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ASK MJ: CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIANS AND GAY RIGHTS, LIVING TOGETHER IN PEACE

Maureen,

How can Christians–especially conservative ones–help people see that they’re not all hateful bigots? Or I guess another way to ask is, how can someone share opposing views and feelings without being categorized as an evil/horrible/awful person?

Now my reason for asking: I admire the way you show support for LGBTQ (is that right?) without being unkind/hateful to those who don’t agree. The way you’ve tackled other tricky issues with common sense on your blog makes me think you could touch on this in a way that brings understanding, not hate.

I’m from Utah and was raised Mormon, a very conservative Christian religion. I have many gay friends, both in Utah and around the world, and I adore them all without consideration of their sexuality. I don’t think I’ll ever abandon the basic Christian values I was taught, but I’m completely torn on what I think of homosexuality. The contrast of avoiding sin and loving/accepting everyone makes it an interesting moral dilemma, and I’m sure I’m not the only one.

It concerns me, though, that in the effort to bring equal rights/privileges to LGBTQ, those with an opposing viewpoint–most notably conservative Christians–are being categorized as hateful bigots. There are definitely wackos out there who are like that, on both sides really, but I’m really seeing a lot of hateful language thrown at those with conservative morals/values/whatever you want to call it. It’s to the point where I see a person identifying himself online as a Christian being immediately bashed and verbally abused. I saw one man today being called a Nazi and other horrific things because he opposed gay marriage, even though that man had made a reasoned argument for his position and wasn’t attacking the opposition.

I guess what I’m saying is that I fear reasonable and respectful dialog on this issue–as well as other important ones–is being prevented by both sides villainizing the other. If you have advice on that, please share.

I got this letter the other day and have not stopped thinking about it since. I have so much empathy for someone in your position, and it’s so great to talk to people who are open, questioning, and striving to do good.

I’m not going to be so presumptuous as to talk to you about your own religion. It’s not my place to tell you how to have a relationship with your chosen religion and with God. I can only address this issue from my own heart and belief system. And though I’m not a conservative Christian, I don’t see that the two necessarily clash.

I think that comment about the “Nazi” requires CONTEXT.

There’s not a gay person I know who hasn’t been told they were damned at some point or other. In fact, the insults and threats of eternal damnation are so common that most gay people I know have had to develop a thick skin for these things. But there’s more than that. There’s the fear of rejection from family members and friends, the attempts at intimidation, the physical violence . . .

And then there’s the absolutely bald fact that in most states, gay people can’t marry the person they love. They can’t have the same, totally basic American right as other American citizens. They pay taxes. They contribute to society in all of the same ways. They are Americans not allowed to live as Americans. And the American system is unambiguous on this point—we all have freedom of religion, and no one, NO ONE, is subject to anyone else’s religious laws. This gives you the freedom to be Mormon. You would never be subjected to the laws of any other religion.

Which is why banning gay marriage doesn’t hold up.  You can’t base an American law on any interpretation of any religion. This doesn’t mean that people who have a religious objection have to LIKE it—it just means that that particular objection doesn’t have a place in the law.

Simply imagine it. Imagine that heterosexual couples were not permitted to marry. Imagine that, every time you tried to demand that right, people of another religion (or even a different branch of YOUR religion) selectively cited their main religious text (or yours), told you you were disgusting and damned, and that you didn’t have that right. Then you replied that America isn’t based on that religion, and they just ignored you. Imagine having to justify everything about yourself and your relationship to every random person you met.

Sounds crazy, right? But that’s exactly what’s happening. So when gay people see yet another seemingly well-meaning person give his or her argument against gay marriage . . . I think you can understand why they might be a little fed up. Those who respond calmly have to take an extremely deep breath and try, for probably the hundredth time, maybe the thousandth time, to explain why they should get the same rights as anyone else.

I realize that since you wrote this thoughtful letter you totally GET all of that—I’m just suggesting that, however distasteful it is when someone snaps and uses a word like “Nazi”, it comes from a place of pain. Does it help? No. But when people hurt they sometimes have to shout a little to release that pain.

When you say: “I saw one man today being called a Nazi and other horrific things because he opposed gay marriage, even though that man had made a reasoned argument for his position and wasn’t attacking the opposition.”

. . . it’s like saying, “The man made a reasoned argument on why gay people deserve fewer rights and should be treated differently than other Americans.” That the opposition of gay marriage is, in and of itself, an attack on people’s rights and their human dignity.

I’m 100% sure the man in question wasn’t sitting around his house, twirling his evil moustache, thinking up ways to hurt other people . . . but that’s what that “reasoned argument” does. The fact that it’s “reasoned” is almost worse. Historically, cool, “reasoned” arguments have been made to justify all kinds of things that we would recoil from now. You may have thought the man in question was harmlessly voicing a view—but that view has been converted into laws that break hearts, that leave gay teenagers feeling hopeless, that separate families and loved ones. That law keeps devoted partners apart when they are ill or dying. Those words you thought were so reasoned and mild have sharp edges that cut very deep. That’s where the harsh comments come from.

Do people like you—Christians who care, who make it your mission to live out the tenets of your faith, who really think about what they believe and why they believe it—deserve to be called Nazis? No. But was injury done with that reasoned argument? It really was. I would suggest (with respect) that the suffering caused by a thoughtless comment on the internet is far less than the suffering of being refused a life with a loved one, a family, and all of the benefits owed by the society in which you are a member.

WHICH IS NOT TO SAY that’s it’s cool, either, largely because it does nothing to further this incredibly important argument. It might bring temporary relief of frustration, but it doesn’t help the cause. All I’m saying is that it’s very difficult for people to sit quietly, and to take blows like that calmly.

I can’t aid you with your religious struggle—but it sounds like you are a pretty cool person. I’m sorry insults are thrown around. I really am. My hope is that in talking about where they come from, in describing the hurt, I might provide something useful for you to work with. We can all benefit from perspective, from a reminder that none of us are evil. We’re all just trying to do what’s right. What we see as right may not be what another person sees as right—that’s always going to be the case. And the truth is: some people just like to shout and bluster. Especially on the internet. The amount of mental calm needed to get through a stream of comments on ANY serious topic requires several hours worth of meditation and/or sedation. Don’t let the trolls get you down.

I guess the simple answer to your core question, “How can Christians–especially conservative ones–help people see that they’re not all hateful bigots?” Well, writing letters like this. That’s definitely one way. I genuinely believe that in fifty years (hopefully less, but I use that amount of time as a historical marker), people will look back in amazement at the debate over this law, much in the same way that we look back at the inequities of the past. And I really believe thoughtful Christians will play a huge role in making things right and in ending so much of this suffering because they will recognize it as suffering.

I don’t know if I lived up of your incredibly generous assessment of my abilities, but I gave it a shot, since you really went out on a limb to write such a moving letter. If I come off as preachy, I really apologize. I didn’t mean to. I just feel very strongly. It takes a lot of effort to calmly discuss things that really get you in the heart. I’m sure I’ve missed something obvious, so hopefully people reading this will bring elegance and eloquence to the discussion.

All thoughtful comments on whatever side of the argument are welcome below. Anything vulgar or full of nothing but hate speech, in whatever direction, will be nuked by me with my magic comment-destroying button. No trolls here!

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Posted: Sunday, October 17th, 2010 @ 2:06 pm
Categories: ask mj, pompous behavior, questions, things that are awesome.
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88 Responses to “ASK MJ: CONSERVATIVE CHRISTIANS AND GAY RIGHTS, LIVING TOGETHER IN PEACE”

  1. Sylvia Says:

    I read this just before seeing that there was an update on your blog: http://someblundersandabsurdities.blogspot.com/2010/10/thoughts-on-coming-out-day-2010.html

    It may help shine another light on the subject.

  2. Edi Says:

    As a person who has both a strong background in conservative Christianity and strong feelings about gay rights, I want to thank you for this calm, courteous, well-reasoned, and intelligently written post. You’re exactly right: This sort of discourse is one of the best and fastest ways to get past our current state of affairs. Keep up the good work. <3

  3. Tobias Agricola Says:

    As a Dutch person who kind of grew up with gay marriage (I was nearly 11 when the first gay couples got married) I always look at the debate about gay marriage in the USA as a bit weird. But I remember hearing the guy who fought for equal marriage rights here (his name is Henk Krol) talking on the radio about how he had tons of debates with an avid opponent of gay marriage. What he said was that he really liked this guy and that their debates were always orderly and hate-free. I really hope that one day the debate in the USA about this issue will be the same some day.

    Maureen, I want to thank you for writing this blog. You are good with words and I think this will help people.

    -Tobias

  4. Brad Ausrotas Says:

    For those who still doubt the validity of gay marriage, and have actual fears about it, here’s a funny little list that might help you see where people that are for it are coming from:

    Top 17 Reasons Why Gay Marriage is Wrong:

    17. Gay marriage will change the foundation of society; we could never adapt to new social norms. Just like we haven’t adapted to cars, the service-sector economy, or longer life spans.

    16. Gay culture is a new fad created by the liberal media to undermine long-standing traditions. We know this is true because gay sex did not exist in ancient Greece and Rome.

    15. There are plenty of straight families looking to adopt, and every unwanted child already has a loving family. This is why foster care does not exist.

    14. Conservatives know best how to create strong families. That is why it is not true that Texas and Mississippi have the highest teen birthrates, and Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire have the lowest. This is a myth spread by the liberal media.

    13. Marriage is a religious institution, defined by churches. This is why atheists do not marry. Christians also never get a divorce.

    12. Children can never succeed without a male and a female role model at home. That’s why our society has no single parents.

    11. Gay marriage is not supported by religion. In a theocracy like ours, the values of one religion are imposed on the entire country. That’s why we have only one religion in America.

    10. Obviously gay parents will raise gay children, since straight parents only raise straight children.

    9. Straight marriages are valid because they produce children. Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn’t be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren’t full yet, and the world needs more children.

    8. Gay marriage should be decided by the people and their elected representatives, not the courts. The framers checked the courts, which represent mainstream public opinion, with legislatures created to protect the rights of minorities from the tyranny of the majority. Interference by courts in this matter is inappropriate, just as it has been every time the courts have tried to hold back legislatures pushing for civil rights.

    7. Straight marriage will be less meaningful if gay marriage were allowed; the sanctity of Britany Spears’ 55-hour just-for-fun marriage would be destroyed.

    6. Civil unions, providing most of the same benefits as marriage with a different name are better, because “separate but equal” institutions are a good way to satisfy the demands of uppity minority groups.

    5. Straight marriage has been around a long time and hasn’t changed at all; women are still property, blacks still can’t marry whites, and divorce is still illegal.

    4. Legalizing gay marriage will open the door to all kinds of crazy behavior. People may even wish to marry their pets because a dog has legal standing and can sign a marriage contract.

    3. Gay marriage will encourage people to be gay, in the same way that hanging around tall people will make you tall.

    2. Being gay is not natural. Real Americans always reject unnatural things like eyeglasses, polyester, and air conditioning.

    1. METEORS and VOLCANOES.

  5. Annie Says:

    Thank you for writing this MJ because you understand. I’ve been called millions of hateful things and the only Christians I’ve met are hateful ones. But I shouldn’t let a few bad apples spoil my concept of the whole barrel. If I want them to be more open minded, then I need to be more open minded myself. On the other hand, they need to remember that for a lot of us…all we really know is hate from religious groups. So thank you for your wonderful explanations O Great Jar Mother.

  6. Julie Says:

    I’m a Catholic. I’ve had eight years of religious education through my Church and I go to mass most Sundays.

    But I support gay marriage. And I use my bible to support that, as well as the Constitution.

    The Constitution gives us equal rights. That should apply to all facets of life. If people are upset because the definition of marriage is a man and woman, then call it something different. But they do still deserve everything that goes WITH the word.

