Proposition Hate

Tuesday was quite the night. Like Celeste, I found my way to Grant Park (coveted tickets for the official campaign event in hand) and joined the crowd of a hundred thousand gathered to scream, cry, hug, and jump our way into a new spirit of hopefulness that is solidifying around us.

Besides Obama’s victory, there was another vote that meant a lot to me on Tuesday, and left a lingering bittersweetness to the otherwise perfect night: Proposition 8 amended the California constitution to define legal marriage as exclusive to opposite-sex couples, overturning the decision of the Supreme Court and ending the right of California same-sex couples to the legal protections of marriage for the near future.

Initial reaction: rage. I found someone who expressed this very very well:

Ultimately, though, rage against injustice must energize something else, something life-affirming.

I’m going to outline here my current thoughts on all this, still pretty half-baked, as part of my process of coming to peace with the step backwards that PropH8 represents for gay rights. (By the way, I’m using the word gay to express things about the whole queer community in general just because it’s something I can talk about closest to my own experience.) Here’s are the suppositions I start with:

First, gay people (like everyone) exist as part of creation for a purpose. If we weren’t supposed to be here we wouldn’t be here. I can in no way define all the possibilities that are contained in what we as gay people can offer the rest of creation, but in my own reflection, I think it has a lot to do with creativity, with nurturing people/animals/places that are marginal & outcast, with being especially sensitive to spiritual life, with inventing & demonstrating alternate possibilities for patterns of living, with acting as a bridge between genders. I’m not saying that all gay people have these traits or that straight people can’t have them, but rather that (I think) gay people tend to have more natural proclivities toward these, and that they experience of being gay and the connections & relationships within the gay community offer a special fostering & blossoming of these traits.

I believe (or want to believe, choose to believe) in a vision like MLK’s “blessed community” where queer people’s talents and gifts play a vital, integrated role in the life of the community as a whole, especially in the arts, in spiritual life, in working with nature, working with disabled & marginalized people.

Our place goes beyond these roles too – I don’t think we’re just a “bonus” to humanity. I think that we are an absolutely essential element to society throughout history, destabilizing the rigid structures that would otherwise cage & consume everyone’s spirits. If it weren’t for us, hierarchical religious structures, strict gender roles, unbreakable prescriptive sexual norms, and all kinds of prohibitions on art & expression would be vastly stronger

So I think this is where queer people and those who are close to our community need to come back to as we move forward in our battle for equal civil rights. I think that one negative aspect of this battle is that, by being overshadowed by the role of the oppressed victim, we still deny and fail to realize our own potential good for the role we can play in society. Yes, we have been and are still under great (but dissipating) violence and oppression. To truly win free of this our hope and strength can’t lie in simply aspiring to have what everyone else has. We need to realize our true strength as a community and as individuals. Coming from this strength, our claim on legal rights will be undeniable, and the good we offer to society will overwhelm the effects of the violence of the past and bring everyone a bit closer to the blessed community.

Still… #@$% the bigots. I can’t completely let go of that sentiment either.

Comments (42)

  1. Mike

    “Still… #@$% the bigots. I can’t completely let go of that sentiment either.”

    I read the last sentence of this post and unsubscribed this blog. I had no idea this blog contained this sort of rhetoric. It’s too bad because I’ve read some inspiring and good posts here in the few months I have been watching it.

    Reply
  2. Art

    Thank you for this post. It was beautiful and inspiring.

    Reply
  3. Jonny

    Thanks for voicing your thoughts/reactions/feelings, Luke. I’ve missed you around here (in a virtual sense).

    Reply
  4. gyakusetsu

    The Sword shouldn’t be involved in marriage at all. What should really be done is to ban State-sponsored straight marriages.

    Reply
  5. Katie

    I’m feeling a little of this too: “Still… #@$% the bigots. I can’t completely let go of that sentiment either.”

    But mostly I’ve just been hurt and dismayed. Somehow I thought California would do better than this on H8. I was excited about Obama on Tuesday night then I wondered how things were going in California. It was looking kinda bad on Tuesday night but I made myself feel better with the idea that only about 10% of precincts were reporting. Then later on Wednesday, it looked bad.

    It just makes me feel crappy more than angry. I guess I hope the h8rs are happy about it, they won so much….the right to know that they have used an awful lot of money to take away their neighbor’s rights. That should really feel good.

    Reply
  6. Sean F

    It’s difficult not to get angry when confronted with the consistent frustration of hopes, especially when those hopes really consist of peaceful and creative co-existence. I really appreciate your thoughts on this. Thanks for sharing and also for reminding us all that much more happened on November 4th than the fetishized presidential election. I hope we continue to vote with our lives and voices as the memory of the ballot box fades.

    Reply
  7. lukelm (Post author)

    “The Sword shouldn’t be involved in marriage at all. What should really be done is to ban State-sponsored straight marriages.”

    Yes, I think this is right. Marriage does have a very long and complicated religious & social history, and though it clearly has evolved astronomically within the last millennia and centuries, I think the best thing would be for the government to get out of the business of labelling “marriage” altogether. There needs to be a legal category for people who wish to commit to each other as partners & family – call it a civil union, domestic partnership, whatever – and strip the government’s role of social & moral sanctioning. Then let individual communities & faiths decide what they want to bless sacramentally. This would make equal rights available to everyone but also separate the church/state ties that are making it so much more emotional & threatening for people who have religious objections to same-sex marriage.

