Thursday, August 05, 2010

Dazed and Confused

A federal judge has struck down California's ban on same-gender marriage, and I have no real sense of how I should feel or what I should do. To say that I am troubled about the ruling would be an understatement because I am unequivocally opposed to same-gender marriage taking place in the Church (and more than a little resentful that I sometimes feel compelled to defend my stance against those who call me "hater" or "narrow-minded" or "bigot"), but I am a little lost when it comes to acts and demands of government because I am no longer the political animal I once was. I found it difficult to serve government functions and processes and the Lord simultaneously, so a choice had to be made. This is not to say that government workers, politicians, and lobbyists cannot be pious and faithful. And this is certainly not to say that church folk cannot practice faith and personal piety while in government service and lobbying efforts especially when it comes to issues of social justice; indeed they must. I only found it awkward for myself.

Those within the Church who claim to be fighting for social justice on behalf of homosexuals don't seem to have a problem incorporating their faith into the work they do, but I often find their arguments and understanding of Holy Scripture substantially flawed and their public conduct and behavior often reprehensible especially when they publicly claim to be acting in Christ's behalf. Often their own words are hateful; and contrary to Scripture, they answer what they perceive as "hateful" acts of mere opposition with hateful words and, often, hateful actions. Jesus and Paul both admonish the faithful NOT to fight fire with fire ("do not return evil for evil") but to "bless" those who hate. Now I do not for one moment believe that standing in opposition to such issues as homosexuality and abortion, for instance, are hateful acts in and of themselves anymore than I believe that advocacy for such things is hateful; not inherently so. Regardless of which side of the issues one stands, however, opposition is often perceived as hateful and antagonistic only because each side is already defensive and cocksure they are "right" and that whatever they choose to say or do in defense of their argument is "righteous".

An acquaintance of mine and fellow pastor is a GWB "hater" and was especially vocal during the previous administration especially in such public forums as in the op-ed sections of local newspapers. The "fruit" of his hatefulness was apparent in the vile comments, accusations, and innuendo he often made. His arguments were rarely of any substance. Though his opposition to the former president was fundamentally in opposition to the president's policies, the acquaintance's attacks were of a more personal and accusatory nature against the man George W. Bush and not the chief executive of the country. When questioned, he defended his choice of words because of the president's apparent "fruits" ("You will know them by their fruits" - by what they do - Jesus teaches). When I suggested to my acquaintance that his own "fruit" was somewhat bitter and poisonous, he attempted to defend his "righteous anger" but each accusation he leveled against President Bush was ultimately an accusation against himself for he was demanding to remove the "speck" from the former president's eye while ignoring the "plank" in his own eye. To varying degrees, there are few persons who can withstand such scrutiny, myself included!

All of this is to amplify the futile nature of such acts and arguments especially when human emotion and personal opinion are injected, facts are often overlooked, and respect for one's fellow man is painfully absent. Nothing is accomplished. In fact it would probably be more accurate to say that far more harm than good is done regardless of which side finally "wins" (if a victory can be claimed at all). As for what the federal ruling in California will finally mean for society in general and for the Holy Church, this has yet to be seen because the issue will be appealed all the way to the US Supreme Court because each side has promised such course of action regardless of the outcome of the appeals court ruling.

My personal sense of awkwardness is in recognizing that the Church must continue to function as the Body of Christ and not as a social agency within our secular society because I do believe the Church is called to serve as a sanctuary and as a means of redemption from the secular culture rather than as a catalyst for assimilation that is so obviously contrary to the Church's "Book", the Bible. The Church was a powerful voice for justice and social conscience during the Civil Rights era and continues to be so in the midst of ongoing immigration challenges - and rightly so on both counts - but can this truly be a fair comparison? No one can dispute that homosexuals are unjustly targeted by some in the form of so-called "hate crimes" and even in off-color and dehumanizing jokes, but the right to marry does not quite seem to compare with the right to be treated as a human being especially in terms of human exploitation. I freely admit that my own opinion and opposition prevent me from seeing such parallels. It is for me "apples and oranges" because the Civil Rights era, immigration issues, and even abortion are fundamentally about the dignity of the human person; the same-gender marriage thing is specific and exclusive. I am no more or less a human being because I am married. My marital status has nothing to do with my sacred worth or my dignity as a human being.

It is equally easy for me to say that even if states choose to offer marriage licenses without restrictions, it has little to do with the federal government which does not issue marriage licenses and nothing to do with the Church and her practices which must remain faithful to the Eternal Bridegroom and not succumb to secular social pressure. As for the call for "inclusiveness" within the Church, this much is true: all those who earnestly repent of their sins are to be included and incorporated into the Body of Christ.

In the final analysis, there is not much more that can be done since this issue is squarely in the hands of the federal court system whose players are appointed for life rather than elected for a term. All that is left to do is in the hands of the faithful prayer warriors to earnestly ask that the Lord's will be done. The will of politicians who will be left to respond after the court system does its duty will not extend much further than the ability to be reelected regardless of right or wrong, religious or secular.

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