    As for the bible, it depends where you look. I choose to look where it says we should accept and love everyone. I choose to look at the fact our entire religion is based on love, acceptance, and trust. That love doesn’t stop because somebody works a little different. It doesn’t stop for the mentally handicapped or the physically handicapped and they also work a little different. So why stop because someone’s a homosexual?

    Besides that, the Old Testament has non-consensual incest. In my opinion, that’s way worse than being gay.

  7. gili Says:

    Beautifully and sensitively written, Maureen.

  8. David Says:

    MJ:

    Thanks so much for your thoughtful response. And also thanks to your well-meaning correspondent, who seems sincere in their quest for doing the right thing and acting in a rational way.

    I will forward this link along to my other digital friends out there. Hopefully it can make their day a bit brighter, as it has mine.

  9. John Says:

    MJ,

    This was a great response. I’m a gay teenager, and one of the biggest issues I have is with my faith, so this letter meant a lot to me. It’s important to hear someone fighting in an intelligent way for our rights as people – because that is exactly what this is.

    I think the hardest thing to say to Christian people is that it’s not a sin. Well, it is but it’s not. It’s like saying being black is wrong. You can’t change it. It’s entirely out of your control. So why is it considered to be something that is based entirely on your own choosing? Faith is a hard thing to work with, because I know so many people like that, and they all have levels of respect that go along with it, and I love the ones that don’t judge me, because I don’t judge them.

    All the same, no one should ever consider making an argument to justify that. If it hurts someone, then making an argument for it is just making it all the more clear that you do not care about the person’s feelings, and, if looked at in a sensible manner, you’d probably realize the argument isn’t worth the pain.

    Truly a subject that hurts to bring up. I doubt I’ll ever be a ‘conservative Christian’ or whatever, but I thank the people that, even with these views, choose to be supportive and open minded by writing these letters and trying to get a grasp on things. Some of the best ways that I’ve grown through have been through questioning my faith, and it’s good to see other people doing the same.

    ~ Best wishes to MJ and to Anonymous Letter Person,

    John ~

  10. Tyler Stanage Says:

    I think that this issue, as well as many other social issues in the US today are fueled by the lack of understanding of both sides of the argument.

    As far as gay marriage goes, it’s important to look at what is held in common with heterosexual and homosexual partners and then judge whether something can be illegal based upon that common bond. The common bond here is love–love is something that no one sees, and no one can no for sure another is feeling, which makes this debate even more hateful and full of name-calling than ever.

    Homosexual partners love each other in the exact same way heterosexual partners do–they care for each other deeply, they invest all of their being in their partners, they will be by them in sickness and in health, ’til death do they part. On this much the two sides should agree – love has never, and will never, be defined as being the emotion _only felt between a man and a woman_.

    Where the debate comes in, however, is mostly on what marriage is seen as the precursor for her in the US: children. This, however, is another unsound argument that cannot be used against the advocation of gay marriage.

    Opponents say that since homosexual partners cannot reproduce, then marriage between them should not be allowed. If this were the case, then we should be testing all heterosexual couples for infertility before letting them marry. However, this will never happen, because it is quite ridiculous, and because mainstream America still approves of a man and a woman marrying despite the fact they would never be able to produce a child of their own.

    Adoption. It exists for a reason, and it should be an option for both infertile partners and homosexual partners alike: if two people who love each other want a child, they should be able to have the opportunity to raise one, assuming children are still being put up for adoption (a totally separate issue).

    Opponents of gay couples adopting cite the “broken family” argument as their main reason for opposing marriage and adoption. This, again, is not a sound argument. This argument relies on the premise that a mother and a father together are the ideal familial situation for children to flourish. This is not true. My parents are divorced, much like many other children’s parents. Has it impacted my life? Of course. Has it been a detriment to my education and success in life? Absolutely not.

    Really, this shouldn’t even be an argument. If two people love each other, they should be allowed to make that love a public and legal matter. It would irresponsible to not allow for this happen.

    Citing religious texts of any kind is not a viable option in defending a position that doesn’t make logical sense. Arguments must be well-reasoned and grounded before any outside sources are cited, including any religious text.

    These times, they are a-changin’, and they should be. It’s time to set aside the irrational argument, accept what is common amongst the opponents on this issue, and put this despicable portion of American history where gays were discriminated against in the past.

  11. Ally Says:

    I pretty much feel exactly the same as the letter writer. I am a pretty conservative Christian, but I also understand that freedom of religion means that my assessment of right and wrong is not what should prevail. I also have several gay friends, and I honestly cannot believe that there are so many people against gay marriage in this country. I know that the media kind of skews the perceptions of the country as a whole, but I would think that if I am not against gay marriage, there would hardly be a group of any significant number that is. Obviously there is a great number of people in the country against gay marriage, but I am not one of them, despite my conservative values and upbringing.

  12. colorlessblue Says:

    Thank you for this, Maureen.
    Fred Clark at Slacktivist blogs from the point of view of an evangelical person who has found his peace with, among other things, gay rights (I don’t think this is the best way to describe it but it’s simple, so I’ll keep it here.) These 3 posts approach exactly this issue:
    Sex & Money, part 1 (http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2010/05/sex-money-part-1.html)
    Sex & Money, part 2 (http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2010/06/sex-money-part-2.html)
    Sex & Money, part 3 (http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2010/06/sex-money-part-3.html)
    They’re long, but I recomment that anyone who’s struggling with recognizing that gay rights are human rights, and thinking that this goes against Christianity, go read the 3 of them. (and the whole blog too.)

  13. Megan Says:

    I am also a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. (Mormon) I’ve recently been discussing with my mom the topic of gay marriage. People now think that Mormons are hateful people and a hateful religion.

    I don’t hate people who are gay. I don’t hate them for being gay. I have many gay friends and I really like them a lot.

    But I don’t think God makes people gay. I believe it is a choice that they make. And I do think that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God.

    But, as my mom pointed out, NOT ALL MARRIAGES, no matter who they are between, are right or “ordained of God,” but they exist.

    Just because people are married doesn’t mean it is right. So while I still don’t believe in homosexuality, I won’t judge against people who feel that way, or treat them with hate. There are many people who do things against my religion, that I don’t believe in, and I still love them. This carries over to my attitude toward homosexuals as well.

    I think God wants us to treat everyone with respect, no matter the choices they make, and that’s how I will live my life.

  14. Chelsea Says:

    Thank you so much for writing this, Maureen. Like the letter-writer, I am also a conservative Christian and have been concerned about the lack of dialog about the issue.

    I’ve given the matter a lot of thought, and I don’t think there’s anything that should prevent gay marriage from becoming legal. As you said, our law is not necessarily based on one religion over another, and one religious group, however numerous, should not impose their view on another. There are certain laws that overlap with Christianity (do not murder, etc) that are only included in U.S. laws because they specifically bring harm to another person. While there are many controversial issues like abortion and the death penalty that COULD be debated on both legal and religious grounds, I don’t see gay marriage as one of them. Because the nature of a legally recognized marriage provides so many benefits in society, it’s impossible to exclude one group from those benefits.

    However, increasingly, I find that a lot of proponents of gay rights believe that calling homosexuality a sin is just as terrible as denying people the right to marry. And I’m sure many people do suffer from the emotional consequences of being told that what they’re doing is wrong. I’m sure many people use the Bible to spread a message of hate and intolerance. But there are many Christians who continue to uphold what the Bible says without encouraging that hate. Homosexuality is just one of the sins the Bible mentions, and I think many religious groups give it far too much importance than it deserves, since all sins are supposed to be equal. As you said, I think people have a right to disagree with someone else’s actions, but in this case, they don’t have the right to prevent those actions. I think a lot of the opposition to gay marriage comes from a place of fear. Many Christians feel increasingly marginalized from mainstream culture, and they just don’t want to become more so for holding another differing view. (Of course, this is really something they should be proud of, since one of the main focuses of Christianity is that Christians should not try to accept “worldly” viewpoints that contradict the Bible.)

    I am worried that, in the long run, Christian groups will be pressured into silencing their views that disagree with homosexuality as a lifestyle. I believe there have already been a few instances of this, where some preachers were warned that their sermons could be considered “hate crimes,” when they weren’t malicious in any way. I believe Christians have the right to their opinions just as everyone else does, and just because they believe that certain things in society are wrong does not make them evil in any sense. The rest of society has the right to disagree with them, but they should not be quiet about what they believe.

  15. Lisanne Says:

    I really wish I had something brilliant or thoughtful to add, but all I can say is that I totally agree with you. It’s difficult to understand (for me at least, living in a country more secular than the United States), that religious values can have such influence on the laws.
    Gay marriage has been legal in my country for some time, I’m not really sure when it was legalized (edit: 2001), but I can’t really remember a time when it wasn’t. It seems completely natural to me that everyone is entitled to marry for love, no matter the gender of the other person. It’s just such a natural, basic right. Very little is valued more in modern society than love, so why deny some people the right to express their love for each other in one of the most fundamental way?

    I guess what I’m trying to say is this: the right for people of the same gender to marry is so basic, so incredibly normal and logical to me, that I am truly at a loss when it comes to understanding the objections that many people have to gay marriage.
    Doesn’t the US constitution provide for the separation of church and state, making it a non-religious issue?

  16. Tom Says:

    Thanks for writing this. Hayley G. Hoover wrote a blog post on this topic about a year ago, from a Christian perspective, arguing that Christians can reasonably believe in gay rights. It was a super cool thing for her to do and I had mad respect for her writing something she knew some of her readers wouldn’t agree with, but I was a little bit frustrated that she didn’t say anything about freedom of religion. Like, her argument was that Christians can believe that homosexuality isn’t a sin, and because of this, Christians can believe that gay people should be able to marry. I don’t particularly care if Christians believe that all gay people are damned, but the notion that we should make laws based on those beliefs is utterly ridiculous. (Again, not hating on Miss Hoover, who I think is great; I just wish she’d made that jump.) So, yeah, thanks for bringing up the separation of church and state thing, and this whole post was incredibly thoughtful, rational and thorough. If I happen to get into a contentious argument on this subject, I may refer someone to this.

    Also, re: “I genuinely believe that in fifty years, people will look back in amazement at the debate over this law, much in the same way that we look back at the inequities of the past.” It’s not even a question, when you look at the statistics of how the majority of young people are for gay marriage, while the majority of old people oppose it. In 50 years, this debate will be just as horrifying to kids as the fact that segregation only ended 30 years ago was to me when I was a little kid.

