4.12.08

Letters from Hollywoodland - Prop 8

Last Saturday morning I woke up to a clear blue sky. So clear and blue, like only Los Angeles can do to autumn. One would never have known there was a fire raging 2o miles west in Sylmar. But that's what the Santa Ana winds do: they blow westward, and so I never saw that smoke from my home. But around noon I went out and saw a funnel of smoke billowing up from the southeast. By the end of the day the sunset was blood red and the air was thick with smoke. Smoke was everywhere, in every room. I woke up in the middle of the night with a weight on my chest.

The city felt oppressive even before the fires. Prop 8 was voted down, and people got really, really pissed off. I know a lot of gays who want to marry: they want to be monogamous, have the same rights, and visit their loved ones in the hospital. So I voted against Prop 8. I figured, let everyone to have equal rights under the law. We live in a pluralistic, secularized society; and when it comes to the secular estate of marriage, I don't think the church can dictate how the state defines it; I also don't think the state should dictate how the church defines it. Now I know some Christian conservatives argue marriage is an estate of the church. But we recognize marriages between atheists and agnostics and Buddhists and, egad, Methodists. I've even been to those weddings, in church. So really...

I know what the Old Testament says about homosexuality. But the Bible tolerated polygamy and slavery. I know what Jesus said about homosexuality: nothing. Now stay with me here: two hundred years ago, devout Christians thought slavery was okay. Fifty years ago they thought interracial marriage was an abomination, and blacks got lynched for it. So then, what is the church doing by opposing gay marriage? Is it standing up for biblical truth, or are we so in love with The Law that we fail to see God has come in and changed it? Jesus defied so many biblical laws the devout had him crucified for it. We must be very careful not to miss what God is doing. We can argue that homosexuality is a sin. But dost not thine own shit stinketh as well?

One of my oldest friends, whom I met at a Christian conference, tried not to be gay for years. She did all the programs. She went to seminary, and spent years working in homeless shelters and advocating for the poor and oppressed; speaking up for those who had no voice. Like Jesus did. And she was still gay. One day she said, "Okay, either God is cruel, and me being gay is his curse upon me. Or, God is good and merciful, and this is a gift." She chose to believe in a god who was like the latter. She became a pastor and she spends her days reaching out with the love of Christ and helping the poor and outcast. She has done far more for the kingdom of God than I have.

I don't know the answer, but I believe in her God, who is merciful and patient. He knows the heart of every person. He knows what they have gone through how they got that way, and I don't. Because I am not homosexual, I don't feel I can judge those who are. When I think of all the crap God has endured for me, I'm sure he will have grace for others. I mean, he put up with slavery and polygamy. Don't you think he can handle someone being gay?

Jesus said there will be no marriage in heaven. I wonder if that's because, our current experience and understanding of sexuality and intimacy are so puny and superficial, compared to what identity and intimacy will be in the afterlife ... when the veil is lifted and we see and know God face to face. as CS Lewis wrote, "I know, Lord, why you did not answer. You yourself are the answer. Before you, all questions die away."

I wonder if arguing over each person's broken, or fixed, or cobbled-together sexual identity is splitting hairs. When the fact is, one day we will all be washed clean not by our own goodness but by God's grace and mercy. So why would I throw a millstone around someone's neck? Prevent them from knowing God's infinite love and mercy and acceptance, by arguing my shit stinks just a little less than theirs? Let he who is without guilt, cast the first stone.

At least that's what I had been thinking.

And then the Prop 8 protests started. Angry mobs targeted one restaurant because the manager was Mormon and had donated to the Prop 8 cause. They picketed and taunted customers and employees. (What if Pro-Prop 8 supporters had picketed and taunted patrons of gay bars in West Hollywood?)

And it's getting worse: Sunday's LA Times featured a story about liberals combing lists from Prop 8 supporters, hunting out the culprits and firing them. It's like the McCarthy Blacklist, and I find it horrifying.

