26 February 2014

A God Complex | Fundamental AND Fabulous?

Can we talk for a second?

I mean, set aside the paint brushes and measuring cups, and REALLY talk.

Can we do that?

          For just a minute?

                    Because I’m struggling to understand something and I need your help.

It’s about God. G-O-D. The big guy.
God, and also the gays. And why, in the minds and hearts of many, those two hands can’t come together.
*   *   *

So yesterday George Takei posted this on his Facebook fan page:

Two things–
ONE | I realize the Arizona state legislature no more represents 100% of the Arizona population than does Stephen Harper represent 100% of Canadians. (To be clear: Stephen Harper does NOT represent 100% of Canadians. Not even close.) So folks in Arizona, please don’t take offense. It’s a generalized message and if it doesn’t apply to you, let it be said that it doesn’t apply to you; and,
TWO | If you're not following George Takei on Facebook, you SHOULD BE. He’s glitter-bomb level of awesome.
It’s a polarizing image/comment and honestly, it’s designed to rattle cages. We can probably agree on that. And rattle it did: last time I checked there were 6,316 comments on that thread (I'm sure there's way more now), and just as many detractors (of the gay community, of gay rights, of George Takei) as there were supporters. There’s too many to read all of them but it’s a decent enough sample size that I ascertained the following:
Folks, it would seem, fall into five distinct camps around the “gay issue”. They are:
One | ALLIES & SUPPORTERS. Folks who are incredibly, passionately, tirelessly, sometimes defensively and vitriolically, vocal and active in their efforts to support and equitize the community.

Two | DEFENDERS OF THE REALM. Those who use carefully selective and edited sections of scripture as weapons to impose and justify their moral authority, and who feel empowered by their belief system to regulate (and legislate) the behavior of others on God’s behalf.
Three | FEAR BITERS. These are the dudes (sorry, dudes everywhere, but it’s true: they’re mostly dudes) who fear the “gay agenda” and believe (sincerely? Not?) that the gay community is on a single-minded mission to destroy everything these dudes hold sacred: the sanctity of marriage, a “traditional” value system, the moral fabric of society and even the will of God on earth. They also seem to be under the impression the gays are trying to “turn” everyone else fabulous, too. They are intractable in their opinions, and snap at anyone who proposes an idea or opinion contrary to their own, to the point of rabidity (and, frequently, stupidity.)

Four | LIVE-&-LET-LIVE'rs. Most notably characterized by their, “Hey man, if they’re not having sex with me, it’s not my business who they’re sleeping with (or marrying, or adopting), as long as it’s a consensual relationship between two adults. I’ll mind my business, they can mind theirs and you can mind yours. Just let people be happy!”

Five | FUNDAMENTALISTS. Not the bible thumpers – NOT Defenders of the Realm. By “fundamentalists” I mean the ones who are secure enough in themselves, in their faith and in their God, not to feel threatened by opposing points of view. They are the ones who take the fundamental teachings of Jesus to heart, and do their best to preach AND practice what seems to be the central tenet of Christianity: be kind to people – be good – and let God do the judging.

Before you get all worked up, obviously these are pretty general, and it’s totally possible there are many more categories (or less?). It’s also possible that lots of people straddle fences between one or more of these camps. I’m no expert, these are just my observations. Feel free to share your thoughts on these categories and more in the comments section (I’m trying to open a dialogue, so comment away!)

I don’t really believe in absolutes – life is more of a spectrum. For the record, though, I’m a Live-and-Let-Live’r. In my view: people are people. Dignity, respect and love doesn’t require a disclosure of sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity or political affiliation. Everyone is deserving in equal measure.

That being said, it’s easy for me to hold this view: I don’t hold with religion – I don’t believe in God. So I acknowledge that for those who do, this is a vastly more complex affair.

I wasn’t raised in a church community, though I did attend Sunday school for a spell when I was little. We made cutouts of Jesus and the apostles and glued them to popsicle sticks to make holy puppetry. We built dioramas of the resurrection in old shoe boxes left over from the church rummage sales, with little plasticene Mary Magdalene’s and torn up t-shirt scraps for the shroud. We sat in a circle and held hands and sang hymns, and memorized the Lord’s Prayer and the Golden Rule. But my participation was less about giving me religion than it was about giving my mum a morning off. She was a single parent who worked two jobs, and just wanted one day – a single day – to sleep in. It was free babysitting that came with its own transportation system to bus me back and forth.

It was short-lived, and in the end it didn’t take.