  17. Audrey Says:

    Years ago I went through a similar dilemma as the letter writer. I grew up in a Southern Baptist household. Although I never remember any specific sermon talking about homosexuality, it was a given throughout my childhood that being gay was wrong. I never stood outside with signs or told anyone they were going to hell but I had this belief.
    Then something happened. My best friend throughout high school came out to me my freshman year of college. It took a lot of guts for him to do this. He knew how important my beliefs were to me. He wrote me a letter explaining what high school was like for him. He talked about how he was smitten with this guy who wasn’t gay but was afraid to say anything. He grew up in a Catholic home and while he wasn’t religious himself he knew that based on what his family and sister’s believed, that his attractions were wrong. He hated himself. He tried to like some girls but it didn’t work past friendships.
    Then in college he decided that he just wanted it to end. He was tired of hiding and tired of feeling like he was wrong. He made a plan to commit suicide. Over the period of a month he went to different stores and bought pain killers at each one. He set a date that he was going to overdose himself. He went to say goodbye to one of his friends only to find that his friend had a similar plan and had already begun it. My friend’s life was saved when he had to miss his death plans to save someone else. The next night he told his college friends that he was gay. They were wonderful about it. A month later he finally felt brave enough to write me the letter.
    I sobbed that night. I didn’t know what to think. My best friend had almost died over this. He thought that those around him would never love him for what he was. He thought I wouldn’t love him. When I sat down to think about it I realized that I did love him. Nothing had changed; he was the same person he had always been. How could I feel differently about him now that I knew him?
    What I have learned is that sometimes your love for others is more important than having them know about every little thing you think. Personally I don’t believe in telling people about opinions on things like that unless they ask.
    On a similar note I have examined all the verses on the subject. All of the new testament ones are a list of sins ranging from small to bad and they always have a verse somewhere in the next 20 verses that tell us not to judge. If all sins are equal then if being gay is a sin it is not any worse than looking at someone with lust or lying. You don’t go out with signs outside someone’s house everytime one of your friends lies so why do we feel that we have the right to act so extremely in cases such as homosexuality? My friend’s sexual preference does not affect mine. It has not led me to sin. If anything it has led me to reexamine my faith and make it more mine.
    There is another possible view on the verses. It is the one I believe. There are cultural laws within the bible. It was things that helped the people at the time. One such one talks about not touching a woman during her period because she is unclean. That didn’t mean that she was evil once a month. It meant that in the time before tampons it was unsanitary to be in public bleeding. Being in contact with people during this time could cause an infection which at that time could kill a woman. Part of being a successful tribe or a new religion is the ability to continue the tribe/religion. The best way to do this is to have kids. “Be fruitful and multiply” didn’t mean that those who couldn’t have kids were being punished. It was a way to encourage the people to have kids so that the tribe/religion would be successful. Doing things that wouldn’t create children didn’t help the tribe. Things are different now. It doesn’t harm anyone. There is a documentary on this called “For the Bible Tells Me So” I recommend it to anyone.
    I am a Christian but I do not believe that we have the right to put down others. It does not lead others to God. Everything Jesus did on earth was out of love. He took the sinners loving to his side. The people that he spoke harshly to were the religious hypocrites. He judged people’s hearts. I think that as Christians it is extremely important that we follow his example of love. So my advice after all of that is to not give your opinion unless it is asked and to give it lovingly.

  18. Lisanne Says:

    @Tobias Agricola
    Your comment wasn’t up when I typed mine, or I would have responded to you. As you can see, we feel the same way about gay marriage.
    I was 12 when it was legalized (I might have been 11, depending on the exact date). And I’m really glad that it’s legal here, because people can see now that the world hasn’t ended and nothing has changed for people who aren’t gay. Life is still the same, the sun still rises and sets, and gay couples have children.

  19. Winchester Grey Says:

    Thanks for that Maureen. Reasoned debate and respectful discussion is more likely to produce results right now that the rioting of yore–but those riots had their place, and if occasionally some of us get a little hot under the collar, for example in the weeks following five gay teen suicides, it’s understandable, if unfortunate.

    To your Mormon littoral friend: at the core of all Christian religions are the words and actions of Jesus, as reported in the gospels. Everything else is icing, ornamentation, explanation and interpretation by people who, however saintly, however well-meaning, however blessed, were not the Son of God. When in doubt, go back to His words, and ask yourself what your heart and mind tell you to do: trust in Love.

    It’s worth bearing in mind that humans are fallible–on both sides of the fence–and that the LDS has been wrong before, most notably in this context on the subject of race (see here). Might they be in error here as well?

  20. Sonja Says:

    Thank you so much, MJ, for posting that letter. I am Catholic, went to both a Catholic elementary school and a Catholic high school, and I have never been okay with the church’s stance on gay marriage. I remember angrily telling one of my classmates off in the ninth grade because he refused to accept that gay people deserved to be together just as much as straight people. I think it was at that point that I started to realize that I didn’t want to be an active participant in any group that could be so condemning and callous.

    Anyway, the point of my rambling is that it’s interesting to get the opinion of someone who is torn between what his/her religion expects them to believe and what society does. While I am still very angry with how the Church chooses to deal with gay marriage, it’s encouraging to know that we are still able to talk about serious issues without immediately turning it into a screaming match. For the record, MJ, I am applauding you right here in my dorm room. Seriously, if you listen carefully enough, I’m sure you can hear me :)

    By the way, the list above my post made me smile. I think I’m going to print a copy of that out and pass it around.

  21. Andrewblake Says:

    Thank you very much Maureen for carefully and delicately mixing fact, personal belief, and opposing side into a very informative and unbiased format. While I may not agree with Gay Marriage myself, I do think that it is important that in a democratic society like ours that both sides be given a fair and equal say and opinion on this most grueling of topics. To the person that wrote to Maureen I would say that there are people who are going to believe what they believe about people no matter what persuasion they are given. The important thing is that if you love people despite their actions that is all you can do. Show Christ’s love to people by accepting them for their choices despite the fact you may disagree with them.

  22. Katie Says:

    I was also raised as a conservative Christian and just now, at age 23, have been coming to terms with a lot of things I was raised to believe in. My 21 year old brother decided a year ago to be baptized as an Orthodox Christian and is very serious about his faith. Yet even with these factors, we both believe that it is not legal to keep gay people from marrying. There are many other laws that are not in keeping with various religious beliefs (war, retribution, abortion and death penalty come to mind) but they are Constitutional. That is the document on which our country was founded and it is ridiculous to me that religious beliefs are getting in the way of legal rights. You may disagree with something based on your religion, but that has nothing to do with whether or not it is legal. I’m still deciding my complete stance on gay people in regards to my beliefs and the Bible, but I have nothing against them at all (and I would NEVER tell them they were damned, that’s for sure) and definitely believe that they should legally be allowed to marry.
    Great post, Maureen.

  23. Alex Says:

    For those who have talked about teachings of their religion, I just wonder if they’ve actually read the Bible (Old and New Testament) and the passages that talk about homosexuality.

    I just wonder, because the Bible, in the same chapter of Leviticus, says that sowing two seeds in the same field is an abomination, as is wearing clothing of two materials, and eating shellfish.

    I’m not calling anyone hateful or stupid, but I don’t see how people can rail against homosexuality without railing against these (and other, very odd) things.

    Similarly, the “slippery slope” argument about Christians being pushed out of the mainstream was used with the legalization of interracial marriage. Has religion lost influence on some people? Probably. But perhaps it’s lost influence because some people (like my grandmother) have gotten fed up with specific people using religion as a soapbox of hate.

    I don’t believe that every (or most) Christians are hateful, but the problem is that there are too many people staying silent, and not speaking out against the hate.

  24. Tara Says:

    This is beautiful.

  25. Rosebelle Says:

    I’m gay, and I’d like to thank you for writing such an eloquently worded and wonderfully supportive response. I grew up in a conservative christian household, and so I can empathize with the letter-writer, in that it’s hard to be the one who supports LGBTQ issues and rights in an area or group where the majority opinion is (or perceived to be) hateful. It’s also difficult, as I have seen, for those who oppose it to seem to do so in the most kind manner possible, because they are hurt by the negative stigma associated with haters and bigots. And, for obvious reasons, I will forever disagree with opponents of my rights as a gay American citizen. I would attack them (or their views or religion), but, as you have done here, I would explain in the most straightforward and non-agressive style, that their views, and especially those of hateful bigots, are limiting my rights as a citizen.
    But anywho,
    Thank you for your support MJ
    Be well.

  26. Alanna Says:

    @Chelsea… Christians most definitely have a right to their opinions, just like anyone else. But preaching to people about how being gay is wrong and people will burn in hell for it — how can you think that is not malicious and hateful?

    Let me ask you something… what have gay people ever done to you? What are they doing that is hurting you or the world? Do they hurt you? Hurt your family? Do they make your life bad in any way?

    The answer to that is one big fat no. They don’t hurt anyone. Love is love, gender is irrelevant and you don’t have to agree with that and you don’t have to like it… but you don’t have the right to spread hate either and you don’t have the right to bully people or hurt them just because you don’t like that they choose to love someone of the same gender as they are.

    They’re not hurting you or any other Christian, so what in the world makes you think that Christians have the right to hurt them?

    No one is saying that Christians should believe in gay marriage. No one is saying that they have to think being gay is okay in the eyes of God… no one is asking them to change their beliefs. But preaching about beliefs like that is malicious and hateful.

    Just take a look at the news, teenagers are freaking KILLING THEMSELVES because hateful homophobic people are making their lives hell. They make their lives so bad that they think death is the better option for them. Bullying someone to the point where they commit suicide seems like a much bigger sin than being gay could ever possibly be.

    If I think someone is ugly, that is my opinion… but does that mean I have the right to go up to them and tell them that they’re ugly? Does it mean I have the right to say they should wear a paper bag over their head so I won’t have to look at them? Does it mean that I should go around telling everyone how ugly I think that person is, completely trashing their self esteem? No.

    There are plenty opinions that I–and everyone else–has that, sure, we’re perfectly entitled to have but it doesn’t mean we have the right to become a hateful person because of it. It doesn’t give us the right to spread negativity or bully someone just because we don’t agree with their choices.

    Christians totally have the right to have their own beliefs and opinions but don’t you dare delude yourself into thinking that spreading anti-gay

    Here’s the difference between the people who are pro-homosexuality and people who are against it:

    People who are pro-gay marriage and speak up about it are fighting to make the world better, they’re speaking up to try and get equal rights for people. They’re defending people who are bullied and hurt every day just because they happen to be attracted to people of the same sex (something that is beyond their control, being gay is NOT a choice — sure, they could choose to live a lie, but they don’t choose how they feel or their bodies reactions to people anymore than straight people can choose who they’re attracted to).

    Now, homophobic people on the other hand… what are they achieving by speaking up against people being gay? What is it that they’re fighting for? They’re spreading hate. They’re hurting people. They’re fighting against equality. They’re freaking driving people to commit suicide.

    You don’t have to like something or agree with it, but just because you don’t agree with something doesn’t mean you should always speak up about it. If people being gay was genuinely hurting people, then I could understand speaking up against it, but the fact is, it’s not hurting anyone.

    If a Christian believes that being gay is a sin then fair enough… but if they genuinely believe that, then just stfu up and let God be the one to deal with it. If you think being gay is a sin, then you believe that people will go to hell for being gay anyway as punishment — so what right do you have to make their lives hell while they’re still breathing?

    “The rest of society has the right to disagree with them, but they should not be quiet about what they believe.” — so, lets just say that I believed being Christian was a sin… that Christians were the ones who were going to burn in hell after they die, that being Christian was this awful dirty horrific thing. If I believed that, does that mean I should go around hating Christians? Trying to make people agree with my belief? Does it mean I should bully Christians? Should I protest the funerals of Christians and make their lives such a hell that they’d rather die than put up with it? Should I?

    No, I shouldn’t. (And sorry, that was an extreme example, I’m Agnostic and I assure you I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being Christian — unless they use that belief as an excuse to be hateful jackasses who think they have the right to judge and bully the rest of the world using selective messages in the Bible as their excuse, then we have issues).

    And I’m going to shut up now, before I get really angry. Homophobic people piss me off beyond belief — but the homophobic people who are so ridiculously ignorant that they can’t even see why what they’re doing is hateful and cruel, those people are even worse, at least the former can own up to what they’re doing and don’t delude themselves into thinking they’re not hurting anyone by spreading their anti-gay nonsense.

  27. Audrey Says:

    @John Don’t let the debates take your faith away from you. There are Christians out there who will accept you regardless of your sexual orientation. Another one of my friends is a very strong Episcopalian who is very involved in his church. All of them know that he is gay and he is completely accepted. It is possible. Don’t let others get you down.

  28. Rosebelle Says:

    **edit! I would not attack them. sorry, read-through fail!!!**

  29. Marina Says:

    Thank you so much for writing this.

    I’m a Christian and I don’t believe that homosexuality is a sin. The short explanation is that the Old Testament detailed countless laws for the Jewish people, and Jesus differentiated between ritual sin and moral sin. Ritual sins (wearing mixed fabric, interacting with a woman who is menstruating) no longer mattered, only moral sins (anything that violates the commandment to love). Homosexual sex was a ritual sin, not a moral one, and therefore is no longer a problem. There are other components of the argument, such as cultural values of the time, but the difference between ritual and moral sins is key.

