Some day our Nation will come to its senses by allowing marriage equality to be a universal right. On the path to this anticipated hope, already some individuals, groups, and Christian denominations have made strong statements against political supporters of same-sex marriage. Soon after President Obama declared his well-reasoned support of equality, social media outlets became a madhouse for both sides of the debate. On their Facebook page and website, my religion of origin the Assemblies of God boldly announced their disapproval of our President’s statement. Even during the casual discussion stage, before any Federal actions have been taken, opponents are showing their unwillingness to be a part of the discussion except to make declarative statements. At the same time proponents see nothing but hatred in the eyes of our adversaries, so relatively few brave individuals and organizations undertake the dirty work of building bridges.
Recently, Illinois State Gov. Pat Quinn has indicated a potential next step to legalize marriage equality, a year after signing Civil Unions into law. In the “Land of Lincoln,” there have been pockets of outspoken disapproval for both measures. Meanwhile, some states have joyfully banned recognition of any type of same-sex union or marriage. Several months after North Carolina passed Amendment 1, the image of celebrants cutting a wedding cake lingers in my mind as a symbol of homophobia, pure hatred, and a brazen victory dance over the defeated minority. The task of reconciliation between both sides has yet to find common ground.
While religious and political proponents have rallied for equality, opponents have been building contingents prepared to fight Federal recognition at all costs. During his run for presidency, Rick Santorum vowed to die on Capitol Hill to ensure that same-sex couples could never receive equal treatment under the law. For many, this “issue” not only threatens “traditional marriage,” but also the stability of our Nation. The prospect of redefining marriage terrifies those who apparently don’t feel safe – whether in their own relationships and communities, in the idea of homosexuality, or both. Somehow, those acting as if they’re terrified, believe legalizing marriage equality will lead to all sorts of evils such as bestiality and pedophilia. Personally, having grown up in farm country, it was the “straight men” who were often caught sexually violating livestock. Also, it was a straight male who sexually molested me as a child. So, as a lesbian in a same-sex relationship, I have a difficult time believing marriage equality will lead to such evils among the LGBT community that already exist in the straight community.
Sometimes I miss being a part of the Assemblies of God. Significant spiritual experiences for me occurred while involved in my home church. Since “coming out” to my family, I’ve visited my home church once – as a single person. Years later, I’ve changed. My appearance no longer conforms to A/G community standards. If I were to attend a service with my partner, I cannot imagine the consequences. Would someone aware of my orientation and relationship ask us to leave the service, or would they welcome us but take the opportunity to preach against our “lifestyle”? Thinking about such things terrifies me in the same way homosexuality terrifies certain opponents. Once I was a welcomed part of their community. Now I am a dangerous stranger even though I am essentially the same person who worked in several areas of lay ministry, had fellowship with others, and spent numerous occasions at the altar praying and receiving prayer. Although we follow the same Jesus, I am no longer a member of their body of Christ – a body not belonging to any particular denomination but to Jesus alone. Yet, I am willing to engage in uncomfortable conversations as a pathway to reconciliations (to be a peacemaker).
Both sides of the discussion, if it can be called as such, have more valleys separating than bridges connecting the two. The day same-sex marriage becomes Federally recognized will be the moment all relatively polite disagreements turn into fierce war zones. Instead of venting on social media sites, stormtroopers will descend on every political and legal arena to “fight the good fight,” in the same way pro-lifers have been fighting against Roe v. Wade since day one of its favorable ruling. We’ve already seen battle preparations as various organizations have protested against private corporations for supporting equality. Those protests against JCPenney’s ads featuring Ellen DeGeneres are mild in comparison to full-blown battles already exemplified by pro-lifers who’ve marched from nearby communities to Capitol Hill, and the few extremists who went as far as to bomb abortion clinics. Will extremists bomb gay-friendly businesses, restaurants, and bars? How many “pro-straighters” will march bearing signs in protest, from nearby communities to Capitol Hill?
If we pay attention to the past, in some ways we can predict future actions of the religious / political right once same-sex marriage becomes Federally recognized. Without a doubt, our society will become contentiously chaotic. Knowing this, both sides need to be prepared for a long, drawn-out cultural war. Those who are peacemakers as Jesus has called all of His followers to be, regardless of their position on marriage equality, have the opportunity now to engage in uncomfortable conversations. Reconciling differences never occurs passively or hastily. Regardless of our stance on this so-called issue, for the sake of peace and unity, we need to set aside our weapons of religious / political war, sit down at the table of fellowship, and seek understanding of one another as a means of building bridges.
“Tubwayhun lahwvday shlama dawnaw(hie) dalaha nitqarun. (language is Aramaic) ‘Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.’”