Voters in Washington State are predicted to pass Referendum 74, which expands the legal definition of marriage to include couples of the same sex. Living near Seattle means being at the epicenter of the very passionate debate between those who want what they call equal rights and those who wish to stick with the traditional definition of marriage.
People have various reasons for supporting or opposing this measure. Libertarians believe in more freedom so same sex marriage represents increased freedom to some in their belief system. Many liberals believe that this is a civil rights issue along the lines of racial segregation and that we need to update our laws to be fair. A lot of conservatives posit that redefining marriage is giving special rights to a minority and that equal rights already exist.
Same sex marriage is a contentious issue, and in my area it’s Bible-believing Christians who seem to be taking the most heat for sticking to their guns (who include people all along the political spectrum– don’t assume that all Christians vote conservative). Interestingly, I have seen some of R-74’s most outspoken proponents claiming true Christianity as justification for their views. A local pastor is standing on a platform of “love as Jesus did” in their letters to the editor and elsewhere in the public eye.
Does Jesus love gays? You bet He does. He hung out with all kinds of people and not just a sheltered clique of homies who believed what He did. He loves all His children and greatly values their uniqueness and individuality. He cares about every single one of them. He did, however, very early in humanity’s existence, establish marriage as between a man and a woman. So if you love as Jesus did, you are called to love His children gay or straight, but that doesn’t mean that you condone or support everyone else’s beliefs or behaviors.
If we apply the mantra “love as Jesus did” to everything in the sense that it’s being used for R-74, then “right” is what each person makes of it. In that scenario the guidelines for living established in the Manufacturer’s Handbook become mere suggestions without consequence. Things reach a point that Augustine so eloquently described, “If you believe what you like in the gospels, and reject what you don’t like, it is not the gospel you believe, but yourself.”
At this point, some readers will be furious with me, branding me a bigot with extreme hatred and other labels that easily get tossed around in the cyber realm when disagreement occurs. I would argue that any such labels or vitriol are misdirected; He made the rules. Talk to Him about it. All of us have broken His rules to some degree and I have no problem admitting, as I like to say in blog posts, that I’m a million miles from a place called perfect. What He wants us to do is draw closer to Him and let Him in more so that we less prone to doing life our own way. It’s a constant struggle but in the end it will be worth it.
Here is what I want R-74 supporters who call Christians narrow-minded bigots to think about. Some accuse us of hating gays by not supporting this measure and I find that offensive. I don’t have to agree with my gay friends on this to love them any more than I have to agree with my straight friends who have different political or religious views than me to love them. Realistically, it is love that motivates many Christians to stand in defense of traditional marriage– love for God and for His ways. So when people say, “pass gay marriage; love like Jesus did,” my rebuttal is “love Jesus and His precepts; vote no.”
Many people are so quick to attack Bible believers that they might not even hear what I’m saying. The bottom line is that we are choosing love– love for Him, and that means we’re not going to do what’s popular, but we’re going to do what He says is right. He IS love. He is the origin of all that is right and fair and just and free, so if Love Himself designed the man-woman dynamic then surely He has a good reason for it.
From a legal standpoint, I have concerns about the implications of passing such a measure. I’m concerned that if the definition of marriage becomes flexible then polygamists will be next in line to modify our laws, and I’ll be frank and say that I find certain polygamist sects ultra-creepy. I’ve also thought about the burden more divorces and custody battles could place on an already taxed court system.
While R-74 says it protects clergy who don’t want to perform gay marriages, it doesn’t protect businesses and other entities who might not want to participate. I fear that society will be bullied into compliance via discrimination claims and feel uneasy about what our kids will be taught in school. To me this issue doesn’t seem as simple as allowing people of the same sex to be married. It seems to cast a shadow over what were once widely accepted traditional views and has the potential to punish those who don’t join in.
I’m not someone who believes that the government should interfere in people’s personal relationships or dictate whether they can be gay or straight. Because I believe that people should be treated with respect regardless of whether we agree with them, I’ve gone to Human Resources about the way I’ve seen gay coworkers treated. I understand the adverse circumstances that have led some of my friends to switch from a straight to a gay lifestyle and I know that they love their partners. Some of my favorite cops I’ve worked with are gay and are very fair, compassionate, and fun people. But this is also true of many of my brothers and sisters in the faith who will be voting against R-74– they are also fair, compassionate, and fun people.
While pondering a way to summarize how the R-74 contest has made me feel, it occurred to me that it’s felt very much like high school and that wasn’t a pleasant place. In high school I was harassed for being a female Christian conservative in a largely liberal community. I wasn’t in anyone’s face but I did stand my ground on matters of principle.
The climate of R-74 feels a lot like this– “if you don’t vote yes on R-74, you’re a closed-minded bigot who’s discriminating against a minority, not being like Jesus, and denying rights to others.” What I would like to see is respect for the opposing side, as in, “hey, I acknowledge that this is a free country and you have every right to vote your values.”
I know that the supporters of R-74 could be as diverse as those who oppose it, so do not mean to make broad generalizations about the pro side. It is some of the public statements made that concern me since they have a vibe of “you’re not good, objective, or Christlike if you vote against this.” Voting for it will be the popular thing to do, but is it the right thing to do if we claim to believe in Him?
Ultimately, I don’t have to love someone’s beliefs or lifestyle to love them. My friends come from all walks and so far no one’s disowned me for voting my conscience on this one. That is why I am so thankful for and proud of my friends no matter where on the political or faith spectrum they land. They know who I am and respect my freedom to be that way, and the feeling is mutual. I don’t have to agree with them to love them and vice versa. We celebrate what we have in common and don’t have to insult each other when we’re not thinking alike.
I wish that the R-74 debate would have been run this way rather than us detractors being branded haters and bigots. On this issue I’m voting out of love and respect for my Father, not hatred for fellow human beings. JFK said the unity of freedom has never relied on uniformity of opinion and I hope that those voting no on R-74 will be treated with respect and dignity.
To automatically brand dissenters with ugly names and disrespect is to open the door to a much broader persecution of Christian beliefs as if it’s okay to demand fairness, equality, and freedom for everyone but Christians. To go there is to abandon the essence of what America actually is, and that’s a place where 300 million people should find it safe to disagree.
I’m not concerned with your liking or disliking me… All I ask is that you respect me as a human being. – Jackie Robinson
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