Hypergraffiti

Where I spray-paint my thoughts…

There’s More Than Just Soap in This …

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Yes, I’m afraid it’s time to haul out my tired old soapbox again.

I started drafting this post a couple of weeks ago when U.S. President Obama saying he thought gay people should have the right to marry each other. The next morning, I saw this on Facebook and it made me laugh:

It’s a tough row to hoe, I have to tell you, supporting same-sex marriage when I live much of my life in a religious environment where everyone not only disagrees with me, but considers the issue to be such a no-brainer it’s not even worth engaging in a reasoned argument about it. (There are exceptions, and I have had some intelligent discussions with very thoughtful people, including my pastor, who probably deserves some kind of Pastor Medal for his patience with me).

My dear friend Jamie, a couple of years after he’d come out of the closet and about a year before he died, told me that he was never going to bother debating “the issue” again with anyone who believed homosexuality was a sin — he just didn’t see it worth his while to even engage with people who held this view. I completely understood the pain and frustration that lay behind this decision but I have a different perspective (partly because I’m straight so the issue’s not as emotionally charged for me). As a Bible-believing Seventh-day Adventist Christian, I am completely happy to discuss this issue with other people whose views may be different from mine, particularly with those who, because of their faith in the Bible as God’s Word, believe that all gay relationships are sinful. I believe we can have respectful and mutually enlightening conversations.

Unless you’re Rush Limbaugh.

What I really mean is, unless I think you’re a flaming hypocrite.

As I reflected on why that Rush Limbaugh graphic appealed to me so much, I started breaking down in my head exactly whom I consider to be a hypocrite: that is, whose views I don’t respect enough to engage in debate with them on this issue.

If you are in a monogamous relationship with your opposite-sex spouse, the only person with whom you have ever had intercourse and on whom you have never cheated, then 1) we have a lot in common, and 2) I respect your opinion on the gay-marriage issue and I’d be willing to have a conversation with you about it.

If you are living with a common-law partner, if you’ve ever committed adultery, if you’re divorced and remarried — and if you believe that your relationship is blessed by God but that of two loving committed same-sex partners isn’t — I’ll try to be civil but please know that deep down, I may be labelling you a hypocrite.

I’m also judgmental about how you treat others, especially in church. Does your church allow people who have remarried after divorce — even if the divorce was caused by their adultery, even if they are married to the person for whom they left their previous spouse — to speak, sing, teach, or otherwise take leadership positions? If so, does that same church allow married same-sex couples to do those things too? If the answer is yes, then fine. If you allow those privileges to divorced, remarried adulterers and yet won’t allow a gay member even to sit in a pew with an arm around his/her partner … yeah, I’m feeling judgmental. It’s harder for me to take what you say seriously.

If you’ve publicly stated that you’re opposed to legal same-sex marriage because it “weakens traditional marriage,” and especially if you have spoken, preached, argued, written a letter to the editor or voted against it — can we still have a civil conversation? I think so — as long as you’re also opposed to giving common-law couples the same rights as married people, as long as you believe adultery should be a criminal offense and remarriage after divorce should be illegal. It would be best if you’re vocal and willing to speak out openly about your views on these issues, maybe even campaign for them. (It would also be good if you’re part of a campaign to ban The Bachelor and similar  TV shows from the airwaves, because really — talk about “weakening marriage”!!).

If you hold all these views and are vocally promoting them, well, I don’t agree with you (except about The Bachelor), but I can at least respect the stand you take on same-sex marriage because it’s consistent with your other views. You are clearly supporting traditional marriage, right down the line. But if you’re OK with all those things — maybe not for yourself personally, but for society in general — and not OK with same-sex marriage, then yeah, I think you might just be a hypocrite.

