Saturday, June 14, 2008

Refusing Gay Weddings

Kern County Clerk, Ann Barnett, has canceled a decades-old city hall practice: civil ceremonies in the Clerk's Office.

Barnett initially said her decision to stop the weddings was based on budget constraints and a lack of staff. On Thursday, she said her primary concern was office security because the county's two wedding chapels are inside the elections division, which Barnett also supervises.

"It's not roped off or anything, so people could wander into restricted areas," she said.

But her critics say the facts contradict her explanations. Just 26 couples had requested appointments for marriage licenses by Thursday, Wedell said. And numbers are expected to fall off after the first-day rush, she said.

Clearly, Barnett's position is influenced by her religious convictions. She's a member of RiverLakes Church in Bakersfield, a church traditioned in the evangelical/conservative mode wherein homosexuality is condemned and marriage can be only between a man and a woman. In other words, a church of easy answers and tightly-held corporate convictions wherein diversity is perceived as an educational/spiritual failure. Afterall, when "we're all into Christ and into His Word, we will all agree." Right? Wrong!

I'm into Christ and have been so for the 63 years of my life, and into His Word for 40 years of ministry. I am a Christian, largely evangelical in my theological orientation and liberal in my social commitments. I support ordination for the GLBT person called to ministry and I support his or her right to marriage.

Marriage is a legal association managed by the state to protect us, help us manage our rights, property and estates. It's not about sex and procreation; it's an arrangement that works, at best, 50 percent of the time, but putting it positively, it works 50 percent of the time. And when it works, it provides shelter and comfort - a means whereby adults can love and be loved, and if desired, children reared. Stability, comfort, joy and love. Who doesn't have a right to experience and share these realities. It's all about family!

I've done my Bible homework, and millions of Christians and Jews have done the same and come out in support of the GLBT community.

Churches like RiverLakes have backed themselves into a difficult corner. Diversity cannot be tolerated because their strength resides in their commonness, and having inherited the far-right's political posturing as "living their faith," they constantly feed on their "we're being persecuted" mentality and their harsh division between Christians who believe and "Christians" who are deluded and misled (I would fit into that category). If they were to admit the possibility of me being a Christian of equal place with them, they'd have to come to grips with my views, which, of course, they're unable to do.

I love Jesus, but I'm heartbroken and distressed that for the last 30 years, the far right has held the media limelight, defining the terms and setting the pace. Feeding on their media status, they came to feel utterly right and thoroughly convinced others utterly wrong.

It's changing, I pray, and I pray that Christians and Jews of other persuasions may once again have their day in the sun, not to the exclusion of others, but to bring balance to the religious community, to learn from the evangelicals and help them find the reality and joy of diversity.

Perhaps the day of the megachurch will end as they experience the power of diversity and the subsequent dissolution of their tightly-controlled commonness. As I write, evangelical youth are asking profound questions about their world, and many of them are reluctant to any longer call themselves Evangelicals or even Christian. Many of them are committed to Green theology and, like their culture, are opening their minds and hearts to the GLBT community. Within the evangelical community, warning signs are up all over the place. But I'm not worried - these young people, schooled in their tightly-controlled home-school environments will likely become creative liberals.

Anyway, enough rambling.