Thursday, January 15, 2015

The times they are a' changin'

The topic I've chosen to write about is the question of whether same sex- marriage should be legalized. This is a subject that for whatever reason, has hit me on a very emotional and personal level, and so I have chosen to write from a personal perspective, following my own thoughts and experiences and quite frankly, anguish that I have felt surrounding this issue over the last decade. Some things don't feel like a choice; for whatever reason this issue seems to have found me, and so I will begin and ask for the listener's patience as I connect some dots through my experience, but also through evidence from the surrounding culture to suggest why same-sex marriage needs to be legalized.

If I may begin in saying, though the connection may not be immediately apparent, that I recently made the decision to go back to school. I'm proud of myself on that point because it was something that I had thought about doing for a very long time but had resisted doing for an equally long time. What would I do, I asked myself repeatedly; there's no point in spending all that time and money for something I'm not really sure I want to do. But interestingly, at 40 years of age, now married and with young children and plenty else to do, I decided to begin to take some courses through a seminary.

I read somewhere that we Myers Briggs INFP types need to believe in what we're doing or soon become disillusioned. I've always been that way; it's why I finally gave up on math in grade 11 because no one would tell me what the numbers meant and I was too embarrassed and too afraid to ask. I had struggled with math all the way through school from the time I was in kindergarten, always asking the same question in private despair, but what do the numbers mean? And so in mid-life I realized that the only thing I could really see myself doing in some capacity was Christian ministry. Not a lot of math, I can hope, and it's what I believe in.

But as much as this is what I believe in, another reason I hesitated to attend seminary is because I don't know if I see myself working out of a church building and so naturally wondered all the more about spending the time and effort without what might resemble a practical end benefit in sight, as in a job. Am I being decadent I asked myself repeatedly, in mid-life with kids, a spouse and a mortgage? Couldn't I find something just a bit more practical to do with my time, like join the PTA which always seems to be in need of new members or get around to baking cookies or something that my kids might appreciate? But see, I don't come from a church background in a predictable sort of way to begin with, and I think in some ways that has shaped my outlook, regardless of end or means to an end.

What I mean by that as may become apparent in reading this, is that I tend to have a secular audience in mind when I'm writing. And I think that's it, that as much as I don't necessarily see myself having a professional ministry, I do see a need for people who are willing to step outside the doors of the church building and dialogue with the secular culture that surrounds us. My sense in the last number of years (and this is where this and other controversial issues come in), is that there is a Christian world and a secular world and not a lot of people trying to dialogue between the two. I don't necessarily mean that as a criticism because different people have different gifts and there are plenty of people who are doing things that I'm not doing, but I do see a need for dialogue, more and more. There's a lot of anger out there, and a lot of hurting people, and it seems like the divide between the historically Christian culture in the western world and the contemporary secular culture is getting bigger all the time.

And so for me, coming around to the topic at hand, one of the issues that made me painfully aware of that growing divide is the issue of same-sex marriage. That's why I've chosen to write on this topic because it is one that has kept me up quite a bit and been the source of much anxiety for more than a decade for me personally, but more than that, I see the pain and the division that this is causing within the wider culture. When I first became aware of the issue of same sex marriage, I was instinctively on the side of defending traditional marriage. Hey, it's what I am, what can I say? I'm conservative in some ways. I live in a suburb, I drive a minivan, I have five young kids and I go to church. I might just fit the stereotype of a white evangelical Christian (haha). But I'm also a painfully sensitive person and for much of my adult life I've worked with arguably the most marginalized of people, the mentally disabled. So, I know about rights and what it means to advocate for those without a voice. But for me, I don't think this issue really started in my 30's. I think it started quite a bit earlier than that and if I may state that perhaps it was inevitable that I would change my mind on same-sex marriage, in hindsight, and here is where I will begin to explain how I came to change my mind from being adamantly opposed to same-sex marriage a decade ago, to become a supporter with time.

I always saw myself as the kid from the wrong side of the tracks. For about as long as I can remember, growing up in a small town, where you feel like you are judged by your family background, what your parents do for a living. I always felt like I was up against a wall, struggling against my working class background, my broken family background. I always felt like I had a rubber stamp in the middle of my forehead that said that I wasn't going to amount to anything, that I was a bad kid. I guess it didn't help that I heard it everyday, but there's something about seeing yourself as the kid on the outside looking in, as painful as that can be, that can either be the thing that makes you a social worker, or gets you a ticket to jail.

