Running Local

This Train of Thought Makes All Stops

Is There So Much Love In The World…?

Posted by Bob Kohm on January 7, 2009

I was talking with a friend the other day about the gay marriage issue and Ken Starr’s efforts to nullify the marriages performed in California in a Moonie-esque pageant of mass divorce. My friend is a good deal more pious than I am or ever will be in a traditional sense, and I respect his point of view and always find our theological conversations interesting.What struck me during the conversation was the concept that God himself, according to the orthodoxy of the Christian Right, is looking at these marriages between a man and a man or a woman and a woman and deeming them wrong. That mystifies me; is there so much love in the world that God can sit in his Heaven and look down upon friends of mine who are deeply, lovingly committed to each other and simply say “Stop that!”? I look around and see wars, hatred, greed, banality, starvation, poverty and strife in so many places; can anyone who believes in God believe that he doesn’t see that, too? And still he would banish this love?

The only logical conclusion to draw from that is that God, according to some of his followers, sees the existence of love between a same-sex couple as being a greater evil in this world than he sees the results of a lack of love for our fellow humans being. Richard & John are a greater evil than the greed that allows some to burn money while other starve? Really? Joan & Linda are a greater evil than bigotry? That can’t be. I’m not buying it.

After twelve years in Catholic Schools, one of the few useful things I took away from all of that religious education and indoctrination is the very ’70s concept of “God is Love”. Curiously, that wasn’t taught to me as “God is love as long as a penis and vagina are involved”, or “God is love under the strictures of sodomy laws of the State of Georgia”. I went to a Franciscan High School; we were taught the value of Saint Francis’ doctrine is of finding love wherever it may be and nurturing it so that God’s peace may flow through it. Is that invalidated by the fact that sometimes a man may be in love with another man? Is it, “Oops, no, we didn’t mean that love,”? Is doing everything that we can as a society to stigmatize, ostracize, and ultimately politicize the love of two people really allowing that love to act as a channel for God’s peace? We face a clear contradiction here; do we want to err on the side of everything we know about the human condition and what many of us believe God’s message to be, that love is good, or do we err on the side of dogmatic insistence and thus against everything we know about ourselves and declare love to be bad? That’s what this comes down to. We must ask ourselves what is the greater good and we must also ask ourselves what marriage actually is and why are so many people so passionate about this issue.

To many marriage is a sacrament of their church, sanctified by God and administered by the clergy; to many others it is a civil, contractual agreement undertaken before a government official. I personally see it as both and neither. Abraham Lincoln in his Gettysburg Address said, “But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate– we can not consecrate– we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The same is true of marriage. We can say that the courts administer marriage, we can say that the Church sanctifies marriage, but I am a married man. I know that my marriage is a marriage because of my devotion to my wife, because of the love we share and the joys and pains we endure together. We are married not because the State of Rhode Island issued us a certificate saying so; we are married because we are married. Much like that ground sanctified above the powers of a President to enhance or detract, so too is marriage not something so easily defined or, perhaps more importantly, denied by societal whim or prejudice. The men and the women who live in marriage to each other or another are the final arbiters of what a marriage is and who is married. It is mean and churlish of our civil society, then, to deny the trappings and privileges of civil marriage to those who live with its restrictions, pains, and pleasures every day. We deny two men, married in their hearts and partners in their lives, the right to make the decisions about each other’s healthcare at the end of their lives. For the love of God, why? What do we gain, what is there that is sacred in that denial?

Love between consenting adults is love no matter how you cut it, and love, not to sound too drippy, is a power for good in this world. We have too little of it. We need more of it. We can not afford, as a society, to trample upon it for the sake of a notion of purity that is, in the end, nothing more than a matter of semantics. Is our world not richer for the existence of deep emotional bonds of caring for another human being? How can it be that my love for my wife is sanctified but one woman’s love for another is vilified? How is the meaning of my marriage lessened by two men sharing in that same institution based not on the avarice of a heterosexual marriage for money or the banality of a heterosexual marriage of convenience but on the founding principle of the institution, shared and committed love? It is not; I defy anyone to tell me how it is.