    For a great discussion on the topic, read this: http://www.gaychristian.net/justins_view.php

  30. Travis Says:

    @Megan

    You say you “believe it is a choice that they make” to be gay.
    When did you decide to be straight?
    Many gay people go through so much bullying and torment, and I know a lot of them would just “turn it off” if they could.
    Who would willingly choose to live a lifestyle in which they were constantly persecuted

  31. Lucy Says:

    Thank you for this post, Maureen. As a Christian in Australia the gay rights issue has fascinated me due to the huge media focus in America – there’s less of a focus here. My best friend, who lives in America and works as a youth minister at a big church, and I were just talking about this issue two days ago.

    As others outlined above me, in Christianity we are taught that sin is sin, there is no greater or lesser sin. So many Bible passages are taken completely out of context to use as ammunition against gay rights; this out-of-context habit has appeared all through history to keep women down, slaves in ownership, validate wars etc. etc.

    I love my gay and lesbian friends dearly and see no reason why they should be attacked or held up as ‘different’. In the laws of Christianity we are all fallen, all in need of saving and all require help.

    The majority of Christians I know also believe that we cannot ostracise gays and it is one of Christianities biggest failings (of which there are many) that we have not opened our arms and been at the forefront of the race to legalise gay rights. We Christians have always been persecuted, tortured, killed, abused, threatened for our lifestyle and belief – in different times, in different countries. Why we see the need to perpetrate this is just beyond me.

    I hope one day we finally meet in the middle!

  32. Chelsea Says:

    @Alanna You are absolutely right. NO ONE has the right to bully anyone. I’m so glad that the public is standing up against bullying of any kind, as it is absolutely one of the worst things about our society.

    I am not talking about “preaching” in the sense that Christians should walk up to a gay pride parade, for instance, and hold signs up saying that God will judge them. I am simply talking about a church service in which Christians read the Word of God together and extract moral lessons from it. For anyone to say that Christians can’t read the Bible together and learn about what it says (whether concerned with homosexuality or not) is, to me, a gross violation of the First Amendment. I’m not saying this will even be an issue, but I do worry that any opinions that come from a decidedly religious perspective might be dismissed in society.

    Furthermore, everything that you’re saying about not judging others–it’s in the Bible! I entirely agree with you that anyone who uses the Word of God to purposefully condemn another person is wrong. There’s a passage in Romans in which Paul talks about all the various sins in the world, including lying, murder, and homosexuality. He doesn’t hold back in saying how wrong he believes these things are. But literally THE VERY NEXT VERSE says, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” The whole point of this passage is to say, “Okay, so a lot of things the world does are wrong in God’s eyes. As Christians, we must believe that what God says is true. But if WE try to make ourselves seem BETTER than others by judging them, we are hypocrites.” And there are always going to be hypocrites in the world because we are human and not perfect.

    I absolutely agree that the people who protest at soldiers’ funerals and constantly bully others are terrible. It breaks my heart to see people hurting others in that way. But just because a Christian asserts God’s view on the subject doesn’t mean they are being hurtful to someone else. They have a right to express their opinion, but they should leave the right to judge completely up to God. Our job is to express love and kindness in a way that highlights the LOVE and FORGIVENESS that is the most important part of Christianity, rather than using hate to distance ourselves from the secular world.

    I hope that makes more sense. :)

  33. Caitie F Says:

    Great post Maureen. . . but i Have to say I have an issue with some of the comments.

    Anyone who says “I love my gay friends, but they are choosing it” really bug me. Why do they think anyone would choose something that makes them ridiculed, terrorized, and regularly told they are going to hell? It is not a choice and as long as anyone is saying it is there is something seriously wrong.

    Anyone who uses the BIble as backing it, do you believe everything in the BIble? That stoning people is okay? That people should be put to death for not keeping the Sabbath (and oh, if you are online and a Christian today, a Sunday, good job you aren’t keeping the Sabbath as the BIble intended it).

    But hey, if you want to continue to be brain washed by what a bunch of bigoted men said over 2000 years ago, go for it, but the rest of us don’t have to respect or be kind to your beliefs, especially if you continue to claim ignorant things.

  34. Justin Says:

    +1 to faith in the universe. Thanks, Maureen & unnamed letter-writer.

  35. colorlessblue Says:

    @Chelsea: about the danger of christians being persecuted and losing freedom, I can only quote Fred Clark:
    “So instead we’ll just stick with the two-word rebuttal of everything this ad darkly hints will come to pass down the slippery slope of equality: Fred Phelps.”
    “But the point here is that Fred Phelps is a free man. His only legal troubles stem from instances of direct physical assault — not from the hateful content of his beliefs. So when the folks at NOM insist that their opposition to same-sex marriage is a matter of “religious liberty,” the liberty they’re talking about has to be the liberty to exceed the Fred Phelps standard — the liberty not just to restrict membership on religious grounds, or just to preach against homosexuality as a sin, or to condemn and denounce homosexuals as people hated by God, but the liberty, apparently, to go beyond all that, beyond anything even Fred Phelps has imagined.
    Fred Phelps is a free man, so if you think your freedom is going to be restricted, you must be planning to outdo Fred Phelps.”
    http://slacktivist.typepad.com/slacktivist/2009/04/one-cheer-for-fred-phelps.html

  36. colorlessblue Says:

    @Caitie F: “Anyone who says “I love my gay friends, but they are choosing it” really bug me. Why do they think anyone would choose something that makes them ridiculed, terrorized, and regularly told they are going to hell? It is not a choice and as long as anyone is saying it is there is something seriously wrong.”

    Yes, that, but even if it were a choice, it aught to be respected. For example, bisexual people are often forgotten, and in a very, very broad sense, in theory they could “choose” to only have relationships with people of the opposite sex, even if they’re attracted to both (gross simplification here, it’s more complicated than that – my point is that bi people often are totally erased from these arguments as if they didn’t exist). But even if it were a complete choice it should be respected.
    Jefferson said, in Notes on the State of Virginia:
    “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. *It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.*”

  37. Alanna Says:

    @Chelsea… yeah, that does make more sense. But still, you make it sound like at Church you’re just happily having a friendly conversation that is hurting no one. But imagine there’s someone sitting in Church, someone who is Christian but are struggling to come to terms with their sexuality… and then someone they look up to and all of these other people are just sitting there saying that they’re going to go to hell for something that is beyond their control, that it is wrong to be who they are even though they’re no hurting anyone at all.

    I’m not saying people should change their beliefs but when you’re hurting people who aren’t hurting others, then how could you think it’s okay to do that?

    I’m Agnostic. I believe that there could be a God (but I’d need proof, something that erased the doubts in my mind… but I don’t think that’ll ever happen, I believe it’s unknowable. Agnosticism is based on knowledge while religion is pretty much based on faith). I believe that all of the religions that exist are man made and wrong — even if there is some truth to some or all of them, I believe that they’ve all been twisted and manipulated by man. I believe that the Bible was written by man and what is written there isn’t the “word of God” or whatever and if there was any truth to it, again, I believe it’s been warped and twisted over the centuries just like a game of Chinese whispers. And I think all religions are ridiculously flawed and I believe that it’s ridiculous to use what it says in some book to judge and hate people and then say it’s because it’s what God wants. And I believe that if people truly believe in God and all that stuff, then they should leave the judgement and forgiveness to God and stay the hell out of it unless it’s hurting them personally.

    That’s just what I believe. But I don’t go around saying to people with different beliefs that they’re wrong… and I don’t hate on Christians for believing something different. Even though I think a lot of the religion is ridiculous (although, I do think some of the commandment things are good and there are some really good messages lost amongst the other stuff), I don’t go around saying that to people… it’s what I believe. But I don’t trash talk it to my Christian friends because I know it would hurt them, it’s a cruel and hateful thing to do… so I won’t do that.

    And that’s what I’m trying to say, some Christians may believe that being gay is wrong and that it’s a sin — but does that mean they should shout that from the rooftops? That they should talk about how wrong it is and which parts of the bible “prove” that God hates gayness? No, because what can possibly be gained from that? All it’s doing is hurting people. It’s not enlightening anyone or making them feel good about themselves, there’s nothing positive about spreading or encouraging homophobia.

    Believe what you want, everyone has a right to that and a right to their own opinions — but don’t think that talking about what an awful sin bein gay is in Church is this innocent thing that isn’t hurting anyone, because it’s not. Just think about what good comes out of it and then the bad that comes from it and you’ll see that.

    That is my point… I’m not saying that people should censor their beliefs, I’m just saying that you seem to think that talking about how wrong being gay is in Church isn’t hurting anyone when it is.

    It’s like, have you seen the trailer for the movie Easy A? (or even seen the whole movie?) And there’s this scene where this obnoxious character goes up to Olive and says all smug-like that there’s a higher power that’s going to judge her for her indecency? That scene? That’s kind of what you’re saying is okay. Honestly, if she really believed there was a higher power that would judge and punish/forgive (whichever) someone for their sins, then why is she butting into something that has nothing to do with her? What gave her the right to judge and make someone feel bad about themselves?

    I like the idea of religion as something positive, something that helps people through hard times, something that helps make people more forgiving and tolerant and makes the world a better place — it probably should be those things… but it’s not, because people twist it and use it to spread negativity (and it kind of baffles me that you seem to be one of the more open minded and tolerant Christians and yet you can’t see why going on about how morally wrong being gay is in Church is a bad thing).

    Next time you’re in Church, if the whole homosexuality subject comes up, take a look around you and imagine that one of those people sitting in that Church with you is gay. And they’re struggling with that — it’s not something they can control, it’s just a part of who they are and they’re going to have to either live a lie or face all the crap that comes with being true to who they are… and they believe in God, they’re Christian and they have someone that they trust and look up to saying that they’re a sinner, that they’ll go to hell, that just being who they are is wrong… that they’re committing some sort of religious crime just by loving someone of the wrong gender. And then people who supposedly share the faith that they do are agreeing.

    Imagine that, and then try and tell yourself that it’s not hateful, that just “discussing moral lessons from the bible” isn’t hurting anyone.

    Hell, in a lot of ways it’s worse than people openly bullying someone… if someone is openly cruel and hateful, then at least deep down the person being bullied knows that — but when the hateful things are coming from people who you consider kind, people you look up to and trust… it’s a lot harder not to believe what they say and not to hate yourself because you believe their words.

  38. Chelsea Says:

    @Alanna Christian pastors have a right to teach the Bible. The Bible says human beings aren’t perfect. It says that we screw up. By no means should we not talk about that for fear of offending someone. Every single person who is sitting in a church sanctuary is a sinner, in one way or another. If a particular church firmly believes in teaching what they think is true, they are not going to avoid complex, controversial issues because it might offend someone. Because a vast majority of people DO get offended if they think what they’re doing is wrong. It doesn’t have to have anything to do with homosexuality. The point of Christianity is to ACCEPT that we are not perfect and trust in God to help us out and forgive us. You do not have to believe that, but that is the basic foundation of that faith.

    Christians are obligated to teach the Word of God to others, to understand what it says, to be the voice of God. Leaving God to judge our actions does not mean shutting up about it because we are called to live like him, to spread his message of love. Jesus was honest about what was “sinful.” The term “sin” does have a very negative connotation, but the literal meaning of the word is something like “missing the mark.” I believe a sin is just a human thing that isn’t quite in step with God’s perfect plan for our lives. There are a lot of things that might not be considered “harmful” to society that count as sins because they might not allow us to live up to our best selves. Again, you can disagree with me, but that’s the best definition I can give.