For me it seems to have had the former effect. I've found in my adult life that the things that break us, can also be the things that shape us. I don't think it's all nature/ nurture though, I think we as people make choices every day of our lives. But I think that much of what I have done, as someone who works with vulnerable people, and in caring for my own young family, I've done from my own brokenness. And I think that's what it was, looking back on the last decade, that as much as I initially disagreed with the thought of changing an age-old institution and as strongly as I felt that the traditional family is something that society needs, I couldn't shut out the affirmative voices. I had to sort it out. I had to make sense of where I found myself, as the kid who always saw myself on the outside looking in, someone was now telling me that I was keeping them out.

And so there were painful discussions with secular friends, and there were letters to the editor that left me confused and angry. There were accusations that left me feeling hurt and misunderstood and as someone who was coming from a mentally abusive background to begin with, it was all too familiar, and very hard not to take personally. Though I didn't realize it at the time I would later realize that that was the reason why this was such an emotional issue for me, because it reminded me of the stigma that I had felt growing up. Religion is the source of the world's problems, don't you know? The good ol' Romans had it right and we should start throwing Christians to the lions again. It would be better if you weren't here at all. You ruined my life. Sound familiar? It did to me.

And it's not my imagination. It is personal, when someone insults your deepest beliefs but more than that your character and says quite directly that you are motivated by hate, as much as that allegation is thrown around as standard fare with this and other controversial issues. There is nothing impersonal or for that matter, professional about it. I think that's the thing about our increasingly polarized culture, where one person sees welfare as leading to institutionalized poverty and the person on the other side of the political fence thinks conservatives don't care about poor people. It's not that the conservative doesn't care about poor people, it's that so often conservatives and liberals are coming at the same issue from a different angle. But in a culture where people listen to one side and find themselves on one side, add to that a very polarized media and political process and not a lot of discussion in between and you have a recipe for frustration and misunderstanding.

For me, again speaking personally, as someone who knew what it was to not have a stable family background and who knew what it was to struggle against poverty and abuse and family breakdown, I came to identify with the values of conservatives because I had to work to get there. Loads of fun, if I may say so myself with years of post-traumatic stress, panic attacks, anxiety and depression. Same-sex marriage had nothing to do with hatred of gay people in my mind and everything to do with keeping the ideal that if someone believed in commitment enough, that it might just make it easier for the next kid. But as someone who wanted my parents to get divorced by the age of seven and noting that they didn't until I was in university and even then nothing was ever settled, I can see what the gay community is saying, that traditional isn't necessarily better. And so, having had time to think about it I actually agree that love and stability is preferable to a broken ideal. Yet, I think statistics do suggest that the nuclear family when done right, tends to yield more successful adults. So, I think there is a place for upholding the ideal in the culture too, legislation aside.1

But again in speaking from my own experience, hurt because I felt like I was being personally attacked, and enraged at being made out to be something that I'm not, standing on Parliament Hill in the spring of 2005, with thousands in front of me and a tiny minority to my left, it's the tiny minority that stands out in my memory. “Stop the hate,” they chanted over and over while pounding on a drum before finally marching off. I stared at them in disbelief, is that what they thought? Yet it continues, the unbridled personal attacks as another conservative organization gets targeted and publicly humiliated2 3, and as another individual gets dragged into court or is forced to close their place of business4. Is that equality? It remains a persistent fear of mine that freedom of conscience is being lost with this issue. Does anyone care? Is this issue even being discussed from the perspective of freedom of conscience, and yet it should be, for both sides -because that is what changed my mind5 6.

I want anyone who will listen to know that calling me a hatemonger and a bigot never changed my mind. All it did was make me very very angry at being made out to be something that I am not and have never been. All it did was lead me to react in frustration. And it must stop, the false accusations and the one-sided rhetoric must stop if we are to get anywhere with this issue. In continuing, as strongly as I disagree with the pressure that is being put on religious conservatives, both individually and collectively in our own spaces (meaning our churches and educational facilities and personal property), I continued to wrestle with this issue from the perspective of gay rights as well. I did this precisely because I care about people and I care about the marginalized. I care about the equal worth and dignity of all human beings, as I expect do most conservatives. And that is what I think the left is missing in it's, pardon me, but obnoxious and degrading manner of targeting religious conservatives - common ground and common decency, a mutual respect that can be found lacking on both sides of the political spectrum to be fair. But if I may say, the accusations that I have personally felt never changed my mind but if you stay with me, I will tell you what did.

In the last decade or more I have had a growing interest in
Christian apologetics, which again has come out of my interest to begin to dialogue with the secular culture that I find myself in. With the time of life where I also find myself, as a young mother with loads upon loads of dishes and laundry and what often seems like endless feedings and diaper changes that came with five children in 6 years, I didn't and still don't have much time to read, but I've had an awful lot of time to listen, and perhaps too much time to think.

