuals can be talked about, we realize how much worse it is for those who pose a real threat. We see that already in our action movies. The enemy is always depicted as this irrational monster who must be destroyed at all costs if we are to survive. For our enemy attacks for no sane reason and we are saved solely through some display of anger injected hyper-masculine display of force.

Just as how some avoid describing homosexuals as people who have hurts, grievances, dreams, contributions to make, and legitimate issues to address, we rarely portray our enemies as being human. This is because both groups are all too often painted as demons who must be exorcized and destroyed rather than be understood. And in shutting our ears to what they would say to us, we slam the door on all possible peaceful resolutions. For peaceful resolutions often require that we first look into a nonmagic mirror that tells us how we might have contributed to the conflict as opposed to conveniently regarding their attacks on us as the first strike. When we can't handle that truth, we use hyperbole to describe our enemies and give ourselves the energy and permission needed to do far worse to them than they might have done to us. What we don't realize is that the more enemies we slaughter, whether with  words or weapons, the more we fall from humanity. And that affects how we relate to our families and neighbors. Many of those who have actually had to kill an enemy soldier or combatant know this, they live with this. They have forever crossed a chasm for which there is no bridge to return.

WW II veterans Gene Larocque and Howard Zinn have said that our country has learned the wrong lessons from WW II and thus makes war the rule rather than the exception. And tribalism (a.k.a., patriotism) makes us so gullible that we easily follow any flag waving opportunist into the next war. And in so doing, we engage in a perpetual, king-of-the-hill battle. And history has always told us that nobody stays king forever.

The language that many of us use on our enemies inspires hate and maintains the status quo of constant war. That is because our choice of words are often designed to distance ourselves from them. The more we distance ourselves, the greater license we give to our emotions. So when we are far enough away, we are both able and required to take extreme actions against them with inner impunity, or so we think.

Perhaps, if we focused on our own faults more than we point, with animosity, our finger at the sins of gays or other groups we dislike, we would do the same with our enemies. And perhaps, the more we also acknowledged our own faults when we accuse our enemies of wrongdoing, we would be more inclined to negotiate to resolve differences nonviolently rather than to shoot first and forget to ask any questions. After all, addressing our own sins first is a fixed cost of knowing God. And perhaps if we acknowledged the vast contributions that gays and others have made to us as individuals and our society, we would also see the valid concerns of our enemies that we would be more inclined to reach out in peace. After all, seeing only the sins of the other was what the pharisee in Jesus's parable on the two men praying did and he went home condemned.

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