Monday, June 27, 2011

New York Votes for Same-Sex Unions: I Challenge You!

Way to go New York! Lawmakers there voted to legalize same-sex marriage on Friday despite David Tyree’s warning that the vote will cause anarchy. It’s safe to say that Tyree’s statements leads one to wonder if brain damage was caused when he made that spectacular catch in the Super Bowl with the ball pressed against his head.

Most Americans are fed up with the Bible laced attacks used to limit the rights of those in love with a person of the same sex. The homophobic agenda of the Church played a significant role in stripping Americans of their Constitutional right to live void of the limits of other people’s theological framework. The fight over gay rights has forced Americans to consider how deeply we believe those words written in the Constitution. Are we a nation of diverse theological and ideological perspectives rooted within a context willing to embrace the views on the other side; or, is America a Christian nation given the task of promoting and protecting the claims of a select few?

The discussion related to gay rights is a complex one. On the one hand it is about the integrity involving the way we decode the Constitution. It is also a study concerning the way hatred and ethnocentricity is transferred from one generation to the next. It is about how positions of privilege ultimately minimize the credibility of those on the outside of cultural normality.

As a pastor, theologian, journalist and advocate of the marginalized, I’ve decided to use my voice to attack the countless inaccuracies surrounding the Biblical injunction against homosexuality. As much as I appreciate those who have stood behind the position that the Bible clearly states gay relationships are wrong, I have to give prophetic voice against that presupposition. My reading of the text does not make that claim. My reading of the text, within its proper historical context, supports the conclusion that the Bible makes no reference to relationships between two people engaged in a loving, caring partnership. I interpret the Bible while critiquing a culture where power is used to subvert the weak.

My reading of the text is an injunction against pedophilla, insect and rape. There are those who will vehemently argue against the validity of that interpretation. I accept their right to counter my claims. What I find heartless and objectionable are those who use their theological declarations as fuel for the construction of laws limiting the rights of those on the other side of the argument. Doing that circumvents the authority of our assetion of being a nation of diverse views and identities.

So, some may wonder how a pastor can take on the cause of gay and lesbians without nullifying the supremacy of the Biblical text. That’s easy. I’m not a Biblical literalist. I regard that approach a simple solution to a complex problem. It leads to error due to the assumptions we make when we deny the suggestions of the former culture. It places those of this generation within a context that affirms the marginalization of women and slaves, justifies the murder of women and children regarded as the enemies of faith, deems illness as a curse caused by the sin of the inflicted or a family member, legitimizes the sexual indulgences of men while encouraging the stoning of women for doing the same and upholds a system embedded in a culture that regards women as no more than the property of the men who use them for sex and to deliver their children.

Biblical literalists are incapable of being critical of the narrative due to the assumption that each word was uttered by God. An attack of the text is perceived as a questioning of God’s voice. Each word is true, even when those words contradict the claims we make as the people of God. Thus, literalists are unable to affirm the call of women to ministry, justify the enslavement of others and denies the humanity of people in love with a person of the same sex. This approach creates a paradox of confusion that renders the Church, as I see it, trapped in the hypocrisy of its own claims.

That’s why I do it. Faith is under attack. The attack happens on two fronts: faith in the claims we make as a nation, and faith in the claims we make as the Church universal. The good news is more and more people are beginning to see past the rhetoric that has dominated this discussion for too long. Allowing people to love and marry who they want is a basic human right-even when another person objects to their taking that leap of faith.

If you are a member of a church that decides to endorse a homophobic agenda-have fun with that. If you refuse to concede the merits of people of the same sex getting married-that’s fine with me. What irks me are those who use the Bible, the Constitution, notions of the sanctity of marriage, or, in the case of David Tyree, the view that society, as we know It, will come to an end, as veils that hide their prejudices toward those they fear.

Today, I celebrate with those who seek a same-sex marriage in New York. My prayer is that the same will happen in North Carolina and across the country. I’m thankful that our President is supporting this action, and that numerous allies are voicing their solidarity.

They are coming out of the closet one by one. Republicans who vote with their hearts rather than the fear of their constituents are standing despite the ramifications of that vote. Pro athletes like Steve Nash, Michael Strahan and Charles Barkley have supported same-sex marriages. Their endorsements go a long way toward undoing the deep-seeded hatred gays and lesbians have felt.

This is my challenge. Stand up pastors! Stand up and denounce the claims that limit those who seek a place to be loved and affirmed. Stop hiding behind the dogma of faith and be a prophetic voice. Yes, that applies to my African American clergy. Put an end to the venom laced words that fuel hatred among those you lead. Stand above the fear of their attacks. Stand above what you fear they may say about you. Stand above the fear of enduring a vote to end your work of faith!

I challenge you to stand and be a prophetic voice. More than that, I challenge you to be a Christian and to act like Jesus.

Any takers?

1 comment:

  1. Carl I would say that the biblical literalist are not that. Or you could say they are extremely selective literalist. Because the text most often quoted has a number of other abominations they are strangely never discussed. Like wearing clothes of a different fibers, or planting two different seeds in the same whole, ect.

    Let's not get started on what seems to be the general disregard of the Beatitudes by these same people. I probably would take them more seriously if they actually lived a biblically literal life. Keep fighting the good fight.

    Steve Bumgardner