    I also took your comment in kind of a funny way… do you think we could find enough signatures somewhere to get a state ballot initiative to cancel all the straight people’s marriage? Just wipe them out, like Prop h8 did for the gays in Cali… that would be a funny way to suddenly get people to see how this plays out in our gay lives.

    Reply
  8. Tim Baer

    A couple months ago, in Texas, families that did not practice marriage in the legal sense had their children taken away en’ masse. What happened to them was abhorrent. Society at large spoke at this injustice though most felt that their lifestyle was not preferred. Indeed, the rallying cry was so deafening the state had no choice but to give the children back.

    No laws will prevent people from living the way they want. Nor will any laws create the change needed for society at large to see things in some new light, miraculously, overnight. Society typically prefers some things to run some ways over others. It does not merely affirm anything, and certainly not quickly. Marriage has always been between one man and one woman, nearly constantly, since the beginning of time. It has, from time to time, taken various other shapes but that one tradition has always been affirmed. Do not think it to change this staple of civilization so quickly, nor permenantly so. Rome, with it’s public centers of learning, international trade, & centralized sewage system, fell and gave way to barbarians who dumped waste into the streets. Times and cultures change.

    People will not affirm what they do not wish to affirm. If you change that, not the law, then you change that which you wish to change.

    Reply
  9. lukelm (Post author)

    Thanks for the kindness, Art, Jonny, and Sean (and a gay menno shout-out to Katie. I missed you at Pokagon.) I want to soak up the good vibes present here now before the flaming starts, as is bound to happen ;)

    Reply
  10. dave

    Luke… thanks for this post.

    Just a note for all – there are rallies around the country happening this Saturday. You can find out more here.

    Reply
  11. Joel

    Thanks for this brother (literally) Luke. I thought both blog entries that you provided links for gave good insight into different aspects of how this is being processed by people — the acknowledgment of rage/disgust, and the desire to go deeper into the spirituality of the experience and finding in it a challenge for personal/communal growth. Also thanks for noting some of the gifts of the gay/queer community. As one who is weekly working with the stories of scripture I have to echo your thoughts that the best things of the Creative Spirit of the Universe are always coming from the margins, from those who have been counted out of the main narrative. Not that marginality is a place to be relished. The struggle for rights is in many ways a struggle to expand that narrative/ethos to include other stories/experiences as equally human. Anyway, thanks for sharing and highlighting the bittersweet nature of the election results.

    Reply
  12. Robert

    “I was excited about Obama on Tuesday night then I wondered how things were going in California”

    Don’t forget that Obama stated very clearly at the second presidential debate that he supported civil unions for gays but was opposed to gay marriage. It was a position with which he and McCain agreed.

    Exit polls tell us that the largest block of voters for Prop 8 were African Americans.

    Is Obama a bigot? Did he incite bigotry in CA?

    I am not trying to cause conflict here. I am just asking a question.

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  13. Katie

    “Marriage has always been between one man and one woman, nearly constantly, since the beginning of time. It has, from time to time, taken various other shapes but that one tradition has always been affirmed.”

    I think even with the caveat, this is a bit of an overstatement. I seem to remember a bunch of those old patriarch-al guys in the Old Testament working more on the system of one man and from one to many women. The statement also assumes that “Marriage” has always been a formal institution that conferred both religious and legal rights on those involved as opposed to a more likely history in which many people in different cultures, races and classes over time have formed various unions both formally and informally that we may or may not recognize today as “Marriage.” Allowing same-sex couples to marry will not change our society’s ability to affirm the tradition of different-sex couples marrying. It will just be another of those various other shapes marriage has taken and will take over time.

    I think the real consideration should be whether “Marriage” is an institution of the church or the state. The legal and financial benefits and responsibilities of state sanctioned marriages are all tied up in a religious and cultural tradition that is seen as sacred by so many. But many non-religious people get married, are those marriages still sacred? Who gets to say?

    It makes sense for the state to have laws regarding property and procreation when people choose to form unions. It doesn’t make so much sense, in a nation that supposedly has a division between church and state, to let religious mores (even if very widespread) dictate those laws as they affect even those who subscribe to different (or no) religions or different versions of those mores.

    I continue to be in favor of the idea Luke noted of the state getting out of the “marriage” business and sticking to civil unions for gay and non-gay couples and letting religious institutions figure out for themselves which ones they will bless or not bless as sacred.

    Either that or we start working on an anti-straight marriage constitutional amendment. There’s probably enough of us around to sway a vote in one of those less populated states. You in Luke? we’ll call it Proposition str8.

    Reply
  14. TimN

    Luke, thanks this post and for being clear about the rage you feel. I followed your first link to the NoFo blog and was captivated by his story. These kind of stories need to be heard more widely. It’s an excellent expression of the way breaking up (or preventing) civil unions is anti-family.

    Reply
  15. Tim Baer

    Hey Katie,

    I think you bring up some valid points. In my original post I didn’t mean to sound like marriage had only been this thing of one man and woman. Marriage has been many different things. But one thing it has always been is one man and one woman. That relationship has always been affirmed.

