Thursday, January 22, 2009

Why Do We Hate?

Seriously, why do we? What is the anatomy of hate?

We hate what we fear, and we fear what we don't know or understand.

The collective Right has been flooding the media with President Obama's "homosexual" agenda. As a Christian, I have a strong distate for some of Obama's policy stances, but affording equal rights to all Americans is not one of them.

Filed under "Civil Rights" on the White House web site is a section entitled Support for the LGBT Community. A quote from then-Senator Obama introduces the section:

"While we have come a long way since the Stonewall riots in 1969, we still have a lot of work to do. Too often, the issue of LGBT rights is exploited by those seeking to divide us. But at its core, this issue is about who we are as Americans. It's about whether this nation is going to live up to its founding promise of equality by treating all its citizens with dignity and respect."
-- Barack Obama, June 1, 2007

There are a couple of items on the list that I think are striking fear in the hearts of conservative folks, namely the areas of civil unions/same-sex marriage and adoption rights for the LGBT community.

Civil Unions are "non-marriage" agreements (recognized by most municipalities) between couples. For some reason, heterosexual couples get the same equal protection rights (employer health care and other employer benefits, property rights, emergency medical caretaker rights, etc.) as married couples, but this is denied to same-sex couples. Christians seem fine with this one-sided agreement because it doesn't appear to throw off their moral compass too much.

However, if one really wants to get nit-picky, how is supporting rights for a non-married same-sex couple living together any less "sinful" than supporting rights for non-married opposite-sex couples? According to Biblical standards, they're both wrong, since neither is "married." As Christians, we're taught "don't live together unless you're married," so Christians should be anti-civil unions across the board, regardless of the gender make-up of the couples, right? That makes us seem like religious radicals, so we cop out and say, "well, I guess it's tolerable as long as it's a man and a woman."

The next one on the list is the Constitutional Amendment to ban same-sex marriage. The Constitution has a long history of being used to grant rights, not take them away. The only time in our history that a Constitutional Amendment has been implemented to remove rights was in 1919, when the 18th Amendment was ratified to prohibit the manufacture, sale, or transportation of liquor in the United States. 14 years later, it was abolished with the 21st Amendment.

Then-Senator Obama had an interesting perspectve on this in the Saddleback Presidential Forum, held by Pastor Rick Warren at his church:

I am not somebody who promotes same-sex marriage, but I do believe in civil unions...I think my faith is strong enough and my marriage is strong enough that I can afford those civil rights to others, even if I have a different perspective or different view.

The final one is around expanded adoption rights. Personally, I've gone back and forth on this one. I don't really know what the Bible would say on it, so if anyone has any insight, please feel free to share. Basically, the premise is that President Obama wants to ensure that same-sex couples are able to adopt children.

As a Christian who doesn't approve of that lifestyle, I would be tempted to say that same-sex adoption may place the child in a confusing and complicated situation where they would see things that I find morally wrong.

However, as a pragmatist, I think it's important to look at the other side of foster care and adoption and really look at what's best for the children. About 35% of children are removed from foster care scenarios because of physical or sexual abuse or denial of health services. In adoption cases, statistics for abuse and mistreatment are frighteningly high. What's the benefit of placing a child in an adoptive situation with abusive opposite-sex persons versus loving same-sex persons? I don't really know any statistics either way, but I would tend to think that a loving environment wins every time.

If a child is in an adoption scenario, chances are they've already undergone circumstances beyond the comprehension of most people reading this--death of caretakers, abusive parents or foster parents, or some form of neglect or child endangerment.

Most foster kids never get adopted; they grow up in orphanages without ever experiencing the love of a family. Children that aren't adopted have higher rates of suicide and violence. Why wouldn't we do anything possible to avoid those negative outcomes?

There aren't easy answers to any of these questions, but I think we should all ask, what would Jesus do, and what would He want us to do?

With the woman who was accused of adultery, Jesus didn't say, "Let her have it!" He said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Jesus hung around the tax collectors and sinners of the day. He didn't approve of their lifestyles, but didn't fear and hate them, either. He hung around the holier-than-thous and chastised them for being so legalistic and missing the big picture. He didn't discriminate against theives or adulterous women; he treated them all with a level of respect due any human.

I'm not necessarily pro-gay rights or pro-LGBT community rights. But I am pro-equal human rights, because I think Jesus is, too.


  1. With all due respect, what you should be asking is "why do people cherry pick out of their respective religious texts?"

  2. I think most people do, and I'm probably no different. Some label it as interpretation, but it's all the same. As a regular church attender, it's incredibly difficult to strike the right balance between "interpretation" and "legalism." I'm more of a "spirit of the law" kind of guy. Some things in the Bible are crystal clear, some are left to interpretation. Of the Old Testament law, Jesus said that you can basically throw it out because it's summed up in two sentences--love God with all your heart, and love your neighbor as yourself.

    IMO, everything else not explicitly defined is left to interpretation. There's parts where it says church leaders should be held to certain standards and that women shouldn't speak in church. Some of those, I think are hard and fast (pastors should have one wife, for example) but I think some of them were more cultural (women's place in society as a whole was drastically different 2,000 years ago) and are given to reasonable modern interpretation.

    I'm no scholar, but I don't recall anywhere in the Bible where it says same-sex couples shouldn't be able to adopt. It does say "take care of widows and orphans," but doesn't surround it with verbiage to indicate you have to be heterosexual to do so.

    Likewise with the concept of civil unions. The Bible says that a man should "cleave" to his wife. Circa the beginning of the world, there wasn't a justice of the peace to ratify a marriage, but I'm presuming there was some sort of agreement between man, woman, and God. While the institution of marriage comes from God (and the construct of a married couple was pretty clear with Adam and Eve), the legal implementation of it is 100% secular. There are some folks who go so far as saying that the state should never be involved in a marriage ceremony, making their marriage (in the eyes of the state) really a "civil union."

    It's all muddy. Can't we just all get along?