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Archive for March, 2013

Okay, it is unarguably time for a post on the issue of gay marriage.  Last night I was praying to God that he might move the justices of the Supreme Court to overturn the bans on gay marriage and the discriminatory policies.  This is an issue that, regardless of opinion, is very near and dear to the hearts of many, many people in our country.  I am a liberal evangelical Christian and I support gay marriage.  My support for gay marriage is not despite my religious convictions, but because of them.

 

Let’s first start with the acknowledgement that no one—except for those of you who are Orthodox Jews, who I’m guessing are a rather small percentage—believe in every rule in the Bible.  After all, the Bible says you shouldn’t charge interests on loans, yet I don’t see many Republicans running out to pass new laws on the banking industry.  We decide what rules we follow based on what we feel is God’s will.  We all add our own interpretation when we read the Bible.  However, as Christians, for better or worse, we prioritize.  We put the gospel above Galatians and we put Romans above Leviticus.  Jesus said absolutely nothing about gay marriage.  He did say that it’s wrong to get divorced, which is legal despite that.  So Jesus said nothing about gay marriage…but Jesus did say an awful lot about love.

 

 

We are more aware than ever of the horrible things that happen in our world.  Previously we were confined to the horrible things that happened locally.  Earlier this year, a dozen little children were shot to death in their classrooms.  In parts of the world, systematic rape is a tool of war.  Not just ordinary rape, though I find it absolutely despicable that there are so many rapes in the world that such a concept exists, but sometimes gun rifles are shoved into women, bayonets.  America has admitted that it tortured people in Guantanamo Bay.  There are children carrying machine guns.  A fourteen-year-old girl was flogged to death for accusing her cousin of rape.  Malala was shot in the head for saying that she wanted an education.  Women get beaten by their husbands, kids get sexually abused, people with disabilities are tied up and neglected.  There is a lot of hatred in our world.  I don’t think God objects to there being more love, no matter the gender of who’s loving who.  The Bible says that all good things come from God.  Love comes from God.  Therefore, I believe that the love between two people, regardless of gender, comes from God.

 

Marriage is a changing institution.  The marriage of the Bible isn’t the marriage of today.  There are no dowries and hopefully there aren’t a lot of people who marry to form alliances between families. The marriage of today isn’t even the marriage of fifty years ago.  Does this cause problems?  Yes.  Does this shake our identity?  Yes.  But I think that’s good and that it’s necessary.  Allowing people who are gay to marry will change the institution of marriage, but sometimes the institution needs to be changed.  The institution of marriage has changed so that I expect my future husband to do the laundry with me and pick the kids up from school.  I’m glad for that.  I think that the fundamental core, one of love and respect, is the same, and I don’t think that’s going to change.

 

I am a deeply religious person.  I believe in the sanctity of marriage.  That’s why I think there’s no reason for the government to be regulating it.  Short of minors getting married, I think people should be able to have whatever arrangement they want.  I personally think that everyone, gay or straight, should get civil unions from the government and marriage can happen privately or in front of their friends and families.  There’s a lot of fear about whether ministers will be forced to marry people who are gay when they don’t believe in homosexuality.  This is a baseless fear.  Ministers should have the right to marry whomever they want.  Rabbis have the right to not marry an inter-faith couple.  Evangelical preachers have the right to not marry a couple that is living together.  For better or worse, that is respected and I don’t see why that would change.  I also think that ministers should have the freedom to marry whomever they want.  Ministers are meant to serve God, so why does the government get to tell them whom they’re allowed to marry?

 

The truth is that gay marriage already exists.  Not just in Massachusetts or the other states that have laws on it.  Marriage isn’t a piece of paper.  Marriage is two people who are building a life together.  People who are gay are already doing that.  They are buying houses and adopting kids and caring for each other when sick.  They have committed to each other and they are married.  The fight for gay marriage isn’t the fight to allow it, because in reality it cannot be forbidden, but whether we as a nation will recognize those marriages.  Marriage just is.

 

 

Corinthians 13:4-8 says: “4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.”  This passage does not say “love should” or “love can”, it says “love is”.  These are statements of truth.  Love cannot be anything but its nature and for those who don’t support gay marriage, there’s nothing you can do to change that.  Gay couples, while having all the same problems as straight couples, are patient and kind to one another.  They protect and trust one another, and for years they have been hoping and persevering that their country will recognize their love.

 

 

Many of you are familiar with the show West Wing.  I feel that a quotation here can apply to this situation.  It is about a father whose son was killed in a hate crime because he was gay, and some were worried that he was ashamed of his son.  To the question, he says: “I don’t understand how this President, who I voted for, I don’t understand how he can take such a completely weak-ass position on gay rights.  Gays in the military, same-sex marriage, gay adoption, boards of education…where the hell is he?  I want to know what quality necessary to being a parent the President feels my son lacked.  I want to know from this President, who has not served one day in uniform…I want to know what quality necessary to being a soldier this President feels my son lacked.  Lady, I’m not embarrassed my son was gay…my government is.”  That sums up how I feel.  And I ask the same question of the supreme court justices, congress, and our entire government.  What quality is lacking that you think my friends cannot care for and raise a wonderful child?  What quality is lacing that you think they should not be able to be ordained in their own church?  Because I don’t see anything lacking.