    I think we need to look at what marriage is. Marriage has usually been an affirmation of a long-term, and usually lifelong, sexual partnership. Things that go along with marriage have usually been:

    Sharing resources
    Starting a family
    Moving out of parents home

    And gay couples fit two of those very well.

    Marriages are often recognized by the societies in which they live. The cultural norms of the day, more often than not, create how these relationships can be formed.

    Marriage is often a religious institution, but the non-religious, too, get married at an alarming rate. I don’t know why…… So religion, while playing some sort of role, plays second fiddle to what the cultural at large believes marriage to be. (Interesting that even the religious right will recognize courthouse marriages between non-believers….hmmmm…..)

    All of these people, religious or not, turned out to support or deny the ability of some couples, who wish to practice marriage differently, the right to get married.

    Gay marriage is certainly different. A-typical. And marriage in its more, uh, normal format has been practiced since the dawn of time. People are afraid of different things, especially when those different things want to become more mainstream. Is that hate? I dunno. But people are not ready to say that marriage, practiced among members of the same sex, is equal to or preferrable to the classic marriage fiasco we currently have.

    When you get down to it, us straight people really suck at marriage. Maybe those people who voted “Yes” to the ban weren’t doing so out of hate or bigotry, maybe they were trying to save all those gay folk the hardships, heartbreak, and financial ruin marriage brings the rest of us. ;)

    Reply
  16. lukelm (Post author)

    Robert: Obama was against Prop 8.

    Tim: “Things that go along with marriage have usually been:
    Sharing resources
    Starting a family
    Moving out of parents home”

    I’d say that gay couples actually fit all three of the above statements well, because many of them create families by adoption or medically-assisted fertility (just as many heterosexual couples do without anyone questioning whether this makes a “real” family.) And even without children – we all know straight couples that don’t have kids yet obviously are married and have formed their own family unit, right?

    I agree with the rest of what you said, though. You mentioned hate. For me, I don’t really think it’s useful at all to decide what to label “hate” or “bigotry.” Homophobia is what it is – a mixture of ignorance, fear, misinformation, with a bit of bigotry and maybe even a bit of hate mixed in. Yes, it just takes awhile for people to get used to something different, and I think that our culture is in the midst of getting used to something different. However, when that “difference” involves legal rights for a minority group it isn’t possible for those affected to just be patient for the broader culture to slowly change – we’ll be agitating every way we know how to get that change to speed up, and we’ll use legal means to try to make that change even if it’s not yet the will of the majority (as has always been done in struggles by minority groups for legal rights.)

    (Welcome back to YAR, by the way!)

    A friend sent me another really great piece about this, putting in an historical context:
    http://www.nerve.com/dispatches/macrae/This-Too-Shall-Pass-Why-Californias-gay-marriage-ban-is-history/

    Reply
  17. Eric

    I struggle with reconciling the Anabaptist tradition to your thoughts and how you consider yourself an Anabaptist.

    I understand a lot of your comments, as well as the comments of the blog that you attached, but it doesn’t justify the lifestyle. I agree that there are some very tough situations, but should we make them the law to accommodate those tough situations. We must act on these hard and difficult situations, but we shouldn’t make them law to accommodate for the struggle.

    This is an extreme example, but we don’t accommodate for rapists or murders, even though the law forces them to struggle through their propensities to temptation in those areas. Why? Because it’s wrong.

    Your rebuttal might be that those don’t compare, but in essence they do. There are laws made to protect people against things that are wrong; and while this is not near as black and white of an issue as rape and murder, it has been considered throughout history to be wrong.

    Again, you may say that I’m simply assuming that it is wrong and that I need to give proof that it is. My response would be: And you’re assuming that it’s not, and I would invite you to prove that it is not.

    Again, calling yourself an Anabaptist, it would be interesting to hear how you reconcile your views to what the Bible says. I’m also interested in why you don’t use the Bible in your blog.

    Just a few thoughts from someone raised in the Anabaptist tradition.

    Reply
  18. somasoul

    Hey Luke,

    I know three gay families, all with children. I have other gay friends, a gay cousin, without them. I’m sure they will one day soon have families as well. There is no doubt that gays can, do, and will continue to form families much like heterosexual ones. Without writing a novella on the subject…I think the difference is if a straight married couple doesn’t have kids people talk. I hear it all the time: “I wonder if they are trying?”; “I hope they are not having medical problems”; “What’s wrong with them?”. Gay couples simply cannot have children without really, really, REALLY, trying. If a gay couple doesn’t have kids it’s not seen as being weird.

    I was thinking hard about this post tonight. I was behind a car with several pro-gay (or whatever) bumper stickers. And I started thinking: Is this really all about the assortment of tax benefits, death benefits, etc? While I have little doubt that homosexuals do want those rights no one gets married FOR them. To me, the issue lies in the second to last sentence of Luke’s post:

    “Still… #@$% the bigots.”

