Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Angela speaks up for same-sex marriage.




Angela was at Harding in the 2000s.  She lives in Searcy, Arkansas and works as an administrative assistant.

***

I had always been told that it was wrong, being gay. It was a phrase that was always a little taboo and said with disgust. "He's a little light in his loafers." "He's got too much sugar in his tea." "He's limp-wristed." I realized there was a lot behind those seemingly innocuous phrases. Since I realized that as a young teen, there had always been something working on me ... I honestly didn't know what I thought about it in terms of being right or wrong, but I knew that it wasn't right to joke about someone's life like that.

At some point after high school, I found out that one of my best friends from elementary school was gay. We came from a small town, and (of course) there had been rumors, but—since he didn't date in our town—we didn't know for sure. I was so grateful when he felt safe enough to share his heart with me. That's probably where my opinion on being gay began to actually form. I had discovered just how much gay people had suffered at the hands of fellow sinners-depending-on-grace … whose most important commandments (from the mouth of Christ himself) were to love God and to love others.

After high school, I went to Harding. I did know gays and lesbians, but—being in the environment of Harding—no one really talked about it. If people were out, they were really only out to a select group of trusted people. And it's sad really ... because I've noticed that the more things are repressed, the worse they're likely to get. (Take one of Harding's rules—drinking for example, though I could be wrong—I noticed that students were more likely to be reckless with the things they had to hide. Things like drinking in private, drunk driving back to the dorm before curfew, etc.)

It just saddens me when anyone feels as though he or she is completely alone. And that's how we have made gay people (Christian or not) feel—that they are filthy, unworthy, savior-less sinners.

How about gluttony? Jesus died for that. Gossiping? Jesus died for that. Premarital sex? Jesus died for that. Idolatry? Taken care of by Jesus! But one man’s love for another man? “Ew,” people say, “Okay, Jesus loves them, but he hates their sin. They just need to change."

It just never made sense to me that one of the mottos of the church is the verse "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," but when it came down to it, we tended to feel that sins committed by straight people weren't making them fall nearly as far as sins by our gay brothers and sisters.

I don't completely disregard the Bible on this topic, as much as people who disagree with me might suspect ... I just don't think it's saying what we've been told it's saying. In all my study, I never got the impression that the words in the Bible for "homosexuality" and "effeminacy" are the same as monogamous, committed gay relationships we have today.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dave speaks up for same-sex marriage



 
David Roger Anderson studied computer science and political science at Harding from 1990 to 1995.  He and his family live in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he works as an Enterprise Architect for Oracle Corporation.

***

I am for same-sex marriage.  I know this is shocking coming from a heterosexual man who grew up in the church of Christ and attended Harding University, but there it is.  My journey to this opinion is not straightforward, and this is not intended to proselytize the reader to agreeing with my view, but hopefully to give you insight into my beliefs.

For the majority of my 41 years, I was a member of the church of Christ.  My parents started taking me to services when I was less than 2 weeks old, a fact that I took great pride in while growing up.  Though I was always taught that we were not a denomination, I’m pretty sure my experience growing up in the church of Christ was very similar to many of the readers of this blog.  Services three times a week, church camp in the summer, potlucks, etc.  I have no animosity toward the church of Christ, and I think it is a brotherhood full of amazing people.  During the course of my life, I found that it was just not right for me.  To me, the teaching that I received from a very early age defined some very rigid boundaries in my ideas about religion.  While I would pay lip service to the idea that we couldn’t earn our way to salvation, in reality I secretly “knew” there was a formula for being saved, and we in the church of Christ had worked it out.

What does this have to do with my view of marriage equality?  Let me answer that question with one of my own?  How many of you reading this post personally know a homosexual man or woman?  If you do, answer this next question … do you love that individual? 

Christians often find events/circumstances to be outraged about and point their righteous indignation at said event or circumstance.  One thing to remember is that opposition to same-sex marriage is not just opposing an extension of an existing institution, but it is stating to individuals in our lives that they don’t deserve the same protections from the law for their relationship that heterosexuals currently enjoy.  If you think you don’t have interactions with homosexuals on a daily basis, you are probably deluding yourself, and your opposition to part of what they feel defines themselves can be extremely painful—making them not want to trust Christians or seek a relationship with Christ. 

This is pretty much at the core of my position around same-sex marriage.  What does my opposition to same-sex marriage say to the individual who is disposed to same-sex attraction?  I’m sure you have heard the phrase, “hate the sin, love the sinner” or some variation thereof, but how many Christians are truly capable of this?  In the case of same-sex attraction, is this even a relevant distinction?  It is one thing to say you hate the lying that a person does, but still love that person … it is quite another thing to take what people view as a defining characteristic of who they are, their sexual identity, and say you “hate” that but love the person.  In my experience with same-sex attracted friends and acquaintances, the two are inextricably linked.

