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Brad Kennington Headshot

Christianity and Gay Marriage: The Right Has It Wrong

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It has been nearly a month since the Supreme Court decided to strike down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), the federal government's legal discrimination against gays and lesbians, and I still find myself unsettled by the reaction from some in our society, especially those who call themselves Christians. I am a Christian; I have been my entire life. I am also a marriage and family therapist who has provided relationship counseling to many individuals and couples, both gay and straight, for nearly 15 years. So when I hear how gay marriage will harm our society and destroy traditional marriage, I must admit that I am a bit baffled.

Just how do gay couples go about destroying traditional marriage? I have no clue. In all of my years of practicing marriage and family therapy, I have never seen or heard of a straight marriage failing because two gay men or women wanted to get married. I've never really understood the logic behind this argument, probably because there is none.

No matter how loud the religious right may yell, gay marriage is not a threat to the institution of marriage. What does destroy marital relationships? Infidelity. Substance abuse. Addictions. Emotional and physical abuse. A lack of intimacy and mutual respect. Think any conservative Christians are guilty of any of these? Of course they are. But they are too busy throwing stones at others and less concerned about the plank in their own eyes. Tragically, gay men and women make a very attractive scapegoat for many congregations.

And what I found most troubling was the tweet sent out by former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee soon after the court's decision. His reaction on Twitter -- "Jesus wept" (which is a biblical reference to Jesus grieving the death of his friend Lazarus) -- is just absurd. Mr. Huckabee has absolutely no idea what he is talking about. No one, not even Mr. Huckabee, knows the emotional reaction of Christ to the demise of DOMA. And whether it's intended to or not, this type of language is a wink and nod to those who want to weaponize scripture so that they can advance their crusade of hate and intolerance in the name of God.

Instead of trying to determine the indeterminable, like Christ's emotional reaction to marriage equality, it would behoove all of us to look at what he actually said about same-sex relationships. And what we find in the Gospels is nothing, nada. Christ is silent on the subject. And where he is silent, we have no right to speak for him or try to remake him in our image.

What we do know is that Christ was an incredibly controversial figure in his day. He was a man who embraced the marginalized and challenged the established customs and caused so much anxiety among the Pharisees, the religious leaders who valued traditions over people (sound familiar?), that they tried to exterminate him by nailing him to a cross. They failed, the same way I think the pharisaical rants from Mr. Huckabee and others will fail to turn the growing tide of support for marriage equality.

Christ gave us two commandments to live by. First, love God. Second, love your neighbor as yourself. And our neighbor is just that, someone we share this planet with. And sadly, what we see in Huckabee's reaction and in so many others in the religious right is a faith not of love but of fear.

As the religious debate on marriage equality continues, I especially appreciate the words of Presbyterian minister Frederick Buechner. He writes, "Whether it is our own gender or the other that we are chiefly attracted to seems a secondary matter.... It is not the object of our sexuality that determines its value but the inner nature of our sexuality."

Earlier this year my church in Austin held the first-ever blessing of a same-sex union conducted in an Episcopal church in Texas. It was an incredibly moving and powerful experience to witness two dear friends of mine stand before God and priests and family and friends and exchange their vows, vows that are just as real and meaningful as those shared between a man and a woman. Was God present? I believe so, because love was present.