    There is this feeling among gays that their unions are not seen as equal. That those who wish gay couple’s unions to not be called “marriage” are really hateful bigots. I simply cannot buy that the issue for queer couples is some tax deduction. In fact, the more I thought about it the more absurd it became. I don’t know anyone who got married because of a tax deduction. Or medical benefits. I got married because I thought marriage would bring stability to my relationship, that the church would sanctify my previous sexual indiscretions, & I wanted to start a family. The list goes on but nothing on that list even remotely looks like: “I want to get married because then my partner will be able to inherit the house.”

    I suspect that gays want those things, yes. But I think the issue for them is entirely: “We want you to like our relationships and be seen as equals with heterosexuals couples.” (Or something that boils down to being very similar.)

    If that’s what you want, say it. I’ve been in sales a long time and nothing slows the process down than trying to corner your opponet with double-speak. Say what you want, ask for the sale. Stay away from divisive language like the aforementioned second to last sentence; that sort of thing won’t buy you any allies. Is it more important to get what you want or to enrage those you see as enemies? Is the latter anabaptist at all?

    Lastly, you cannot force people to like you. No law or constitutional admendment will change that. I cannot force my religion on anyone with any law, many would fight it. I couldn’t even force my beliefs on what proper pizza toppings should be. Some people will still view your relationships as being weird or harmful or whatever. You can’t do anything about those people, so why try? The best anyone can do is live the best you can, show them that you are different, and perhaps they will see the light. I know that over the years my views haven’t been changed with divisive rhetortic, but with those who surround me in my day to day life in kindness and honesty. I love them because they have been kind, and I believe them when they confess their fears, gripes, loves, etc because they have been honest.

    I trust those people, and they have moved me outside of my own preconceived views on the world without ever meaning to. Without ever preaching to me. Without ever building an argument. I imagine many such quiet conversations have solved countless problems over the years that this earth has spun.

    Reply
  19. admin

    Eric,

    You say:

    And you’re assuming that it’s not, and I would invite you to prove that it is not.

    YAR has chosen to be a safe place for LGBTQ folks. That means that Luke doesn’t have to prove anything to you. On the contrary, in this space the burden of proof is on you.

    We as a community have spent many hours of our life explaining to people why LGBTQ folks are God’s children and why they are not like murderers and rapists. If you want to take the time to make an argument to the contrary, I recommend that that you read some of our response to the many other folks who have stopped by our blog to make the same argument you are making.

    Reply
  20. phathui5

    “Still… #@$% the bigots. I can’t completely let go of that sentiment either.”

    While I sympathize with your frustration, I can’t see Jesus agreeing with your sentiment. His approach seemed to be loving people into agreeing with him. Or in the words of my mom, “You get more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

    Reply
  21. lukelm (Post author)

    Hi Tim,
    Some quick comments:
    1) I’ll stand by the idea that our modern societal definition (the DEFINITION, not just an association) of marriage, a rock-solid definition that no one could logically challenge, does not include raising children. Straight are not required to prove that they plan to raise children when they choose to marry. Period.

    2) Yes, there are definitely emotions involved in the struggled that go beyond the legal rights gained in marriage. It’s a personal struggle for many and the energy they draw on often has a lot to do with rejection, ignorance, bigotry, hatred, they’ve experienced in their lives. But trust – you would really notice super-quick if all your legal marriage rights were stripped from you and you were only left with the concept of community & spiritual marriage (something I already have.) Your financial life would get a lot more complicated too, and if you’re raising kids (I think you are?) you would have a huge headache to sort out. You probably don’t think anything about the legal rights because they just seem so obvious and effortless that they would naturally go along with people who wanted to be legally wed. Yeah. That’s what we gays want too – just the obvious stuff that should go along with such an arrangement.

    All right –

    Eric –
    Your question is the same as has been asked infinite times in infinite ways. I don’t consider it rude or bigoted. I asked the exact same question on my own of gay people some years ago before I had dealt with my own reality. I hope you can have experiences with friends & relationships where you can work through learning whatever you want to know about gay people & their faith. Unfortunately, the online world, including this blog, is usually a horrible place to try to have such a conversation. People simply don’t treat each other as humans. So… I simply don’t have the time to engage with you on why I’m not a rapist and murderer. Best wishes.

    On that note, this thread might be played out. Any last thoughts on the actual topic of the post?

    Reply
  22. Matt

    I have two comments:

    (1) It is unfair and prejudicial to denounce as “hateful” a democratic majority’s affirmation of marriage as heterosexual-exclusive. I would be very surprised if the millions of people affirming Prop 8 and similar issues in AZ and FL voted as they did out of spite and hatred against homosexuals. Certainly, there are winners and losers in any election. A proper approach would be to present your position in a different (stronger?) way and get it on the ballot again. Calling the voters hateful, on the other hand, is irresponsible and unfair in light of the democratic process.

    (2) I don’t understand why homosexual marriage is an issue among Mennonites. The Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective (which is supported by Scripture) very clearly indicates that marriage (at least in the church context) is limited to heterosexual unions:

    “We believe that God intends marriage to be a covenant between one man and one woman for life. Christian marriage is a mutual relationship in Christ, a covenant made in the context of the church. According to Scripture, right sexual union takes place only within the marriage relationship. Marriage is meant for sexual intimacy, companionship, and the birth and nurture of children.” (¶3, Article 19. Family, Singleness, and Marriage; Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective, 1995)

    Why, then, are some young Anabaptists so interested advocating the opposite position? I realize that considerations of “fairness” may lead one to support homosexual marriage, but, absent such a position in the Bible (which, according to ¶1, Article 4 of the Confession of Faith, is “the fully reliable and trustworthy standard for Christian faith and life”), I must stand against it and urge others to join me.

