In this week’s edition of Newsweek’s “My Turn” column, Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, describes how sad he was at the sight of an angry confrontation between demonstrators on both sides of the Prop. 8 decision. Mouw, a supporter of Prop. 8, introduces his column by asserting that his opposition to gay marriage doesn’t make him a religious fundamentalist. He ends the column with a call for a more gentler approach to the debate and asks Can we Talk?
As a heterosexual who strongly supports gay rights, I accept his invitation.
Firstly, yes. We can talk. In fact, the gay people have been talking gently and calmly about marriage rights for years. Where have you been? As gay people find themselves increasingly marginalized in American society, used as pawns with which politicians pander to religious fundamentalists, is it not absurd for them to finally raise their voice and say, No More!!? Gay people have exerted all efforts calm and boisterous to claim that which is theirs under the Constitution. And only now that the oppression has become palpable – reached levels measurable by dollars – you ask to talk, Mr. Mouw.
Where were you a decade or five years ago? Most likely ensconced in your theological universe, comforted in the surety of your doctrine while other Americans were fighting for the freedoms. Now that the situation has come to a head in your geographical area do you wish to calm those whose rights you actively snuff.
Calm conversation has offered no answers to the gay community. They are not some group of aberrant miscreants who can be talked out of their identity. They cannot be convinced as a people to forgo their Constitution rights simply because the majority choose to oppress them. Gentle conversation is a noble idea, but the reality is that people live and die amidst all this talking you are calling for. We can talk quietly until your jesus comes to claim you, but progress awaits and it is known to happen under mostly painful, dramatic circumstances. Gays have tried talking and reasonable interaction for decades to no avail. Years of existence under the boot of the “moral majority” have given way to anger – and demonstration and protest are some of the most American mediums of expression. That it makes you uncomfortable is inconsequential.
What I dislike about the approach you take in your column toward the discussion table is that you assume your opinion matters. “As my fellow citizens in a pluralistic society, gays and lesbians have a right to ask me what my sincerely held convictions mean for how they pursue their way of lives.” Why would they? Or, better yet, why should they?
A gay marriage should involve only the two who are engaged in the relationship. It does not involve you, your church, or your god. You should live your life the way you choose – and be glad that most of us would also fight for your right to practice your religion freely. But leave other people’s lives to them as they do yours and stop assuming that merely because you have a vote, you have a right to determine the legal boundaries of other people’s relationships. You are not in the equation. No one should even care what your convictions mean for a gay person’s pursuit of happiness.
Furthermore, your opinion is based on a book that calls for people to sacrifice quality decision-making based on evidence in order to believe in a jealous, petty god so that they might inherit some undefinable heaven. That that same god would doom all decent decision-makers to an eternal hell is an incalculably ridiculous notion. That this would be the foundation of your opinion renders your judgment irrational at best. Belief in a book of fairy tales and myths does not make for sound and reasoned decision. No matter how calmly you talk.
One of the biggest problems I have with Christians is that they assume their bible tells them to assert biblical rules to govern the rest of us. It does not. If Christians choose to use the bible as a template for their lives – and even the best cannot do so without “sinning” – that is their right. This does make them a religious fundamentalist, including you, Mr. Mouw.
The bible, however, does not dictate laws for those of us who do not adhere to belief in its divinity. Personally, I think it’s full of crack-pot, misogynist, unnatural, oppressive stories. I would never dream of attaching my “soul” to this ugly tome.
At the end of the day, Mr. Mouw, you are too late. Your chance for considerate – sympathetic? – and calm discussion has passed. I see from your picture you are old. And perhaps you will die content in your belief that a tenant of your fallible religion still holds legal dominance over a group of your fellow Americans. At 31, I will probably live to see this unconstitutional religious dominance broken – more likely sooner than later. What a party that will be!
Lastly, I would ask you what would your jesus do? I’ve read the stories and understand Christians claim to try to be christ-like. Would Jesus deny happiness to those who seek to privately better their lives – people who harm no others by establishing their own families as they freely see fit? I highly doubt it. If Christians cannot be christ-like, why should they expect the rest of us to be?