Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Reconciliation of Views...You are Actually Right

It really pains me to see such divisiveness, judgment and lack of understanding and compassion among us. Black/white, northern/southern, Christian/LGBT contrasts have brought out the worst (and in some cases the best) in our society just in this past
month or two (with black/white having been in our face much of the last year having primed our society’s emotional pump). The vehement animosity from so many is just overwhelming and disturbing. So many wounds about our societal differences have been scraped painfully open  and are dripping with fresh blood from all of the swirling of the
emotions. It feels so raw. In the spirit of trying to be part of the solution and not part of the problem, I’ll attempt to build a bridge here. For those who WANT to hate, there is nothing that will convince them to do differently – it’s all about their own hearts. For those who are open to other perspectives but are struggling, this is for you. I am going to address each of these issues of black/white, northern/southern, Christian/LGBT in different writings since there is a lot to absorb here in each topic. I’ll start with the most recent first.

In full disclosure, I am: (1) a white woman, (2) having grown up in the DC/Northern Virginia area where I had influences of both northern and southern “culture” having spent most all of my adult life in the south, (3) I am very much a Presbyterian Christian, attending church regularly, with the bulk of my close friends coming from my church group and having strong beliefs in the less traditional, deeply spiritual community (some might call it “New Age” – and no, they are not inconsistent when you learn more and see the big picture, but that’s a different conversation), (4) I only date the opposite gender, have currently and have had very good friends in the LGBT community throughout my lifetime since sharing apartments with several from that community in college, having heard and seen many of their relationships, challenges and experiences. That’s my background. Now, onto the real issues.

The recent Supreme Court decision on gay marriage really hits people at home where they live – literally. So, naturally this issue is filled to the brim with emotion on both sides. Taking this somewhat dispassionately, I do think we can build a bridge between the mainstream counterparts - those people who aren’t part of the outlier extremes. The terms I have seen commonly thrown around on both sides are “This country was founded on God and Christian principles (with marriage limited to man and woman)”, “separation of church and state”, and “it’s about love”.  Guess what….they’re all right.  They all apply. And guess what again…these principles are not mutually exclusive. They blend together, although not always in a way that is comfortable because people like to have stark contrasts and absolutes…us/them, white/black, right/wrong, northern/southern, etc. Each of these statements that people are using to justify their positions are absolutely 100% correct. No one is wrong here. There is just a lack of acceptance of other’s views and perspectives and how these different factors work together. Here’s how I see them operating….

“This country was founded on God and Christian principles.” That is absolutely 100% correct. It was. God (whether specifically referenced as "God" or our "Creator") is everywhere…in the founding documents of this country, on our currency, in our national anthem, and everywhere. That is a fact and if anyone doesn’t like the fact that God/Creator references are in all of our foundations, they really should seriously consider another country because they can’t change that fact, and nor should our laws and
society change that today. Many countries around the world were founded by those of a certain religion and those religious principles underlie the foundation of those countries’ laws, culture and principles of living. That’s part of our country too. That’s natural. Now for the tricky part…

There is a principle of “separation of church and state” incorporated into our principles of governing as well. Some people are having a hard time reconciling those 2 principles. The reality, which some people are referencing, is that the separation of church and state philosophy is more interpreted than stated. Yes, and here’s why and how it operates…This country was not founded on the single principle of Christianity. It was founded more on the religious freedom concept. While the founding fathers were predominantly Christian, and so those Christian principles permeate the foundations of this country, they wanted their country to be founded on religious freedom first and foremost. That means that while they were Christian, and thought our government should be based on
Christian principles, they didn’t expect everyone to fit into the exact same religion mold. More importantly, they didn’t want any governmentally-based discrimination or lack of opportunity to be suffered by anyone as a result of their different religion. Therefore, if someone was not Christian, just as much as if they were, our founding fathers and all of our foundation documents governing our society say there should be no difference in the benefits, opportunities and treatment by the government of someone whether they are or are not Christian. Therefore, we can’t discriminate against someone because they don’t hold the same Christian principles. There are various laws and regulations in place based on many of the Christian principles to deal with those who harm others in violation of those principles (as an aside, many of these “Christian” principles are often also present in other religions and philosophies – there is no monopoly by any single thought or religion on goodness towards others).

Before getting to the last phrase I reference above, we need to do one more layer of Christian principles and separation of church and state with regard to the “righteousness” or definition of “marriage”.  What is critical to this issue is where does the definition of marriage come from for our laws to dictate who can and cannot be married?  The definition of marriage being between a man and woman is clearly a Christian biblical principle. The question is should that also be a legal principle. For this answer, we have to go back to the discussion above on religious freedom and the basis of our country in making no law that would discriminate or prevent opportunities for those of a different religious belief (presuming no other principles or laws are violated of harming others).  The answer should be pretty clear that when a Christian principle discriminates or limits opportunities for others who have no ill will towards others and are not trying to take anything away from others, that Christian principle should not be incorporated into a societal law that discriminates and limits others’ opportunities to achieve health, wealth, safety and happiness, etc.