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  23. Tim Baer

    So, Luke, let’s say some law was passed that gave same-sex couples the same tax benefits as married people but it wasn’t called “marriage” or “civil union”. Let’s give it some ambisuous legal term like “Title 9″.

    If the American public allowed gays to file to Title 9 do you think that would appease most homosexuals?

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  24. carl

    Luke,

    Thanks so much for this post. I loved your paragraph on the gifts gay people offer to society (it reminded me, almost word for word in parts, of the role that I’ve been told winkte, or gay, people traditionally had in Lakota society). Even more, I’m in awe of the patience and kindness with which you’re handling the (yes, it is) bigotry that you knew would come.

    Thanks for your example,

    Carl

    Reply
  25. lukelm (Post author)

    Thanks Carl. That’s fascinating to hear of the Lakota.

    Tim – My view on giving gay couples the same rights as married couples is pretty well summed up in my comment #7 above (assuming that’s what you meant? There are a lot more rights & benefits that come with marriage than just tax-related ones.) To state again in a different way: it doesn’t really matter what it’s called, but the notion of separate but equal is always suspect. I think the solution is to come up with a name for the legal/civil aspects of marriage that is neutral and that people won’t be as offended by if it’s extended to include everyone – maybe “Title 9″ could be it! Let religions, communities, families, social networks have back full control of the word “marriage.”

    In other words, leave to Ceasar what is Ceasar’s (extending the legal and civil rights & duties associated with civil unions) and to “God” (or people who claim to speak in God’s name) what is God’s.

    I suspect that a lot of straight people would find this very liberating too. I know a lot of them who decide it’s best to have a civil union but really don’t want to get involved in all the social & religious connotations of marriage.

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  26. TimN

    Matt,

    the democratic majority can do horrible and hateful things to the minority. In fact, there’s a long history of it. For decades in this country the “democratic majority” affirmed the institution of slavery. There’s nothing inherently sacred about the results of a given election result.

    As for why we are advocating for the rights of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters, it’s because we’re YAR, not YAM.

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  27. dave

    It is unfair and prejudicial to denounce as “hateful” a democratic majority’s affirmation of marriage as heterosexual-exclusive.

    Woh… really? So just because the majority voted to approve of something that means it isn’t hateful? Democracy can often lead to hateful things… as the slavery mentioned above shows.

    I don’t understand why homosexual marriage is an issue among Mennonites.

    Just because most of us are Mennonites does not mean that we agree with EVERYTHING in The Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective. I am a Mennonite because The Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective comes closest to what I believe, not because I believe and affirm everything in it.

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  28. Tim Baer

    “I am a Mennonite because The Confession of Faith in a Mennonite Perspective comes closest to what I believe, not because I believe and affirm everything in it.”

    Many of us are not in the position to change the order of things, we have trusted leaders and servants to that for us. If you do not trust the leaders of the denomination to make the correct decisions how can you be a part of the organization?

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  29. lukelm (Post author)

    Matt-
    Point 1) Is it 100 or just 99 percent of discussions about minority groups in which the conversation swings away from the topic of the lives of the minorities to the fragile identities of the majorities? You are doing what privileged people always do – you turn any discussion about minority people around and make it a discussion about yourself. Always. If a minority person brings up the prejudice they face in their lives there will always be some privileged person in their face within 15 seconds calling them “prejudiced.”

    Majorities can obviously be wrong. Most people who stand against civil rights aren’t aware of any personal hatred or bigotry but are just following how they’ve been taught to view the world. But that doesn’t make the actions that those majorities carry out less bigoted or hateful.

    Again, why does the subject shift? Why is it such a classic pattern to ignore everything I said in my post about LGBT people and focus all of the discussion on the 1% of it that had to do with the identities of the majority of people who’ve never thought twice in their lives about whether they might have the legal right to marry the person they want to?

    Your point 2) – we’re talking about it for the same reason that crazy radicals used to talk about woman being pastors.

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  30. Anon

    Tim,
    You assume a non-existent uniformity of thought among denominational ‘leaders.’ I am a pastor who disagrees with Article 19. Many other pastors are in the same boat, either publicly (which I am in face-to-face settings) or privately. The same goes for people at every level of denominational leadership.
    You also make an assumption that Anabaptist/Mennonite polity is top-down, where in fact at its best it has always been bottom-up. A gathered body of believers (i.e., the church local) is the primary locus of scriptural discernment–not the denominational leaders.

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  31. Matt

    Here is my response to the responses:

    (1) Lukelm, please don’t make assumptions about me or attach a label to me after I have made only one post. You do not know whether I am “privileged” and I have not made such assumptions about you. Further, I offered constructive criticism and you attacked me. This was hurtful and I hope that we can move forward in respectful dialog.

    As to the substance of this issue, it deserves further discussion, but I realize that this is probably not the proper forum or discussion thread.