    Anyway, living by God’s example means calling attention to our own imperfections so that others can also learn about the salvation aspect of it all. It seems like you have a problem with the whole “you’re going to hell” concept, when that is the exact opposite of what the Christian faith is about. It’s about forgiveness and love.

    I do know people who have been in church and struggled with homosexuality. One of them was a pastor. He couldn’t reconcile his “temptations,” (which is what he called them) with his belief, so he resigned from his leadership position until he worked things out. That was his personal decision. Talking honestly about what the Bible says is not bullying when people who are in church are coming there willingly. It is entirely up to them how they receive the message. Just as everyone has the freedom to speak their minds, others have the freedom to walk away and disagree.

    @colorlessblue Oh, thanks for the link. Aren’t they trying the WBC case soon? It will be interesting to see where the line is drawn between free speech and hateful tactics, and how the courts define them both. :)

  39. Katy Says:

    Where I live, gay marriage is not legal either. I see, hear, read so much hate every day, and I’m tired of telling people why we shouldn’t even be discussing whether gay marriage should be legal or not. It just seems so absurd to me that this is even happening, like some alternate universe. Discriminating people because they are different – I honestly thought humanity was over that.

    I just pray to God all those suicides stop, and that all LGBT people out there hear the roar of all those voices standing up for what is right. Because I do firmly believe there is more people who can see what we’re doing wrong, than those who oppose gay marriage.

  40. Maggie Says:

    I suspect that if more people knew committed long-term gay couples, they’d see that their partnerships are exactly like straight ones.

    I used to be a nanny about twenty years ago. I worked for (and lived in with) various gay couples as their nanny. Some of them had children biologically, some of them adopted. And I used to babysit for all of the kids of the gay parents’ group on the nights they had their meetings.

    The gay couples are just couples. Gay parents are just parents. The kids of gay parents are just like any other kids. It’s kind of a boring conclusion, isn’t it? But after years of living in the front row seats, that’s all there is to it.

  41. Carissa Says:

    @Winchester Grey, I am in love with your comment right now. Jesus says nothing on the subject whatsoever.

    I don’t believe that the religion should dictate a legal issue such as gay marriage. I myself am gay (and a Christian) and would love to be able to get married someday, and not have to move out of Ohio and go somewhere unfamiliar to do so. Individual churches, I believe, have every right to deny a marriage license to whomever they want. That is absolutely their prerogative. My own father, who is a pastor, won’t marry anyone who hasn’t gone through marriage counseling. That is his opinion and belief, and it doesn’t matter whether he’s right or wrong; he has that privilege.

    However, churches do not have the right to ban gay marriage in entire states, as they have been doing. I can’t believe that religion is still ruling the majority of states in this country. I’m a Christian, and I believe it’s appalling.

  42. colorlessblue Says:

    Well, I’m not USian, and I rather like the way free speech is dealt with here. For example, racism is a crime, so hateful speech about race is a crime. Yeah, free speech is great, but hateful speech is verbal harassment and deserves punishment. Homophobia is still allowed, but there’s a project of law to change that. It already passed on the House and we’re only waiting for Senate. Now if only people would take street harassment seriously and protect us women too. =(
    And before anyone talks about censorship: I was born in a dictatorship. I remember the first democratically elected president we had. Protecting citizens against hate crimes is not censorship and verbal harassment has very serious consequences that no one should be subject to.

  43. Kitty Says:

    “Gay couples, infertile couples, and old people shouldn’t be allowed to marry because our orphanages aren’t full yet, and the world needs more children.”

    Hey, Brad? While I found your comment sweet and very witty, the world actually does need more children. No, really. :)

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/17/magazine/17Aging-t.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=old%20world&st=cse

  44. Michael Says:

    I don’t know, personally I don’t think any intolerance should be tolerated. It’s not even because I hate anybody who says that being gay is immoral. I can (almost) understand the point of veiw if it’s because our goal in life is to procreate or somethung but just by accepting minor intolerance (for whatever reason) you end up making real hatred even more acceptable, and right now it’s somewhat acceptable to hate gays. I’m not sure how acceptable it is but saying that gays are the scum of society is far more acceptable than saying anyone else is and this just leads to bad things so I can’t bring myself to accept those who look down upon homosexuality in any way because accepting a little hatred make it more ok for people to show a lot of hatred towards someone. (I hope that makes sense, I’m not sure if it does)

    I would also like to state that I love free speech, and I don’t think anyone should be censored ever and that I don’t have the right to not be offended or anything like that but you know, I still have the right to bring down the hate on those who hate. Really it’s not even the preachers who condemn homosexuality that bother me, it’s the people who use violence to fight against it.

  45. Alanna Says:

    @Chelsea… when you put it like that, sure it doesn’t sound so bad but not every Christian is like you. Some of them do use it as an excuse to be hateful and they’re spreading hate not love.

    This is one of the reasons I’m kind of glad I’m Agnostic — I mean, I’m missing out on that reassurance that there’s something more, that maybe there’s something better and maybe there’s a plan for all of us… but there’s too many shades of gray with religion, too many people who think they know what’s best and what God does and doesn’t want, I don’t like the idea of that… speaking for God.

    I have two best friends and they mean the world to me, they’re the family I got to choose and one of them is gay. I have other gay friends and I like girls as well as guys (ask me and I’d probably say I was straight because it’s just — easier, but there are girls I’m attracted to and if I ever fell for a girl then I’d be open to giving that a chance). I’ve seen people I care about hurt by Christians who throw passages of the Bible at them like daggers… so it’s kind of a touchy subject, it was something I felt strongly about before but it’s personal now because when people go on about how wrong being gay is, it’s insulting people that mean the world to me.

    You’re right that controversial issues shouldn’t be glossed over… but how long ago was the Bible written?

    There was a time where men were superior and black people were slaves and people were okay with that… and now look where we are now, humanity has changed and grown more tolerant.

    Hating someone for being gay is like hating someone for being black — it’s something they can’t control, it’s just who they are. If the Bible said that being black or asian or something was a sin, would you think it was okay to discuss how morally wrong it is in Church?

    That’s the difference… you said that everyone is a sinner, but there are some sins that you choose — ones that are mistakes that people make and they grow and learn from. Being gay, that’s a part of who these people are, it’s not something they chose to be, it’s not some mistake they made… and yet, they have to sit there and be told how wrong they are.

    You said that people choose to be there — that is not always the case, I know people who are forced to go to Church by their parents and it’s at that age that struggling with your sexuality is the hardest…

    Little kids who are raised Christian don’t always get any say in the matter when their parents take them to Church and I’m not saying that raising your kids Christian is wrong, it’s not, but some of those kids being raised that way are gay and from that young age they’re being raised to think that who they are is wrong. My best friend struggled to come to terms with his sexuality even though he had the most open minded family and group of friends ever — seriously, we knew he was gay before he admitted it to himself… and that struggle would’ve been a hell of a lot worse if he had to deal with the whole “it’s a sin” thing on top of that.

    By Christian standards, I probably sin a whole lot… and a lot of them, honestly it wouldn’t bother me if I was in a church and got called out on those sins because maybe they are sins — maybe Christians have the God thing right, I won’t act like I know for sure, they’re all just beliefs and we won’t know who is right until we die. I don’t know. But the thing is, those are things that I’ve consciously done or choices that I’ve made… things you can change, but like I said, being gay isn’t like that, it’s not a choice and going on about how wrong it is, that’s telling someone they’re wrong for being who they are.

    You said that we’re all sinners, maybe people should focus on taking a look in the mirror and fixing their own sins instead of trying to be the mirror for others and beyond that just use their faith for good things (I mean, I’ve totally seen the good side to religion, when I talk about things like this it makes it seem like I’m anti-religion, I’m not, I just don’t like people using it as an excuse to spread negativity). I mean, telling people that being gay is wrong, talking in church about how morally wrong it is — that’s doing absolutely nothing to make the world a better place, it’s just giving people an excuse to continue their gay hating with the justification that “god says it’s wrong”… it makes the world a worse place.

    I hope that a hundred years from now that people can be more open minded, we’ve gotten to a point where women aren’t treated like crap and people aren’t judged by the colour of their skin — sure, racism and sexism still exists in the world, but there’s not restricting laws or anything backing those narrowminded and hateful beliefs up… and maybe one day the same could be say about people being gay.

    For the record, I enjoy debating with you. =P

  46. Ann Says:

    To Megan in comment #13: I understand that your faith tells you that homosexuality is a choice, and that in fact one of your leaders recently gave a speech that emphasized that point. I wonder if you could do me a favor and take a minute to try to imagine something. Think of your best girlfriend – someone you have a lot in common with, spend a lot of time with doing the things you enjoy doing together. I imagine on some level you love this friend, right? As a friend, as a sister, however you envision it – you care for this girlfriend. Now, try to imagine choosing to take that relationship to a sexual level, and choosing to live with and love that person as your partner for life. Can you do it? Seems inconceivable, right? And really, not just because your faith says it’s a sin, but because the very thought of having sexual feelings for that person just doesn’t make sense in your makeup. Why would it be any different for a person who is homosexual? It’s really hard for me to understand how anyone could view homosexuality as a choice one makes, rather than a very basic drive one is born with – just like you couldn’t envision sexual feelings for your girlfriends, a gay person can’t conceive of sexual feelings for a person of the opposite sex. This isn’t choice, it just is.
    If God created all his children in his image, and loves them all, then he created people with homosexual feelings too. It’s hard to believe that he would create people in his image who, as part of their basic biological drives(sex is as much a drive as eating and sleeping), would have a drive that is a sin and not just part of what he created them to be. I realize that the leaders of faiths who interpret the words of men that are said to be the word of God say this isn’t true, but that message seems more the word of man than that of God.

  47. Sarah Says:

    Beautiful post, and I really appreciate the comments as well. I hate to say that growing up in a conservative Christian school, I felt a lot of anger towards my teachers when they would say awful things about people because they are different. That’s why this post was so meaningful to me. Thanks!!

  48. Chelsea Says:

    @Alanna I understand. And Christians fail SO MUCH at representing their beliefs well. It’s sad that many people do become jaded simply because the Christians they’ve encountered haven’t been loving and accepting.

    You will also find many churches who DON’T believe homosexuality is a sin and many who think a modern, subjective approach is necessary in understand the Bible. This gets tricky, of course, because changing the Bible to fit the times could be fraught with theological disaster. There are those who think that every word of the Bible was inspired and condoned by God (I place myself in this category), and there are those who think it’s possible to separate the overarching religious message of the Bible from its cultural constraints. There are problems with both approaches, all of which fall under the category of how fallible humans are and how broadly we can all interpret the same things. There are no easy answers.

    Ultimately, Christians want to be accepting of people as they are while still sticking up for what the Bible says. It’s a ridiculously hard balance to achieve, and you’ll find many Christians who completely disagree on the best approach. I do think the church as a whole is going through an identity crisis, and I think it would be in their best interests to provide support rather than condemnation. Most sermons come from a place of wanting to help each other be closer to God rather than just… a reason to point out what’s wrong in others. There are so many variables. I’d love to see the church reaching out rather than taking a hard stance most of the time, but some societal factors make them feel like they can’t bend on this issue in particular. If they all just put the love of their fellow man first, I think the rest would just fall into place. “Religion” can sometimes get in the way of living out the faith, honestly. :)

    I enjoy debating with you, too!

  49. Robert Guthrie Says:

    I see a few Christians here trying to understand the issue of gay marriage and being gay in particular. I just want to bring up a point for them to think about: Most people who are attracted to the opposite sex never chose to be heterosexual. I know I didn’t hit puberty one day and think, “hmm… do I want to like girls or boys?” My dreams, lustful thoughts, vague life plans about marriage, etc… all revolved around girls and women. It never even occurred to me that I might think about a boy my age or a man in my future adulthood in a similar way.