After a lengthy lawsuit, eHarmony now has to match gay people. Should we force gay dating sites to match heteros? Or as one commentator said, isn't that like marching into a vegan restaurant and demanding he be served a rib-eye? A theater director in San Francisco donated money to Prop 8 and got fired. Okay, so what was he doing directing theater in San Francisco? But then, what was that gay guy doing on eHarmony? Let me tell you, eHarmony rejected me three times, and I'm Christian, because their matching system is so, well, lame. (I would say it's so gay, but only gays and Sara Silverman can say, "that's so gay." Anyway, eHarmony's matching system sucks) [Sucks as in, 'horrible.' Not sucks as in vaccuum or ... Ugh, word police. ]

Tony Jones and Rod Dreher are blogging about it on Beliefnet. I'll leave it to the experts to hash it out, because I'm at a loss. More than that, I'm grieved over the hateful spew going on. Author Robert Hughes aptly labeled our fraying American culture as The Culture of Complaint. Every splinter group demands their rights, like petulant, angry, immature children. It starts with "accept me," and then it becomes, "dig me, fund me, love me, obey me. Or else." And it goes on everywhere, from James Dobson to GLAAD to PETA to you and me.

Know what happens? The loudest, angriest, biggest bully gets their way. And then some extremists come along to restore order, and make you wear a burka.

At least, that's what I've been thinking, as the smoke clears from Los Angeles. What began as a clear blue autumn day turned into a charred wounded, oppressive landscape. What began as a proposition has disintegrated into cattiness and bullying. Who started it? Does it matter? I think the better question is, who's going to show a some maturity and grace? Who's going to say "Sorry" first? Someone needs to. Because I'm in no mood to put a blue sheet over my head.

36 comments:

  1. Wow, great post. Not only was it interesting, but very thought provoking.

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  2. I understand where you are coming from, but never undermine what the Bible and God says about sin in either the New or Old Testament. While I agree with some of what you say, we are not to look at issues in terms of people, we are to look at them in terms of God. Sin is sin, all of it stinks, and it should all be dealt with by repentance and humility. We are not to "accept Christ" and think thats the end of it... We are to live out holiness. No I am not a fundamentalist, no I am not a biggot, but I ask you not to water down the word of God with statements that undermine it's message. If you truly believe that all scripture is inspired by God divinely, then all scripture is as true as the words in red that Jesus speaks. You can not pick and choose. Yes we are called to love, but we are also called to balance... We are called to holiness and love. Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling...

    Thanks for listening!


    timothy kurek
    http://TheEvolutionofGod.wordpress.com

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  3. Well, that was all over the place...

    A few thoughts...

    Our brokenness and temptations are a curse. Definitely. But from God? No, from Adam's sin and Satan's fall. We broken from birth, some in one way, some in another.

    Don't care what the government calls marriage, God defined it first. Not sure why the government is involved at all. Taxes? Tradition? Seems like a religious matter to me. I'd rather just get government out of the business.

    Don't know why a government certificate is somehow relevant to monogamous sexuality.

    Lack of hospital visitation rights is stupid period; but why is government sanction for gay marriage needed to fix that?

    No one has the right to marry whoever they love. So far as i can tell, the government's unwelcome (IMHO) "officiating" of marriage never had anything to do with love. Only unmarried adults (or minors with parental consent) can marry one person of the opposite sex, and can do so for any reason. Seems to me no one actually has a right to marry whom they love. That argument just never hits home with me.

    Seems to me there are many more serious kingdom issues to focus on than homosexuality. Many peoples' fixation on the subject seems quite disproportionate.

    Beware of buying into any "progression of moral enlightment" views of history. Really, history is far more cyclical than linear when it comes to morality, especially if you aren't stuck in some sort of Ameri-centric understanding of history. Human morality cannot at all be charted in some sort of linear progression. Seriously, pull out some history books (Bible too) and try it for any one sin. Not linear progression at all. Just bouncing around between legalism and license from place to place and decade to decade.

