The largest denomination of the church of my birth Tuesday formally recognized same sex marriage as right and officially changed its definition of marriage to “two people” and not the archaic “man and woman” claim that, I feel, misuses religion to promote prejudice and homophobia.
I am a member of the Presbyterian Church USA which joined the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, the Quakers, the Unitarian Universalist Association of Churches and, in Judaism, the Reform and Conservative movements, in formally recognizing gay marriage. The debate within the largest faction of the Presbyterian Church has been a long-time coming.
Amy and I were married by a Presbyterian minister in Alton, Illinois 24 years ago. Sadly, the Presbyterian Church co-founded so many years ago by my grandparents in Floyd County publicly withdrew from the Presbyterian Church USA over the issue early in the debate. With regret, I had to walk away from that church because I could not support what I felt was anti-gay rhetoric. We continue to maintain our membership at the Presbyterian church that we served before moving to the area.
Presbyterian Church USA’s decision Tuesday will, no doubt, spark an influx of anti-gay and homophobic propaganda, especially among the hard-core right wing that feels it has misguided religious and political directives to ignore a practice that is now the law of the land in most American states and, most public opinion polls establish, the will of the the people of this land.
The right to marry should be a labor of love but those who oppose gay marriage choose to ignore such emotion and focus, instead, on certain sexual acts that are used by some gay couples. Those who trot out claims about “deviations” of such acts ignore the fact that such enjoyable sexual acts are regularly practice by a majority of male-female couples of this nation.
It is also incredible that religious zealots who claim that every word of the Bible is dogma and must be followed without question ignores the historical reality is that the book is a often misquoted document that has suffered in translations over the centuries. It is both questionable and hilarious that some ministers, who work on the day of worship and draw a salary for that work, ignore another Bible directive that whose who work “on the Sabbath” shall be “put to death.” Depending on translations, those who engage in homosexuality, also face death, usually by stoning.
Such pronouncements, of course, are based on interpretations written by men who claimed to be quoting the “word of God” but which, in most cases, were little more than words reported by others who were passing on what they were told that, may or may not, have been actual quotes of any deity. Religion, of course, is based primarily on beliefs passed down over centuries by generations and such beliefs are subject to biases and both interpretation and misinterpretation.
I’m a 67-year-old heterosexual man who enjoyed what I considered healthy physical relationships with women during my single days in the 1060s and 70s. In college, I dated a woman who now is married to another woman. They are good friends. I dated a bi-sexual woman and she shared her attentions intimately with me and her female partner. They taught me a lot. Amy and I enjoy each each others company and our relationship probably violates some religious dogmas and possibly even some state laws but what we do in our private lives is our business and not under the control or political agendas or religious zealotry.
We know married gay couples who have served our nation in combat. I worked with and am friends with a former New River Valley police chief who served the community. They and so many others represent our society with pride. Who they might love or support should not be an issue. Calling any of them out as “sinners” is, in my opinion, an ultimate practice of anti-Christian bias. Using them as pawns in a political agenda is purely unpatriotic.
Perhaps it is time to resurrect an old cliche from the 60s: It’s time to make love, not war.