    As for the “sin of being gay,” let’s be clear: in most Christian religions that I know about, having SEX outside of marriage is a sin. Actively conjuring up and enjoying sexual thoughts about someone you’re not married to is also considered a sin. But being heterosexual (being attracted to the opposite sex) outside of marriage is not generally considered a sin. Your religion may vary on this, of course. So “being gay”, which is the opposite of “being straight” can’t be a sin if you follow and agree with my logic above.

    When I thought these concepts through for myself, I didn’t see any reason why homosexual people should be denied the right to marry, except to force them to commit a sin if they ever in their entire lives wanted to experience the sexual pleasures that heterosexual couples of faith take for granted. And yes, I did read Leviticus, and I decided that while my hatred of seafood allowed me to avoid that particular abomination (Lev 11: 9-12), I couldn’t believe that my then fellow Christians who loved shrimp and crab were committing sins against God. And if we can ignore those verses in Leviticus, then we can ignore them all.

    So, to recap:
    Sex outside marriage: bad
    Sex with same gender is as bad as eating at Red Lobster.
    Marriage allows sex to be non-sinful.
    Opposing gay marriage forces all gay sex to be a sin.
    Legalizing gay marriage allows gay people to save themselves for marriage and therefore to avoid sin.

  50. Alanna Says:

    @Chelsea (okay, it’s weird now having a conversation here and on tumblr)

    I admit, when I think of religion, the extremists are the first ones that pop into my mind but really, I don’t think religion is the problem, I think people are. At the end of the day, everyone is just too different to ever be able to completely agree and people have their own interpretations of religion… ten people could all be Christian and yet take away a completely different set of beliefs from that faith (which is both good and bad).

    It kind of hurts my head to try and think about if there was a God, what it is he/she/it wants. I don’t think I could live my life like that.

    The Bible has been around for so long and people and the world has changed so much since then that I think adapting to fit those changes makes sense… really, we don’t know what God wants from us.

    For all we know, change could be what God wants — it’s kind of inspiring to see how much the world has changed throughout the course of history, how much society and people have changed… it reminds me of what you said on tumblr, about the whole we’re not perfect thing and the trying to be the best we can be. Maybe we’re supposed to change and that’s the point, maybe by changing we’re on the right track to being the best we can be.

    Can you imagine if the whole world had the same religion (for the sake of this point, lets say the whole world is Christian) and right from the start they followed exactly what the Bible says, stuck to doing what it says what right and never did what it says was wrong… the world now would be so much different and so many positive changes would never have happened and so many bad things wouldn’t have happened either and that may seem like a good thing, but we’ve learned and grown from all those bad things in history.

    Even if everyone in the world had the same beliefs, if everyone believed that being gay was a sin… there would still be gay people in the world, they’d just be living a lie. There are gay people in the world who stay in the closet out of fear or self loathing because they’ve been led to believe that being who they are, being true to themselves is so wrong… some even marry someone of the opposite sexs to keep living that illusion. But it’s fake, it’s a lie, they’re still gay just wearing a straight mask and that seems so much more wrong — because they’re lying to people. They deserve to be happy and to be allowed to be happy being who they are and the people that they marry deserve to be married to someone who loves them completely in all the right ways.

    Annnnd I am going completely off topic, I guess I’m just saying that I don’t believe that we can know what it is God wants from us and so I don’t think we should spend our lives stressing about that… instead of telling other people that they’re wrong for, say, being gay for example then I think people should focus on being the best they can be themselves and spread positivity and make the world a better place and really, if any God had a problem with someone being a good person like that then I can’t fathom why anyone would want to believe in a being like that.

    I like the idea of the churches you mention who believe in taking a more modern approach to the Bible, that is working to make the world better — it’s working to spread tolerance and decrease hate… if being gay is wrong, then God will be the one to judge that at the end of the day, the one to decide whether or not to forgive it. Continuing to preach the wrongness of being gay, that isn’t making the world better in any way.

    I know I said that extremists are the first people that come to mind when I think of religion, but for the record, I honestly don’t hate religion. I’ve seen the flip side of the coin too — the good it can do. My best friends parents (I mentioned I had two best friends, one is gay, this is the straight girl best friend) are Christian and they’re awesome, my co-blogger is Christian and a bunch of my e-friends are Christian, a guy I used to be crazy about was Muslim and one of my other friends is too. I can’t remember what John Greens religion is, but he talked about it before and I really look up to him. And then there’s people like you, you’re on the good side of the coin too. =P

    (Sorry if none of that made sense, I may or may not have been watching Merlin as I typed. Distracted by cute boys… *sigh*)

  51. Becky Says:

    Maureen, thank you for being able to put down into words the things that I think. Like the letter writer, I’m a little confused about this issue. It’s hard to listen to Christians preach about gay marriage being unnatural and damning, and then see those same people turn around and talk about helping others and universal love. But on the other hand, not ALL Christians are vehemently opposed to gay marriage. I don’t know what God thinks about it, but I do know that Christianity is, at its core, supposed to be about love and acceptance.
    At the very least, all people should be allowed to marry freely and without fear of being accused of eternal damnation by everyone who thinks they know better.

  52. Sara Davis Says:

    Very few agreements are made when people are hurling vile names.
    Calling someone a Nazi is mean.
    And it is not conducive to the ultimate goal of getting acceptance of basic rights for gays. If you give people a reason to hate you they will. And while they already have what they consider moral high ground, they will feel like their hate is completely vindicated because “hey they are all mean spirited heathens.”

    Ultimately when you give into that natural desire to spew invective , you are debasing yourself and your cause. Don’t give someone the power to debase you.

  53. Olivia Says:

    I’m a Conservative Christian (well, conservative-ish). I support gay marriage primarily because I don’t think it’s any of the government’s business who a single adult choses to spend their life with.

    I also wanted to say how much I appreciated Chelsea’s comments in response to Alanna : You said it much better than I ever could.

  54. Chelsea Says:

    @Alanna Absolutely! The world would be a much better place if everyone practiced what they preached. It’s all about Christians representing God’s love unconditionally. It’s hard to say whose interpretation of the Bible is correct, but I think that love is the key aspect. Non-Christians need to know that there is hope, that there is a God who will love them for exactly who they are and that he will always be there for them. With that relationship comes a desire for us to be “better,” to set examples for the people around us. While we can debate what constitutes sin and what doesn’t, there’s no denying that we’re supposed to show selfless love for one another. While Christians might disagree about a whole number of political issues, that love is what ought to unify them. I hope it does someday. :) (Oh, and I need to watch more Merlin. Seriously. XD)

  55. colorlessblue Says:

    Sara Davis: the argument you made is a tone argument, and it’s a blaming the victim argument. It’s “You’re damaging your cause by being angry” (http://www.derailingfordummies.com/#angry), mixed with “You lost your temper so I don’t have to listen anymore” (http://www.derailingfordummies.com/#notlistening) mixed with “You’re being hostile” (http://www.derailingfordummies.com/#hostile).
    It’s not the people who are fighting injustices they suffer who are to blame for backlash from the fight. It’s the people who are defending the unfair status quo who create the backlash.
    Have you ever read Letter from a Birmingham Jail, by Dr. King?

    “You deplore the demonstrations that are presently taking place in Birmingham. But I am sorry that your statement did not express a similar concern for the conditions that brought the demonstrations into being. I am sure that each of you would want to go beyond the superficial social analyst who looks merely at effects, and does not grapple with underlying causes.”

    “Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct action movement that was “well timed,” according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the [word] “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Negro with a piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see with the distinguished jurist of yesterday that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.” “

  56. Grant Says:

    Hey Maureen,
    Really appreciated this. You should blog more.
    Love, Grant

    PS Look its Letter from a birmingham jail! I’m sure its not being grossly mis or confusingly used!

  57. pete275 Says:

    I agree with the people who find the US debate kinda weird, and this letter is a great example of why. And in some ways I feel like an outsider of the LGBT community to which I supposedly belong. There’s a lot of discussion about things that are completely irrelevant and distract us from the real point. For example, “is homosexuality a choice?”. who cares? Even if it was, I am free to make any choice I want. Why waste time on that argument? Same with this. Rights are rights. I don’t care if you disagree with them, not because I don’t care about your opinion, but because before any kind of debate can be had, you have to rectify the situation where one portion of the population is being denied a right that another portion has. Saying that we need to have a “conversation” about it is just stalling, and kind of insulting. Being from a country where we already have the right to marry, I’m totally open to a debate about marriage now, but before we can have that, I needed to be recognized as a person.

    Also, the argument about the guy being called a nazi is kinda weak. Of course I wouldn’t compare them to nazis, but a nazi could make the exact same point. “Hey, I’m trying to make a reasoned argument about how Jews don’t deserve basic human rights, and they’re calling me a homophobe!”. Well, yeah, this guy is not a homophone, and the other guy is not a Nazi. They’re still both wrong.

  58. SarahE Says:

    I love this post, Maureen, and I love your willingness to confront dicey issues on your blog. I think we NEED to talk about these issues in a civil, constructive way. Most of the time people just shut up because they don’t want an argument or they desced into screaming matches. Thank you for raising the level of discourse. <3

    Can I just make one teensy little request, though? Could we stop referring to specific, conservative religions – that happen to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Messiah – as merely Christian? Because the word "Christian" actually covers a whole range of belief systems. Some of these religions view homosexuality as a sin, while other people who are still technically Christian do not. Those people, like myself, who are Christian in a not homophobic way get REALLY tired of being lumped together with a group we are not part of. So stop saying Christian when you actually mean Mormon or Baptist or something fundamentalist like that.

    And for all those fundamentalist/conservative Christians on here, trying to understand, thank you for being open and willing to debate. I respect your ability to civilly talk about this. Still, your belief that my best friend is doomed to hell makes me sadder than I can explain.

  59. Kendra Says:

    As a queer woman, I have no words for how absolutely wonderful and heartening this post was. I agree with everything you’ve said, and I really adored how you remained civil yet refused to compromise on your beliefs.

    And I do think, as several other people have pointed out, that it is important to keep in mind that it shouldn’t matter if homosexuality is a choice or not because I am allowed a choice in who I sleep with. Frankly, even if I had a choice in whether or not I was queer I’d still choose to be queer. I love my sexuality, and I love the relationships I’ve had due to my sexuality, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

    And while agree that calling someone a “Nazi” for their views isn’t productive discourse (though, as an aside, it seems US citizen have this awful habit of throwing around that word at will) I don’t think there is such a thing as a “well reasoned argument” on why human beings deserve to be denied rights. Certainly there are arguments which appear to be well-reasoned, but if you think about them rationally they tend to fall apart.

    Fact of the matter is that thinking a group of people don’t deserve the same rights as you is a form of bigotry (which the obvious caveat that excludes criminals &c.). If I thought that Christians shouldn’t be allowed to marry, and that Christians shouldn’t have legal protection against discrimination in the workplace, or that Christians shouldn’t be allowed to be open about their faith in the military, well, that would be very clearly absurd, and equally clearly wrong. More over, I’d venture to say if I were to believe that, yeah, I’d be a bigot. Once again, we’re at this place — there’s no reasonable, non-bigoted way to deny someone their rights.

    Similarly, if I went around saying all Christians were going to burn in hell, well, I think that would be hate speech. Having spent a good portion of my life on the other end of hate speech, having had to listen to mainstream “experts” tell me I am sick and wrong and somehow morally deformed, having to listen again and again to debates on whether or not I deserve to be treated like a human being, well, I can tell you hate speech hurts. Someone else pointed out the amount of recent suicides in the news that were motivated by homophobia, some motivated by homophobic hate speech. Words have the power to wound, and people need to remember that.

    I guess I would like to point out just how awful it is to know that you can never marry the woman you love, to know it every day, to talk about the future in terms of partnership and living together but never marrying — and while, personally, I’m not sure I would even want to get married, the fact that I am denied that right hurts so very badly.

