It’s an exciting time to be me. I seem to be living on the cutting edge of current events, getting same-sex married in the same year the Supreme Court is set to rule on whether same-sex couples have a constitutional right to marry. And not content with regular ole’ gay marriage, I decided to marry a seminarian and soon-to-be pastor. And the ceremony is taking place at… the… seminary.
Obviously, all of this entitles me to a position of importance whenever the topics of same-sex marriage or the LGBTQ community & the Church come up. “WELL, as a gay man about to marry a preacher… [sudden hushed silence] I think that …”
Of course, marrying a person of the same gender isn’t all fun, excitement, and current eventy self-importance-ness. There are a lot of people out there who would rather I not marry Chris, and they’re doing all they can to discourage same-sex unions from happening.
A couple of years ago, one such same-sex marriage detractor wrote an article suggesting that the reason same-sex marriage was gaining so much support was that people were too focused on distractions like love and commitment, so that they’d forgotten just how gross gay sex really is. His proposed solution is that opponents to same-sex marriage include explicit descriptions of gay and lesbian sex when discussing the issue.
Now this article is several years old and near as I can tell nobody took him up on that suggestion, so it’s rather pointless to get all up-in-arms about an article written literally ages ago that apparently had no effect on anything. But while the article and its message are pretty extreme, its underlying assumption, namely that there is some sort of ulterior motive to the push for same-sex marriage, is fairly commonplace.
This, I think, is what is meant by the term “the gay agenda.” That what we really want isn’t marriage; our real purpose is more sinister. There seem to be differing opinions as to exactly what the real purpose is supposed to be; usually it’s something about wanting to destroy the institution of marriage by making it meaningless. Or sometimes we’re just out to force everyone to accept “our sinful lifestyle,” the defining feature of which, according to that article, is having lots of gay sex.
It’s a wonder to me how these people claim to know what the LGBTQ community’s motivations are. Have they spoken with each and every one of us? Can they read our hearts and minds? Do they imagine we’re one monolithic group, with the same purpose and goal? Perhaps some in the community want to destroy marriage and/or have lots of gay sex. But is it so unfathomable that some of us just want to be a family with the person we love, with the person that we know will make us a better person (and vice versa), with the person we want at our side as we struggle to serve our purpose in this world? I can say with some certainty that anyone who observes Chris and I cuddled on the couch, stuffing our faces with Thai take-out, and binge watching Ugly Betty on Hulu will be disabused of the notion that our relationship is really just about gay sex.
These “I know what your real motivations are” type accusations are often leveled at LGBTQ Christians in the form of claims that our reading of the Bible as affirming of same-sex relationships is just an attempt to twist Scripture in such a way as to support … what else but … our sinful lifestyle. It certainly couldn’t be a result of prayerful study of Scripture and theology.
But alright, same-sex oriented Christians do have a pointed interest in the same-sex marriage debate, so I can see how some people might be suspicious of our motivations. However, these same accusations are also leveled at our heterosexual allies. Their supposed hidden motive is, to put it simply, popularity. Apparently they twist Scripture so that they can “conform to culture” or “fit into society.” In other words, they want to hang with the cool kids so they’re going to drink, swear, and rat their theologically metaphorical hair. Such accusations make me wonder what these people think happens when a Christian comes out as affirming of same-sex marriage. Do they imagine that affirming pastors previously sat at home on weekends with nothing to do, year after year, until finally they caved into pressure, stuck a rainbow flag on the church marquee, and now they’re invited to all the exclusive parties?
Sure, some people might sell more books or advance further in their career if they show support for the LGBTQ community, but the vast majority of LGBTQ allies in the Church are average, everyday people who have nothing of significance to gain by supporting same-sex marriage. In fact, many face considerable opposition from family, friends, and their church for their views, even in today’s supposedly “super accepting” society. To portray a conviction that, for many, is a result of years of Biblical study, conversation, and prayer, as a mere ploy to gain a seat at the popular table is both insulting and pathetically juvenile. In most cases it’s also a lie. (Does anyone care about the 8th Commandment anymore? I think Luther said it best – “put the best construction on everything.”)
Now before I get any more caught up in my self-righteous indignation, I must admit that we in the LGBTQ community often do the same thing. We, or rather I (best I just speak for myself) tend to label any person who cannot square her religious convictions with same-sex marriage as a bigoted jerk. Yes, some people opposed to LGBTQ rights are hateful bigots. But not everyone who feels the Bible prohibits same-sex relationships is full of hate. Many people struggle with reconciling the sexual morals they’ve been taught since… well, basically birth… and the desire to be loving and supportive of LGBTQ folk. It’s unfair, and unproductive, to be screaming “BIGOT” at people caught in this struggle.
I suppose it’s human nature to want to vilify those who disagree with us. For my part, I blame Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, which taught me that, generally (with a very few notable exceptions), the people on the bad side are bad people and the people on the good side are good people. But really, this tendency to vilify the opposition is counter-productive to gaining support for whatever “side” we’re on. LGBTQ allies are going to run into conservative Christians at work, family events, civic events, etc. and realize that they’re not all the monsters we sometimes portray them to be. And we lose credibility when this happens.
Similarly, opponents of LGBTQ rights will have family or friends or friends of friends who identify as LGBTQ, and will find that many of us are not out to destroy marriage with gay sex. That we really are loving people in loving relationships who just want to be able to live our lives without having to worry about being fired from our jobs, refused services, forbidden to see our family members in the hospital, having our children taken from us, etc. Seems to me that it becomes more difficult to support a stance if you discover that its proponents are lying to you about what the other side is like.
I’m not trying to minimize the magnitude of disagreement between supporters and those who oppose same-sex marriage; the two sides have very different beliefs on this issue and how they act on these beliefs have very real and significant consequences for individuals and our society as a whole. But it is possible to believe that someone is very, very wrong in their convictions, and yet understand that these flawed convictions flow, at least in part, from good intentions. It’s possible for someone to be completely wrong for all the right reasons.
For the most part, family and friends have been very supportive of my upcoming nuptials with Chris. A few are uncomfortable but still supportive, and there are a very few who are just unable to support it at all. But even those who are unable to give their full support due to religious beliefs know that there’s nothing sinister behind our desire to marry, no ulterior motive or hidden agenda. And I, in turn, understand that their disagreement with the marriage, wrong and misguided though it be, comes from a place of concern for our spiritual well-being, not because they just hate gay people.
I find all this civility and empathy quite disappointing, as it affords me no opportunity to have a dramatic episode (How dare you! How DAAAARRRE you!!!!!), and therefore no possibility for subsequent dramatic recountings of the dramatic episode (Can you believe what she said??!! I mean, can you even BELIEVE what she said???!!!). But I guess dramatic excitement must take a back seat to the 8th Commandment and Christian love. No matter, really. This summer the Supreme Court is poised to make marriage equality the law of the land and I will be marrying the man I love; there’s plenty of other things to be excited about.