William McKenzie: Avoid a holy war over same-sex marriage

04/05/2013 12:00 AM

04/04/2013 5:21 PM

The wait is on now that the U.S. Supreme Court has heard two cases about the constitutionality of same-sex marriage. As the justices’ ruling – expected in June – nears, anxiety will grow for those Americans who fear the ratification of marriage involving gay and lesbian couples.

Trepidation likely will be acute among those whose religious faith informs their views on homosexuality. Polling data shows slightly more than half of the country now approves of same-sex marriages. But that’s not the finding among some conservative Catholic, white evangelical and African-American and Latino believers.

For them, this is not a matter of constitutionality. The issue of gay marriage is one of morality, biblical morality. And they see an affirmation of such marriage as a frontal assault on biblical morality.

I understand that. And those of us who support same-sex marriages should not castigate those who are not where we are – and who may never get there. It certainly took me a long time to embrace the idea.

Still, I would pose a question to those whose faith shapes their views on this subject, especially those of us who are Christians. If churches and the like are not breaking down barriers, creating a sense of wholeness in a fractured world, how will our larger society ever get past its deep polarities?

A society certainly benefits when it chooses reconciliation over discord. Once we make that choice, we start creating a greater sense of the whole.

Early Easter Sunday, I got a glimpse of wholeness as I watched the worshippers of my congregation share in the taking of Communion. There we were, Republican and Democrat, young and old, male and female, white, black and brown, privileged and homeless and, yes, gay and straight, all breaking the same bread and joining in the affirmation of life.

As we closed – singing “Christ is risen! Shout Hosanna!” set to Beethoven’s famous “Ode to Joy” – we were not doing so as members of a political party or because of our socioeconomic standing or as an expression of our sexuality. We were professing together our shared belief in the redemptive story of Easter.

That wonderful hymn describes the power of that story this way:

“Christ is risen! Raise your spirits from the caverns of despair. Walk with gladness in the morning. See what love can do and dare.”

See what love can do and dare. There is the way forward.

Daring to love is what families do when they discover their sons and daughters are gay. Daring to love is what friends do when they embrace someone with a different sexual orientation. And daring to love is ideally what people of faith do when they encounter those who conflict with their deeply held beliefs.

I recognize this is hard work, especially for those who consider homosexuality a sin. But look at the work of Jesus’ ministry. Didn’t he consort with sinners? And isn’t pride the chief transgression of all? Should we therefore drum the proud out of our lives?

I don’t raise these points to suggest all people of faith embrace same-sex marriage. But let us at least believe we are all beloved by God.

Once we do that, we can avoid a holy war over homosexuality come June, no matter how the Supreme Court rules.

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