Let me relate my first interaction with someone who was same-sex attracted.  When I left home to attend Harding University, I would say that my belief was that I didn’t know any homosexuals and probably never would.  However, during my sophomore year that all changed.  My roommate that year was a club brother and, after a very serious medical scare, he confessed to me that he was gay.  Oh the thoughts that went through my head…”did he ask me to be his roommate because he thought I was gay?”…”Will other people think I’m gay if they find out about him?”… “Will the administration make assumptions if they find out about him…will I be kicked out of school?”  Yes, these were the thoughts foremost in my mind as my roommate was in the midst of sharing his most closely guarded secret with someone he felt he could trust.  I wish I could go back in time and be a better friend and more importantly a better follower of Christ and care more about him and his needs and not worry so much about how others might perceive me, but we don’t have that luxury.  We can only hope to learn from our experiences, and I hope that I have learned and am living a life more consistent with Christ’s exhortation to love one another. 

He was not the only student at Harding that I learned was same-sex attracted.  The more people I met, the more I began to see a pattern that would be borne out in most of my interactions with same-sex attracted Christians; the feeling that they were inherently less in the eyes of God and in many cases a belief that they should be able to rid themselves of this “condition”, a thought that was reinforced by many well-intentioned Christian organizations.  For the majority of my adult life, these interactions would make me sad for the person who I felt was “struggling with sin,” but wouldn’t impact me much beyond that.  It has only been in the last couple of years that I have attempted to see others through God’s eyes, and in so doing have had to examine how my personal biases have impacted how I respond to people in my life. 

Same-sex attraction was and continues to be considered one of the “big” sins.  At this point, let me throw out another chestnut of Christians, “no sin is greater than any other sin”.  Heard that one before?  Are we capable of actually living that out in your lives?  My guess is that a majority of Christians were a lot like me and had developed their own pecking order of sins.  The pecking order I developed served to help me feel better about my own struggles.  All I had to do was look around for someone doing something higher on the list that I was and immediately feel reassured that I was all right.  Maybe this is unique to me, but personal experience tells me that it’s a bit more common than that.  So, for a minute, let’s truly look at our lives as if all sins were equal, as they in fact are. 

I am not here to make a moral argument one way or the other on homosexuality and am thankful that God reserves judgment for Himself.  Fifty years ago, the scriptures clearly showed that people of different races should not marry and indeed not interact at all.  I’m not saying the same holds true with any scripture related to same-sex relationships, what I am saying is that it is not for us to do the judging.  One of the most prevalent arguments I have encountered is that homosexuality is a lifestyle choice that can’t be excused because the person continues to willfully live in a state of sin.  I would disagree with the word choice in this assertion, but laying that aside let’s look at the fallacy of this argument.  I can pick a plethora of other sins that could be categorized in this same way, but the one that I’m choosing to draw this illustration will likely hit home with a lot of people as it does with me personally.  If I stipulate for a moment that homosexuality is a sinful lifestyle, am I any less guilty of leading a sinful lifestyle by being overweight?  I will admit that there are medical conditions or glandular issues that cause people to be overweight, but I would contend that the overwhelming majority of overweight people are that way because of a lack of self-discipline and a desire to indulge their physical wants.  Don’t a lot of us walk around with visible evidence of living a sinful lifestyle?  Should I be afforded grace because my sinful lifestyle is less distasteful to the majority of Christians than being homosexual?

This was the thing that caused me to open my eyes and heart to a wider world.  My belief system was flawed by my own bias and systematic training that I had received from childhood to see some people as less worthy of God’s love and salvation than others.  Our opposition to what is in reality a secular/civic issue speaks volumes to people about the limits that we place on God’s love and His redemptive power.  We couch our objections in the sanctity of marriage and it being an institution that was ordained by God, but do we really believe these things or do we just find homosexuality distasteful?  If we were truly concerned with the sanctity of marriage, wouldn’t we oppose the marriages of atheists, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, or other groups because they do not believe in God the same way that we believe in God.  When viewed from this perspective, aren’t we really saying that we don’t want gays to be married because we think their love is evil and shouldn’t be acknowledged?  Is that the love that Christ calls us to?  I’m not saying you have to support same-sex marriage, but the next time you are in a discussion about this or in prayer about this, think about how loving your homosexual brother/sister would be much more productive for the Kingdom and might ease the burden of loneliness and isolation that someone might be bearing alone.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Shawn speaks up for same-sex marriage





Shawn Morgan attended Harding from 1985 to 1990 and now lives in Georgia.