Don’t get me wrong here. I am NOT condemning people who live together common-law or who get divorced or who get remarried after divorce. Frankly, I do believe the traditional line that says God’s original intent, in the Garden of Eden, was one man, one woman, together for life and raising kids. (I’m well aware that “Biblical marriage” included lots of other possible combos, but I would agree with a scholar like Richard Davidson in Flame of Yahweh, which I read and reviewed a little while back, that other Biblical paradigms for marriage, such as polygamy, are always shown in the Bible as falling short of the Edenic ideal).

But we’re not living in Eden. We’re living in this crazy, messed-up world where a lot of things don’t go according to plan and people have to muddle through and do the best they can. I have my own morality and standards about what I think is correct sexual behavior and to be honest, it’s pretty strict and I do my best to live according to it. But, despite my tongue-in-cheek comments above about judging you, I actually don’t feel qualified to judge other people. Especially when they’re faced with situations and problems I’ve never been faced with; especially when they’re doing the best they can to be faithful in a loving relationship, even if it isn’t with the partner they originally started out with. Surely the least bad thing is for two people to love and take care of each other. In practice I think most of us, even the strictest of conservative Christians recognize this, and whatever their personal morality they try to be kind and understanding to the divorced people in their circle, to those who are remarried (even for the third or fourth time like Mr. Limbaugh) and to those who are living in common-law relationships.

But too often, that tolerance and non-judgmental attitude ends at the door of the same-sex couple. That’s where we draw the line on love and acceptance, apparently. And lots of us would like to go even farther, to go beyond just barring the doors of our homes and churches to gay couples but to try to bar the doors of what’s supposed to be a secular, inclusive society to them as well.

Oh yeah, on the list of people I respect, put this guy — a Seventh-day Adventist pastor who’s willing to say, “I personally believe gay relationships are wrong according to the Bible, but I want the government to respect the civil rights of gays and lesbians because I want that same government to respect my civil rights.” Or this columnist (writing at Adventist Today where I also write sometimes) who is able to clearly articulate the difference between religious and political issues. Now these are people I can have a conversation with.

You don’t have to agree with me or read the Bible the same way I do in order to earn my respect. Just try not to be a great big flaming Rush Limbaugh-style hypocrite, and we can discuss this issue just fine.

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14 thoughts on “There’s More Than Just Soap in This …

  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! You can totally have a conversation with me & my husband. Isn’t it just so hard that we can talk to so very few people not only within our church, but other “Christians.” OK, I’ll try to comment more later…

  2. I think for a lot of people, they don’t know anyone who is gay. Or at least they don’t know them well. If you really know a gay person, compassion comes more easily. The fear of “the other” also evaporates. It’s like with racist people. My (black) husband often says that he changes racist people’s minds just by being a nice guy with them. Relationships (in my opinion) are the quickest way to change fearful ideas.

    • True in many cases, Patty, but what I find harder to understand are the people who DO know gays and lesbians — often friends and family — and continue to want to deny them basic civil rights as couples.

  3. Thank you, Trudy. You articulate my own thoughts a hundred times better than I ever could. How is a committed gay married couple a greater threat to marriage than all the sexual gags and jokes on endless numbers of TV programs! While I find it hard to wholly approve of gay marriage, I believe that it is a civil right and to deny that opens a door to deny other rights for all of us.

