My eardrums are vibrating inside P!nk’s new album and I have a damp line between my eyebrows from where I tipped my goblet too far when getting at that last bit of red.
Things To Know About Me: I listen to aggressive music and drink wine sometimes. Mostly when I know I’m about to do something I’m not entirely sure I want to do.
Namely, attack this:
Which has made so many anti-marriage-equality rounds on Facebook that it has probably burned a giant, looping crop circle into the landscape of the internet.
I’m hesitant, because people I know and love have shared it. People whose beliefs differ from mine, but for whom I hold nothing but the utmost respect. I’ve wrestled with the impulse that’s been telling me for weeks – months – that I need to say something about this, knowing that to do so is to put those special people in an uncomfortable position.
In this uncertain place that lives between the fear of “do” and the fear of “don’t,” I kept stumbling over a verse, echoing from a memory long since lost:
“To sin by silence, when we should protest,
Makes cowards out of men. The human race
Has climbed on protest. Had no voice been raised
Against injustice, ignorance, and lust,
The inquisition yet would serve the law
And guillotines decide our least disputes.
The few who dare, must speak and speak again
To right the wrongs of many.”
“Protest,” Ella Wheeler Wilcox
The few who dare, must speak and speak again.
In the stillest moments of night, in the deepest recesses of myself, I’ve asked, Am I one of the few who dare? Do I want to be?
The answer has come in the drive in my gut, the truth in my heart, the whisper of my God telling me that this, this, is precisely the reason He gifted me with a love for the way words jostle and play… and a reckless enough spirit to drink wine, listen to aggressive music, and click “Publish.”
So I proceed.
Rick Warren’s quote has been posted repeatedly – not just on Facebook, but also on blogs and other forms of social commentary – as a “compassionate Christian” justification for opposition to marriage equality. This context is important.
Because when Pastor Warren spoke these words, he was not speaking about gay marriage. At all. In fact, the original interview, which can be read on ChristianPost.com, shows that he was actually answering this question:
“Why do you think people who call themselves Christians sometimes say the most hateful things about Muslims?”
Context: Birthing schisms in Christianity since 33 AD.
Additional, important context: Before being stripped and misinterpreted and meme-maker-ed into a convenient soundbite, this thing that Pastor Warren said was preceded by a clarification:
“Well, some of those folks probably aren’t really Christians. 1 John 4:20 says, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” And 1 John 2:9 says “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates his brother is still in the darkness.”
This should be a humbling moment: The realization that a crucially important bit of framing was torn from these words – spoken a scant few months ago by a living man in our own country in a time when the original interview could be uncovered by a .3 second Google search – explicitly to render them more suitable for re-purposing into a justification for hateful behavior of Christians against their brothers.
Dear conservative Christians: When progressive Christians debate you over the shortcomings of Biblical literalism due to the (in)accuracy of man, this is the kind of mix-up we’re talking about.
Because let’s be clear… Without the previous explanation that Christians should not ever, under the umbrella of Christianity, act hatefully toward anyone, this quote does not dissuade Christians from acting badly. It does not encourage Christians to find meaningful dialogue.
It pardons the acknowledged hateful behavior of Christian peoples under the guise of compassionate disagreement and a vow that “We don’t really hate you. We just don’t agree with you. (With our signs and picket lines and mean words.)”
Now, the context of the masses is important, too. Rick Warren did not speak these words with regard to marriage equality. But that’s how the masses are using them, and that matters. As does the truth that the masses using these words are doing so optimistically, with hopeful sights on a middle ground and place of understanding, in a moment when they found a piece of their truth in lovely words that (superficially) speak against fear and hate.
In a vacuum, these words would be as beautiful as the souls that shared them.
But in their proper context, they are a pretty lie. Whitewash. A trite and dismissive gloss over a reality that is so very, very hateful.
Because when you vote against equal rights for your fellow citizens, that is hateful.
When you form multi-hours-long lines to buy crappy fast food chicken in order to publicly demonstrate your support for discrimination, that is hateful.
When you support politicians who dedicate themselves to the denial of equality to your brothers, that is hateful.
It just is.
I understand that conservative Biblical interpretations prohibit gay marriage, and I respect that. But here’s the thing… I’m Christian, and my Biblical interpretation? Does not prohibit gay marriage. And based on the gay marriages that have taken place in my very congregation – one of which was performed by a Bishop – I’d say that this is not one of those times when I’m all alone in my rogue, non-academic understanding of something. It would seem that The Powers That Be in my sect of Christianity are pretty much okay with the whole concept.
Other churches may not be. And that is okay. Those churches doesn’t have to perform gay marriage ceremonies. There’s not been a single attempt to pass marriage equality legislation that would require all churches to perform them. I know that some Christian leaders have said that this is a slippery slope, and it’s just a matter of time before all churches are forced to align with the Liberal Agenda. But… really? I mean, women were granted the right to vote in 1920, equal civil rights in 1964, and to date I don’t see that anyone has noogied the Roman Catholic Church into submission on the matter of women priests.
See, my conservative friends, it comes back to the oft-repeated arguments about separation of Church and State. Your Biblical interpretation cannot shape law, not in the United States. Neither can mine. Think about that a moment. Think about how important that is for you. If you are conservative, you almost certainly voted against our current President. The uproar over Rev. Louie Giglio’s withdrawal – or removal, depending on your news outlet – from consideration for delivering Obama’s inaugural address, allegedly on the basis of his preachings against homosexuality, is a key source for conservative Christian belief that the government will force churches to perform gay marriages. Here’s the thing: Obama was elected by your fellow citizens. Twice. Put up to a vote of the American people, whose Biblical interpretation do you think would become the law of the land?
Be glad for separation of church and state. Because my Biblical interpretation places a lot of emphasis on the idea of losing your shit and flipping tables, and implementing that nationwide would be a logistical nightmare.
Marriage equality is not the institution of an alternate Biblical law in the United States. It is a reasoned and logical response to this non-religious, legal question:
Do we allow responsible adult citizens who contribute to the common good of the land, the right to decide for themselves with whom they want to enter into a legal partnership?
Earlier today I read an article by a small-town sports writer (whom I refuse the traffic that a link could potentially generate), in which he referred to himself as “courageous” for speaking out against the idea that it is admirable for a prominent athlete to come out as gay. I’ll admit it, I laughed. That’s not courageous. Attempted oppression, by definition, is not courageous.
Courageous is a kid jumping off the high diving board for the first time.
Courageous is my freshly-neutered puppy popping a stitch because not even lack of testicles can stop him from humping our other dog.
Courageous is having the ability to hold your beliefs in your home and the peacefully coexisting beliefs of others in your neighborhood, and saying, “Okay. These can live together.” Because you really don’t have to compromise your convictions to be compassionate… but you do have to keep your convictions in your house, and not ram them into others’. (And let’s head off a rebuttal here by stating the obvious, that extending marriage rights to gay people does not ram their beliefs into your house. Unless you live in a Will and Grace re-run – and even then it’s iffy.)
So, this quote from Rick Warren… If it still has meaning for you, great. But I will hope that the next time its orbit passes by your corner of the web and you nod along in agreement, this moment will include the baseline assumption that a community that doesn’t fear or hate the people it disagrees with also does not actively try to oppress or discriminate against them.
Because that shit’s just not cool.
“I know you think it’s not your problem
I know you think that God will solve them
But if your shit is not together
It’ll never be you and me, plant the seed
Open up and let it be
We are the people that you’ll never get the best of
Not forget the rest of”
I highly recommend this P!nk album.
Peace and love to all.