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  4. oh, and i forgot to mention that i don't believe in "rights".

    http://blindmandesign.blogspot.com/2006/01/rights.html

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  5. I live in LA and went through exactly the same experience. I voted no, but then a local professional association of which I am a member started getting into the protests, and things started to get ugly.

    This demonization of those who disagree with us is making American democracy into a joke. It's gone beyond disagreeing about issues and turned into hating those who disagree with you.

    We can talk about the diversity and acceptance all we want, but the truth is that most people act like assholes when they don't get their way, and most people act like assholes when they have too much power. I wish we could all just accept our need for redemption and be a lot more gentle with each other.

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  6. Susan -
    First - Brilliant. I love your work here. Thanks for making this old noodle think.

    Second - it's "eHorny" not "eHarmony"

    FYI. BTW. BRB. LOL. OK?

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  7. Forgive the snarky response but "I don't believe in rights" can only come from someone who has never not had them.

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  8. Just out of curiosity, which Biblical laws did Jesus break?

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  9. @ Josh -
    well, off the top of my head, he healed the sick on the Sabbath and that was a BIG nono.

    oh and he ate with the tax collectors. another big nonono.

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  10. @ John -
    I 2nd your snarkiness, I just wasn't with it enough to think of it the first time.

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  11. fantastic article.
    I've been following the results and surroundings of prop8 abroad, and was sad - for my homosexual friends - when it was passed.

    I too have been disheartened by the protests post-8. But just because I was against prop8 doesn't mean I think the other side is perfect, or have it all figured out. They're acting out in pain, for sure. In that, I understand. It's not justified, but I understand.

    Thanks for writing.

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  12. The accusations and invective are inappropriate, whether they are coming from the gay rights community in California, which saw a right precious to them taken away by their neighbors, or conservative Christians, who fervently view gay marriage as a dangerous crack in the foundation of society. There are ways to discuss this issue while affirming the humanity of those who disagree with us.

    And yet I am confused. Susan and Anonymous, did the two of you regret voting against Prop 8 once you saw how some people in the gay rights community conducted themselves in the aftermath? And, to everyone else: do we think that the violently vocal are proper spokespeople for the majority of folks on either side of this wedge issue? I am both an evangelical and a supporter of gay marriage, and the list of leaders on both sides of this wedge issue that definitely do NOT speak for me is long. Not necessarily because of what they believe, but because of how they communicate.

    I could be way off (and, Susan, I apologize if I'm losing sight of the original purpose of your post), but we shouldn't let the extreme voices hijack this important conversation.

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  13. Chase said: "They're acting out in pain, for sure. In that, I understand. It's not justified, but I understand."

    An important point.

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  14. Whatever the beliefs and convictions are on either side of this issue, the central thing I took away from this post is that this sort of thing should never be subject to a vote. I agree with the poster who noted that our human history swings between license and law (though I agreed with little else he said) but either way, 'it', whatever we were tolerating or censuring, still existed.

    Regarding John's question/comment on the ugliness that has come of this discussion in both camps, I'm not sure if democracy in action is ever really pretty and doesn't provoke and show us at our absolute best and worst.

    I think the ambivalence most people feel about this issue is evidence that it would not be a part of our national dialogue were it not for the extreme voices on both sides. Countless have remarked that there are bigger issues as Christians, Americans, and people that we could/should be paying this much attention to. One could argue that they have hijacked the dialogue but I wonder if we would be having one at all if they weren't speaking.

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  15. @John

    Did you read why i don't believe in rights? Or did you just knee-jerk?

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  16. Nathan,

    I read why you don't believe in rights. I think what you said might work in a theocracy. And I think what you said is a great reminder for followers of Jesus. I mean that. But, frankly, it makes for lousy public policy in a secular society.

    John

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  17. Democracy is rarely pretty, as IP said, but I think it can bring out the best in us. It often doesn't, but it can. I still believe in the power of words to change minds, to cause us to reexamine our assumptions, to stir people to a common cause. In the realm of politics, Jefferson did this. So did Lincoln and FDR.

