Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Onward Christian Soldiers, and into the Jaws of History

I made the mistake of watching the video posted below this morning. Actually, I didn't really watch it. The video is ten minutes long and I couldn't stomach more than about two minutes of it. So I don't know if there's a punch line at the end or not, but what I saw was frustrating enough. And it got me thinking about same-sex marriage again.

I am, of course, in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, no strings attached. If a man and a woman have the legal right to get married, then a man and a man or a woman and a woman should have the exact same legal rights. No questions, no discussions. And why not? As I've mentioned before, there are absolutely no non-religious reasons to forbid the practice. Even a Christian should see that, for a secular country such as America, there is no reasonable legal position to oppose same-sex marriage.

Some people - including me, at times - have mentioned divorcing (pun intended, I suppose) the religious aspect from the legal one; make civil unions, complete with all the tax benefits and legal implications, available from the state to any two people and let them go to a church and be religiously (or non-religiously, as I did) married. Take ministers out of the equation completely - my wedding was completely non-religious by design (my wife and I wrote the vows and the service ourselves) we were still compelled to have a minister. We were lucky enough to have my uncle perform the services as a non-denominational, non-religious world church-type minister (forgive me, but I am unsure of the official title) it still bothered me that we were compelled to jump through those hoops at all. It's tradition, I suppose.

I still believe that is the best option. I would have happily had a civil union and foregone the wedding and marriage - we would still have the party, of course, because our wedding ranks as one of the most fun moments of my life, thanks mainly to the large amounts of family members who showed up. I don't want to get sidetracked here, but I do want to clarify that I am happy to be married to my wife and have never once stopped loving her. But the wedding did not change our relationship at all. We are stronger now than we ever have been, but that is because of us - her and me - and not because of anything special that "being married" gave us. The wedding was special because of our families, not because of us.

But this hypothetical separation of church and state in regard to marriage is a red herring. It changes the focus of the argument and makes it look like no one is wrong. But I disagree. People are wrong. Not allowing same-sex marriage is hateful, petty and mean. It reflects a certain ugliness on the inside of people. I have often wondered how I would have behaved if I lived in the past - in any era, in fact, but specifically in the 1950s and 1960s when the Civil Rights movement was underway. Would I have supported the rights of African Americans? And if so, would I have done it with the demeaning (if ultimately well-meaning) mindset that they are inferior to whites, but deserve as much dignity as we can afford them. I'd like to think that I would have been a good man in any age, but I doubt if I would have been. We will always be products of our time. But I know that in this case I am on the right side of history. I can think of no possible (non Orwellian or Kafka-esque) future where the struggle to legitimize same-sex marriage ends with the supporters being demonized. History shows that we are becoming better, kinder, more generous people.

I think that those who oppose same-sex marriage know this. There is a desperation in their eyes, a sad knowledge that their battle will ultimately be lost. Their marching orders are over 6000 years old. The orders are transparently petty and mean and no longer make any cultural sense. Yet they doggedly fight on, hoping to delay the inevitable end until after their lifetime. This is profoundly sad to me. And yet their fight is so repulsive and ugly that I cannot spare much sympathy.

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