Facebook arguments are an odd turkey, aren’t they? For some unknown reason, I decided to get a bit dirty yesterday with some fine debating about the meaning of the term “marriage”, “marriage equality,” and “traditional marriage.” Opponents of marriage equality insist that widening the legal doors to homosexuals is drastically redefining the concept of marriage. Even if that were true (and I assert it isn’t), is that so bad? After all, if there is one commonality among *traditional* marriages, it’s that women are property.
But I got entangled nevertheless and aligned myself with homosexuals. When the reasoning was obviously going nowhere as the arguers kept trying to limit the definition of marriage to what it clearly is not in order to exclude same sex marriage, I used the dreaded “b” word. Because that’s what was happening.
There you go again. If bigotry is the reason persons oppose [Same Sex Marriage] then the entire human race was bigoted until just the other day. How fortunate we are to live in the age of [jasdye], who finally by virtue of his rationality discovered a great moral truth that eluded all of the World’s great philosophers, scientists, moral heroes, religious prophets, king’s, presidents, generals, and artists.
I have two answers for this.
First, as Martin Luther King, Jr, said “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” So, yes, not too long ago, rape was largely accepted. Now, much less so. Not too long ago, slavery was a given for many cultures – now few would publicly defend it. Child labor? Apartheid and Jim Crow?
Not that we’ve in any sense arrived in any of those areas, after all, institutional and individual racism and rape culture and for-profit prisons and all that. Today I just learned that workers under 19 can make around $4/hour for up to 90 days while training. But there is tremendous progress within a short period of time that starts with a shifting of popular opinion and a changing of laws to protect the vulnerable and end the injustice. So, yeah, I have no problem being of an age where I recognize the arch of history.
My second answer is that I certainly didn’t figure this out – but I started listening in cooperation with millions of others to the voices of those on the margins. In this case, voices of homosexuals who wanted the same rights for marriage that everyone else has but who are denied that for a slew of reasons that, ultimately, lead back to opposition of homosexual people as fully human with attendant rights.
But that’s the thing with so much of Western Christianity, isn’t it? As I delved into a bit more fully in my book, Shout It from the Rooftops, much of Western Christianity is fully enraptured by ideas. We gather and relate around shared ideas. We argue and fight and quarrel and divide over disagreements.
And we do this because we worship and idolize ideas. We are under the mistaken notion that this pleases God. But it is idolatry.
We believe that God’s Word and God’s Truth are timeless entities, perfect and complete in every way and never-changing, static. We approach them as if we can obtain perfection through understanding these ideas and refining ourselves in the process.
And maybe there’s some merit in that. But it’s a merit of Western Civilization, not one that Jesus had anything to say about. At all.
First, we must understand that the Word of God is not the Bible – it is Jesus himself. Second, we must understand that to understand God, we must understand Jesus – who associated Truth with Love. Furthermore, to love God is equal, according to Jesus, to loving our neighbors – and particularly the outcasts, the marginalized, the poor of society.
The first commandment is this: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, body. And the second one is equal to it: Love your neighbor as yourself.
In case we couldn’t figure out what Jesus meant by that, he demonstrated with actions and parables and teachings all having to do with people not commonly accepted by the religious order of Jerusalem. Not commonly accepted by the political order of Rome.
In case we didn’t get the picture, he draws up a picture about the Great Throne and the end of the age. In this, the King judges the people. But not by what they know – but by how they treat the poor and marginalized. And – this is important – he equates these marginalized people with himself.
Jesus equates how we treat God with how we treat outcasts. God is known through the suffering of those on the outskirts. There are millions of applications for this radical revelation. They have to do with how we treat migrants, how we treat single mothers, how we treat Third World peoples, how we treat the homeless, how we treat women, how we treat fast food workers.
And, yes, how we treat gay/lesbian/bi/trans*/queer/questioning folks. How we treat our gay or trans* neighbor is how we treat God.
This isn’t about ideas. It’s about how we treat people. And for the Christian, that means it’s about how we treat God.