    I also believe in the power of extreme love. A friend reminded me the other day that the civil rights movement was made up of many many small acts done with great love (to paraphrase Dorothy Day). Dr. King's speeches remain touchstones of our language, culture, and society. But the movement was sustained by thousands of individual decisions to fill the jails, to walk or carpool instead of riding a segregated bus, to sit where you weren't allowed, to go to school where you wanted, and to vote because you had won that right. The power of these acts of extreme love affirmed the humanity of the rival. They left open the possibility of salvation, reconciliation, and, ultimately, community.

    Let me reiterate that when I wrote in my earlier comment about the "extreme voices" I was not talking about extreme positions on an issue, but a kind of savage communication, rhetoric used to separate my rival from his humanity rather than to affirm it, even within our disagreements.

    I don't think the competition of extreme voices necessarily drives our dialogue, though perhaps extreme positions do. I'm just saying there are better ways of winning people to one side or the other.

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  18. @John

    Guess it was a good thing i was advocating it as personal policy, not public policy, eh?

    Thanks for actually reading it! Still, be careful not to read into it. :)

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  19. God came and changed the law? If you're going to use the argument that a non-celibate homosexual lifestyle is biblically permissible, it's important to take the whole of scripture into account.

    No, Jesus didn't talk about Gay rights. He also didn't talk about women's rights, ecological conservatorship, sex before marriage, abortion, euthanasia, animal rights, or a host of other topics. He talked about heaven, salvation, and love. He kept it short and sweet, because let's face it, he was on a time crunch.

    But let's not forget the rest of the New Testament, which, according to Timothy, is God-breathed and useful for teaching.

    The New Testament church existed in a world where, it could be argued, homosexuality was even more prevalent and certainly more accepted by the Roman culture than it is today.

    In 1 Corinthians, Paul speaks out against sexual immorality in a situation (chapter 5) concerning a man sleeping with his stepmother. He continues on the subject of marriage throughout chapter 7. Paul is very clear that for "those who burn with passion" it is best to marry, and the text is clear that wives are female and husbands are male.

    1 Peter discusses marriage, and the language is again clear that wives are female and husbands are male.

    Furthermore, when describing the attributes of men qualifying for candidacy as a deacon, Paul (in I Tim 3:2) writes that he should be a husband of but one wife.

    Over and over again, scripture creates a pattern of marriage consisting of one man and one woman.

    Where does this leave gay people today? My church (a CBA church) employs and utilizes a man who came out of a gay lifestyle. He has confessed before the church his past, as well as the fact that he is still attracted to men. But he no longer engages with sexual relationships with other men.

    Is that tough? I can't even imagine. But Paul addresses living with intense challenges in II Cor. 7-10. We are strengthened by Christ to live in a way that pleases Him.

    Our culture has become very tolerant of active homosexuality over the past thirty years. How would we respond if the next trend leaned toward adult sexual relations with consensual minors? With close family members? We have to return to scripture - the entirety of scripture - to ascertain God's opinion on the subject.

    But in doing so, it's important not to forget the overarching message of love. Do I agree with the active homosexual lifestyle? No. Am I called to love those engaged in it? Absolutely.

    What does that active love look like? How does that active love vote? I honestly don't know. Is it better to vote for a system that enables sexual sin? How do we love without enabling? Those are some questions for California, as well as the rest of us.

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  20. Wow, lots of great comments. Thanks everyone for sharing. This is not an easy issue. I have been upset by the vitriol on both sides, and my prayer is that cooler heads prevail. Remember in the 1980s when ActUP went and threw condoms in a church? Thankfully, the conversation has moved way from that. I hope that the angriest, loudest, meanest voices are not the ones who get the last word. Especially from the voice of faith.