    (2) TimN, I apologize for approaching this issue using Mennonite resources. Certainly, all Anabaptists are not Mennonites. Allow me to refocus the scope of prong 2 of my above comment:

    The founding Anabaptists believed that the Radical Reformation did not go far enough to reform the church and bring it in line with their theology. They believed that Christians needed to be radical and relentless in their adherence to God’s word as manifest in the Bible. I hopefully presume that this group of young Anabaptists has the same mission.

    Thus, I have been disappointed by this discussion’s absence of Biblical analysis. Deferring to the Bible, I cannot comprehend a group of young Anabaptist radicals championing homosexual marriages.

    Here is what the New Testament says about homosexual marriage:

    Romans 1:24-27 (NASB) → [24] Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. [25] For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. [26] For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, [27] and in the same way also the *men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.*

    1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (NASB) → [9] Or do you not know that *the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?* Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, *nor effeminate (i.e. effeminate by perversion), nor homosexuals,* [10] nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. [11] Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.

    1 Timothy 1:10 (NASB) → [8] But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, [9] realizing the fact that *law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners,* for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers [10] and immoral men *and homosexuals* and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, *and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, [11] according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God,* with which I have been entrusted.

    1 Corinthians 7:10-11 (NASB) → “[10] But *to the married I give instructions, not I, but the Lord, that the wife should not leave her husband* [11] (but if she does leave, she must remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband), and that *the husband should not divorce his wife.*

    The Bible’s message is clear: homosexuality is a sin, just like lying, murdering, and adultery. The GOOD NEWS is that God has atoned for our collective sins by sending His son, Jesus, to die on the cross and then rise from the dead.

    Please present the other side of this argument. Before responding, please consider the underpinnings of my argument (and my faith): I believe, as the early Anabaptists did, that the Bible is infallible, if not inerrant. Absent such a belief, I doubt very much that one can be “radical” in an Anabaptist sense.

    Reply
  32. lukelm (Post author)

    tim, katie, anyone with last name meyer, if you want to take this on, go for it. i’m out.
    – L

    Reply
  33. Jonny

    {sarcasm} Finally, someone brings up a biblical argument against homosexuality! I just get so bored with this website when we talk about anything else.{/sarcasm} Luckily, nearly every thread comes back to this…

    Matt, I doubt we’ll be able to (or that anyone will have the energy to) have a substantial and constructive discussion about this *again* through cyberspace. So I’m not really going to try (sorry, Luke). (Anyone can feel free to prove me wrong.) I, for one, am a committed Mennonite at a Mennonite seminary who believes strongly that the Bible is wholly fallible and certainly errant. I don’t agree with your creedal appeal to the 13-year-old Confession of Faith as if it’s normative (where instead it’s descriptive), and I beg to differ with your claim that I can’t be an “Anabaptist Radical” because I recognize that sin entered into the writing (and translating, and certainly the use) of the Bible.

    Perhaps it would be useful if you would read the many other discussions we’ve already had about both homosexuality and the use of the Bible. That way those of us who have been here for a long time won’t have to re-hash the same arguments again and again.

    Reply
  34. Katie

    Sorry Luke, I’ve been down that road too often and I don’t have it in me on this one to wade into the fray. I’m with you in spirit and I’m totally impressed with the patience you’ve shown so far on this. I’m kinda tired of justifying my lived experience to SWMs who aren’t really listening anyway.

    Reply
  35. IsaacV

    I hope ya’ll don’t mind if I jump in. So far I’ve been watching the conversation.

    Matt, I appreciate that you take the bible seriously. So do I. I’m a Mennonite pastor so I have to or else my congregation would run me out of town! But here’s the difference between us: where you see clarity (“the Bible’s message is clear”), I see a mess of interpretations. In order for you to see the mess, you’ll have to dig a little deeper into the texts you quote. In the Pauline passages you mention, there are two words that you have to take more seriously: “arsenokoites” and “malakos.” The translators you quote give words like “homosexual” or “effeminate.” They make us think that the translation process is so simple. That’s far from the case, especially with words that occur so few times in Scripture. So sometimes we have to take the bible more seriously than the translators want us to.

    “Arsenokoites,” sometimes translated “homosexual,” has no clear meaning. We don’t have enough textual evidence from the 1st century to know what the word meant. If we had to make an educated guess, the best scholarship tells us that the word has to do with sex trafficking: “some kind of economic exploitation by means of sex, perhaps but not necessarily homosexual sex” (Dale Martin). It’s also a word used to describe rape. So, if you feel passionately about this Scripture, your best bet would be to join the International Justice Mission or Word Made Flesh Ministries and go join their fight against the worldwide network of pimps. Or volunteer at a rape crisis center near you.

    “Malakos,” sometimes translated as “effeminate,” has even less occurrences. We are even further in the dark. Some of Paul’s contemporaries use the word to describe people who don’t work hard. Josephus uses the word to describe people who are weak in battle. In popular Greco-Roman culture, the word was used to describe men who tried to look good in order to attract women!–so it can describe heterosexuals as well. In his Symposium, Plato disparages the “malaka.” But contrary to what we would think, these are men who pursue women (again, heterosexual desire)–they suffer from “malakos” because they desire women, and that’s a sign of weakness! The preferable love, according to Plato, is for a man to love a man. That kind of desire indicates that a man has no “effeminate” desires within him. That’s not what us modern readers would expect.

