I just got home from a trip to Kansas, and a lovely trip it was, minus the thirty minutes it takes to drive into, and then back out of, the stench of a vast and horrifying feed lot somewhere near the state line between Oklahoma and Texas. Also, the billboards, signs (hand-written and machine produced), and handbills decrying the various threats to The American Way of Live as understood by some of the residents of the huge, empty miles that stretch from central New Mexico to eastern Kansas. Wearing Birkenstocks and ordering vegan meals felt pretty risky. My mom, aunt, and dad can pass as conservatives if they so choose. My sister and I, not so much. We’re pretty identifiable as what we are: ultra-liberal. Though if I asked you to tell me which of us was gay just by looking at us, I’m sure you’d guess wrong. She never wears Birks; I never wear high heels. Presumptions amuse me.
Ouch, I’m off track. I was in Kansas when I read the news that Manny Pacquiao, Philippino boxer, actor, and politician, thinks that gay men should be put to death. It turns out he never said that. Granville Ampong of The Examiner put some words in the man’s mouth. In fact, said Manny in an interview with the LA Times,
What I said is a reporter asked me about gay marriage …. I am against gay marriage, but I’m not condemning gays. I have family — a cousin — who’s gay, and friends too. I’m just against gay marriage… I’m against same-sex marriage, but I’m not condemning you. My favorite verse is ‘Love one another as you love yourself. Love your neighbor.’ So I love everybody!…We can’t help it if they were born that way. What I’m critical of are actions that violate the word of God. I only gave out my opinion that same-sex marriage is against the law of God.
Oh, good. So that’s OK, right? As long as he loves people and doesn’t actually want to kill anyone, it’s OK to take away their rights! And if he interprets a book that he believes is holy to say that marriages between two people of the same sex are bad, well by golly, it must be bad. Obviously!
Back in the way, way old days, when I was an American abolitionist, I said to a slaveholder, “Hey, asshole, you can’t own people. We all deserve our freedom. It’s not something you can give or take away or vote on, because it’s a right!”
The abolitionist responded, “I’m not against freedom. I love the negro people. Some of my slaves are my friends. I’m just against freedom for the negro, but I’m not condemning them. I love everybody! We can’t help it if they’re born with the mark of Cain. What I’m critical of are actions that violate the word of God, and the Bible clearly says that having slaves from among the dark races is the law of God.”
I’ve had thousands of similar arguments across human history. Did you know that Adolf Hitler believed he was doing the will of God? He thought Jews (among others) were gross and dirty and unnatural. The 9/11 hijackers believed they were doing the will of God. The people who committed genocide on (insert almost any group here: Christians, Native Americans, Rwandan Tutsis, the list could go on and on and on) thought they were doing God’s will. The people who denied American women the right to vote and the people who created separate facilities for blacks and whites believed that those things were natural and God-ordained. These are ancient arguments. People have been making them for untold millennia: this or that is unnatural or against the laws of God.
You know what? Sex that is different from the kind of sex you enjoy just squicks you out. You don’t like it so you found a reason to make it broadly bad. As my brilliant daughter said, “We should make gay marriage legal and heterosexual marriage illegal and see if the anti-gay-marriage folks still feel like it’s such a small thing to deny people.”
Now, let’s get right down to the meat of the thing: the Bible doesn’t say what you think it says. Marriage as we know it today didn’t exist until long, long after the last books of the Bible were written. The marriage ceremony that we Christians think of as a sacrament didn’t even exist until the 13th century. You know who wasn’t married, in the way we think of marriage? Joseph and Mary. All that stuff in Leviticus is about pediastry, not consenting adults doing consensually adult sorts of things. Sodom and Gomorrah? That was about being an inhospitable jerk.
I could go on, but I’ll leave it to more skillful theologians in more appropriate venues.I try very hard not to discuss theology on the internet in general, and Sprocket Ink in particular, but damn, people keep shoving it in my face and they speak as if they are mouthpieces for my own cherished tradition. I’m quite content to disagree with people on theology. What I’m not OK with is the broad denial of rights that some people insist on creating with their understanding of a holy book that is a) not holy to everyone and b) read so differently even among believers.