    Sin is sin, no doubt. My point is that I don't know how God is going to deal with people who are gay/ trying not to be gay/given up and are just celibate/or whatever. And I mean those who are also pursuing faith. IMHO, homosexuality is one result of a pervasive societal issue that goes back a hundred years of fathers not fathering their children. Go back and read "Iron John." The entire American culture is broken. We don't know how to sustain LEGAL marriages. The divorce rate among Christians is as high as the rest of the population. And we've got massive out of wedlock births and abortions and gangs. We are self-absorbed, selfish, stuck in perpetual adolescence -- our entire culture celebrates staying adolescent! Is it any wonder that people are sexually confused? Kids grow up just begging to be told who they are and to whom they matter? MOST gay people I know grew up in some environment like that, and the first intimate sexual experience occurred with someone of the same sex. Or they were never told who they were by the parents who had the authority and responsibility to do that.

    What if this issue is so big it's not something that one person can solve in their lifetime? What if God's reponse is, "Ok let's work with what you've got, your particular issues and problems and strengths, and let me work with what you've got."

    What if God says to that gay person, "OK I know you can't change that core issue, but I can work with what you've got." Or what if God says, "I know it's hard, but I want you to change."

    You and I can argue the point from the outside, but unless we're gay, I don't think that we have the authority to speak on it as much as they do. I mean gay people of faith.

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  21. Susan,

    I'm sorry but you are throwing out the total authority of the Bible. Yes, there are only btwn 6-10 verses out of the entire Bible that talk about homosexuality, but those verses are extremely clear!

    It is not permissible. Yes people have the right to do whatever they want, within the bounds of the state, but marriage is sacred. Someone on here said (maybe u, I forget) that atheists and pagans get married and dont take issue... Well marriage is defined as being one man marrying one woman. As long as they follow that standard they can do as they please. We have grown far too lax with sin! We need to repent of this attitude...

    I urge you to believe what the word says... Trust it. No it may not seem right to your "heart" but the Bible says that "the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. Who can know it?" We can't trust our hearts on this issue.

    tim kurek
    http://TheEvolutionofGod.wordpress.com

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  22. I hate to even get into this fray, but whenever someone mentions that "marriage is sacred" in this argument, I just can't help but wonder how much the government has to do with the day to day sacredness of your marriage? You can say all you like about how letting a man marry a man will lead to people marrying turtles or whatever strawman you'd like to erect as part of the argument, but at the end of the day, is protecting what the state defines as anything worth spending this much energy on? Clearly, same sex couples are in loving relationships with success rates that rival or trump male-female marriages. To pretend otherwise or to fight on a legislative level to protect our particular spiritual preference in this matter seems to be just missing the whole point.

    Take home exercise: think of other sinful acts that the Bible clearly condemns that are currently legal in most American communities that we're not spending millions of dollars and tens of thousands of hours to ban.

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  23. Coveting my neighbor's wife, and desiring his ox.

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  24. I am sorry if I give the impression I would trample or disregard the word of God. I will repeat myself for the reading-impaired. Sin is sin. And now, a moment of reflection from the gospel of Luke: 18:9-14 (New International Version)

    To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about[a] himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'

    "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

    Or as Jesus said elsewhere, "let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

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  25. "I will repeat myself for the reading-impaired."

    repeat yourself because this blog is writing impaired. I wholeheartedly agree with your statement about other sin, however I ask that you not try to make a VERY clear issue in the word of God, something that can be debated because it is pretty cut and dried. This blog was written with good intentions, and I understand where you are coming from. I don't have a problem with gay marriage, but I do with self proclaiming followers of Christ that are speaking heresy.

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  26. Well, at least we've all avoided stooping to petty insults.

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  27. For the record, I (the editor of this blog) do believe the Bible is clear in laying out homosexuality as a sin.

    Every argument against that stance seems to take a long and convoluted route, but I'm also aware I could be wrong.

    As Dan mentioned above, though, it doesn't particularly matter.

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  28. This is an extremely challenging issue for both the church and unchurched the same.

    But no matter how a christian would (or should) vote on an issue like Prop 8 (and had I lived in California, I would have voted against it), it's important we represent the bible well.

    Let's not over look New Testament scripture such as 1 Corinthians chapters 6 & 7. (And if we are to outlaw sin, we should also work on idolaters, adulterers, the greedy, the drunkards, revilers, and swindlers... see 1 Cor 6:9). And please don't overlook 1 Timothy chapter 1, either.

