Sunday, November 25, 2012

Why is Homosexuality so Special?

For religious conservatives today it seems like any instance of the printed word “homosexual” spontaneously transforms from plain text to bold face, from black ink to red, from 10 point font to 20.

Conservative activists and watchdog groups seem to find the insidious “homosexual agenda” lurking behind every liberal initiative.

Christians treat homosexuality as the most deadly of sins.

Why?

If I define “sins” as liberally as Jesus does in Matthew 5, I am guilty.

When an inattentive, SUV-driving, cell-phone wielding, . . .uh, person runs me off the road while I am riding my bicycle, the unshouted epithets that seethe in my heart as he drives obliviously away are murder.

When the hands of my imagination slide gently along the sumptuous curve of a gorgeous young woman's back (who for the moment is infinitely more appealing than my grumpy wife), I indulge in adultery.

But when it comes to the 'sin' of homosexuality, even using Jesus' liberal precedent to indict the very thoughts, I can confidently say I am innocent. Righteous!

My conscience has nothing against me. I have, in all honesty, never looked at a man and found myself desiring him sexually.

Most gay people would brush this off as merely “straightness”.

But my guilty conscience, grasping for some sort of reprieve would rather make this out as my greatest moral triumph. The gold star that I can stick on my sunday school report card.

I think one of the main reasons that homosexuality is demonized by religious conservatives today, and why it is such a big deal to them, is precisely this: While we each know that we fall short of moral purity in so many areas, it so easy for a straight person, who has never felt a homosexual urge, to feel self-righteous and morally strong when it comes to homosexual lust.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

A Christian Response

During Jesus' ministry, he proclaimed that God's kingdom had begun.

He made it plain to all who would listen that the power and currency of that kingdom is Love: Neighborly love toward those of dissimilar faith, custom and ethnicity. Familial love toward those unrelated by blood. And most radically- in his death, he demonstrated a self-sacrificial, devoted love towards the people who hated him so much that they tortured and killed him.

According to Jesus, this is what his kingdom is- God and humans together in loving community.

Jesus commissioned his followers to carry the good news of this kingdom into all the world, and told them that all people would know that they were legitimate representatives of that kingdom because they themselves love one another.

This is the core reality of the kingdom of heaven.

This is the mustard seed that has sprouted in this world and is growing until it displaces everything else.

When the kingdom is fully grown, evil is extinguished, Death is abolished, and its victims are released.

At that time, many interim things will be rendered obsolete. Marriage, according to Jesus, is one of these:

That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. “Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. Finally, the woman died. Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”
Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching. (Matthew 22:23-33 NIV)
One of the points that Jesus makes in this discussion is that marriage is not part of God's ultimate vision for humanity.

Inclusive intimate loving community is God's ultimate desire for all humanity.  The exclusive nature of marriage is not permanently compatible with the fully mature kingdom.  Eventually marriage will give way to a fuller expression of love and intimacy.

Marriage has been recognized by God's people as a way to better understand and prepare ourselves for the kingdom of heaven, but marriage itself is not part of that kingdom.
  
One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:23-27 NIV)

Jesus reserved the right to redefine "Sabbath" to serve the needs of real people, in order to fulfill the actual spirit of the law.

Marriage, likewise, was created for people, and if we hold rigidly to our definition of marriage, while we fail to meet the needs of real people, we join the Pharisees who chided Jesus.

If same-sex partners are seeking to make commitments to lifelong, loving, self-sacrificial relationships, forsaking self-seeking promiscuity, we as representatives of the kingdom community from which these values truly originate, need to be the first to nurture and embrace this growth.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What About Polygamy?

Should ROMA be enacted, polygamy would no longer be illegal. Will this detriment our society?

I don't think so.

Polygamy is nearly universally rejected by American culture. There would be no rush to marry in multiplicity if it was suddenly legal.

The main argument against polygamy is that it is bad for family life. "Bad" family life is already endemic among the non-polygamist population, and there are measures in place to control its damage. Child protection services, laws prohibiting incest and sexual relations with minors are already in effect. Laws such as these should be sufficient to control the problems that might arise in polygamist families.

The following are arguably as bad, or worse:
  1. Adultery
  2. Alcoholism
  3. One, or both parents not living in the home.
These things are statistically much more significant than polygamy, yet not illegal.

Recent raids on some of the few remaining polygamists in the USA went very badly- children were taken away from their parents- and then returned, because the government realized that there was no legitimate case for keeping them from their parents.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Freedom

Since its birth as a nation, America has espoused the concept of freedom. Freedom is the opportunity to live one's life as one chooses without interference or coercion of others. Most Americans vigorously adhere to this value. If person A prefers to wear a hat, and person B does not, we hold that each may do as they please- B's hatlessness does not interfere with A's choice to wear a hat.

The problem with freedom is that one person's free exercise may restrict the freedom of another. If a person A chooses to dig a well in the same spot where person B has chosen to plant tomatoes, the freedom of both cannot be fulfilled. If person A is more powerful and inconsiderate, she goes ahead and digs the well and destroys her neighbor's garden. A's freedom has been exercised, while B's freedom has been denied. This is why there is law. Law attempts to maximize the freedom of both, by limiting the freedom of each. Law draws a line in the sand and declares that A may dig her well anywhere she pleases- on the East side of the line, while B may plant his tomatoes anywhere he pleases- on the West side. Law has caused both to lose some freedom, but it has helped preserve equality between A & B. Every time a law is applied (unless that law is repealing a more restrictive law), freedom is diminished.

