As you already know, June 26th saw the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges- an agonizingly boring name for what was one of the most momentous decisions in American legal history.
Effectively legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states, the ruling was met by many Americans with resounding applause and celebration that often seemed to border on being downright aggressive.
But we’re not here to talk about that. Nor are we here to talk about the outcries and horror and disgust from the ever-dwindling minority of marriage equality opponents. At least- not the nutjobs.
The pastor who promised to set himself on fire if the ruling was made (though he swiftly retracted that oath), the folks claiming that gays cause hurricanes, the ones who hold up picket signs reading “God hates Fags!”-
-these are not the people I want to talk about.
I’m referring to the non-crazy (but by no means less angry) rank and file of the opposition here. Your conservative uncle. Your Wesleyan Aunt. Folks who’d never shriek obscenities, or claim the impending wrath of God, but who’d still shake their heads sadly and call this ruling a “tragedy” or “evidence of our culture’s moral free-fall”.
I could spend all day posting these, but you get the idea. Chances are that if you have any Christian friends or family, your news feed has already been flooded with these things. And before anyone starts getting antsy, no, I’m not going to try to sit here and present some counter-argument. At this point, I doubt there’s even anything left to say.
The arguments in favor of same-sex marriage (or at the very least, arguments against its prohibition) have been laid out time and again, with every metaphor and analogy under the sun. Hypocrisy, church and state, secularism, basic issues of personal freedom- you name it, it’s been said (and on this very blog as well).
The fact that there are still folks out there who are resistant to marriage equality is not what ultimately bothers me.
This, however, does:
The outcry, the resistance, even the passive irritation in the way of Facebook status updates- it’s been going on for a while and it centers almost universally on the subject of gay marriage. And for the the sake of the argument (and just for the sake of argument), let’s assume that gay marriage really and truly is an affront to heaven and the natural order.
Isn’t poverty as well?
Isn’t false imprisonment? War? Pollution? Environmental degradation? Slavery?
So where’s the outcry? The outrage? The tearful pleas to the almighty for truth, justice, and salvation?
The folks up above call for prayer and God’s grace in this “awful time”. They call for spiritual re-awakening and solidarity across the country. But not for the widows and orphans, not for the wretched and downtrodden, but because gays can now obtain scraps of paper and certain tax regulations.
And make no mistake, that’s what’s being said here. “I think gay marriage is a greater sin, a greater injustice, than slavery, abject poverty, and the horror of war.” Hell, all three of these combined- would they even come close to rivaling the outraged FB statuses on last month’s Supreme Court ruling?
I doubt it.
The only conclusion that can be reached here is that, for many, many Christians, these issues are simply not as pressing. A homeless guy freezing to death in an alley is not as important to the flocks of the faithful as keeping gays from marking certain boxes on their W-4 forms.
Now some of you might be outraged by that accusation.
“Gordon,” you might argue, “That’s just because gay marriage has recently become a battleground”.
Shut the **** up.
There were homeless people freezing to death long before gay marriage was on anyone’s radar, and there still wasn’t even a tenth of the outcry. We can’t pretend that this is just an issue of relevance, it’s an issue of fundamental priorities (the protection of the poor, the widows, the orphans not being one of them for what seems to be the vast majority of Western Christians). The subculture has apparently entered into an unspoken arrangement where three or four verses about gays outrank the hundreds and hundreds on protecting creation and these the least of your brothers.
Now to the folks who I’m sure I might be outraged by these vicious statements, yes, you could point to the many Christian-funded and Christian-run outreaches for these issues. Christian men and women have (and presently do) a lot of good in terms of addressing these problems. That said, there just don’t seem to be enough of them to really outweigh the tantrums and gnashing of teeth that come from the average self-styled “believer”. At any given time there a hundreds of atrocities- both within this country and without- which dwarf that of the supposed abomination that is same-sex marriage, but on these issues the church is largely silent as a whitewashed tomb. We’re supposed to throw ourselves upon God’s mercy for the “sin” of same-sex marriage, but when it comes to our treatment of the earth and all within it, I guess the good lord just looks the other way.
And that’s the kicker.
A report from the Public Religion Research Institute indicates that over two thirds of young Christians believe the church is placing too much emphasis on sexuality. One third of young Christians surveyed, the Huffington Post reports, assert that they left the church because of the religion’s anti-gay policies. When there are more slaves presently than at the height of the Atlantic trade, when over 600,000 Americans are homeless, when the number of refugees around the world has hit an all time high, it can’t be hard to understand the hypocrisy and distorted values the church seems to have.
The thing is that I believe a lot of these folks complaining are correct.
I do believe that on June 26th, religion took a grievous blow. But that injury did not come from the Supreme Court or from the supporters of marriage equality. It was at the hands of the church itself, and the body of Christ will keep hacking away at itself unless, by some miracle, it manages to put down the sword and pick up the ploughshare.
An absolutely accurate calling-out of the misplaced focus of your average believer, and certainly something I’ve wrestled with myself.