    All this to say, those passages reveal a complicated world. I don’t know how to make sense of it all just yet. The jury is still out. I do know that I shouldn’t form convictions based slim biblical evidence. I admit that part of my problem is that I don’t have any close homosexual friends who are Christians. I need such friendships as a context to think deeply and spiritually about theses issues. This is not an issue that can be discerned by solitary readers. We need communities of interpretation, and ones in which people who think and live differently than me can argue their case as persuasively as possible. But Anabaptists know this already: we call it the hermeneutical community. It all depends on who you want to sit and patiently listen to. But this can’t take place on a blog. It needs to happen at church, with a community of people who are trying to follow Jesus and listen for the Holy Spirit who moves in unexpected places.

    Matt, here is a list of the best resources I’ve read on the issue of sexuality and church. I haven’t worked everything out. But these are the sources I continually think through:

    Dale Martin, Sex and the Single Savior (2006). He primarily wrestles with NT biblical texts.

    Eugene Rogers, Sexuality and the Christian Body (1999). He’s a theologian.

    Douglass Campbell, The Quest for Paul’s Gospel (2005). He has an interesting read of Romans 1.

    peace,
    isv

    Reply
  36. Tim Baer

    This went to hell and a hand basket rather quickly, didn’t it?

    Thank you, Isaac, for providing Biblical texts to support your view on the matter in a manner that we can all understand. This is, after all, a religious website and having a religious perspective is certainly helpful to understand differing points of view, isn’t it?

    Anon, thank you for your explanation of how MCC views leadership. I would generally agree that leadership operates bottom up, we regard leaders as those we respect, not those that force themselves on us. (I wonder if God would agree…? He certainly gave us Moses, David, Joseph. All leaders who were not chosen by people, but anointed by God.)

    Katie, a shame you don’t want to justify yourself. The only way to be heard is to justify yourself. It’s tiring, yes. Yet, I can’t help to think that Matt isn’t saying you are less of a person, just that he believes your lifestyle is sin. If you had explained it like Isaac you might win someone over but casting blame one straight white males earns enemies. Don’t be so quick to condemn us, while hardly perfect we have contributed much to society. The space program, the computer you use, the car/bicycle you drive, central climate control, much of modern medicine. We are flawed, yes, but don’t take us for granted. It was, after-all, straight white men who spearheaded inclusion of minority groups into public spaces. Don’t discount our influence. It is greater than yours. History has shown we make powerful allies, and vile enemies. You seem to think we are the latter, which we will be if you make it so. It’s more in your hands than you think.

    A shame Matt laid out what he saw in a concise, consistent fashion only to be told off and acted rudely to. I thought anabaptists prided themselves on hospitality to the stranger? Yet here, in this space, Matt is the stranger and his point of view was reacted to in a vile way.

    I hope our guests get a warmer, patient, more understanding greeting in the future.

    Reply
  37. TimN

    Matt,

    1) I’m not sure why you think I’m suggesting we not use Mennonite resources. If it was my joke about YAM, I apologize for not explaining it better. The M in YAM stands for Young Anabaptist Moderates, not Young Anabaptist Mennonites. I was trying to explain that this blog is not about defending the status quo (as you are doing) but about challenging it.

    You’re assessment of the early Anabaptist risks confusing them with the fundamentalist movement of the 20th century. The early Anabaptist weren’t killed because they took the bible to literally. They were killed because they had the crazy idea to live the words of Jesus out in their lives in a way that directly challenged the power of the state and the established church by refusing to take up the sword and baptize their children. There’s was the opposite of the fundamentalist project.

    I find the Anabaptist Network core convictions to be helpful in understanding Anabaptism. I worked with them for two years in the UK and for the first time was able to understand some of the distinctives from my own tradition. Two of the key ones is:

    1. Jesus is our example, teacher, friend, redeemer and Lord. He is the source of our life, the central reference point for our faith and lifestyle, for our understanding of church and our engagement with society. We are committed to following Jesus as well as worshipping him.

    2. Jesus is the focal point of God’s revelation. We are committed to a Jesus-centred approach to the Bible, and to the community of faith as the primary context in which we read the Bible and discern and apply its implications for discipleship.

    For me, a Jesus-centred approach to the bible is different from a fundamentalist approach in that it focuses on understanding the rest of the bible through the lens of Jesus teachings and ministry rather then simply as a flat book in which all passages carry the same weight. Isaac’s done a good job of taking on the passages you quote already, but I’d also point you to Biblical Perspectives on Homosexuality by Walter Wink

    2) I’m not sure why you’re trying to hide behind anonymity as a defense from acknowledging your privilege. Your no strangers. Those of us who went to Goshen College all know you as the guy always up for arguing the conservative side of the argument. I respect that, but in this case it’s not a theoretical argument. It has very real implications for the lives of some of us in this discussion. Recognizing the privilege I bring to the discussion as a straight, white, married, male is not an attack on me. It’s a necessary part of understanding the power relationships at play.

