Today I saw a a photo on Facebook of Sarah and Todd Palin holding Chik-fil-A bags. They were exuberant, smiling ear to ear with Sarah giving her trademark "you betcha" thumbs up. When I saw that this picture received a large number of "likes", I decided to post the following reply on Facebook: I am saddened by the Palins' public and gleeful support of Chik-fil-A's all out effort to deny other taxpaying citizens the opportunity to enjoy the 1,000+ rights they enjoy as husband and wife. It's not asking for a "special right" when someone seeks the same rights you already have. Why would anyone jump for joy over denying someone else the same privileges they have? Bigotry? Let's hope not. It must ultimately stem from deeply held religious beliefs. That's the most charitable reason I can imagine.
There are a few problems, however, with that explanation. First, marriage is a civil arrangement, not a religious one. Religions issue doctrinal statements, but states issues marriage licenses. That makes marriage a civil right. It's one thing to hold personal religious beliefs about any number of issues. It's quite another to make those beliefs into laws affecting everyone else. Prohibiting others from basic human experiences, like coming together in marriage with all the legal protections and benefits that it affords, is neither civil nor right.
For those who seek to legally prohibit gays and lesbians from getting married because they believe they are upholding the traditional, Biblical view of marriage (e.g., Chik-fil-A's president), I have to ask, which Biblical view of marriage are you thinking of? The view of innumerable churches who until a few decades ago used the Bible to prohibit interracial marriage? The Biblical patriarchs who had multiple wives?
For those who believe that the Bible should be read literally and that our nation's laws should reflect their interpretation, check out Deuteronomy 22:28-29:
"If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, he shall pay the girl's father 50 shekels of silver. He must marry the girl."
Is that the Biblical view of marriage (updating shekels for dollars, of course) that should be made into law? Why is that passage to be taken any less literally than the Leviticus verse so often used as the proof text that homosexuality is sinful?
And while you're looking through the first five books of the Bible, you'll find more of God's commands about marriage:
- Marry your brother's widow (Deuteronomy 25)
- Capital punishment for committing adultery with a neighbor's wife (Leviticus 20)
- Priests put a curse on a woman whose husband suspects her of adultery (Numbers 5)
You'll have a tough time finding many, if any, passages after Genesis 2 that reflect the so-called traditional view of marriage. Then there are the polygamist kings, including King David, "a man after God's own heart". (1 Samuel 13:14) God says that it was God who gave David his wives (plural). (2 Samuel 12:7,8). One begins to wonder if God is familiar with the "traditional definition" of marriage.
Some Christians say the commands in the "Old Testament" (a.k.a. the Hebrew Scriptures) no longer apply to them since Jesus came. If you hold to this perspective, for the sake of your own integrity, please never again use any passage from the Hebrew Scriptures (including stories about Adam and Eve or Sodom and Gomorrah) to justify legislation restricting the rights of lesbians and gays.
Jesus, while saying nothing about homosexuality, did insist that the only reason a married couple should be allowed to divorce is adultery (Matthew 19). Where is the outcry to repeal and replace the lax, "unbiblical"divorce laws in this country? Where is the picketing of divorce courts? If it's fair game to enforce one's perception of a Bible-based view of marriage on gay people, why is a Bible-based view of marriage (including divorce) not also enforced through law on straight people? Could it be thinly-veiled yet unconscious prejudice? What else would explain why good-hearted Christian folk try to impose their marriage standards on gay people but let their own demographic off the hook?
Hopefully, it's merely a lack of not yet taking the time to fully think through the implications of one's positions. I've certainly failed to do that myself many times and have to keep careful watch over my strongly-held opinions and beliefs, which so easily morph into something unhealthy and lacking any semblance of Christian compassion.
So, before cheering the Palins, please take a moment to consider the genesis of your own thoughts on this issue. While it may seem like an innocuous photo of a married couple holding Chik-fil-A bags, it actually is an attack, (hopefully on account of understandable ignorance) on the identity, relationships, legal equality before the law, and inherent worth of your fellow Americans. That is nothing to celebrate.
That was my posting on Facebook. I know I'm probably "preaching to the choir" by posting this on my blog. But every now and then a preacher needs to hear an "Amen"...or at least get a "like" on Facebook.