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______________________ LIFE, FAITH, ETCETERA

A Time To Embrace July 1, 2011

A Time to Embrace: Same-Gender Relationships in Religion, Law, and Politics
By William Stacy Johnson

First of all, let me say this is not what I consider a “casual” read. I could easily think of this as a text-book for some introductory college course on politics and religion.  Still, it’s a course worth taking.

At the end, there are 74 pages of end-notes, an index of names, an index of subjects, PLUS an index packed with scripture references!  All in all a well researched and very well documented book.
This book has two major sections, with a number of sub-sections.
The first portion deals with religion. The second covers both law and politics.

Religion:  There are 7 main theological viewpoints concerning same-gender relationships that are presented. Yeah, seven.
With all the “us vs. them” shouting matches going on, we may presume there are only two, diametrically opposed views. This is simply not true. There are those who will say “I only care about ONE viewpoint, and that’s what the BIBLE says!”

The realization from looking at this variety of viewpoints is that they all have some basis in scripture. So one of the best things about this book is that it helps us understand what others believe and why they believe what they do. This is especially important when dealing with opposing views by those whom all believe that they are honoring God.
(Certainly, they are not all actually doing so. Flying planes into buildings, bombing clinics, hanging men because they’re black, defending slavery, burning heretics, beating gay youths to death, and denying others their basic rights have all been done to “honor” God.
I assure you, God was not honored.)
Moving on.

Each of the 7 views discussed are approached from three additional perspectives:  That of Creation, of Reconciliation, and that of Redemption.
Then, each view is also approached in the light of the often quoted Pauline writings to the Romans. Since these texts are frequently brought up in discussions and debates, looking at each view in light of these scriptures is of extreme importance. As the author states, his list of religious views and approaches are not exhaustive, but there is an awful lot of ground covered!
Whatever your view, it’s probably expounded upon here.

This whole section on religion can help foster real discussion, not just debate. Debate rarely changes anyone’s mind, or moves us closer to any kind of unity (not to be confused with “uniformity”).

I’m so very, very tired of people just spouting out dogmatic beliefs while never truly having examined the issues and evidence; both biblical and extra-biblical. Reading this book is a good first step toward better understanding, and better communication.

I will say, Mr. Johnson is far more religious than I am or care to be. His emphasis on baptism is, to me, almost obsessive. But I suppose it is this dedication to tradition that could help his writings be considered by those who may not normally read anything substantive on the issue of marriage equality.

Part Two:  Law and politics.

This is a great “mini-course” on our legal system. We look at a lot of actual case law, and the evolving nature of the laws themselves. Most of us have probably heard of old laws, still on the books, that we laugh at and wonder why they’re still there. From this we should see that laws MUST change and adapt as society changes.

It’s essential here to realize that although some of our founding fathers were theists, this country is not, nor has it ever been, a “Christian” nation.
Nor should it be. This county was born, in part, to get out from under “church” control. Our religious beliefs will certainly influence our political system, but must never control it. (Read “The Myth of a Christian Nation“)

Anyway, we see that a “democracy” is not the same as “majority rule.” In fact, democracy can often be in direct opposition to majority rule. Johnson points out that one of the main functions of a true democracy is to assure that the majority doesn’t “ride roughshod over the rights of the minority.” The courts can, and must at times, go against the wishes of the majority. This should be evident from our own history of slavery, racism, and sexism. Some things should not be simply presented to the masses for a vote.

We learn about how the Supreme Court applies “minimal, intermediate, and strict scrutiny” when deciding issues of equality.  We examine the six basic features of a “deliberative democracy.”
We look at the particulars of both equality and marriage from a strictly legal perspective.  We see that “Marriage in the United States is a civil institution.  There is no requirement in law that marriage be approved by the church or any other religious community.
There is nothing inherent in the structure or content of marriage that should bar gay couples from getting married.”  One interesting side-light is that it was the Protestant church itself that demanded marriage be controlled by the secular state!

This author is more than fair in his discussion.  More so than I would likely be.  He makes it clear that “Pronouncements of mutual condemnation do not help to move us forward.”  This echoes the “elevating the conversation” ideals of people like Andrew Marin or Brian McLaren.  We simply must be able to carry on discussions without yelling at each other.

There is much here from which to learn and grow; and to do so together.
Both pro-gay and anti-gay activists can gain tremendous insights from reading this book.
If you desire dialog; if you desire to understand the various viewpoints instead of just condemning those who have them, you
owe it to yourself and the rest of us to read this book.

There is a time for everything.  Now is the time to embrace.
Embrace God.
Embrace God by embracing equality for all of His children.

Buy the book. Click HERE.

————————————–

Some Quotes:

Remember that a generation ago, Protestant churches were arguing not over gays but over whether divorced persons should be allowed to remarry.

One of the major self-deceptions is the assertion that marriage is an institution that has remained the same for millennia.
This is simply not true.

That the early church did not foresee the full implications of [welcoming] same-gender orientation does not limit that text’s meaning for us today any more that the early church’s inability to foresee the end of slavery or the imperative of equality for women means that we should practice slavery or the subjugation of women today.

Supporting exclusively committed gay unions represents not a departure from our biblical and theological traditions, but rather a deepening of them.

[There are many who] have moral and religious reasons for favoring same-gender marriage.

Buy the book. Click HERE.

Biblical prohibitions were addressed specifically to hedonistic or exploitative forms of sexual conduct… These biblical passages are silent about mutually and exclusively committed same-gender love.

For more than a thousand years, the term “sodomy” applied to any  sexual activity that departed from heterosexual vaginal intercourse.  Thus, oral sex between a man and a woman — even between husbands and wife — was condemned and outlawed as sodomy.
[For a proper biblical definition of sodomy, read Ezekiel 16:48-50 – ed.]

Of all the decisions made in a democracy, these deeply divisive ones are the last ones we should toss out to the electorate at large.

It is not permissible for a majority to eliminate the constitutional rights of a minority.

When religious fundamentalists refuse to deliberate with others because they believe they already have a monopoly on revealed truth, political results that are welcoming to all become impossible.

There is currently no moral screening for heterosexuals before they may procure a marriage license.

The commandment to “be fruitful and multiply” is a commandment that belongs to the species as a whole, not to each individual. (Can I get a “Duh!” – ed.)

American society…appears willing to tolerate, somewhat grudgingly, the existence of lesbians and gay men — provided it does not have to put up with their happiness… [Martha Nussbaum]

Eventually, marriage equality will prevail. [Amen!]

Buy the book. Click HERE.

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. [Martin Luther King Jr.]

On October 12, 1998, a twenty-one-year-old gay man named Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and left to die hanging on a fence. Almost all gay men report having been subjected to some form of abuse or intimidation.

 

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