Over the years many people have emigrated to America in search of freedom. Many have come because, in their country of origin, there is no freedom of religion. One certain type of religious practice was prescribed for the country, and those who believed otherwise were marginalized, persecuted, or denied the right to worship. With this in mind, Americans chose to uphold freedom of religion.

Among the proponents of freedom of religion were Christians and Jews to whom the greatest commandment is to love and worship Yahweh alone. To these people, the greatest imaginable offense would be for a person to worship someone or something else. Nevertheless, they chose to afford to others this freedom under the law, so that they too could have the freedom to worship Yahweh. They supported the ratification of the First Amendment, because they recognized that, though supremely detestable to a Jew or Christian, a Hindu's worship of Krishna did not obstruct their freedom to worship Yahweh.

Though of much lesser significance, the Jewish and Christian scriptures also prohibit sexual relations between same-sex partners. It seems obvious that this too should be treated as a matter of freedom under the law. A gay couple's homosexuality does not obstruct a Jewish couple's ability to practice heterosexuality according to Jewish morality.

In both instances, freedom of "righteousness" depends upon the freedom of "unrighteousness". This is actually very central t0 the Judaeo-Christian worldview. It is the freedom to sin that makes worship meaningful. God desires righteousness, but does not compel humans to obey him.

Jesus takes this a step further: He comes into the world not to force people to comply with his standards, but instead he demonstrates what love and righteousness look like. He then extends this mission to the Church: to live out his gospel so that people can see the goodness of God's kingdom in contrast to the way of the world. Then they can join the kingdom by choice, not coercion.

A country that legislates morality does not become more moral. Only morally motivated people live moral lifestyles. Pressing immoral people to behave in moral ways only builds resentment and precipitates battle. When society begins to persecute immoral people, they become the martyrs, and the "moral majority' becomes the oppressor.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

ROMA Rev1

The Release of Marriage Act

In recent times, the definition of marriage has become a very divisive issue. Long before the United States or the State of Minnesota existed, marriage was a religious institution. Currently, however, the state of Minnesota holds the authority to confer or withhold the status of “married” upon two individuals. This is a violation of the fundamental American principle of separation of church and state. Right now, gay rights activists see religious groups using the law to deny them civil rights. Religious groups see gay rights activists attempting to use the law to undermine the teaching of their faith regarding marriage. The problem exits because state law and religious institution unnecessarily overlap. I have drafted the following proposal in the hope of avoiding much of the inevitable conflict if marriage statutes remain as they currently are:

  1. All references to “marriage” be removed from the laws of the state of Minnesota.

  2. Domestic relationships relevant to legal matters would be defined by a schedule of domestic partnership (DP) classes:

Class A- adult has unilateral legal responsibility for another person. (i.e. child, mentally disabled adult)

Class B- two adults have mutual responsibility for each other. (i.e. married couples)

  1. The responsibility for and definition of marriage would be deferred to religious or non-religious organizations. Marriage would become like Baptism or Eucharist- something that is very important to those who observe it, but defined and regulated by each religious (or social) organization- not the state of Minnesota.

The specific rights and responsibilities for each class of DP under this schedule would then be spelled out specifically according to pragmatic rationale.


The benefits that I see to this proposal are as follows:

  1. Healthier separation of church and state. The state would not be in a position to define marriage in a way that is contrary to the religious beliefs of some people.

  2. There is no sexual context to a legal domestic partnership. Any two adults that can meet the requirements for a Class B could apply for this status regardless of their personal reasons for doing so. A parent and child living together would usually have a Class A partnership. An adult child and parent living together could have a Class B partnership. A married couple could have a Class B partnership, while another married couple could find that it suited their needs better not to have a Class B. A homosexual couple, or unmarried heterosexual couple could also choose (or not choose) to enter a Class B. A Class B couple could choose for practical reasons to dissolve their legal DP status without any bearing on the status of their personal relationship with their DP.

  3. More equitable access to civil rights. No people will be discriminated against by the State based on marital status (or denied marital status), because marital status is no longer legally meaningful. Currently a legally married spouse has de facto authority to make decisions on behalf of the other spouse, rights to their property, access to their personal information and affairs. The law now makes no provision for a person other than a legal spouse to be granted this authority. It is unjust that these rights are denied to competant individuals who wish to grant another person this legal authority.

  4. Better health care options for DP's that are not currently legally recognized.

  5. Divorce could become cleaner. Along with DP application, a standard DP dissolution agreement could also be required. A standardized dissolution process could cut down some of the current legal wrangling over divorce cases.

  6. More meaningful marriage. For persons married in a community (faith-based or non-religious), that community would now be solely responsible for granting that marriage, upholding it, and, if necessary, dissolving it. There will no longer be any ambiguity over where the authority over marriage lies. (i.e. My own marriage was pronounced “. . .by the power vested in me as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the laws of the state of Minnesota. . .)

  7. Legal DP classes could be added in the future as needed without disturbing those already established.


Possible drawbacks/opposition to this proposal:

  1. Marriage/marital status is referenced in many laws and legal documents.

  2. The fear of “gay marriage” becoming legal is a powerful tool in the arsenal of conservative politicians, which they would lose if this proposal was enacted.

  3. Divorce attorneys could lose business if marriage was no longer legally relevant.

  4. More people would potentially be eligible for coverage under a DP's health care plan, which could mean more expense for insurance companies.