My husband had set up a computer for me and I discovered
several years ago that I could listen to lectures while I was doing what seemed like endless repetitive tasks. I started listening to discussions from the public square and I began to ask myself about the place of religion in politics. My personal views have never changed, but I began to wonder if the insistence of religious conservatives on legislating personal standards of moral conduct was doing more harm than good. I knew I had nothing against gay people personally, but they didn't seem to know that. And how would they, I asked myself, if the evening news is all they are hearing from Christians. How would they know that we would love to see them in church and get to know them better as people?
But while I was having these thoughts and questions of what are the appropriate boundaries in the public square, mulling around in my head day after day...One day I was in my kitchen doing dishes and I was listening to a lecture by Nicholas Wolterstorff7. He was speaking about the history of human rights and how this concern for the rights of the individual had developed historically in the western world and making the case that this is arguably part of our heritage as Jews and as Christians8.

It's been a while now, but he argued that our concern for human rights in the western world is based on the
Biblical concept of human beings being created in the image of God. With this concept as an ideological backdrop, coupled with the religious wars between Catholics and Protestants that followed the Protestant Reformation, with a looming threat from the outside and a bloodbath within, people began to realize that the cost was simply too great. It makes sense to think that Americans would not want to repeat the mistakes of Europe and so was born the concept of separation of church and state, because they didn't want one denomination to gain control and begin persecuting religious minorities9.
I was listening to this lecture and in my mind's eye a light went on. I thought of the painful arguments with friends. I thought of the angry letters to the editor. I thought of my own pain and the pain that I was hearing expressed from the gay community and I began to ask myself, what really is the difference between my right as a Christian to say this is who I am and the right of a gay person to say this is who I am? And I think that's the irony of this issue, that both sides want the other to change and insist that change is possible and yet speaking as a religious conservative I know I can't change either!

Trust me, I have stared this issue down in the middle of the night more times than I could coherently count and at what point am I allowed to say that I am compelled by my conscience as I believe in a higher authority than myself? I am not my own authority. Religious conservatives don't change with social pressure. Jews haven't been eating bacon for thousands of years and you can tell them it's okay to eat bacon all you want, but something tells me it's not going to change Jewish views on bacon one little bit. And pardon me for being direct, but if anyone thinks otherwise, you don't understand religious conservatives. And that is what people need to understand if I may suggest, that berating people over and over again and saying “you need to accept bacon,” to someone who has never eaten bacon and who will never eat bacon... At what point do we acknowledge that what is being done to religious conservatives on this issue for what it is -mental abuse. Speaking personally, I have felt like I am being mentally abused all over again with this issue and the only difference is, there's nowhere to go.

I can understand at least in some ways how the gay community must feel, that you have to pound and thump to be heard. I understand. I can understand as well that it must be hard for the gay community to consider the rights of people who have publicly opposed their bid to be seen as equal citizens, but please note that I am also asking that religious minorities support the rights of the gay community to marry and support their human rights in general. That is what I'm saying here, in case I'm not being clear enough in my obvious bias as a religious conservative. I know I'm biased, but I am trying as best I can to advocate for both sides.

And so, taking a page from history, that is what Catholics and Protestants learned to do in Europe, to simply agree to disagree. They learned that the cost was too great, the casualties too high, and that is what I think we need to learn again in an increasingly polarized culture. But we seem to be forgetting our history in the western world. Not many think to recall Martin Luther nailing 95 theses to the door of a church in Wittenberg but everyone remembers Martin Luther King, or at least are aware of the struggle for racial equality in the mid-twentieth century. And so it makes sense that the gay community, in trying to shape their own rights movement would think that we have to make this issue akin to race. That is what people remember (and appears to be the popular view), that this is something that doesn't change. Just as race is something that people are born, people are born gay, but are they? If so, then bring me a gay newborn. It's not that simple, and if it were we would be able to do just that, to identify children at birth as gay, and make accurate predictions as to their future sexual orientation, would we not?10

But religious conservatives tend to view homosexuality as a behaviour and the gay community seems to also think of religious beliefs as behavioural, something that can be changed at will. What I'm saying is, can't we just agree to respect people's right to self-identify and leave it at that? Who am I to tell somebody who they are, or what they believe, or how they should see themselves? It's a personal decision is it not? At least until someone gets hit over the head with a sizable block of something heavy and then it becomes an issue of public expectations. Until then how people define themselves is really a personal matter.

