Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Ramadan 2003: Day #24

Day 24: Wednesday, November 19, 2003
A rainy, wet, dark day. But one that also came with a realization.
A recent court case in Massachusetts has placed the issue of civil-unions, and more specifically, gay-marriage into the social-political debate. Pundits wonder whether or not this political hot-potato will go off in the upcoming campaign. A recent NPR news story said that whoever raises the issue first tends to be the first to get hit in the face by it. Other commentators mentioned that while conservatives and right-wing Republicans might rally around something like a Defense of Marriage Act and bristle at the notion of gay-marriage, it would be very difficult for them to come out in the open to fight for this issue without sounding like bigots.
I actually wasn’t so sure. I’ve lived most of my life “out in the open” and have heard all sorts of bigoted, racists, close-minded, and hurtful comments that I thought would have been weeded out a long time ago, if not by government interventions, than by religion, social mores, or some kind of notion of civil decency.

Last night, as I walked in the rain through the parking lot of a nearby grocery looking for my parked car, several locals passed me by. My locale came into slow focus and I realized how racially diverse an area I live in, despite the fact that one might mistake our part of Loudoun County as just another fairly affluent, conservative, suburbia of Northern VA.

I also reflected on the fact that at least half of my parish is made up of interracial couples—many of them “white/asian” like Eileen and myself. Most of the time, I never think of Eileen and myself as interracial and I’ve only started thinking of us as inter-faith because my pastoral identity and ministerial focus emphasizes a theology that takes that distinction seriously.

It had never really occurred to me to label couples on any deep and judgmental way based on the fact that there was a marked difference either between themselves (say by race) or between them and my own marital relationship. My suspicion is that the increase in interracial couples is probably because these people too have grown up in a generation that wasn’t terribly oppressed or confined by such a regimented notion of who could marry whom. Nevertheless not less than one or two generations ago, or perhaps even now in some household somewhere, this STILL is a divisive issue.

And I wondered to myself, if perhaps in another generation, I might look around my parish setting and note Betty Anne and Ilse, or Rob and Andrew, as couples. And it would take me a moment, as it did with these other couples, to see through all kinds of layers and say—oh, that’s one of our gay couples—and have that mean no more than some other description, and perhaps much less than the fact that they too, like others amongst us, stand side by side, hand in hand, in love, in service, in faith with us.

No, I don’t know if this issue will be a divisive one with any traction in this election. I know that people like to rally behind something that gives them a sense of identity or power, and nothing feels as alluring as self-righteousness or moral superiority. People, for all kinds of reasons, like to bring their faiths to bear upon issues of social value or point to social statistics for interpretation.
But again and again I am struck by the tactics that set up a world in which that which is inalienable to humanity is categorized as privileged and reserved by the few for their chosen. I am further incensed by the rather paltry logic and rhetoric that is used to justify claims that have more to do with protection out of fear, biologism as faith, or life as a social science experiment, which lacks the understanding of the grave human injustices such ill-conceived tactics bring down upon us all.
The Glory of God is the human fully alive!
We ought to be ministers to this
Not gatekeepers to our own image.

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