"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Proposition 8 - The Plot Sickens


The French mathematician and physicist, Blaise Pascal, once said that "Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction." One of my greatest frustrations (in working within the church as an advocate for peace and justice) has been the ability of people who claim to follow Jesus, the Prince of Peace, to (seemingly) so "completely and cheerfully" try to reduce the humanity of their fellow children of God.

I understand that this morning Ken Starr, the dean of Pepperdine University's School of Law, will argue before the California Supreme Court in defense of Proposition 8, and that he will argue against gay families with the claim that there are "substantial adverse consequences for children that often flow from alternative household arrangements." Pepperdine University prides itself on being a "Christian university committed to the highest standards of academic excellence and Christian values."

That anyone would argue against people exercising their human right to engage in a private, loving relationship in which they choose to raise children amazes, but does not surprise me. That Christians would do so simply repulses me; it is antithetical to the life and teachings of Jesus. Beyond that; when the church starts meddling with the state, attempting to pass laws that cross the line between church and state, it walks a slippery slope.

Perhaps the centuries of empire invading the sanctuary have muddied the waters, confusing Christians about that dividing line, which, in the United States is as much about protecting the state from the influence of the church as it is about protecting the church from the influence of the state. Is the ongoing persecution - and this IS a form of persecution - of those with a sexual orientation that does not please some akin to the Inquisition, and other religious-based episodes of persecution throughout history? Is it not really just hate repackaged by misguided religion?

I wonder how my fellow Christians can expend so much time, energy and money on this issue when there are other issues that beg our attention and action – hunger, famine, war, disease, nuclear weapons, refugees, slavery, HIV/AIDS, violence against women and children, homelessness, and destruction of our environment to name a few. Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, an outspoken advocate for human rights, when given an award by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission in 2008, apologized on behalf of his church for ostracizing gay people; he said, "How sad it is, that the church should be so obsessed with this particular issue of human sexuality when God's children are facing massive problems — poverty, disease, corruption, conflict... "

We could go around forever arguing the finer points of Biblical writings on homosexuality, so instead I offer the words some interesting words spoken by a rabbi on the subject of homosexuality in 1994. "Here I must confess that I am an agnostic about homosexuality. I don’t know why the commandments in Leviticus are there. I don’t know whether homosexuality is a genetic predisposition or not. I do not know whether it is a sin or not. In short, I only really know enough to know that I can’t judge people who are gay. But I do know that God would certainly approve if, in my confusion, I chose to act godly by being accepting of gays and lesbians…For our God is, above all, understanding and merciful. It is no sin to err on the side of love" (from A Biblical Approach to Homosexuality, Statement by John J. Shaffer, Pastor, Stanwood United Methodist Church, June 23, 2003).

I, for one, have seen so many "substantial adverse consequences for children that often flow from" what would probably be considered by Ken Starr to be normal "household arrangements." And I have seen relationships between same sex couples in which they have raised children (with love and nurturing), and without "adverse consequences". In a world that is falling apart due to the evils of greed, lust for power and hatred, isn't it time for those of us who call ourselves Christians to become who we say we are?

If we truly follow Jesus, then do we not do as Jesus did and embrace all people with love, understanding and mercy? Is the movement to exclude homosexuals from full participation in the life of both the church community and the greater community moving us closer to or farther from the world that God wants us to create? Anything less than full inclusion is unacceptable in the eyes of a compassionate God; and in my life I choose to follow (as best I can) in the path that Jesus (and the likes of Archbishop Tutu) walked. And if I err, I will do my best to "err on the side of love."

Learn about END THE LIES at the Human Rights Campaign, and sign the petition to Ken Starr challenging his actions. While there, you can learn about other struggles around the United States to obtain and maintain equal rights, and perhaps get involved in advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equal rights.

After all; doesn't real peace require equal rights for all people? Why can't we ALL "completely and cheerfully" sow seeds of compassion (and justice) with such conviction.

Towards Real Peace,


Check out the Human Rights Campaign at http://www.hrc.org/.

Photo Credit:
Proposition 8 Protest in Boston City Hall Square, Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bethaleh/3032584185/.

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