I agree with those of a more conservative nature that marriage is a societal good and that the existence of strong families and good marriages is a boon to our civilization. They are, in my estimation, absolutely correct in that belief. I don’t understand, then, why they would stand in the way of more of that good, more strong families, more loving and committed people, just because of mismatched, to their minds, genitalia. It is impossible to ignore the similarities in their arguments against marriage for all peoples and the discredited and shameful arguments made against the “societal doomsday” of miscegenation. The arguments, from a civil standpoint, are one and the same; they are identical. We must set aside our prejudices on so basic a matter of human rights.

It is time to allow people who are married in their hearts to also be married in our courts.

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15 Responses to “Is There So Much Love In The World…?”

  1. First of all, God abhors all sin and does not change. Next, we answer to God he doesn’t answer to us. He made us so he knows what is best and what isn’t. Homosexuality is not about love, it is about self-centeredness. Heterosexuality says I love that which is unlike me, I love that which has a completely different mind, that which is wired differently and who I may never completely understand. Homosexuality says I love which only is completely like me in every way. It says I love physical beauty among all else. It says my love is sterile and about only fulfilling my sexual needs. Can two homosexual men truly love each other-not really. It is counterfeit.It is an illegitimate way to fill a legitimate need to experience brotherhood among men and sisterhood among women. It reduces platonic love to animalistic pleasure.

    In closing homosexuality kills. It kills those who participate in it by cutting their lifespan by twenty years. It kills them by giving them diseases too many to name. It kills them by robbing them of family, children. It kills them and you can you sit there and talk of love. But love is not always good-pedophiles “love” children. If someone loved my kid that way I could kill them in a heartbeat! Love is not always good and hate is not always bad. It is simplistic to think both are so easily defined. If I hate greed and the thought of people going hungry-is that bad? If I love pain and torture-is that good? And just because two people “love” each other does not meaan it is a healthy love. It does not mean it should be glorified and embraced. What if I was a high school student and I loved my teacher, should we get married? Should we just get over ourselves because they love each other? And before you go saying that is different-you go tell that to Mary Kay Letourneau because she has the same defense you have! Love practiced by Man is never good. Love guided by the laws of God always is! And if you don’t like his laws then you take it up with him on Judgment Day. As for me, I have tried it your way and ended up miserable and alone. Now I am trying it God’s way and I have more peace in my life than I ever did before and I won’t let you sit there and second guess God! When you create an universe then you can create an unholy planet with AIDS, homosexuality, prostitution, fornication, adultery and everything else that comes from untamed sex. In the meantime, I will adhere to God’s standards not to the flowery words that will bring us to our doom!

  2. Kin Robles said

    I adhere to the love and mercy of Christ’s teachings and example. Bob, thank you for sharing.

    peace

  3. Bob Kohm said

    Well, Blacknright, you are of course entitled to your opinions, but on many matters of fact you are clearly, inarguably wrong. The nonsense about homosexuality cutting 20 years off of lifespan has been debunked, disposed of and frankly made into a joke so many times that it boggles the imagination to see people still quoting it. What diseases reside amongst the “too many to name” that are exclusive to the homosexual community? By my count that number is “zero”.

    Homosexuality is not about love? Can I assume that you yourself are a homosexual, as that would be the only way you could make that first-hand statement– to have experienced homosexual love yourself and to have evaluated it; otherwise you are simply dressing a biased supposition as some sort of factoid; it even fails the Colbert test of truthiness 🙂

    “Homosexuality says I love which only is completely like me in every way.”… wow, really? A man is like every other man in every other way? A woman is like every other women in every way? Really? I believe that we are both men, Blacknright, based on your writing patterns and pattern of grammatical errors… but I would venture to suggest that we are indeed very, very different.

    The pedophilia/Mary Kay Letorneau canard is easily disposed of, friend– you did notice that I wrote of love between consenting adults, no?

