Thursday, November 20, 2008

Some thoughts on Prop 8 in California

It was an interesting discussion on California’s passage of Prop 8 we had last night. It was the first time I think in which nobody agreed with anyone else completely on an issue. ‘Yes’ votes, ‘No’ votes, and empty boxes all round. (Andrew posts more on our discussion as well over on his blog.)

After the discussion I continued to think over things and decided I’d write down and post here some of my thoughts I've collected on the issue (and I'd like to say these are not the the thoughts of the cohort as a whole, but only my own):

  • The amount of money spent in this campaign by the conservative church community shows a severe sense of misplaced priorities. Those millions of dollars could have gone a long ways to helping out people in need or something, but all it was used for was to stop gay people from getting “married”. It didn’t stop them from “sinning”, it didn’t make homosexuals into heterosexuals, it didn’t end gay sex from happening, it didn’t stop people from talking about it, (nor does it stop them from protesting in the streets, yelling it from the rooftops, and all-round making a ruckus over the whole matter) all that is still there. All it did was stop gay people from getting “married”. That’s it. In short, the conservative church community spent millions of dollars just to prevent the gay community from using the word ‘marriage’ to describe the same basic thing they are apparently already doing in a ‘civil union’. (Now I’ve not studied it out in detail, but it appears to be that the only real practical difference between the two, ‘civil union’ and ‘marriage’, are the words – merely a difference in semantics, and maybe some rituals.) In other words, this doesn’t sound anything like ‘protecting marriage’ to me. It seems all rather anticlimactic and wasteful, at best it appears to be only protecting a word, for it solves nothing of what the churches really find so objectionable.

  • I agree with the reported comments that Tony Campolo made recently at the meeting of the Baptist General Association of Virginia, from an article in the Baptist Press:

    Campolo's remarks were notable for his criticism of the recently passed Proposition 8 in California which would amend the state constitution to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

    Interpreting the meeting's theme "Who Is My Neighbor?" Campolo said, "The Samaritans were those who were considered spiritually unclean, abominations in the eyes of God." Some of today's "Samaritans," he said, are the poor, Muslims, illegal immigrants and gays.

    Campolo called himself "a conservative on the issue" of homosexuality, but said he opposed Proposition 8. Describing homosexual behavior "contrary to the teaching of God," he nonetheless questioned what was gained in passing the ballot initiative.

    "What did we win? ... I'll tell you what we won," he said. "We won tens of thousands of gays and lesbians parading up and down the streets of San Francisco and New York and L.A. screaming against the church, seeing the church as enemy.

    "I don't know how we're going to reach these brothers and sisters," he said, "but I'm an evangelical and I'm going to win them to Christ.... And we're not going to win them to Christ if we keep sending them bad messages, and we've sent them a bad message. I think the decision in California was in agreement with how I believe, but sometimes you've got to consider the person before you bang them over the head with your principles."
    To expand out on my own thoughts here, I think the churches made a really bad move with their push to pass Prop 8. In the Bible, Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). Well we like to tell ourselves we love them, but that’s not what the churched community is known for in the gay community. Words like ‘hate’, ‘bigot’, and ‘homophobia’ are what they use to describe the disciples of Jesus. Instead of just saying, “well they’re just wrong, we love them, and they just aren’t recognizing our love for them”, I think the church needs to seriously reexamine what it sees as ‘loving one another’, and ‘love your enemies’, and recognize the fact that we really just aren’t all that loving toward the gay community, and that we need to repent in this.

  • In a statement released just after Proposition 8 passed, Ron Prentice, from the Yes on 8 Campaign, said,

    This is a great day for marriage. The people of California stood up for traditional marriage and reclaimed this great institution. We are gratified that voters chose to protect traditional marriage and to enshrine its importance in the state constitution. We trust that this decision will be respected by all Californians.
    I can’t help but see this as incredibly naïve. It’s as if conservative churches think they can pass some legislation and then expect people to submit to their will without changing the hearts and minds of people. Somewhere around 18,000 gay couples got married over the past six months or so, and they are not just going to kowtow and “respect” the annulment of their marriages just because some other people’s religious sensibilities are hurt.

  • This isn’t Christendom, this is not a Christian nation we live in, and passing “biblically wholesome” legislation doesn’t make us more righteous as a nation. If hearts and minds are not transformed nothing has actually been accomplished.

  • The ultimate end of this issue I think is obvious. Just because Prop 8 passed, nothing is written in stone. California voters will pass a new amendment in a few years changing their own state constitution back to what it was before, or some Supreme Court, state or federal, will eventually overturn this ban on gay marriage. Either way, all the money, time, and effort the churches have put into “protecting marriage” will be for nothing, and the churches will eventually have to stand up and be the church in a nation that accepts gay marriage.
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