Wednesday, January 28, 2009
RELIGION and POLITICS—VALUES and HOMOSEXUALITY
Again there is this debate between parties over the morality of Democrats. And I do recognize that scandals with Republican politicians may have somewhat weakened that, but when voters believe Republicans can be trusted to improve moral values and Democrats cannot not, then the Democrats are faltering. From what I’ve seen and read it seems that people’s priorities change when you get married. So it may not be that Republicans have somehow appropriated the religious right, but you begin to care more about what’s on TV, what’s on the internet, and what your kids are exposed to at what age. So Democrats shouldn’t dismiss the moral advantage of Republicans but rather engage them. There’s no reason why you can’t be a progressive Democrat who cares about family values and parenting and the break-up of the home and family in American society. It’s a problem. It’s ok to criticize the abundance of sex and violence. I’m a pretty young guy and I myself have noticed the changes in entertainment between what you are allowed to do, say, show, and tell and at what ages you can see it.
The other problem with religion and politics is the ongoing battle with homosexuality. I’m going to try to be brief because when there is too much emphasis placed on this above all else. When the Right says gay and lesbian people are responsible for the breakdown in the family (heterosexual) that is not true. And when the Left compares gay rights to apartheid in South Africa, slavery, and the Holocaust that is just not true, either.
It is completely possible to affirm pro-family and pro-gay civil rights. It’s possible. The breakup in the family is not due to gay and lesbian people but rather to heterosexual dysfunction, infidelity, promiscuity, lack of courage in intimacy and much more.
For the church the issue of gay marriage is a difficult one. But affirming gay marriage does not have to be connected to gay rights. Wallis in his book asks “Do we really want to deny a gay person’s right to be at their loved one’s deathbed in a hospital with “family restrictions”? Do we also want to deny that person a vote in the medical treatment of his or her partner? And do we really want all worldly possessions of a deceased gay person to revert to the family that rejected them thirty years ago, instead of going to their partner of the last twenty years? There are basic issues of fairness here that can be resolved without a paradigm shift in our basic definition of marriage.”
Some churches or groups believe you shouldn’t change the definition of marriage but you can allow civil unions. For others, only gay marriage fulfills the rights of equal protection under the law. There are three stances on church rites: some say leave the sacrament of marriage alone; some are exploring new types of rites or blessings for gay couples; others say give full sacramental inclusion to gay and lesbian couples in the church.
Regardless the protection of civil rights for gay people should be a given. We shouldn’t’ be arguing about refusing rights to people. Gay civil rights is a justice issue. Gay marriage or ordination of gay bishops, however, shouldn’t be a faith breaker. Many groups split and part ways because of this. People with differing views should continue to dialogue and stay together as one body under Christ. The church has to learn how to stay together and talk about these things. You can give legal protection to people without changing your definition of marriage.
Tony Campolo, an Eastern University professor and writer, says that the legal issues of marriage should be separated from the church. In other words, ministers and priests should no longer be able to say “By the power vested in me from the State of Arkansas. . .” That should be left to civil authorities, and the churches should only do religious blessings. Then couples can approach the church of their choice for a religious blessing.
Most only provide blessing for a man and a woman but there are a few that provide blessings for gay or lesbian couples. It might be a possible solution that “preserves the Christian conscious of diverse positions.”
Wallis says that conservative Christians should be careful about drawing a line in defense of families at the expense of gay couples with lifelong commitments instead of “standing prophetically against the cultural, moral, and economic forces that are ripping families apart. And liberal Christians should not argue for gay marriage on the grounds of human rights, but rather should probe more deeply into the theological, biblical, and sacramental issues that are also at stake.”
Anyway, it’s sad how issues of gay marriage have become more important (in earlier times) than deeper ethical issues of war, the theology of war, and complicity of violence that is characteristic of our time. Richard Hays, Duke Divinity professor said “In the United Methodist Church, we say nothing about the horrifying violence in Iraq, while at the same time we exhaust ourselves going around in circles debating issues of sexuality.”