Monday, June 29, 2015

Why Love Matters: Thoughts on Supreme Court Ruling

In light of recent events in our nation, I am departing from my usual topic to add my two cents worth to the public debate.
Over three decades ago, I stood in my living room and held my baby brother's hand as he disclosed his childhood molestation to me and then "came out" as a gay man.  That moment is forever etched in my memory because in that moment, I felt the tension between what I believed and what I felt for my brother.  I saw his tears and I felt his pain and confusion and I knew that he was in for some difficult days, particularly in the responses we both anticipated from our rigidly conservative pastor-father and his church.

Over the years our relationship has been tested again and again over the "gay issue."  We have had times of intense closeness and times of estrangement--times of being able to set aside our own ideologies and simply be present with one another as well as times we allowed our differences to overcome our love for one another.  I have been moved by dozens of conversations with him, his husband and their friends--conversations that explored the depth of pain so many gays have felt from organized religion.  My brother and his friends showed me another side to the "gay issue" and my relationship with them has forever changed me.  I'm not so certain anymore of the correct "Biblical" response to the "gay issue."

This issue has become a rallying cry for extremists on both sides of the divide and it dismays me.  I have watched both camps become more and more polarized to the point that individuals like me--who are not certain that either side has the corner on truth--are rejected as either bigots or heretics.  It seems that compassion, empathy, love and tolerance have been sacrificed on the altar of certainty, absolute "truth" and political correctness--be it within organized religion or outside of it.  There seems to be no middle ground or shades of gray on either side of the issue.

I confess that I don't understand the scant Biblical references to homosexuality.  I've read theologians with sound hermeneutics who have come to vastly different conclusions on what the Bible does and does not say about the "gay issue."  As a woman I have been victimized by those within organized religion who have interpreted passages regarding the role of women in the church and within marriage as very exclusionary and second-class.  It wasn't that long ago that people of color were "righteously" discriminated against by white "Christians" and churches--a stances that was based on poor exegesis of Scripture.  The Church does not have a great track record when it comes to dealing with these social and relational issues but rather a very messy, painful history of clobbering the marginalized with the heavy hand of Scripture, as they interpret it.

I wonder if this is what Jesus was referring to when he chastised the original Religious Right--the Scribes and Pharisees--against "Straining at a gnat while swallowing a camel" (Matthew 23:24).  He despised their practice of putting the Law ahead of grace--majoring on the minor infractions of the Law while ignoring the weightier provisions mandating justice, mercy and love.  In the attempt to be true to their understanding of Scripture, may within organized religion have abandoned compassion, empathy, justice, mercy and love in favor of certainty and absolute rightness.

The Supreme Court decision will be debated for decades to come and regardless of where one stands on the "gay issue," the Court's action has serious consequences that we are only now beginning to explore as a nation.  It is unfortunate that in the political activism that all sides are engaged in, the larger, weightier questions are lost. Extremists on both sides of the divide have made gay marriage a "make or break" issue, which is sad.  Rational, respectful discourse based on tolerance has evaporated and rather than building a bridge to unite us, we are now separated by an even greater divide.

My baby brother was 18 when he came out and while we both are much older, I still feel the tension that I felt then--between my faith and my love for my brother.  I am no closer to having a conclusion now that I can live with than I was then.  I do know, however, that my responsibility is to love my brother--unconditionally and lavishly--just as I have been loved.  I am not his judge and for that I am grateful.  I am willing to live with the uncertainty if it means I can embrace all of my gay brothers and sisters in love and compassion.  I choose to be vulnerable rather than to be certain; to love rather than to be right; to pursue justice and mercy for all rather than to sit in judgment on those who do not conform to my idea of right living.  The Supreme Court ruling did not change my commitment to these values--not at all.  Call me a heretic or a bigot, if you will--I still choose love.