Then when I was 11, my two younger cousins and I were baptized as a trio. I wore a hunter green kilt and white knee socks, and a turquoise knit sweater shot through with silver thread. I looked AWESOME. I rocked that baptism, fashion-wise. There was cake. I was given a gold cross on a thin chain (which I promptly lost, because I was an irresponsible douche) and a book of prayers for girls with a cream-coloured leather cover with pink writing, and gold embossed pages. I kept it for years but never cracked it open, not even once. Unless I was in trouble, praying was never really my jam. And praying seriously didn’t ever cross my mind.
So now it’s many (many, many) years later, and I don’t give much thought to what I “am” in a religious context. If pressed, I suppose I would label myself an agnostic. I believe in a higher power guiding us along, but the idea of an elderly gentleman with flowing white robes and a long white beard perched up in the clouds giving us the hairy eyeball day-in and day-out just doesn’t jive with me. I believe in energy, in a life force. Fate. The Universe. Whatever you want to call it, it doesn’t look like Santa Claus in a muumuu, you know? (This sounds sarcastic – maybe even mocking. I don’t mean it to, and I’m not making fun if you do believe He’s up there, looking down. It’s just, for me, it’s similar to the myth of Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny: fanciful, and destined to be outgrown. But believing in a Universal force makes no sense either, nor that ghosts exist, and I believe in both. So belief is belief and faith is faith, and make no mistake: I respect yours.)

But let’s, for the sake of argument, say there really IS a God. An actual God, sitting up there in Heaven looking down on us mere mortals through His telescopic Eye.

What if?

Well first of all, I have some major kissing up to do. Awkward. But otherwise, what must He be thinking about a debate that continues to rage around who should be allowed to love whom, and marry whom, and serve whom, and employ whom, and adopt whom?
This is where I get stuck in the logic, and mired in the rhetoric. I need help understanding, because isn’t the idea that all people are made in His image? Isn’t the idea that God loves everyone, even the sinners*? Especially the sinners?

Isn’t the idea that God represents love, and friendship, and kindness, and forgiveness, and redemption?

It seems to me that if God, and Jesus too, can love the sinners – even the murderers, even the thieves and the liars and the adulterers – then He can find it in Himself to love the gay community.
And if He can, why is it so difficult for so many who follow Him?

In my opinion marriage is an agreement; it’s a legally binding contract. It’s religious only insofar as the two individuals bound by that contract are religious. I believe this because – as I said – I don’t believe in God and am not religious, yet I’m married. My eligibility for marriage was never in question (so far as I know) regardless of our omission of God in the proceedings. So if marriage is a contract between two parties, what jurisdiction does the Bible have to dictate the gender of those two parties? At the risk of sounding super unromantic: it’s just business, baby.
I’ve also heard it said that traditional families are the best kind of families; the cornerstones of society. That children need a mother and a father, full stop. But lots of kids are raised by single parents of one or the other gender, or by grandparents, or by the State, and the vast majority of them turn out just fine (myself among them, I like to think.) In my view, the best kind of families are the ones who love each other. A roof over their head, food in their belly and love in their heart is all a kid really needs to grow up successfully, and lots of gay couples I know have that in spades. Some would say that kids of gay parents have an unfair disadvantage to overcome; they’ll be singled out, bullied. Maybe so. I don’t know really. But a male/female nesting couple doesn’t guarantee an adversity-free upbringing.

Does it?

And finally, what of legislation that supports the rights of business owners to refuse service to people based on their sexual orientation? I understand it’s only a proposal right now, and I think I understand the motivations behind it. No one likes doing things that make them uncomfortable. I get that. At its heart, though, at least in my view, it’s a proposal for legislated discrimination. It’s no different than saying, “Serving coffee to black/Hispanic/Baptist/Catholic/Muslim/disabled/diseased individuals in my establishment goes against my religion,” which, we can agree, is discriminatory.
Or do we agree? I don’t know any more. I think it’s a slippery slope, but is it really?

Side note: How will a proprietor know who is gay and who is not? I mean, yes, if you burst inside an establishment in a blaze of rainbow flags and glitter-bombs and short-shorts, it might be easy to infer. But otherwise… ? Is this a slippery slope to registration? To pink stars? I know it sounds extreme – and probably inflammatory – but all the great social injustices started somewhere, didn’t they, in communities who thought they were innocuous. How does this differ?

I don’t have all the answers; I hardly have any of them. My opinions are what they are based on the information I have, but I’m always learning. I want to learn more, from every perspective, which is why I’m asking you.
What do you think?

          How do you feel about gay rights, and why?

                    Where and how can we find middle ground?

It’s a sensitive issue, I know. It’s probably vastly inappropriate for the Money Pit, and I’ve probably offended a bunch of folks too, which I’m sorry about if so. Daryn told me categorically it was a bad idea to post this, but I don’t think so. The blogging community comes together on so much, I think we can come together on this too. We may not agree at the end of the day but it will make us better people to better understand opposing perspectives, don't you think?
So… let’s talk, just for a second. Can we?

*PS- I don’t think the LGBTQ community are sinners. I’m just using that term in the context of a religious perspective. Please don't freak out. xo