This is now where the phrase “it’s about love” comes in. Is there any direct harm to others for this definition of marriage to be open?  I don’t think the Christian churches are going to collapse on themselves and there are no benefits or other opportunities being taken away from anyone else or any direct impact I can see from this definition being more open than what the Christian bible references. For the LGBT community, it’s not about taking anything away from anyone else, it’s about being able to have the same rights (and obligations,
which we’ll discuss below) on loving someone else to the point of wanting to create all aspects of a life together. Given that: (1) the definition of marriage being limited to a man and a woman is a Christian definition, (2) that there is a fundamental prohibition on laws discriminating against different religious beliefs, (3) the reason underlying the desire for the openness in the definition of marriage is about love and not taking away from others, there seems to be no direct harm to anyone in allowing it. In fact, there would be
discrimination based on religious principles not to allow it. It seems to me the Supreme Court had to decide this way in order to be true to the founding fathers’ wishes for how our government governs regardless of whether the particular issue was something with which they would have personally agreed based on their personal beliefs.

There are those with a fire and brimstone perspective about our society crumbling and the wrath of God and the indirect impact this could have on our society, our finances and other “slippery slope” BS (personally I put no validity into “slippery slope” arguments because I think they’re just stupid and ignore all the boundaries we have in our societal laws that prevent the ridiculous scenarios that are often the subject of these “should a meteor hit the earth” type of arguments). So, let’s briefly look at those indirect societal impact potentials. What are the implications of a marriage from a societal and legal standpoint? Here are the basics: (i) each in the marriage has the right of making decisions on behalf of the other, including having rights to the assets of the other in case of divorce or death; and (ii) each has the obligations of the other’s debts and decision making.  So, in other words, they have the benefits and obligations

attributed to any couple committing their lives together, which include easier and more consolidated management of their affairs both in terms of their internal and external relationships (including access by creditors to debt collection). Seems there might be some financial institutions jumping for joy right now. Others have brought up health insurance and adopting children implications. Well, both of those ships have sailed, so this decision has little to no impact on those issues. Those decisions are still individually evaluated anyway and can have heterosexual couples denied as well as homosexual couples.

Now, let’s take the more sensitive societal impact to Christian principles as a community. I understand that this opening up of the definition of marriage is very tough for those committed to the biblical principles. I really do. I read the Bible regularly. I know what it says. I don’t have all the answers for that, but you know what.’s not my job to.  It’s not my right, prerogative or responsibility to judge others’ “Godliness” or “righteousness”, their choices or their lifestyles as long as they aren’t
harming others or trying to impose their lifestyle and choices on others. That’s between them and God and it’s none of my business really. Most of those I have known in my life from the LGBT community are also believers in Christ and the Christian principles. Thankfully, they have found churches less fundamental and more open to alternative views of which they can be a part. To be honest, depending upon what you WANT the principle or perspective to be, you can find something in the Bible (or most any religious holy book) that would support you. There are plenty of passages in the Bible about the role of women that many of us women today find offensive while there are others encouraging women to be leaders. It can sound confusing, so the answer for me is to continue to seek and not to judge based on this or that passage in

There will always be talk about whether this or that lifestyle or coupling should be condoned, have children raised into it and other impact that implies an acceptance or a “norm”.  This can also be and has been said of bi-racial, extreme age differential, bi-religious, bi-national, hippie/alternative lifestyle, and other types of variation in couple profiles. No one is asking any particular church or religion to condone anything within their own houses that they don’t want to. Yes, there is a difference between these private religious groups who serve and have membership from only those who believe what they do and service and product companies who generally serve the public. The former is a group just for those who believe what they do. The latter is a service or product vendor who provides services and products to the general public. You can have limitations on who you serve for what you believe in the former, but you cannot in the latter. Discriminating against those in our society in basic services and products is against everything we stand for in this country (go back to civil rights if you disagree with me). There is no difference between requiring restaurants to serve black patrons and requiring that they also serve LGBT patrons as a general rule (we can talk about the Hobby Lobby decision separately – I can’t disagree with the ruling but for different reasons).

Just in closing and as a parallel to reiterate the points above, let’s take the opposite of marriage…divorce. Divorce is also clearly condemned in the Christian Bible as well as marriage is prescribed as a man and a woman. Anyone having divorced/separated from their legal (in the eyes of the church) spouse and marrying another is considered adultery in the eyes of the Christian Bible. Well, that is as much a Christian principle as marriage itself and yet our country’s laws allow for divorce. So, where were the Christian fundamentalists on that one? Oh, right…they were standing in line for a divorce…Just as no one has a monopoly on goodness, no one has a monopoly on or immunity from hypocrisy either….I applaud each side for standing up for what they believe in and what they think is good and right. It’s not our perspectives that are the problem, it is our manner of communicating them with judgment and condemnation (and dare I say a bit of that old “hate” vehemence) towards those differing from us that I believe is the problem.
We are – and were intended to be from our founding fathers – a society of different perspectives and beliefs.  We are absolutely a Christian-based nation, which means we follow the Christian principles of compassion, love and forgiveness while accepting others different
from us into our fold (and let God have what is God’s territory). I hope we can all remember that and focus more on those principles than on our differences.

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