  4. Trudy, while I understand what you are trying to say in your “soapbox” article, what I get out of this is that you believe that since we live in a sinful world, that is far from God’s ideal, we should make the best of what we have, and work within the confines of this sinful world. However, I believe that it is this attitude of complacency that has allowed for people to go so far from God’s will. Do we now condone murder because, “Well, we live in a sinful world, and this is what comes from sin.” As Christians, we are to strive to live under God’s laws for us, and we are to come up against sin to the best of our abilities. I have many, many gay and lesbian friends, and I was engaged to a gay man; however, I do not believe in same-sex marriage. It is clearly against God’s will. We do not condone any other type of sin, or outcome of sin, but we find the world fighting against it…we see this when we fight against cancer, and illnesses, and diseases, against disabilities, etc. Let me point out that people do not suffer from these because they have sinned, which was the belief in Biblical times, rather, people suffer because we live in a sinful world. But yet with this thing called same-gendered relationships, the world once again has come around to acceptance of something that is abhorrent to God. Not believing in same-gendered relationships does not necessarily make one “homophobic” as we do not call people who are not in heterosexual relationships “heterophobic.” I have seen more lashing out against those who do not believe in gay and lesbian relationships than I have seen from those who are opposed to it. There is considerably less allowance for tolerance from those who push so hard for everyone to accept their views and lifestyle choices in same-gendered relationships. Where is the tolerance that they desire? They do not provide for others to not believe as they do. And for those who may not be gay or lesbian, such as yourself, there is clearly judgment. We are not given the right to judge others…only God has that privilege. Not believing in same-gendered relationships also does not necessarily mean that one believes it will break down “traditional” marriage…for truly that has not been the ideal either. The fact is, all humans live so far from the ideal that God has for us. And just as we should keep as closely to that ideal as possible, we should also be opposed to heterosexual relationships that do not abide by those ideals God has set. This means no longer excusing men’s behavior towards women, condoning affairs and abuse, just as it’s not allowed for women. It means revamping our views on the relational expectations AS WRITTEN IN GOD’S WORD! The way we “do” relationship is directly in opposition to how God set things up, and that includes and has been not only promoted, but created in, our churches! Let’s stop living in accordance with what the enemy wants for us…by becoming complacent and excusing away God’s ideal, and let us begin striving to where God desires us to be.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Judi.

      No, of course I don’t believe that we should murder because we live in a sinful world, because I believe murder is always wrong. I don’t believe all loving, committed, monogamous relationships are wrong.

      To better understand what I mean about the fact that we live in a broken world that is far from the Edenic ideal, have a look at Katrina’s comment, right below. In God’s ideal world, Katrina’s first husband would have been a godly man who treated her with respect. But he wasn’t. He abused her. Do we then say that because of that, she should never be allowed to find hope for happiness in a second marriage? Maybe God’s original plan was one man, one woman, for life. But things go wrong, sometimes because of our sinful choices, sometimes through no fault of our own. If you take a hard line towards that and say, “Nope, no divorce, no remarriage, EVER,” then, well, I disagree with you but at least you’re being consistent. If that’s your view, then I can respect your view on gay marriage because you are being consistent and not hypocritical.

      All I’m trying to say is that you can have it one way or the other but not both (in my view; obviously lots of people disagree with me). You can condemn ALL deviations from the Eden ideal, or you can recognize that sometimes we do the best we can with the situations we find ourselves in. I’m not “excusing away God’s ideal,” I’m pointing out that a lot of people are happy to “excuse away” that ideal in all kinds of circumstances as long as the partners involved are straight, yet insist that any gay partnership is always wrong.

      To address another of your points: If you have really “seen more lashing out against those who do not believe in gay and lesbian relationships than I have seen from those who are opposed to it,” then all I can say is that we must live in very different worlds. Maybe you need to have some long thoughtful conversations with gay and lesbian friends about some of the abuse, bullying and mistreatment they have experienced — especially in church.

      • Beautifully said, Trudy. In fact, God gave his Chosen People divorce because he recognized they were broken humans, muddling along in an imperfect world.

        And I’d even argue there are times when murder is probably justifiable — say when a sniper takes out someone holding a crowd hostage, and the choice is between one “justifiable” death versus many innocent deaths.

  5. Oh, wow. This is a really courageous post, Trudy. And I agree with you about same-sex marriage — I think the emphasis should be placed on *committed* couples (which pretty much excludes Rush), regardless of gender.

    But I have to say … this post stung. I divorced my abusive first husband, and I’m now in an until-death-do-you-part second marriage which is healthy and strong. But I feel labeled as a hypocrite.

    I used to be a big fan of Mary Pride until I got a newsletter from her once that pretty much commanded remarried women to leave their current husbands (even if they had a good relationship and children together) and go back to the first husband (even if he was physically abusive to both the wife and the children). I canceled my subscription that day, and I’ve never read anything of hers since.