    And finally, here’s the thing. It’s not just about “gay marriage”, especially not in the US. There’s a lot of legislation on the table right now — we’ve repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and we’re trying to keep it that way. We’re trying to get legislation written, at least in Ohio, that protects LGBTQA individuals from discrimination in the workplace. I understand that the marriage issue is the one most often in the spotlight, but there’s tons of stuff at stake here and really, I implore people to realize that not supporting these things hurts people so very badly. I could write a book on how much fear and hurt I’ve experienced because of my sexual orientation, and I consider myself to have been very lucky.

  60. Tim J Says:

    I belong to a Baptist church that believes that whilst homosexual acts are a sin, they are no more sinful than any other sin that we commit. And I have a problem with that, because I genuinely believe that people are born with a sexual orientation, that they have to discover for themselves; and I can not believe that living out the orientation that you have been created with in a faithful, loving relationship is sinful. I believe that the equation “Gay + Christian = Celibate” places an unacceptable and unnecessary burden on people that would be perfectly happy in a gay relationship, should they be fortunate enough to find a partner to spend their life with.

    And do you know what, I feel the weight of feeling in the church, certainly in the UK, behind me. It may take another 20 years, but I believe that the debate will move on to “how do we nurture long-term loving gay relationships that build up both partners”. We see plenty of examples of that sort of relationship, but plenty more where that fails to occur, and the church needs to have a voice on that matter.

  61. Nicholas Says:

    I don’t have to add much to this discussion, mainly because debating about religion and faith is a bit futile. Faith is about what you feel is right.
    If you feel that Jesus is your saviour and you were lost before you knew about him, that’s fine.
    If you feel that that guy over there is attractive and you happen to be a guy as well, that’s fine too.

    It is probably the core of the issue that we are talking about things you cannot see on both sides, the main difference being that one side (LGBTQ) accepts the other (Christians etc) for who they are, while the other side tries convincing the first side that what the first side feels is wrong and punishable by a higher law (aka God) and to make sure they see the light they try to make life as difficult for them as possible until they just give up (aka choose to live a straight lie or in the worst case kill themselves).

    I have no energy left to argue about something as personal and emotional as faith, I am gay AND believe from the bottom of my heart in a higher power, who Christians might call God, even though I’m not religious at all. If all Christians would do some historic studies and find out how exactly the bible we know today came to existence, I think we might be in for a few surprises…

    I have said on other places in the vastness we call the internet that I have grown due to the hate I have encountered, but I also know that there are many who are not strong enough. They don’t grow, they either close up and pretend or they kill themselves, in both cases their lives are lost.

    I second the challenge presented earlier for my straight Christian friends here. Try to choose to be sexually attracted to a straight same-gendered friend. Try really hard and then search your feelings and see if they change, because in the end… it’s all about feelings. Faith and sexuality.

  62. David Gillaspie Says:

    Thank you Maureen, for addressing the hard things. I grew up where a gay uncle was a fact of life. The question wasn’t why he was gay, but just a fact of life. Grandma and Grandpa ran him out of town then realized how wrong they were and embraced their gay son, becoming advocates for gay issues.

    I went to my uncle’s gay wedding, then years later, to his partner’s gay funeral. For my wife and kids it wasn’t a question of gayness, it was a question of family. Since my uncle was part of the family, judging his lifestyle was left to others like the born-again conservatives.

    What is the real challenge of gay friends and family? It doesn’t take a bible thumper to understand the idea of treating others as you’d like to be treated.

  63. OxfordComma Says:

    I would just like to note quickly, as a Christian myself, that being opposed to homosexuality isn’t a “basic Christian value”–loving your neighbor, on the other hand, is very much a basic Christian value.

  64. Lisanne Says:

    Maureen, I love your readers.

  65. Caitlyn Says:

    I would like to issue a second challenge in addition to the one already presented here. For those who believe homosexuality is a sin, please find a verse in the Bible where Jesus states as much. JESUS, mind, not anyone else.

    See, the funny thing is, the man whose teachings are the very basis of Christianity never had a thing to say about the matter that is consuming some churches right now. He said a lot about respecting and loving everyone, regardless of who they are or what they do, but never a thing about homosexuality. We only see references to homosexuality in the Old Testament and Romans. The OT theoretically doesn’t count any more (granted that depends on which Christian denomination you talk to) but if you want to follow its laws you’d better not be wearing any polyester-blend clothing right now. And forget about that delicious shrimp cocktail you were planning to have with dinner tonight. And if we’re adhering very strictly to Romans (which was written by a man who had never met Jesus), all the ladies out there had better be keeping their heads down and their mouths shut in church.

    I honestly find it horrific that some religious people think it’s okay to tell people something they have no control over is sinful or wrong. The same logic has been used for centuries to oppress minorities, women, the disabled, and anyone else the religious leader of the time doesn’t like. Why is it okay to use this same logic on homosexuals? It makes no sense, especially considering the psychological and emotional damage done to religious people struggling with their sexuality. I’m straight, but based on the stories I’ve heard and the people I’ve talked to, the experiences and the shame I went through when I was struggling with my faith are almost identical to others dealing with their sexuality. Despite the fact that I’ve been an atheist since I was 14 or so, it took me almost 5 years to actually admit that to myself, much less to anyone else, because of the negative connotation associated with “atheist” and the shame and horror my Christian family and friends might feel. My mom thinks I’m going to hell. She loves me and supports me and is an absolutely wonderful person and I love her to death, but she thinks I’m damned. You have no idea how incredibly painful that is, especially when I’m going to hell for something I literally cannot change. I can’t just choose to become a Christian the way that gays can’t just choose to be gay, and yet we’re told that because we’re like this (because God made us this way, depending on your Biblical interpretations) we’re going to burn for eternity. Even if hell isn’t brought up, what we are is still viewed as something that needs to be fixed, and if you’re okay with telling kids and teens that who they are is wrong, then there’s something wrong with you.

    Apologies in advance if any of this comes off as ranty, religion-hating what-have-you. I promise I don’t have religious people. All of my family and most of my best friends are Christians, and I love them all dearly. I don’t agree with a lot of what is taught in some churches, but in some circumstances I think that religion is helpful and even necessary. This is one of the few topics that really gets me riled up, and I will defend to the death the civil rights of the gay community.

  66. Caitlyn Says:

    Also, I would really encourage everyone here to read up on Dustin Lance Black (the screenwriter of “MILK”). He’s an openly gay man who came from an extremely conservative Mormon family, and his story and his passion are truly inspiring. I heard him speak just last week, and I was on the verge of tears the whole time. He’s definitely a frontrunner in this movement, and everyone needs to hear his story.

  67. JP Gal Says:

    Lots of people think that being gay or lesbian is a choice and therefore not a status entitled to legal protection like race or sex. The funny thing is, one’s religious beliefs are a choice, yet our great federal constitution, as well as the constitutions and laws of every one of our states, fully protect every person’s right to practice the religion of their choice and to be free from discrimination in employment, housing, and places of public accommodation because of religious belief.

    Of course! you say; that’s because one’s religion is irrelevant to such things as whether that person is a good employee, a reliable tenant, or has a right to be served at the restaurant or buy an airline ticket. So it is with sexual orientation. But I (and most people) don’t believe it is a choice. I believe God in her infinite wisdom made me gay (and I trust that also means she gave me the strength to live my life as a gay person with integrity and honesty, when it sometimes seems all of society is bent on making that impossible). But even if it were a choice, that does not mean that discrimination is right or should be permitted as a matter of law and public policy.

    Thanks, Maureen, for publishing this letter and for your thoughtful, wise, and compassionate response.

  68. Elizabeth Kaylene Says:

    Thanks, MJ, and anonymous letter writer, for this post.

    I’m for gay rights, and I don’t see everyone who is against gay rights as homophobic or a bigot — unless they actually are. However, I still don’t understand the mentality some people have that homosexuality doesn’t exist, and that it’s only a choice. In that case, gay people would choose to just be straight so that they didn’t get their car windows bashed in or things thrown at them. They would choose to be straight so that their families didn’t disown them and their relationships weren’t considered invalid. Clearly, gay people are just asking to be physically attacked by a group of people and verbally abused by strangers; otherwise, they would just be straight.

    I’m sorry, but I just don’t understand that kind of thinking. Can someone please explain to me why some people think that homosexuality is a choice? I’m honestly really curious and just want to understand, that way I can better voice why I believe that homosexuality is not a choice.

    Thanks.

  69. Rachel Says:

    Personally i don’t believe that being gay is the way God made humans to be. He made a man and a women and that’s it. But i also believe that to make a law that restrains people from marrying that person they want to spend their most intamate relationship with, is wrong. Because it may not be something i approve of but as a Christian it’s my job to love and show people the way it was meant to be not judge them, because i have way too many flaws myself to even begin to try and tell them they are doing wrong.

    i know people who are gay and really i don’t think of them as “my gay friends.” They may be on the wrong path but it’s not my job to tell them that, not at all. Jesus even said “love your neighbor as yourself” no ifs ands or buts.

    “love your neighbor”

  70. Caitlyn Says:

    Hey guys, if you read this in the next couple of days, go watch this video and then please tell me how being gay is a choice and why anyone would willingly put themselves through this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3jYESZpHIo

    Her parents are threatening to sue for invasion of privacy if she doesn’t take it down, so I don’t know how long it will be up there, but it will break your heart.

  71. Alexis Says:

    “You may have thought the man in question was harmlessly voicing a view—but that view has been converted into laws that break hearts, that leave gay teenagers feeling hopeless, that separate families and loved ones.”

    That, I think, is the most enlightening sentence I have read in a *long* time. So many people say, “but I have a right to this opinion, you have to respect it, etc”—and of course, they do and should have the right to say what they believe. But so many people forget the consequences of seemingly harmless/careless words. They underestimate the power that “frivolous” commentary can have in the backs of our minds when it comes time to make serious decisions that change lives. Thank you for saying it and saying it so well.

    In fact, thank you in general, for being so… clear-sighted. It sounds silly, but reading this post, I was so amazed at how you know what you stand for, and what’s more, you’ve *thought about* what you stand for and have sound reasoning and hard fact behind all your stances. Most authors I read seem to want to sit mildly just north or south of the fence in order to keep as many readers happy as possible (or maybe because they, themselves, don’t know what they believe in), and I love how you don’t do that at all, but at the other end of the spectrum, you don’t rage and soapbox-scream from a place of anger/hurt/negativity like many of the authors who *do* take a stance do.

    And this letter—I love how it sounds so reasonable and hits just the right emotional cues so that any kind and reasonable human being (which you most certainly are) would immediately want to agree and make nice–and you didn’t. Not just to be contrary or anything, but because you truly know precisely where you stand on the subject and are able to answer with clear thought rather than an emotional gut reaction. Can I just say I’m hopelessly in awe of you? And that I hope I can someday get to whatever awesome place of clarity and wisdom (yep, I said it–”wisdom”) that your mind lives in? Very seriously–you rock! *__*

  72. J Says:

    If you oppose gay rights, you are a bigot. You are probably not a Nazi. You may be a very nice, kind, generous person. But you are still a bigot.

    Sometimes it hurts to realize that things you believe are wrong, but there is no middle ground here. There cannot be a compromise between my human rights and your desire to never be made uncomfortable. If you want to spread hate and intolerance and injustice, gay people can’t really stop you, but we have no obligation to be pleasant about it.

  73. Pauline Says:

    Beautifully argued. There’s no point in standing in the way of love.

  74. Ellen-Maree Says:

    As beautiful as the exchange of letters is, Maureen, I think the debate and discussion and growth in the comments is the best part of this post.

    This conversation has shown people can talk about this issue with respect and intelligence (not without passion, though. Which lets us see the humanity behind all of this).

    Thank-you. All of you.