    We are talking about 2 different things: sin, and the law in our American secular society. When we discuss sin, I believe it's best we call a spade a spade. The advantage of this thinking is that while we stand on scripture to identify sin (and by the way, of all the sinners of all the world, I'm the worst), it opens the door to talk about the grace and salvation from sin through Jesus. And again, we do this by not overlooking or ignoring scripture.

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  29. Jordan,

    You said did two things that impressed me.

    1. You came on and gave your opinion.

    2. You stated it as an opinion and said "I could be wrong"

    That is humility and I am happy you said that.

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  30. Hey Susan,

    Well written post.

    I would first caution you that making arguments based on what Jesus did not say(or to be more precise, what was not recorded by his disciples) is dangerous. Jesus also did not address human trafficking, environmental stewardship, and a host of other issues.

    I know its in vogue to place homosexuality on the same historic trajectory as slavery and women's rights. However, it's hard to see reconcile that notion against scripture-- especially in light of Paul's writings.

    That said, I appreciate your good and right concern that some wings of the church stop bullying the homosexual community by trying to limit their civil rights.

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  31. As a Christian and a lesbian I want to urge you to ponder how awfully easy it is to consider this matter (homosexuality: sin or not a sin?) "cut and dried" when you've never had to reconcile, or even consider, your own sexual orientation. After many years of prayer, bible reading, and experience (aka the presence of the holy spirit), I've come to the conclusion that my homosexuality is not a sin. I wish that the community of Christian's didn't so easily take this decision for granted.

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  32. Lisa,

    If someone told me that they were saved but wouldn't stop engaging in premarrital heterosexual sex or looking at porn, or drinking to excess, I would tell them that they were just as in the wrong as a homosexual. The key ingredient is purposefully engaging in actions specifically condemned. I am sorry if your heart tells you it's okay because the Bible also says that "the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it?" Your heart is not the judge... God is. I'm not trying to be rude or unloving. The fact of the matter is I have more homosexual friends than straight friends, and I know how amazing they are as people. But the word of God is the authority, and there is no bending that authority. I pray you will repent and stop following your heart on this matter. It will only damn you.

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  33. If I was a non-Christian...
    And I just stumbled upon this dialogue...
    I'm not sure I'd ever make the decision to follow Christ if this is how Christians have discussions with each other...

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  34. @Josh
    I disagree on your interpretation of what the bible has to say about homosexuality. And I take offense at you likening my love for another woman to drinking in excess, looking at porn, or premarital sex.

    @Anonymous,
    I don't blame you one bit.
    Lisa

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  35. This is a great post I love the fact that you can think out side of the self righteous condemnation Christian box and see that Jesus did not come to condemn the world but bring it life. As followers of Christ that is what we are to do.
    I'm in the same boat with you over the whole prop 8 issue upon which I didn't vote because of the valid arguments on both sides and I believe there is a better way to do things. I have gay friends that have been married, have wanted to be married, and now they can't which is painful for them. But on the flip side with the religious organizations they have been sued by homosexuals for saying no to being part their marriage plans, which is bs. Secondly several teachers have acted upon their own zealousness and teaching kindergartners about celebrating homosexuality and homosexual marriages, which is also bs because parents have no say over said teacher's or institution's actions because it has been done with out their consent to begin with. Lastly no one should really be teaching 5 year olds about sex period, kids don't have a concept of such things until the reach puberty or worse, if they have been sexually abused.
    However since prop 8 did pass I propose getting some brilliant creative minds together to set a new term and specific rights for homosexuals that they can call their own and take pride in. Since the prop is so vague calling the union between a homosexual couple something other then "marriage" should not have a problem.

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  36. You guys should really read this:

    http://branthansen.typepad.com/letters_from_kamp_krusty/2008/12/this-doesnt-usually-happen-after-an-outdoor-gig.html

    This is officially now my approach to this issue.

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