Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Religious Freedom Does Not Make Religious Bigotry Okay

The Supreme Court decision last week to prevent any state in America from denying the issuing of a marriage license to a gay couple remains controversial. The ruling is being misunderstood by many and twisted into something it isn’t by others.

In spite of the fact some politicians, religious people, and conservative media pundits keep alarming everyone that the world is ending there is nothing in this ruling that in any way threatens religious liberty. 

Heterosexuals will not be forced to marry a gay person. Heterosexuals will not be forced to attend a gay wedding. Heterosexual ministers will not be forced to perform a gay wedding in their church or anywhere else. Heterosexual marriages will not be invalidated. Life will go on as usual only now no state in this country can deny a gay couple from obtaining a marriage license. And county clerks cannot deny them because they say it goes against their religious beliefs. That does not matter. It is the law and they will follow it or face legal consequences.

Religious freedom does not make religious bigotry okay. You can be a Christian and not agree with gay marriage but you can’t be a Christian and use that to deny gay couples a marriage license. That is now against the law in every state. No matter what state governors and attorney generals say or do or try to throw roadblocks in the way of this, the ruling now is that no state can bar a gay couple from getting a marriage license. Some are doing it but they are in violation of the law and they will not be able to continue doing it. And they may already be in jeopardy of legal penalties.

What really troubles me about a lot of this though is that the biggest pushback seems to be coming from the religious community, or at least politicians and others who are using religious freedom or religious beliefs as a way of trying to thwart what the Supreme Court has ruled on.

Why are Christians so afraid of this? Being a gay couple getting married in no way threatens Christians, or heterosexuals, or the marriages of straight couples. Heterosexual marriages are already in big trouble on their own. Straight married couples don’t need to worry about gay marriage when their own marriages are crumbling one after another. Gays have nothing to do with that.

It seems so hypocritical to me to have heterosexual people wanting to deny gay couples the right to be married when no one seems upset about straight marriages ending in divorce in well over 50% of them.

And why would anyone want to deny people the chance to build a life together? What is immoral about two people in love who want to be married and establish a home and a family even though they are gay?

The darkest periods in Christian history have been when Christians have attempted to force people to live a certain way, force them to believe their creeds and rules and dogma, instead of simply living out their faith in Jesus Christ in kind and loving and caring ways. Doing brutal things in the name of God is a terrible perversion of anyone’s faith.

Philosopher Bertrand Russell once said that what we need is not the will to believe, but the will to find out, which is the opposite of just believing something. Just saying you believe the Bible and that justifies your refusal to accept gays or gay marriage is a phony stance. What is the guiding message of the Bible? What is it trying to actually tell us about human conduct and how to live in community with others? Shouldn’t believers want to know that?

There is a lot in the Bible that is messed up when it comes to marriage. Polygamy, rape, incest, that was all accepted in the Old Testament far too often by the people of God. It was a cultural thing, supposedly. What you won’t find in there is anything against gay marriage. And the few passages that say anything about homosexuality in the Bible are clearly about abusive conduct that even gays would agree was wrong. Jesus never even addressed this subject but he did speak about divorce. Christians seem unfazed by that though.

The idea there is only one right way to believe, to behave, to marry, to feel in this country is what feeds racism, homophobia, sexism, terrorism and so forth. People need to pay attention to their heart, to their conscience, to simple basic human compassion and understanding. This is a nation of rich diversity and the plurality of beliefs, lifestyles, mores, and cultural traditions. When we attempt to force only one belief or perspective on the whole nation, then endless bickering and conflict reign.

And no one is forcing gay marriage on anyone in case someone wants to argue that. It is simply being recognized as a constitutional right for those gays who want to get married with all of the attending benefits and privileges that come with marriage. This is as it should be if we are going to be a country that matures beyond stereotype, prejudice, and religious dogmatism.

© 2015 Timothy Moody

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