    I have NO tolerance for “Christians” who think a woman (and her children) should live in hell until the b**tard kills her just because she foolishly married the guy her parents liked when she was too young to know better. I know what the Bible says about women who divorce and remarry — but I also knows it says adulterers should be stoned, etc. etc.

    I simply do NOT believe that God intended to trap women in abusive marriages, and I have no tolerance for Christians who even imply it. I know that’s not what you meant, and I know and love you and I am CERTAIN you did not meant to point a judgmental finger at me.

    But I felt judged reading this.

    • Katrina, I’m so sorry if you felt judged reading this — if you did, then I must have written it really badly, because NOTHING in here was intended to apply to anyone in your situation.

      First of all, I have never heard you condemn same-sex marriage, and this post is ONLY directed at those who make statements condemning it.

      Second, I ABSOLUTELY believe women have not only the right but the responsibility to leave abusive relationships!!!!! As far as I’m concerned, in that situation there should be no question by anyone as to whether you have a right to divorce, remarry, and hopefully have a wonderful and fulfilling second marriage.

      But even leaving aside completely justifiable situations like yours, the point I was trying to make (which I obviously didn’t make clearly enough) was that even in cases where the reason for ending the first marriage was not so clear-cut and justifiable, (situations like “We just married too young and were immature,” or “We grew in different directions,” or even “I fell in love with someone else”) — EVEN THEN, whether or not I personally believe the reason for the divorce is valid (not that I have any right to judge), I believe two people can have a second, or even third or fourth, marriage that is blessed by God despite what’s happened in the past, because I believe God works with our brokenness, our sin and our mistakes, to bring us to the best possible outcome. And for many of us, the best possible outcome is a loving and committed relationship with a partner in which we can learn to reflect God’s love to each other.

      The ONLY people I was trying to be judgy towards in this post are people who would accept remarriage as valid in all of the above situations, but would then turn around and condemn same-sex marriage as something bad or evil and claim that it “destroys the fabric of marriage” or whatever. The type of person I have in mind (apart from Mr. Limbaugh of course) is a person who cheated on his wife while still married, divorced her to marry his partner in adultery, and now, from the comfortable seat of his second marriage, proceeds to hold forth about how wrong and un-Biblical gay marriage is. (Not that I’m saying i have a specific individual in mind. Other than Rush Limbaugh). I’m afraid I DO think that person’s stance is hypocritical, but I see nothing in that that could in ANY way apply to you and your situation.

      Even though it was long before I knew you, I am so glad you got out of your abusive relationship and that you are in a happy marriage now. And again, so sorry if I worded anything in a way that would make you feel I was judging you.

      • Thanks, Trudy. I knew you didn’t set out to judge me, and my feeling judged probably had WAY more to do with my childhood and Mary Pride than with your blog posts. Those old buttons push hard when they push. 😦

        But this is a very beautiful clarification, and completely clears up anything that could ever feel judgmental.

        (P.S. Sorry this has taken so long to respond. Honest, I wasn’t hurt and hiding. I just haven’t had internet service for three days!)

  6. Three Questions, Are you saying same-sex marriage is ok because we are not living in the conditions of Eden? Are you implying Gays can be saved while still living that lifestyle? What if one of your children end up becoming gay? Straight answers please just wondering 🙂

    • Great questions.
      1. I think because we are not living in Eden, same-sex marriage is just as “OK” as remarriage after adultery and divorce.

      2. If remarried, divorced adulterers can be saved while still living in the “lifestyle” of their second (or third or fourth) marriages, then I believe gay and lesbian couples can too. If you think people in the first situation can be saved but not the second, I’d like to hear your explanation of what makes the difference. I know some people think NEITHER group can be saved, and while I disagree, at least I applaud those people for their consistency (which is kind of the point of this blog post).

      3. If one of my children was gay I would love and accept him or her. What kind of parent would do otherwise?

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