 

Now, to the argument people make that gay couples shouldn’t have children.  I think an argument could be made that gay couples might even make better parents than straight couples.  There’s one very simple reason: they all want children.  There are thousands of children who are born to parents who don’t want them or are so-called accidents.  This risk simply doesn’t apply in cases of gay parents.  Same-sex couples have to truly want a child and be dedicated to the idea.  Dedicated parents, no matter their gender, make better parents than heterosexual couples who are absent or neglectful.  Besides, you know what, maybe kids with gay parents will have things they need to talk about in therapy one day…and they can join the club.  I don’t think children feeling their parents could have raised them better or done something differently is anything special to a certain type of family.

 

 

Recently, a modern family episode aired and a woman getting married said: “It turns out that when you’re with the right person, you can change shelf paper at ten o’clock at night and not want to be anywhere else.”  At which Mitchell and Cam started crying.  I think that’s a beautiful meditation on married life.

 

I think gay couples should have the right to all the messed-up, maddening, joyful, crazy, exciting, enlightening parts of family life.  They should have the right to have knock-down, drag-out fights about who promised to empty the dishwasher.  They should have the right to spend exorbitant amounts of money on a wedding that they will fight with their parents about.  They should have the right to embarrass their children on field trips.  They should have a right to be in a marriage, not just a gay marriage.  They should have the right to sleep in the uncomfortable chairs in the hospital rooms of their spouse all night.  They should have the right to have both their names on their child’s adoption papers.  They should have the right to not worry about losing their insurance or their house if something happens to the other.  They should have the right to argue with their kids about whether that skirt is too short.

 

While I’m hoping that the Supreme Court rules in favor of gay marriage, I know that it will not fix everything.  We know this from experience.  Decades after civil rights, there is still racial tension in this country.  Years after the ADA is passed, people who are disabled still have to fight for their rights.  Years after the ERA was passed…oh…well…that’s awkward.  Yes, well, let’s just move on.  If gay marriage is legalized, the sad fact is that kids will still be bullied in school.  The truth is that someone who’s gay might still have to endure some not-really-funny jokes at the office.  But at the end of the day, they get to go home to someone who loves them and vent while that person listens.

 

And that makes all the difference.

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Many of you might have gathered from reading this blog that I believe that we, as Christians, have a lot that we can learn from other religions. I think it is healthy when we find that a religion perhaps has a spiritual practice that brings us closer to God or their scripture or doctrine describes something that we feel and believe, as Christians, but in different words. I oftentimes think that it is simply interesting to compare and contrast different faiths or to see how another faith’s beliefs and practices might complement our own or provide us with a new perspective. Anyway, now that we’ve got that header out of the way.

 
I just finished reading a book called “Jewish Prayer and Practices”, it could also be known just as well as “Judaism 101” or “Judaism for Dummies”. Basically, all the basic things around holidays, prayers, food, Sabbath, services…it’s all there. Nothing is in great detail that would satisfy a real scholar on the topic, but for an average person like me (and likely you) it’s a good starter.

 

Towards the end, I came across one of the chapters on charity. So, in Judaism/Hebrew the word that some might call charity is known as “tzedakah”. It comes from the same root as just or righteous or pious. It’s not simply about giving to charity, but also “conveys a sense of justice or fairness in making the world right” (Lieber, 277). Do people actually ever cite things in blogs? Anyway. Tzedakah is obligatory and it’s a mitzvah. You can look that one up for yourselves.

 

Centuries ago, Rabbi Moses Maimonides designed eight different levels of tzedakah. Here they are, in reverse…goodness? (and for citation purposes, I’m quoting this list directly from the book).

1) A person gives unwillingly
2) A person gives cheerfully, but not enough
3) A person gives enough, but not until asked
4) A person gives before being asked, but directly to the poor person
5) The poor person knows from whom he or she takes, but the giver does not know who is receiving
6) The giver knows to whom he or she gives, but the receiver does not know the giver.
7) Fully anonymous giving, the giver does not know to whom he or she gives, nor does the poor person know from whom he or she receives.
8) The very highest form of tzedakah is to strengthen the hand of the poor by giving a loan, or joining in partnership to help a person become independent

 

Okay. Also, just throwing this out there, but the priorities here are in line with Jesus’s teachings that we should not give for the sake of appearances, but should do so in secret.

 

What struck me the most was the eighth. In this framework, the highest form of giving to others is to give a loan or to help another person become independent. In summary, the greatest good of charity is measured by whether it helps. Not in the temporary (but still useful) sense of giving someone a new coat, but by being part of a long-term solution. Giving should attempt to address the underlying problems, rather than the symptoms. Giving should be a solution, rather than a bandaid.

 

It often feels like this is what people are missing in priorities, including the federal government. Or, what about our foreign aid? Investing in communities is going to produce more results and help more lives than shipping containers of grain or sending a check. It’s one of the reasons that microfinance is starting to transform the charity world.  While people who are impoverished have traditionally never been candidates for loans, people are realizing that investing in the businesses and educations of people in need is both a sound business decision and truly impacts lives.

 

Our goal also should not be in giving someone charity. That’s not what that highest form is about. It’s not about you giving something to someone, it’s about working with another person. Charity is not between benefactor and penitent, but a partnership where both members have the same goal. We could benefit from incorporating these ideas into our mindset. As we choose to give, let’s look for opportunities that are working with the people it serves to create a long-lasting solution to a problem. Change doesn’t come by acting upon someone, you have to act with them.

 

And for those of you who would now like something to do… You can always check out Kiva. It is a nonprofit that allows you to donate your money to a borrower, or a group of borrowers (and you can pick where they’re from, what they’re doing, how much you give, etc.). Your donation is not charity, it is a loan, and you are extremely likely to be paid back, giving you the chance to loan to another person.

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