    “When you create an universe then you can create an unholy planet with AIDS, homosexuality, prostitution, fornication, adultery and everything else that comes from untamed sex. In the meantime, I will adhere to God’s standards not to the flowery words that will bring us to our doom!”… well Blacknright, are you suggesting that God did not create this world, with its AIDS, homosexuality, prostitution, fornication, adultery and everything else that comes from untamed sex, lol? Blacknright, if you believe that God created this universe then I suspect that I don;t need to create another one with those things in it with which God has already provided us 🙂

    Good day to you.

  4. Bob Kohm said

    Kin, I appreciate your measured response and your opinion. I do ask, however, where Christ himself taught that homosexuality was wrong? To the best of my knowledge it was Paul in his Epistles who made the statement to the effect that it was wrong for a man to lay with a man as with a woman, no? Now I’m not saying that you should abandon Paul’s teachings– that is a matter of conscience– but I am saying that this was not a teaching of Christ, but the opinion of a deeply flawed, as are we all, man.

    Thanks for reading, Kin. I hope you’ll stick around.

    Bob Kohm

  5. Chancellor said

    Bob,

    IMO, you’re wrong about the teachings of Christ. While the term “homosexual” or similar does not get used by Jesus, He does make it clear that He came to fulfill and follow all Judaic law, which does mean condemnation for homosexual activity. Moreover, as confirmed in Acts, it’s clear the disciples also followed Judaic law.

    Frankly, you have your view on Paul backwards – among the disciples, he’s the “liberal” and Peter and John are pretty clearly the “conservatives”; I’ll explain further if you’d like. But the NT makes it pretty clear that Paul advocated for a far greater break from Judaic law, and sooner, than did any of the other apostles, especially Peter.

    Per your initial post, marriage is pretty easily defined – and has been so defined for hundreds of years. Moreover, this isn’t simply a Judeo-Christian stricture. Even in cultures or religions where there’s not the hangup about having sex with someone of the same gender, marriage has still always been defined between a man and a woman. Japan’s a very good example – they clearly don’t have the religious issues with homosexuality (it’s not an issue in Shinto belief) nor the cultural issues, but marriage is still between a man and a woman. Buddhism has had no issues with homosexuality, but marriage was still between a man and a woman. The contract terms vary, but in every significant culture and religion, the parties entering the marriage contract remain the same – one woman and one man.

  6. Bob Kohm said

    Chancellor, he came to follow and fulfill all Judaic law? I don’t keep Kosher, don’t stone witches or those who don’t keep the Sabbath Holy much less adulterers, don’t eschew all work on the Sabbath. I don’t acknowledge Saturday as the Sabbath, I don’t repent on Yom Kippur or build a tent and take my meals outdoors on Succoth. I own no slaves and do not condone the owning of slaves. Which of these Judaic laws am I ignoring the teachings of Christ by not following? I very much dispute that Christ’s message is that all Judaic Laws are to be followed.

    We agree that marriage is easily defined to an extent, but we diverge on what the definition is. What you are detailing are religious and cultural norms– which, of course, are highly changable to reflect the changes in our society. We were a culture of slaveholders. We were a culture that didn’t allow women to vote. We were a culture that didn’t allow women to hold property. We were a culture that didn’t allow the direct election of our Senators. We were a culture that alternately supported and banned the production, distribution, and drinking of alcohol. We were a culture that endorsed racial segregation. Most importantly for this conversation we were a culture that banned marriage between people of different races, which has direct bearing on the question at hand. All of those are a reflection of the change in cultural norms to reflect advances in society, the evolution of our civil society into something better than it was as a result of adherence to those onerous rules. So to is the recognition of the human rights of all people to enjoy the benefits of a civil marriage that corresponds with the spiritual and personal benefits of the marriage that they enjoy to each other.

    Bob

  7. B-Fly said

    To Blacknright’s comment about homosexuality “killing” because it causes STDs and robs them of families, etc., that point weighs very strongly in support of promoting homosexual marriage. What “kills” by spreading disease is promiscuity. What destroys families is promiscuity. By denying sanction to homosexual marriage, you’re essentially saying “Might as well go ahead and stay ‘deviant’ and promiscuous, because we see no moral difference between monogamy and promiscuity for you.” If you’re really troubled by the spread of disease, encourage monogamy. If you really want to support traditional family structures for the benefits of children, support monogamy and gay marriage and gay adoption – of kids who might otherwise be bounced around between orphanages and foster homes. If you really believe in family values, then creating a societal norm that encourages gay people as well as straight people to choose marriage and monogamy over promiscuity, and to choose raising families over selfish pursuits, is easily the best way to promote those family values.

  8. Chancellor said

    Bob, I’ll get you the supporting verses later, but it’s quite clear that Jesus lived as what we’d call an Orthodox Jew today – He followed and supported the law; However, it’s a central tenet of Christianity, common across all denominations, that Jesus’ death served to redeem us not only from our sin, but the burden of living under the law. This is outlined quite clearly in the letters of Paul to the Romans and Galatians.

    I’ll have more later, but you might find using scripture and love as defined by Jesus to lead you to a place you don’t want to go. 😉

  9. Bob Kohm said

    Chancellor, you’ve gotta pick a course and stick to it 🙂 You’re arguing that homosexuality and gay marriage are wrong because they offended Judaic Law and Jesus came to live and follow that law, but you then say he died to free us from it. Outstanding– the ban on tasty shellfish dies with Christ, as do the anti-homosexuality provisions of that same, now lifted, law. It’s a win-win for mankind– if the ban on lobster is lifted, then bye-bye ban on love!

  10. B-Fly said

    No doubt. If Jesus freed y’all from the law, then don’t cite it as a basis to deny gays the right of marriage. Heck, we Jews are more open to gay marriage than you Christians and we don’t have the “freed from G-d’s law” excuse. Get with the program. 🙂

  11. Chancellor said

    Wahh…I’m surprised to see this tack by you and Brian, but here goes on the long winded explanation I promised…

    First, per the person of Jesus, let’s get that straight (heh) – as noted in Matthew 5:17 and other Gospel references, Jesus clearly stated that He came not to abolish the law, but fulfill it. The term “fulfill the Law” is actually a rabbinic idiom that is found in the Pirke Avot and Horayot Mishnahs; the idiom not only means to follow the law but also to clarify the true intent. Due to the historical support, both within NT scripture and historical text, I hold to the belief that the Aramaic reference “abolish the Law” ties into the Hebrew term “la’akar”, which roughly translates to “undermining”; specifically, that Jesus would not undermine the Torah by teaching incorrectly. The Greek term is not completely clear on this, and it could be a literal translation – Jesus did not come to abolish the law.

    In either case, it’s clear that Jesus does NOT condone homosexual conduct; it’s clearly against the Law, and even indicating that it was acceptable would either undermine Torah teaching, or would be directly against teaching that Jesus came to fulfill.

    Vis a vis the teaching of love in the Gospels and homosexualality, it’s pretty clear where Jesus lands on this – John 14:15-21 is expressly clear that those who love Jesus will keep his commandments; Matthew 22:40 clearly indicates that the whole Law hangs on the great two commandments – loving God with your whole heart, mind, and soul, and your neighbor as yourself. None of the Law is wrong, per se, but it’s summarized in the two great commandments.

    Now, a modern Christian can certainly make the argument (and should, IMO) that the punishment and judgement of homosexuality should not be that as given in Levitical Law; although if you want to link that to the teachings of Jesus, you’re on shakier ground. In essence, you’re depending on John 7:52-8:11 (Story of the adultress), which is the textually weakest link in the entire NT. For the sake of discussion, let’s assume that’s textually accurate, and that punishment for such a sin should not be meted out. However, there’s no doubt that Jesus still condemns the behavior (adultery, in this case) as sin – the concluding statement by Jesus is “Go forth, and sin no more”.