***

I grew up in a Christian home with Christian parents.  My mother and father actually attended my alma mater, Harding University.  They met there, married there, and soon started a family.  My dad gave up everything to be a minister, so starting at age 7, I was surrounded by religion.  The only boy of three children, my dad always hoped I would follow in his footsteps.  In some respects, I did.  I went to his university.  I pledged his social club.  I even majored in Bible (very briefly). 

But, you see, I carried a burden starting at the age of 9.  I knew I was different.  I spent many hours hoping, praying and even avoiding a part of me.  You see, I am gay.  I am 45 years old, and it wasn’t until I was 25 before I could actually say, “I’m gay.”

I look back and realize how foolish I was to think praying would make the gay go away.   Today, I am in a healthy relationship of 18 years with the man I love.  I realize that most church of Christ people won’t or can’t understand that.  I do, and I surround myself with other believers who do understand.  Not every God-fearing Christian takes issue with gays and gay marriage. 

Today, my parents are much more open.  (Secretly, I think they might have even voted for Hillary Clinton.)  But it took lots of time and healing on both sides for us to come back together.  I know my parents hoped I would marry a nice Christian woman, have children and become a preacher, but that didn’t happen. 

When people want to debate the definition of marriage, I encourage them to remember, you aren’t required be religious to be married.  You aren’t required to be married.  So why should you be required to be of the opposite sex?  Marriage isn’t about religion.
 
Today, I’ve come to realize I am blessed with being gay. I am proud to have spoken the powerful words: "I do," with my husband during the brief time it was legal in California. This summer we will make those vows again before family and friends and receive the blessing of our Church. However, without marriage equality, we are simply viewed as friends living together with a barely-recognized Georgia partnership agreement drawn up. In one state we are married, and in another we are nothing. We are legally required to file separate taxes. Without national marriage equality, there are countless relationships across the US that will constantly be in flux, always being treated differently based simply upon the state the couple happens to be residing in or passing through at any given moment.

I will close with an important point.  In 1977, my father refused to marry an interracial couple.  That’s something that is unheard of today, but was prevalent back in the day.  Women don’t cover their heads in church, and there are a plethora of other laws found in the Bible that are no longer followed by modern-day believers.   With some issues we find it easy to say that culture has evolved, but with others we choose to stick to the letter of the law.  How are those decisions made?  Why are some considered eternal laws and others considered temporary?

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Natasha speaks up for same-sex marriage.



 
Natasha attended Harding in the 1990s, majoring in political science.  She is a United Methodist pastor who lives in Benton, Arkansas.

***

I support same-sex marriage. My denomination has mixed views of support. The official stance of the United Methodist Church is that homosexuality is incompatible to our beliefs. As a UM pastor, I am not allowed to officiate same-sex marriages or allow them to take place in our church.

I think my viewpoint of same-sex marriages may have become a bit stronger while teaching political science and having students address that issue. We were studying DOMA (defense of marriage act), and I asked my students if this act was necessary and did it impede on the rights of others especially as it relates to the “Full Faith and Credit Clause” in the US constitution (Article IV section 1). In summary this article says that states must recognize other legal documents by other states. For example, birth certificates, any public record ... marriage licenses.

If a couple were to get married in Rhode Island, shouldn't their marriage also be recognized in other states? I also illustrated that when my husband and I moved or traveled from state to state, we were not required to re-marry or reapply for a marriage license. Therefore, does not this act and others violate the “Full Faith and Credit Clause?”  The point of the exercise was to prove that DOMA was unconstitutional.

Many of my students thought homosexuals as vile, sick people who were lost and nasty. They would often use derogatory language in reference to their relationships, etc. It was horrible. Horrible because there were open and closeted students who attended the college where I taught. Many were student leaders and actively involved in the student body in fraternities and sororities. (Homosexuality in the black community is heavily frowned upon.) Ultimately they were unable to see how DOMA was unconstitutional and violated a civil right for those in same-sex relationships.

I honestly am shocked that it has taken so long for groups to challenge DOMA. Perhaps my view of same-sex marriages would be different if I did not believe that we are all created in the image and likeness of God. My growth as a pastor has helped me to encounter relationships with many same-sex couples who are in amazing relationships that reflect God's love. I don't think my denomination will agree about homosexuality or same-sex marriage. Currently, my conference is exploring ways of creating dialogue that is healthy and affirming of both sides.