    3) Luke was making a very important point about you and others ignoring the 99% of his article about LGBTQ folks and making it about yourself . Your response of restating your hurt and feeling of being attacked simply strengthens his argument

    Reply
  38. lukelm (Post author)

    All right… less than 24 hours after vowing to step back from this I’d like to re-enter. I think there are important things to be said here about this conversation. In my earlier post I tried to say them, probably not very effectively, but I’ll give it another shot:

    I’m very very grateful for TimN and Isaac and others who can enter into and lay out rational Biblical-based arguments explaining why I’m different than a rapist and murderer. Truly I am. But (sigh) when these discussions that have to do with some aspect of queer people generally not at all related to whether they’re horrible sinners or not veer off into the exact same four Bible verses that we’ve talked aboutt 100 times already, I always feel like I’ve been lifted from a public discussion and sent into a hidden courtroom in a shady dictatorship where a “trial” is about to take place to “argue” whether my life deserves to continue or not. I am extremely grateful that (to continue the tribunal metaphor) some lawyer snuck in with me who can take part in this argument. But I resist the whole presence and authority of this style of tribunal. The topic suddenly shifts from being about my life and the lives of others like me and suddenly becomes about some absolute authority that a few esoteric words of questionable translation hold.

    I’ve certainly entered into such discussion before. They might even be useful sometimes. But they really rarely are. There can be a bit of back and forth and then – WHAM – off to the concentration camp for you after all, thanks for playing yet again. So I, like most people who have faced countless tribunals like this, can hardly ever stomach taking them seriously on their own terms. Right now (as in, through the course of the various related threads on this blog and in other similar contexts) I’m experimenting with different ways of subverting their existence and authority, to greater or lesser effect.

    If you think that the conversation about queer people is about four Bible verses, then you are speaking from a position of absolute privilege, plain and simple. It means next to nothing to you. For others it’s about our very LIVES and/or the lives of people we dearly love.

    TimB, thanks for sharing your perspective. I do sincerely appreciate it. You have good advice about effective ways to speak to straight white males. But – in defense of Katie – as dear as SWM’s can be, and believe me, I have very very deep affection for the SWM’s in my life – sometimes we just want to have a conversation that doesn’t focus on SWM’s and their concerns at all. We just want to talk about something else, not arguing for their powerful support one way or another, just about something else. We get pissed when it all gets interrupted and has to be shut down to deal with the SWM’s issues yet again, on SWM’s terms, using only the kinds of arguments SWM’s are comfortable using. We get pissed not because these conversations happen – they definitely should – but because there are very few spaces in which any other kind of conversation can ever happen.

    Reply
  39. TimN

    Luke,

    Thanks for taking the time to write Comment #38. I think you’ve done a good job of laying out how this kind of discussion makes you feel and why it isn’t life giving. As always, you’ve got vivid metaphors that deepen my understanding.

    I hope that we can some how (against all odds) move towards making this a space for having those other kind of conversations you mention in your last sentence. Perhaps in some way this thread can help that happen. In the future we can refer SWM’s back to this thread to spend all the time in the courtroom they want.

    Reply
  40. Tim Baer

    Hey Luke,

    Thanks for bringing some humanity back to this conversation. I certainly don’t want to make anyone feel like they are in a courtroom. This is something we all do from time to time, make others feel like their behaviors are on trial and I’m sorry if some of us have made people feel like that. We shouldn’t be in “accuse mode” all the time. It probably makes us feel good that “we” are not like “them”, we should be cautious.

    It’s problematic to equate homosexuality with murder. It’s not murder nor theft. If, however, it was compared to other sexual sins like lust, adultery, pre-marital sex, or prostitution I think those people who wish to proclaim it as sin would serve their agenda better.

    I guess I’d like to say is: If whatever we like isn’t sin, then what did Christ die for?

    Jesus didn’t preach Goodness, he preached Holiness. And for as great of a teacher as Jesus was, He was much, much more.

    I won’t say whether or not I believe homosexuality to be sin or not. I would, however, caution us all to be wary of political, cultural, & social agendas which make us alter scripture to serve purposes which are not God’s.

    I leave with this:

    If homosexuality is sin, God’s grace is enough to cover that and we shouldn’t make it appear like we do not want homosexuals in church.
    If homosexuality is not sin, then we should be wary to turn the church into a political machine to meet some secular agenda.

    Reply
  41. Josh B

    I pray so often that these conversations were not so common in the Church. By that I mean that we simply thought grace were true! “If homosexuality is sin, God’s grace is enough to cover that and we shouldn’t make it appear like we do not want homosexuals in church.” I would add something to this….that the Church also be a community which leaves no one the same. The deep truth to grace is that all humanity needs it regardless of sexual orientation.

    For better or worse…the Anabaptist tradition is rooted, not in Biblical inerrancy, but in a desire to live a rigorous Christian life. Since we Anabaptists have nothing other than scripture to make us Christian, we cannot turn to liturgical practices nor doctrinal solutions. Because of the nature of our tradition (Scriptural and Ethical) it is clearly easier to be LBG&T in an Episcopalian community than in an Anabaptist one.

    Unfortunately this means the violent tribunal like arguments continue and that we (LGBT and advocates)must try to take the violence out of the process. This means engaging the argument on all fronts (logical, interpretive and humanitarian).

    My prayer is simply this…one day we can pray all together.

    Reply
  42. lukelm (Post author)

    Amen Josh.

    Reply

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