What I'm trying to get across, is that in insisting that this is something that people are born and there can be no exception, I think this conclusion is leading to an inflexibility in how this issue is addressed. I think a more helpful and workable model would be if we thought of this issue more along the lines of religion in a pluralistic culture. You be Anglican and allow me the room to be Catholic, etc. My understanding is that the evidence points to this issue being considerably more complex than race. And if I may humbly suggest, why don't we just skip it? It matters not what we are born, what matters is our right to make decisions as human beings and not be put in a gas chamber for what is ultimately a personal decision. And you see, that is what the gay community and their supporters are missing -an opportunity for common ground that exists with religious minorities, believe it or not. Instead of saying, you bigot and you hatemonger, what if the gay community began to say to religious minorities, I understand what you've gone through as a Christian or as a Jew or as a Jehovah's Witness or as a Muslim. You know what it's like to die for who you are and what you believe. I know too as a gay person, because I was there with you! Would that work better?

It's an issue of conscience for both sides, that is what I am daring to suggest. For me what changed my mind was when I began to associate what the gay community is going through now with what Protestants and Catholics and Jews and Jehovah's Witnesses went through to be granted the right to disagree. What do we have as a society if we do not have the right to disagree with the state or with each other? I've never been able to agree on this issue. As a person of faith, as a religious minority, for me the issue of the acceptance of active homosexuality in lifestyle terms, is not something that I can personally condone or affirm. And we can argue about what the Bible says or does not say all day long and into tomorrow but for anyone out there who thinks that one day everyone is going to wake up and agree with each other on the issue of homosexuality, I suggest you take a look at the number of Protestant churches that are out there. Just for fun, you can take a look at the number of varieties of Baptist churches that are out there while you're at it. There is never going to be a day when everyone agrees on homosexuality anymore than there is ever going to be a day when there is one Protestant church this side of heaven. And so what do you do? Easy, you make another Baptist church, and ask for your rights alongside not against the rights of others.

What would have happened if the Jehovah's Witnesses had come along and demanded that everyone become Jehovah's Witnesses? What would happen if I walked into a synagogue and started demanding that they teach me the Lord's prayer? What would happen if I went to a vegetarian convention and demanded to be served meat? And yet why is it that religious organizations and individuals are being forced to agree with and affirm something that we cannot affirm for reasons of conscience? Please understand, it's like nails on a chalk board over and over again, for anyone who does not know and does not understand, to have something constantly thrown in your face that you cannot agree with. Here, have some more bacon! It's torture, and they just. Won't. Stop. Where is this issue even being discussed from the perspective of the religious minority, from the right of the religious minority to disagree for reasons of conscience?

And I'm not saying that the gay community doesn't have reasons to be upset, I hope that comes across. I'm saying that one group of people does not have the right to gain their rights at the cost of another group of people. Advocate for your rights. Speak for your rights, but please don't ask to take mine as part of that process. Respect me as a human being with the ability to make choices and ask that I do the same for you in return. Don't tell me what to think, and I won't tell you how to live. The world is big enough for Catholics and Protestants to co-exist, and the world is big enough for religious conservatives and the gay community to co-exist.

The argument that is commonly made is that well, it's fine and dandy for Catholics to be Catholics but Catholic schools receive public funding. And so too do gay pride parades11, at least where I'm at, but maybe that's not the norm, I don't know. But regardless, does that give me the right to dictate the values statement of gay festivals? Does it? All I am saying is that until we learn to respect each others space in all of this, there will continue to be legal battles and public division. So why is it that people who choose to attend a Catholic school seem to think they have the right to dictate what Catholics should believe, according to their personal preferences?12 What is stopping someone from attending a different school, if they ultimately disagree with the Catholic church?

If my perceptions are correct, our present culture would look at a scenario such as the above and see it through the lens of a black person in the southern United States in the 1950's being refused service at a restaurant and put pressure on the Catholic school. Am I correct? What I am suggesting from the perspective of a religious model, don't go to a Jewish school if you don't want to be Jewish. Isn't that more reasonable? Many would counter, well, why not put pressure on the Catholic school and force them to comply? Simply put, because if we continue to put pressure on religious minorities against their wishes the reality of what is happening is that the rights of conscience of religious minorities are being lost with this issue.

Is that a step forward, when people can no longer listen to their own conscience but instead have their beliefs dictated to them by the state? Is that what we want as a society? May I humbly suggest that I think a much more constructive approach would be, in keeping with a religious model, make your own school. Make your own church. And there will be liberal churches and conservative churches and there will be somewhere in-between churches or schools or businesses, and people can go to the school or church that fits with their personal beliefs.

