With liberty and justice for most... Wait that's not it. Some? A few? Oh no, it's liberty and justice for all.
I was raised in the Bible Belt, a hyper-conservative Christian who in the past few years has had his worldview crushed and rebuilt at the hands of experience. Where I once would have fought, and ardently so, against a same-sex couples right to marry, I have been blessed to meet and be live in community with the people I was always taught to shun. My beliefs changed and changed radically, and so I sit with bated breath as I wait to hear the Supreme Court's decision in the landmark court cases that have been going on the past few days.
Right now the United States Supreme Court is about to rule on both Proposition 8 from California and DOMA (The Defense of Marriage Act). It is a truly historical moment in our young country's life. It's the moment we decide if all really are equal, or if the only citizens allowed the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are heterosexuals and those under the umbrella of main-stream Christendom. But what strikes me as I peruse my Facebook news feed or read the blogs of many of my friends and peers is the true lack of understanding about one crucial point. Same-sex marriage is not, in any way, shape or form a religious issue. Same-sex marriage is a matter of the state, and I am baffled by the fact that we live in a country that promotes itself as the greatest country on earth, a country founded on the principle of freedom, yet we are somehow still okay classifying "the other" as the lesser. Just how long will we allow there to be second class citizens? Did the civil rights movement of the '50s and '60s teach us nothing? These are not criminals we are persecuting, or even non-citizens. The "other" I am referring to are upstanding, tax-paying, citizens of these United States, and these citizens are suffering at the hands of one of the most toxic entities in existence, lazy religion. A few thoughts about lazy religion...
Lazy religion is obsessed with arm-chair activism and other such movements that don't require effort, sacrifice or calling. With the age of the Internet, the true causes of Christianity are being shelved, only to be replaced by political motivations that stem from a poor understanding of government and a poor understanding of the Bible. Several years ago I watched as Proposition 8 passed in California. I watched as my Christian brothers and sisters sang and danced in victory, having "struck a blow" in the defense of "traditional biblical marriage." The problem? In the days following I also witnessed mobs of angry gay and lesbian patriots marching in most major cities. They marched in defense of their California brothers and sisters, and marched because they had to. The pain of doing nothing after Prop 8 passed would have set the cause of equality back and further entrenched the nation in an archaic and unconstitutional mindset. But more than anything I think they marched for hope. While mainstream evangelicals celebrated a victory over an issue, they never understood that they were actually celebrating the oppression of millions of flesh and blood people. People made in the image of God, possessing the inherent dignity that their humanity affords. And for what?
Lazy religion is addicted to empire and control. It doesn't acknowledge personhood. James 1:27 tells us that pure and undefiled religion is this: to take care of widows and orphans in their time of need and to keep oneself spotless from the world. Jesus also defined our focus, to love God and to love our neighbors (the other) as ourself. Is it right then that our mindset should be to politicize individuals and who they love, and to want to dictate those individuals lives through the manipulation of the state? A friend of mind, David, spent 40+ hours a week during this last election volunteering at a call center, dialing numbers and asking voters to look at this issue from a different point of view. When I asked him why he was spending so much time politicking, he told me that he felt he had to for a time... And then I could hear his voice crack and tears began forming in the corners of his eyes. "Tim, I'm sick of being looked at as a political issue instead of as a person, an equal." I've never thought about things that way until he said that. Lazy religion doesn't think in terms of people; it thinks in terms of abstract theological concepts and issue based stereotypes. It politicizes unique and beautiful individuals made in the image of God. Lazy religion has no place in this debate...
So as we wait for the decisions to be made, and as we walk through the rest of this historic journey toward equal rights for everyone (not just in this country but also all over the world -- Australia, I'm looking at you) it is my prayer that the stances taken will be rooted in grace and consideration for all. We can all be bigots, but we don't have to be. We can disagree and argue this issue to its conclusion but in the end it is essential we remember that lives really are at stake, and as a man of faith respecting and honoring the image of God in the other is almost as important as the issues themselves. No matter what side of the issue you fall on, you can live out the calling of love intentionally and realistically, and respect the many journeys the collective "other" have walked.
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