    Conclusion – there’s nothing in NT text that supports the belief that Jesus considers homosexuality acceptable. There’s much in NT text that clearly indicates Jesus fulfilled and upheld the Law, and held that behaviors against the Law were sinful.

    Per Gentile converts, it was a dilemma that was presented to the early church, one that’s discussed in Acts 12, 13, and 15. Early converts to Christianity were Jewish, and held to the Law. In today’s world, those folks are known as “Messianic Christians”. However, the instructions to the early church were clear, and summed up in Acts 15:19-21. Reinforced in Romans and Galatians, it’s clear that Gentile converts were not bound to follow the entire law….but they were bound to the commands given by the early Church leaders, which included “refraining from sexual immorality” (see Acts 15:20 for direct reference). Paul reinforces this point in subsequent letters, and also makes it crystal clear that homosexual acts fall under sexual immorality.

    In summary, there’s nothing in NT teaching that holds that homosexual behavior is not sinful. To draw such a conclusion is to take a verse or two out of context and blind oneself to the remainder of the teaching or experience around it. Or, in modern terms, it’s like saying that “GWB saved the steel industry with his actions in 2000/01, therefore, he must be a good president”.

    But eating shellfish is good. 😉

    Now, if you want to win over moderate Protestants like me on this issue, IMO, you need to step back to the whole issue of marriage being both a religious and civic agreement and take the civic part out of marriage. Keep marriage in the church, and allow the church to determine on its own who can be “married” under the church banner. Create a “civic union” license for any couple – homo- or hetero-sexual – to grant governmental rights relative to property, wills, medical care, and so on.

  12. Tom said

    I look with furrowed brow at anyone who claims to definitively know what the Bible says and means, as it has been translated many times over and was written in a vastly different historical context. Moreover, the Bible has led to suffering and pain that is almost unimaginable, yet happened. Slavery, segregation, apartheid, the holocaust have all been justified at least in part on the Bible and its passages. This supports two theories: (1) there is no correct way to interpret the Bible and (2) the Bible may be (and in fact has been) interpreted not in a vacuum, but in light of societal norms. (Surely, the views that interracial marriage and segregation are wrong are seldom premised on Biblical authority).

    Moreover, the view that marriage should be between a man and a woman because that’s always how it’s been the world over is a circular argument (“it’s right because it’s always been, therefore it’s right”). For those of us who would like to have a sound, rational discussion on this issue, let’s move on from this canard of an argument.

    As a gay Christian American, I am not trying to “win over” anyone of any particular denomination to the merits of receiving all of the rights and benefits of civic marriage until our country provides same on the same basis and level as non-gay Americans. While it may be foolhardy, I am not sucking up to the “haves” in some Darwinian power structure so that “have nots” like me can gain equal rights in a society where the separation of church and state should have some meaning.

    The reality is that the only way to currently gain full and true equality in rights/benefits on this issue is through marriage. The current scheme of “domestic partnerships” or “civil unions” in states and municipalities are not the same. IMO, call it marriage, civic union, or a 1974 Pinto for all I care, but if certain Christian and people of other denominations want to preserve the term marriage as they wish, they are going to have to win ME over by supporting equality and justice for all through means other than “marriage.” I also think that would be very Christlike. But until then, I will fight to get married.

    Thank you, Bob, for opening the discussion.

  13. Chancellor said

    Tom,

    There is no way to correctly interpret the Bible? So all literature of antiquity can not be used since it, also, can not be correctly interpreted and was in a vastly different historical context? We can gather no value from Plato or Aristotle, none from the great Roman authors of satire, history, and legend? None from the hundreds upon hundreds of years of ancient Chinese literature…or we can’t interpret it well since those aspects of Chinese culture, language and history are even less understood?

    Now that’s a canard, if I’ve ever seen one.

    New Testament understanding is primarily common sense – most of the Koine Greek is pretty straightforward. Common sense, some basic reading, and a concordance can get anyone with an open mind pretty much all there in terms of understanding what the NT says and means.