If I may suggest, I think what is often missing in the partisan politics of our present-day culture is a relational element. If you're like me, you have friends who are more conservative and friends who are more liberal. You have friends who are of a different faith and friends who are of no faith. If one were to listen to the rhetoric and the emotional charge of this issue while putting the complexity of our personal lives aside, one might almost think that it weren't possible for people who think differently to co-exist. Is that accurate?

In keeping with the complexity of this issue, and in offering different choices to different people, I've had some involvement over the years with ministries that have attempted to reach out and to minister to people who are relationally broken. Historically, some of these programs came out of ministries attempting to reach out to the gay community a few decades back. Some of these folks might describe themselves as wanting to come out of a gay lifestyle, no pun intended. What I want to say that I don't think is being said in the mainstream media is that these are volunteer programs and contain real people who are there because they want to be. Nobody is dragging people off the street and forcing them into these programs. And you know what, I know from people I have met and talked to that these are valued ministries and for some people, it works, however they care to express that.13 So, what's the problem? Why can't there be different options out there for different people?

I know this is an emotionally charged issue, but like two people struggling for the same piece of pie, as long as people are wrestling over the same bite of blueberry or apple, it's human nature for people to fight for their own space. I long for a day when we can look at this issue in the way that we look at religion in a pluralistic culture. So and so goes to a more conservative church or school and so and so goes to a more liberal church or school. The more conservative churches or schools would support gay people in celibacy and the more liberal churches or schools would support gay people towards monogamous relationships, generally speaking. People would know that regardless of their orientation or personal beliefs, that we have the right to disagree, in the western tradition of freedom of conscience. When in doubt, just ask. Where are you on this issue, in much the same way that we would in choosing political leaders to represent us.

I'm trying to offer a visualization of where I hope this issue can go in time, instead of the present day division that I see. I'm trying to be constructive, I hope that is apparent, despite my own tendency to get a bit riled up on this issue. And of course I have a bias as a religious conservative who feels like I am losing my right to my personal beliefs, who feels like I am constantly being judged unfairly on this issue. But over the years I have tried to get beyond my own frustration and am trying to move forward and suggest strategies that I hope could be helpful in time, in approaching this most difficult issue.

Just to be clear, in summing up, what I am asking is that religious conservatives support gay rights in the public square and support gay marriage as a way of honouring the rights of the individual as an issue of conscience. The gay community and gay persons as individuals have suffered tremendously, historically and in the present, as have we. For whatever reason, this is an orientation that for some people is deeply rooted and perceived as an issue of identity and self-understanding. I don't feel a need to analyze it more than that as it concerns human rights, as it's not my decision to tell someone else how to self-identify. I only feel a need to respect the individual's right to say, this is who I am as a human being because as a Christian I ask for the same right.

Also in terms of moving towards more constructive dialogue, I think if rights of conscience and the right to disagree were seen as the starting point from both sides, I think it would ease a lot of the tensions surrounding this issue. I think it comes down to a mutual respect for personal and collective boundaries. And I think a helpful question in practical disputes would be simply to ask, whose space is it, on a religious model? Trinity Western University, whose space is it?14 The name might offer a hint. A Gay pride parade, whose space is it? There may be situations where it's not obvious, but viewed though the historical lens of religious freedom, Anglican's shouldn't go to a Catholic church if they desire to be taught all things Anglican. It's becomes common courtesy. By the same token, if it has a rainbow flag, I promise you I won't apply there for a job as spiritual director. That was an attempt at humour.

If I may say, I have thought long and hard over the last number of years about various forks in the road that our society seems to be at right now. I talk with people online, pretty much every day. I've been talking with Muslims quite a bit lately, and it's interesting to me that as strongly as they will disagree with me theologically and politically, often when they speak to me privately they will ask me about Canada, and if I can help them to come here, that sort of thing. Strange, isn't it? On the surface it seems strange to me, but on a deeper level, obviously people are seeing something of value in what the western world has to offer. Some of that may be material, to be fair, I don't think it's all material though. Some of it I think is the freedom that the west offers, the respect for the individual that is placed at the center of our culture and society.

So you know, as someone who had all the arguments wrapped up in my heart and mind, as someone who ten years ago, was determined to convince people of the need to retain the definition of the traditional family, I am now recognizing the value of moving toward a new kind of apologetic. In the paraphrased words of Nicholas Wolterstorff, this is arguably part of our heritage as Jews and Christians, and what an incredible heritage it is, the value of the human person. