Silence speaks

I typically don’t write about politics (for lack of a better word) here (though I am a little less successful on Twitter). It is simply not my schtick and does not particularly fit with style or content here.

Today I’m making an exception. Initially I said little because I know that the marriage equality views of my followers on Twitter align with my own. But a fellow blogger made me realize that silence speaks as loudly as words. A fast food company may have become the flashpoint of controversy, but really the issue is way bigger than that.

I grew up with a very conservative Christian denomination. Though it never came up much in sermons (at least as far as I recall), I grew up “knowing” that homosexuality was a sin in the eyes of God.

However, this denomination was also not a mainstream, evangelical church. The members of the small church I attended were absolutely adamant about the separation of Church and State. I don’t mean that in the way the Christian Right seems to see it these days – “Stay out of our churches… but pass our laws.” This church understood the history of religious, or at least Christian, persecution across centuries, and they recognized that it was very often at the hands of other Christians. The church members I knew were very much opposed to any laws founded in religious doctrine, to the point of opposing Blue laws. And I embraced that philosophy, as well. No matter what my religion had to say on a matter, I believed that we, as a society, had no right to force those doctrines onto others through legislation. So long as another human being was not being harmed, I was opposed to any laws that would prohibit a person’s choice, even though I might not agree with it.

Then I left that church, not long after high school. It was not the result of some crazy or dramatic scene. I just was no longer connected to it. I still carried imprints of some beliefs. I had friends who I knew to be gay, but their sexual orientation didn’t bother me. I didn’t get it, but I didn’t think it was really any of my business.

Then I went to grad school. And somehow or other, I ended up in another very conservative church, though this one was more mainstream and definitely evangelical, and I was part of that church the entire time I was in grad school. There were some very good things about that connection – and what I really mean is, there were some very kind people who provided a support system that I needed at that time. However, a very curious thing happened. The teachings of my childhood faith and my reformation faith collided. Most of the denominations’ core beliefs were the same, or at least very similar: creation, crucifixion, resurrection, second coming… But the doctrines were quite different, sometimes vastly. I read a lot of the Bible as a kid and teen. Plus a high school friend and college roommate was a member of yet another conservative non-evangelical denomination, and over the years, we’d had many civil discussions of what our respective faiths taught. Some things just were not jiving.

I became increasingly uncomfortable with some things I had been taught as a child and with things church leaders were touting as Biblical Truth. My personal views became more liberal. At least that’s what most of the congregants would have called them; I consider them fair and logical. Though my stances changed, the solution finally crystallized one day, I’m not entirely sure when. Perhaps it was the day I sat silently fuming in the chapel while the minister railed against the government giving sin (I don’t recall whether he was commenting on abortion or marriage equality at the time) in a cloak of legality. Their doctrines concerning the morality of other persons’ behavior had nothing to do with the Bible. Oh, yes, they could cite a list of verses to back up their beliefs… then they would ignore a passage two pages over, explaining how that one was wiped out by the New Covenant or a dream an apostle had while the other remained in play because of some parable or (oft out-of-context) words of Jesus or a disciple. But it wasn’t really about the Bible. It was about enforcing the dictates of an individual or select group. It was about what the founders and succeeding leaders – by and large, heteronormative white men – believed to be “righteous living, read, their way of life. But it went beyond that – in most cases, it became about controlling, manipulating, and even oppressing groups they considered inferior. Many will argue, “We don’t believe ourselves superior. I love all of God’s creations, just as Jesus does. But God abhors ________.” It’s the “hate the sin, love the sinner” pulpit, which conveniently ostracizes individuals unlike themselves, persons they deem suspicious, whether it’s someone who is homosexual, a teen pregnant outside of wedlock, a woman who has an abortion, a group of Muslims wanting to build a mosque… I find it a great and nearly inconceivable irony that someone who so readily judges, condemns, and attempts to make legal the punishment and oppression of others cries foul when another opposes that publicly voiced opinion.

This is not an attack against Christianity. It is simply a reflection of my journey, how I came to realize that my bigotry was illogical and unsustainable.

I know many wonderful, caring Christians who accept people for who they are and who are supportive of women’s and LGBT rights. I also know there are non-Christians who are cling to their prejudices as tightly as ultra-conservative religious groups do. This isn’t even about Right vs. Left, as I have discovered some of my otherwise very right-wing friends and family members are as appalled by the opposition to marriage equality as I am.

The current argument is not really about a company and a CEO’s personal opinions made public. The anger and disappointment over an “Appreciation Day” for a fast food company’s political forays derived from the pride people took in lining up to support an organization that is actively giving money to strip U.S. citizens of their rights. The participants are either ignorant of (or simply ignoring) this fact, or they are so attached to their bigotry that they are willing to throw civil rights out the window – as long as it suits their purposes at least. It is particularly galling to that the same people are screaming about their freedom of religion and freedom of speech, which remain intact.

Meanwhile, the rights of the some folks are under attack. I keep using the phrases “marriage equality” and “civil rights”, not “gay marriage” or “gay rights”, because this is about equality. It’s about consenting adults being able to make a public and legally recognized commitment to one another and being able to partake in the same benefits (and burdens) as anyone else. It’s about being able to openly express love for your chosen partner without fear of losing their job* or being degraded. It’s about being able to build a caring, supportive family without someone lobbying that you should not be a parent because of the sex of your partner. We memorize the preamble to our Declaration of Independence as students, we read that “all men are created equal…” And then we learn that, throughout our history, some have been more equal than others. Who we count as equals as a country, through laws and actions, has changed over the last hundred years. We need to keep that change going.

In most cases, I have about as much chance of convincing someone that their justification for discrimination is wrong as they have of convincing me that their justification is valid, i.e. a snowball’s chance in hell. That does not mean that I just sit silently as “friends” and family spout their bigoted viewpoints.

I apologize for my past bigotry. But I am also sorry for the times since that I have listened and quietly fumed at the hatred and disgust espoused by those around me, instead of speaking up.

The time for silence has passed. It’s time to stand up and speak out.

*No, as far as I know, this hasn’t happened at CFA (although the company has been sued by employees fired on alleged gender and religious discrimination). But it is completely legal in over half the United States to fire someone solely on the basis of their sexual orientation.

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2 Responses to Silence speaks

  1. gerty-z says:

    Thanks, Belle. Great post.

  2. Anthea says:

    Yes, thank you for a thoughtful post. I don’t write about politics either on my blog but sometimes as you written, you have to speak up.

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