    That doesn’t necessarily mean that all people haven’t used biblical text in ill-informed or corrupt ways to their own ends. But don’t tell me it can’t be understood.

    Per “that’s how its always been”..well, the facile weakness in dismissing that point out of hand lies right in our Supreme Court (and all other courts in the US). Stare decisis is a valued component of any decision of judgement – not the only one, but a significant component. It’s not a canard, but a fundamental, important concept in our rule of law.

    Your argument is no different than a polygamist’s argument at the core – i.e., why shouldn’t a legal adult be allowed to marry someone, even if they’re already married once, and if the parties agree?

  14. Tom said

    That is the correct … your way of interpreting the Bible is not the “correct” way. I am not interested in debating Biblical provisions, but I refer you to Dr. Peter Gomes’ “The Good Book” for a view that is different than your. Furthermore, there are many Christian denominations and churches, including my Episcopal church, that do not interpret the Bible on this issue as you do. Thus, I am not telling you the “correct” way to interpret the Bible, but likewise, you don’t have a lock on Biblical interpretation either. And saying there are different interpretations is hardly the same thing as saying that it can’t be understood.

    Stare decisis is least persuasive in the legislating of private morality. In this area, developments in human understanding through psychology, biology, humanity, interpersonal relations, as well as fundamental concepts of freedom, have been found by the Supreme Court to trump prior understandings that had been codified into law. See Loving v. Virginia. See also Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 US 479 (right to use contraception). History will prove that yes, your circular argument is a canard. Very little today, and indeed even less in the future, can be cited to other than self-serving religious “studies” to justify the ban on equal rights for gays and lesbians.

    And as to your polygamy argument, let’s stay on topic. You don’t decide one issue by pointing to another with a “no, look there!” rhetorical device. Whatever the arguments against polygamy (and I’m not here to debate them), they are based on their own merits or lack thereof, and may include sexism, servitude, etc., arguments which we haven’t heard of in the debate on gay marriage. To take another example in this inapposite comparison, an argument against gay marriage is that marriage is an institution in which procreation is a fundamental and necessary component. Certainly, this argument would not be used in an argument opposing polygamy. So, although polygamist activists may use gay marriage decisions to say that all marriage is not “traditional,” any decision on their arguments would be point to, in primary part, more specific arguments dealing with the particulars of that relationship. And, in reality, it is quite different, to the extent that polygamists primarily being heterosexual, have the fundamental right to get married. Homosexuals do not share that right (and I wouldn’t cite the rash of married closeted politicians as evidence that gays are entitled to get married to members of the opposite sex). In short, let’s not mix crocs and stilletos.

  15. Chancellor said

    Tom,

    It’s not a matter of interpretation – if you’re referring to the literal translation of what the books and letters say in the New Testament. If you’re talking about how and what a church uses from the NT in their denomination, that’s a whole different kettle of fish. And, in reality, many in your denomination do interpret the NT the way I do – that’s why you have a devastating schism that’s developed among Episcopalians in the past 10 years. Some have chosen to ignore clear teaching of the Gospels and subsequent reinforcement by Paul, Peter (via Luke), and John the Revelator (via Revelations), and they’re free to do so. But don’t try and tell us that it’s consistent with Scripture or Jesus’ life. There’s not a shred of evidence you can point to in NT text that indicates homosexuality is not considered sinful by early Christians.

    And you’re wrong concerning stare decisis. SCOTUS has found or supported decisions concerning private morality vastly in favor of previous decisions. As I noted earlier, it’s certainly not 100%, but a notable majority and cannot be merely dismissed with a wave of the hand as a canard. And as I noted earlier, separate the civic component from marriage – I’m all for it. Until then, I’ll go to hell and back defending it. My experience with Roe v Wade has clearly illustrated to me the Law of Unintended Consequences concerning abortion, and I’m certainly not willin to entertain such unintended consequences concerning marriage and church independence.

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