Last night

True story:

Last night, I asked God, why do you hide?  And God whispered back, so that people have to seek…!

Posted in God. Tags: . Leave a Comment »

It's about diplomacy.

Here (and on Facebook) I last posted about how we need to be careful in response to the tenuous passage of Prop. 8 not to scapegoat the Mormons.  I was thinking about how Mormon temples have selectively been protested, there are websites that identify Mormon donors, and other websites with names like “Mormons Stole Our Rights.”  Some have pointed out to me that such efforts are, technically, factual, and not only that, warranted, given the exorbitant amount of resources poured into marriage discrimination by members of the Church of Latter Day Saints.  I agree with both points.  But as valid as it is to express our anger, we need to make sure our response is not more harmful than helpful in the process.

Our ultimate goal is to change enough hearts and minds on the issue of same-sex marriage such that equal civil rights may forever be secured for LGBT people.  While there are some genuine ‘haters’ on the other side, I am convinced that there are also many good people just across the line who will, if persuaded, help us permanently settle this question next time it goes up (in California, at least).  I am also convinced that if our response is instead perceived by most people across that line as a disproportionate attack, then our progress will actually be impeded by further division.

Let’s look to the historical example of emerging gay rights within the United Church of Christ.  In 1985, the General Synod, somewhat of a ‘governing body’ for the UCC, became Open and Affirming, which was a suggestion from the top that churches open their employment, volunteer and membership ranks to welcome LGBT people into full, equal participation.  Today, there are approximately 5,518 UCC congregations, of which, approximately 657 are Open and Affirming.  So even though the official standing from our top body of governence asked 20 years ago that all churches become Open and Affirming, approximately 88% are not.  This is because the General Synod’s resolutions are not binding.  There are two ways to look at this.

My impatient, inner-tyrant notes that even among our liberal UCC, many churches are not LGBT inclusive, and that is inexcusable.  From my theological standpoint, those churches should all become Open and Affirming, and they should do it today – because it’s the good, Godly, and right thing to do.  HOWEVER – if at any point this became a binding resolution, back then or even today, we would have lost countless congregations.  And here’s the really important point: there are churches that are Open and Affirming today that would have left the denomination had they been forced to adopt LGBT inclusivity back in 1985.  So though it’s taking a while, the non-binding nature of the UCC’s resolutions has actually created the space for changed hearts and minds on the issue – without fostering unnecessary division in the process.

Let me hasten to acknowledge that this is radically different from what we are looking at in California today.  However, the underlying principle is the same: it is through open (though often forceful) dialogue, rather than divisive tactics that shut down communication, that we are able to bring about change.

That is why I think we need to be careful not to primarily scapegoat just one group of people (Mormons) in our response to Prop. 8.  Even though I believe that all of the outrage directed towards the Mormon church is morally justified, I worry that a too-narrow attack on the Mormon church will cost us the support of many moderate Mormons (and others) who could be our allies next time around.

Check out this undeniably moving account on the aftermath of Prop. 8’s passage, as experienced by Vanessa, a Mormon woman who voted “Yes” while acknowledging the troubling reality of the human cost of denying marriage.  She is precisely the sort of person who I believe will ultimately change her position once she fully assumes her moral obligation to this human reality.  At the least, her post helps illustrate that Mormons who supported Prop. 8 are not a monolithic voting bloc that should categorically be cut off or dismissed.

We who oppose marraige discrimination must ask ourselves: what sort of diplomacy is needed in order to change the hearts and minds of people like Vanessa?  And are our present efforts helping or hindering this cause?

Enough Mormon-bashing.

In the wake of the passage of Proposition 8 in California, I join the many who lament the prospect that equal marriage rights for LGBT people will be delayed once again.  I am appalled by the narrow and shallow theological assumptions about marriage and family that the anti-marriage religious folks espouse.  Mostly, I am outraged that God has been co-opted as a means of denying equal, civil rights to my queer friends and family in California and elsewhere.

Nonetheless, the anti-Mormon backlash is unwarranted.  I understand that people are angry – I’m angry – and I am particularly angry at the Catholic, Mormon, and other church leaders who have mounted this vigorous and discriminatory campaign.  However, efforts like this, to single-out and scapegoat Mormons in particular, based on their support of Prop. 8, are unfair – and, I believe, rooted in the oppression that Mormons have historically faced.

More on this soon.  In the meantime, let’s not cede the high road, nor the opportunity to build bridges and coalitions, for the sake of our cause.

God and Election 2008, cont.

In this video, Mike Blejer offers another look at the role that God may have had in this election.  (My take can be found here.) Mike’s a friend of mine from college, and is an emerging comedian in the DC area.

The moment of victory

This video greatly captures the surprise moment as I experienced it Tuesday in downtown Chicago.  I was standing before a screen just like this.  I doubt I’ll ever forget it.

The morning after

It’s weird to be elated and outraged at the same time.

I spent yesterday GOTVing all day long in Indiana (which spent most of the evening being a narrow McCain victory but has since flipped for Obama) (!) (the first time Indiana’s gone with a Democrat in 44 years).  Last night, my wife and I headed to downtown Chicago and joined in the truly awesome elation:

It is tempting to want to attribute this victory to the will of God.  After all, our God is a God of abundance, and the victory, for the Democrats, was certainly abundant.  Every Sunday, and quite often more than that, Christians pray unto God: “Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.”  For the last eight years, many of us have cried out to the Lord, praying that God would lay hands upon our national and global leaders and change  – change them.  We want God to be involved in our political process, especially when we sense that it is not going according to God’s plan.

And yet, if we attribute the stunning political victories to the will of God, we must also assume that it was God’s will that Proposition 8 has likely passed this morning.  Proposition 8 sets the appalling precedent that anyone can be targeted for the removal of existing rights.  Anyone!  Who’s next?  All that is needed is enough money and advertising to eek out a narrow majority.  This is frightening, un-American, and it is shameful that religious folks were heavily behind it.  Surely it is not God’s will that Ray and Bob, who have been together for 16 years, helped raise me as part of my church family, and were finally allowed to marry this summer and receive equal rights under the law, should endure retroactively becoming “unmarried” and lose those protections.

This election is clearly about what people are able to achieve, rather than the manifestation of God’s will. Accordingly, with the election of Barack Obama as president, my faith in the ability of Americans to govern ourselves has been restored.  And with the passage of Proposition 8, my faith in many of my religious sisters and brothers in California has been broken yet again.

It’s weird to be elated and outraged at the same time.

One Day More