I had intended to spend this morning on the important topic of remembering the sacrifice that lies behind the epic memorials we are so fond of building. And we did spend some time on that important subject earlier in the service. But I wish now to address another subject that has become an increasingly prominent concern in our national consciousness: Gay or Same Sex marriage.
That this is an issue at all baffles me. Some say it is a matter of values. We’ll get to that a little later. But first, one logical question is why talk about it here? Isn’t a part of our Six Fundamental Assumptions at Living Interfaith that sexual orientation should have no relevance in how we treat each other? Yes. But I would like to share with you today some thoughts, because this subject will come up in the next year, and I my hope is that we can discuss it with conviction, but also civilly.
During my recent book tour, I was in Davis, California, speaking, at of all places, a book store! I gave my half hour presentation and then took an hour and a half of some of the most thoughtful questions. One of those thoughtful questions was asked by a woman with a warm and truly beautiful soul. She happens to be gay. She said she believed in and practiced love, compassion and community, and liked the idea of Interfaith. But then she asked me if she would be welcome at our church. There was clearly anguish in her question.
I told her that if she came to our church believing that anyone who is straight is wrong, probably evil, and needs to realize that the only natural, God-given relationship is a gay relationship, then no, should would not be welcome. I could see her smile. But as long as she didn’t come with that attitude, I told her, she would be very welcome.
That she felt she needed to ask her question is one of the reasons I feel that this morning’s message is necessary.
I’m not gay. So why am I interested in gay rights? I’m not a woman, but I’m also interested in women’s rights. I’m not Muslim, yet I’m also interested in the rights of Muslims as well as those of all spiritual paths that seek compassion and community. The bottom line is that we are all brothers and sisters, and we ought to be interested in human rights.
But wait, we are told. God has proclaimed the sanctity of the male/female relationship called marriage. And why? … because it is the only way to secure the future of humanity. Gay marriage should not be allowed, we are told, because it puts the future of humanity at risk. Or, as Byron Babione, senior counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund wrote just a few weeks ago in an editorial, “Marriage between a man and a woman naturally builds family – mom, dad and children – and gives hope that the next generation will carry on into the future.” (USA Today, 10 May).
Let’s examine that a moment. Marriage between a man and a woman must be “protected” because only a marriage between a man and a woman gives us children. When I hear someone make that assertion, I ever so politely want to bring up the logical conclusions to be drawn from such a statement. Men and women my age are not going to be having children. Are those who are opposed to gay marriage hoping to outlaw senior marriage as well? And some younger men and women, for varying reasons, decide not to have children. Are those who are opposed to gay marriage hoping to pass laws that annul any marriage which after, say, ten years has not been “fruitful?” And, of course, some people can’t have children. Are those who are opposed to gay marriage eager to pass laws stating that if a doctor has found you unable to have children you may not marry? And if they are not asking for this, then why not?
But what about those few passages in Scripture that seem to proclaim gays as an abomination? Well, if you look at those passages, most are stating that same sex rape is an abomination. And it is. Just as rape by someone of the opposite sex is an abomination.
And if we are now down to one or two passages in Scripture, let’s remember that there are at least two passages in the Torah which clearly state that you owe your first born as a sacrifice to God. Realizing that on occasion it might have been tempting, I still wonder how many of us have actually fulfilled that law? And if you haven’t killed your first born as a sacrifice to God, why not? And hands, how many have participated in the stoning of an adulterer recently? And I do trust you’ve been a part of dealing harshly with anyone who has ever played football, as touching a pig skin makes a person unclean. And if not, then we interpret Scripture, rather than mindlessly take one passage out of context.
Ok then, we are told. What same sex marriage truly comes down to is values. Here I agree. It does come down to values. It is very much a matter of values. And forgive me if I get just a tad emotional here.
Let’s talk about values. Let’s talk about the kind of values that allow people go without food so we can balance the budget without raising taxes.
Let’s talk about values. Let’s talk about a society so polarized, so completely captured by the “us and them” mentality that people can’t disagree with each other without trying to demonize and indeed destroy each other.
Let’s talk about values. What about Jesus’ warning that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich person to get into heaven?
Let’s talk about values. What about Muhammad’s proclamation that the best Islam is to feed the hungry and spread peace among both friend and stranger?
Let’s talk about values. What about the Jain injunction to consider the family of humankind one?
You want to talk about values? What about Hillel’s question that if I am only for myself, what am I?
And the Buddha, and Bahaullah, and so many others. Yes, values are indeed important. And what we value, those values we are actually willing to act upon, as opposed to merely give lip-service, shows us for who we truly are.
We continue to allow children to live in poverty. We continue to divide and subdivide ourselves according to religion, “race,” gender, and any other excuse we can think of. We continue to allow seniors to have to choose between medicine and food. And then we obsess on whether two people of the same sex should be allowed to have the love that they share recognized.
You want to talk about values? Then for heaven’s sake, for the Earth’s sake, for the sake of our souls, let’s actually talk about values. The question I would ask each of us, all of us, to consider is this: “What do we truly value? … And what does what we value say about who we are?”
I have a couple of friends, good people, who believe in their heart of hearts that any gay relationship is wrong. I disagree with them. I believe gay rights are basic civil rights. But what I would ask of my friends, even if they disagree, is this. Even if you do believe that any gay relationship is wrong, given what we value most, given that we agree that love, compassion and justice for all peoples is our greatest, most sacred value, is denying the legal status of gay relationships really where you want to be spending your time and energy? Don’t all people, even those with whom for whatever reason we may find fault, as long as they do no harm to others, have the inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Do we really want to ignore illness, bigotry, poverty, hunger and homelessness, in order to throw stones at people who happen to love each other differently than some of us believe they should?
Yes, I would urge us to look to our values. I would urge us to look deeply to our values.