How I tried to explain to a pastor friend that my marriage should be equal
This week was amazing. I was so moved to see so many people - gay, straight, young and old posting the red equality sign and related sentiments to Facebook to show their support of the repeal of DOMA.
Amid the support, though, I saw an old friend, who’s now a pastor, post his dismay over another pastor’s support for same-sex marriage. My old friend warned to “beware of false teachers and those that distort the word of God in such a way they lead many astray. There is no doubt here, and we have a biblical mandate to warn you. Pray for this man and all that listen to him.” and then later posted that he would “post some thoughts on redefining marriage this week.”
I felt compelled to share my thoughts with him, our mutual friends, and potentially those who look to him for guidance. I think the only way we can continue to change hearts and minds is through personal stories and shared experiences. So, I posted to his wall and had some people ask me to share it more widely. Below is that post. I’ve removed his name to be respectful of his privacy, but otherwise the post is unaltered. I hope others find it helpful or at least can connect with some of my thoughts and feelings.
Hi ***** – I saw your post about your dismay that a well-known pastor voiced his support of same-sex marriage and I saw your post that you intend to share your thoughts on “redefining” marriage. I’m interested to hear what you have to say, both because we’re old friends and it’s clear that you have quite a few people who look to you as a thought leader. As someone who probably sees this matter differently than a lot of people you regularly spend your days with, there are a few things I want to share with you as you develop your thoughts. I don’t mean this to come across as an attack or anything. I’m just hoping to explain my point of view in the hopes that it might help you as you develop and voice yours.
I’ve been married for almost seven years. Our wedding was amazing and included over 150 of our friends and family members, some of whom you grew up with. My parents, who used to drive me over to your house to play when we were kids, were beaming with happiness. I was entering into the same union that they had been in for many years—not a different version, not a “redefined” version, but the same thing. In fact, a year after our wedding, my husband and I surprised my parents with a trip to Italy to celebrate their 40th and our 1st anniversaries together. I guarantee that the word “marriage” is just as important to me as it is to you and I take it just as seriously.
Our wedding was not religious (though I’ve been to same-sex weddings that are and they, too, have been beautiful). Regardless, the church (or any specific religion) doesn’t have exclusive rights on civil marriage. I’ve heard anti-gay marriage people claim time and time again that God created marriage. They’re entitled to that belief. I don’t believe that. I’m sure to some of your friends and parishioners, that makes me seem “lost” or something. I’m not. I’m healthy, happy, and surrounded by friends and family. I volunteer with organizations focused on helping youth. My husband and I do good things in the world and want to leave it a better place than when we came into it. We’re hard workers, good citizens, and good neighbors. I’m still that same kid that Mrs. Long sat you next to in second grade on your first day at a new school because she knew I’d be nice to you. I just happen to have been born gay. If you’re right, and there is a God who is overseeing all of this, then I can tell you confidently that he made me this way, 100%, and I’d wager that he’s pretty happy with who I’ve become.
The beauty is that we all live in a country where we can have different beliefs. We have separation of church and state. And that extends to marriage. Civil marriage is a legal contract between two people that bestows a host of benefits, and that comes with a common understanding and some societal expectations and norms that supports stability in those relationships. Many of my gay friends are already married. Many have children…amazing children who they love and who are very loved and who will grow up to be wonderful adults who will also do great things in the world. They deserve the same rights and protections. So do my husband and me.
Members of the clergy can marry people, but so can a justice of the peace or even an ordinary citizen in states where they offer a one-day justice of the peace designation. In fact, I recently had the honor of marrying two very good (straight) friends. The fact that they now are granted 1,138 federal benefits, rights and protections that I still don’t have makes no sense. We’re about to file our taxes. Once again, we’ll file our state taxes as a married couple, as next of kin. We’ll file our federal taxes as strangers. It’s insulting and degrading.
Same-sex marriage has been legal in Massachusetts for nine years now and has only strengthened existing bonds between people who were already going to be together and has provided more safety, security, and a common understanding among a number of our citizens. It’s made our state a better place. The current issue of getting rid of DOMA seems pretty simple to me. It’s discriminatory and dictates that our federal government treat my legal marriage different than a straight person’s legal marriage, even though our marriages are exactly the same in the eyes of the state.
Finally, I’ve never been able to understand how religious-minded people can, with a straight face, say that they are so vehemently against same-sex marriage because of God and the bible, but then ignore or interpret hundreds of other parts of the bible to suit their own personal beliefs or societal norms — eating shellfish, wearing fabric blends, not forcing rape victims to marry their rapist, etc.. I mean, this weekend religious people around the country will try to get their kids to care about Easter by enticing them with chocolate bunny eggs and marshmallow chicks. No one’s exactly living a biblical life to the exact word. If we just take marriage, itself, it’s changed and evolved many times over the years. As you must be aware, as recently as the 20th century, the exact same bible that’s being used to argue against same-sex marriage was used to argue against interracial marriage.
So, as you formulate your thoughts, and you preach to people who listen to you, I ask that you think seriously about the difference between religious belief and civil liberties, the difference between religious marriage in your own church and civil marriage in our secular nation, the difference between being a good person as you think it’s defined by the bible and just being a good person, and the difference between the love of two people who were born straight and love each other and two people who were born gay and love each other. And if you ever want to talk about it further with an open mind and an absence of judgment, I’m happy to have more of a conversation.
UPDATE: He responded. ”Hey Brad, and other childhood friends, thanks for being willing to share with me. I’m sure you’ll disagree with some of what I’ll say but I can deeply appreciate your thoughts and feelings. You’ve made one of the kindest, most thoughtful statements I’ve ever heard on the matter. I too, have very find memories of growing up together, and am glad you’re part of my life. I don’t intend for that to change, and wish geography wasn’t such a separation between us. I hope to give this issue the careful attention it deserves with my statement. Thanks for sharing this. I’m glad that we can do so in a loving manner!”
Not sure where it will all go, and someone already commented that she hopes he can give me the answer I need and that my eyes will be opened by the grace of Jesus…but whatevs. I still feel like we maybe made some progress here. :)
Keep having conversations, folks…