  75. equality gay homosexual human rights lesbian LGBT LGBTQ marriage equality marriage same-sex marriage support equality gay homosexual human rights lesbian LGBT LGBTQ marriage equality marriage same-sex marriage support Says:

    [...] //via MaureenJohnsonBooks.com [...]

  76. Lisa Says:

    Wow. I’ve been really astounded that gay marriage is still not legal in the states, but discussions like this really encourage me to think that it will be over soon. Gay marriage not being legal just makes no sense to me. As Maureen said, the laws of other religions don’t govern the general population so why should it govern marriage. Porn is definitely against many religions, it’ legal. Smoking not only hurts the people who do it, but the people around them as well, it’s legal. All sorts of things that are more harmful and hurtful than two people of the same gender loving and wanting to be married to each other are legal, so I don’t see how even the most conservative Christian on the planet can see its fit to control the lives of others in this way.

  77. LauraGPie Says:

    Maureen, that was absolutely beautiful. Your answer is everything I would like to say to similar questions, but more eloquent. You amaze me. Thank you for being a writer.

  78. Puella Says:

    I think it’s great that people are able to have open dialogues about this issue, but when it comes to voicing (or even formulating) my own thoughts, I always get confused. I like to start from the fundamentals when I consider an issue, and in this case I’m not really sure what those are. Is there a good (reliable, comprehensive, unbiased) source you can recommend where I can learn about what, exactly, homosexuality is? I want to find out if homosexual behavior is innate or learned, and if it influenced solely by environment or by genes as well. For some reason I never see this information in either the pro- or anti-gay rights propaganda. I always hear people say that being gay is not a choice, but then neither is depression or neuroticism or other undesirable and treatable states of mind that can result from abuse or other negative events. I have read about instances in which these such things are precisely the case for what causes homosexual tendencies; however, when I hear the other kind of stories, about people who find that they just “know” at some point in their lives that they are gay, I don’t see those stories being accompanied by any concrete basis for such realizations.

    I understand that gay couples can engage in stable and healthy relationships, that they are equally competent at raising children as straight couples, and that they are not (at least not directly) hurting anyone by following the lifestyle dictated by their sexual preference. The statistics speak for themselves. However, I wonder about how the concept of sexual identity will play out in the next generation since nowadays society is so much more open about sexuality, and what influence that might have later on today’s children. I would like to come to a greater personal understanding of what it really means to be gay so that I can form an educated opinion and understanding about not just legalization of gay marriage but the concept of homosexuality in general.

  79. Caitlyn Says:

    @Puella: A quick Google search yielded a few good sites, and I’m sure more can be tracked down. These cover a number of different studies on homosexuality.

    http://www.tim-taylor.com/papers/twin_studies/index.html
    http://psychology.ucdavis.edu/rainbow/html/facts_mental_health.html
    http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_caus.htm

  80. Laura Says:

    Maureen, I want to thank you for writing this thoughtful, eloquent blog post. If we had more calm, honest assessments of disagreements – like this – I feel sure we would be a better world. You have managed to cut to the truth of this issue in a way that, I would think, no one could refute. It is simply illogical to call ourselves a free country with rights for all, when those rights are being denied to many. Thank you for taking the time to respond to the person who sent you this letter. I hope they, and others, take your message to heart.

  81. Leah Says:

    This blog post is fantastic. As are many of the comments, which I believe is exactly the sort of discussion that is needed to address such issues in the US, as well as other countries, such as Australia, where I live. I was firmly against the ‘wearing purple’ idea, because it didn’t encourage discussion, and all I felt in the end was that I was being pressured to wear purple. And a friend of mine said that her reason for participating was support, and my response was that it doesn’t change anything, because there are still as many bigots out there. So I went and asked my sister (who happens to be gay) about the whole idea who said “If people want to support me, they should be telling people off for making homophobic comments, not wearing purple.” What I like to see is this sort of discussion about the issue.

    And this is religion aside. I understand the whole separation of church and state issue meaning that religion shouldn’t come into this debate, but I remember watching an episode of the West Wing, and President Bartlett said ‘A separation of church and state doesn’t mean a separation of church and politics’. This issue has been made so much more complicated than it should be, because love is love. Oh also I think there will always be bigotry and homophobia even if we take away religion.

  82. Jeremy Says:

    I don’t see what the huge deal is with gay rights. I’m a Jesus loving, God fearing Christian, but that doesn’t mean that I enjoy people being persecuted. I have a deep and wonderful relationship with my creator, and I’m very passionate about my beliefs, but I will never force anyone to believe what I do. Just like I don’t ever expect a gay man or woman to say that I have to be gay. That’s ridiculous when you think about it. How can someone who is supposed to be seen as thoughtful, loving, and caring towards all treat people with such cruelty just for something they want? Nobody is perfect, and it even states quite clearly in the Bible that we (Christians) are not to judge others for we cannot even judge ourselves. That’s why I hate it when I see people doing anything against one another when nobody is being hurt. It’s like saying, “Hey. I know I do things wrong, but you suck because I believe what you’re doing is just stupid and bad. You must be punished for doing something I don’t like.” Or it’s like. “Hey. You like a different candy than I do, so you’re an evil person and must be punished.” I hope this comes across the way I think it will. I love everybody, and I hope to see a day when people aren’t so quick to judge or so quick to persecute.

  83. emily Says:

    Here’s something I don’t think has been touched on, except almost by Chelsea (#14) and you can see one response from Alanna (#26): there is a lot of hate in the world. From EVERYONE. There are plenty of people who can and will discuss this issue and those like it calmly. But there are also people who will attack you if what you say challenges their beliefs.

    I’m probably going to end up cursing, so I apologize in advance, it isn’t directed at anyone/thing but the ever present hate.

    So.

    Gay people, especially teenagers, get a lot of shit for being gay. And that, in no possible way, is okay. I have met a person or two who dislikes gay people–and I made my opinion of their hate mongering known. The West Borro Baptist Church (or however the hell you spell it, I’m too lazy to look it up) is disgusting and, to be frank, I rather hope they burn in hell.

    But that is my personal belief and I’ll not go bashing it around their heads.

    That’s the thing: there are crazy extremists who hate love and sunshine and then there are the people over here saying, dude, what’s sunshine ever done to you, and the people who hate sunshine say something along the lines of “it’s more the fact that it exists if you know what I mean” and then the pro-sunshine people will shoot back, “are you quoting Harry Potter, what the hell, you’re an asshole, you can’t quote Harry Potter, I fucking love Harry Potter!”
    Only in this case, sunshine is gay people and Harry Potter is the Bible/God. And it’s much less funny and much more suck.

    Because there’s hate and attacks on both sides. Yes, WE ARE ALL IN THE WRONG HERE. Except for those fair few who choose not to argue and politely excuse themselves (think Dumbledore).

    I received a very…well, it wasn’t what I’d call respectful, reply from an author who claimed that all conservative Christians were ignorant assholes who hate happiness and are, really, dementors (you know dementors can’t stand gay people). Is that in any way close to the horrible things gay teens have to go through? No. Of course not. I would be an asshole to say that. Ew.

    Regardless, there are some (usually the people who do aren’t gay but merely gay supporters) (which just goes to show you that gay people are so much better than us poor heterosexuals)who will attack Christian conservatives simply for being Christian conservatives. Which is no better than hating people for being gay.

    So the message here is, we are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided. So come on kids, let’s get over this whole you hate gays! you hate Christians! (not that anyone’s said that–here, anyway–but the point remains)and BE FRIENDS.

    ONCE WE’RE ALL OVER THIS NASTY BOUT OF HATING PEOPLE WHO ARE DIFFERENT THAN US, WE MIGHT ACTUALLY BE ABLE TO GET SOME GOOD DONE IN THE WORLD. SERIOUSLY YOU GUYS. And that goes for Muslims, Christians, conservatives, liberals, Democrats, Republicans, Slytherins and Gryffindors. LETS GET TOGETHER AND MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE.

    (I AM SHOUTING BECAUSE I CANNOT FIND THE TIME TO ITALICIZE. AND BECAUSE IT’S FUN. IT RELIEVES THE TENSION. YOU SHOULD TRY IT. RIGHT NOW. ALSO, I APOLOGIZE FOR THE HP REFERENCES, MY ROOMMATE AND I ARE REREADING THEM FOR THE SEVENTH MOVIE AND I JUST FINISHED THE SIXTH ONE AND…IT’S JUST ONE OF THOSE THINGS. I’M SURE YOU UNDERSTAND. THAT IS ALL.)

    All the best!

  84. NinjaFanpire Says:

    I struggle with something similar.
    I am a non-denominational Christian. I know people that are homosexuals. The Bible, which my religion is based on, says that homosexuality is wrong. Therefore, I cannot support it. However, the Bible also says that God gives us free will, to make any choices that we want. So while I don’t support homosexuality, I’m not going to bash it or try to stop someone from being gay/lesbian. I believe that homosexuality is a choice, which is what I base my opinions on. Some people believe that homosexuality is something thats built into your genes, and it’s hard for them to accept my point of view. I cannot accept homosexuality as right, since according to my religion it is a sin. But I tolerate it. Tolerate just doesn’t seem like a strong enough word though. Everyone has a right to make the choices that they feel are right for them. God gave everyone freedom to make choices. And that’s my stance on the matter.

  85. David Says:

    I am not gay, but I do crossdress, and I would be willing to stop posting hateful comments on the internet if people would stop laughing and making fun of me just because of the way I dress. I have no respect for others who do not respect me. This is exactly why lgbtq Americans are becoming hateful – because you have all these hate crimes committed against them (and discrimination in the employment and housing sectors). Gays and lesbians are “fighting back” against intolerance. And one more thing – I can understand opposing gay marriage, but not the right to hold a job, which is necessary to keep those with a different sexual orientation from living on the streets! You can’t have anyone become homeless – THAT is Nazism!

  86. Ashley Says:

    I’m a Christian. I love God. My brother is gay. He loves God. My CHRISTIAN family and I love him AND his boyfriend. His boyfriend also loves God. Nowhere in the bible does it say that God hates gays. Homosexuality is considered a sin because two homosexuals cannot reproduce, but nowhere in the bible does it say that God hates homosexuals. However, it DOES say multiple times that he loves everyone and would never judge anyone who is willing to be saved. Personally, when it comes to gay people being saved, I think it’s more of a, “God, I realize that what I’m feeling and experiencing and going through is considered a sin, but I was born this way. You made me this way. I love so very much, and I know that you will never let anything horrible happen to me. Please forgive me of my sins” sort of thing.

  87. Morgan Sharper Says:

    I do not understand how numerous liberals state that the constitution may be out of date and is also an unrelevant document. The constitution serves as a living article which can be changed whenever accompanied by a substantial majority vote.

  88. Heather Says:

    Thanks Maureen for posting this and starting this discussion. I personally come from Mississippi, grew up going to church, was very devout as a teenager, but one of my friends came out to me in college and it totally rocked my world. I’ve since gone away from my Christian faith… I just couldn’t find a way to reconcile true, full acceptance of my friend with what is presented in scripture without picking and choosing which verses to follow. Having been on both sides of the issue and lived the slow progression of vocally against homosexuality (my biggest regret, I hate that I caused problems for others & am ashamed) to a Christian who “accepted” homosexuals and had gay friends, to where I am now, I fully believe it is impossible to be 100% in support of gay rights and still believe homosexual acts are a sin. There’s a disconnect there that I didn’t even realize until I stopped thinking of it as sinful. I was pro-gay marriage because of legal reasons when I was a Christian but even though I thought I was supportive there was a part that held back because of the idea of sin. But having been there I empathize very strongly with the letter writer and other commenters on this post… I cannot make decisions for anyone, only share where I’ve been and what conclusions I came too. But faith is so personal and what was right for me isn’t right for everyone. Best of luck to you all as we muddle through this thing!

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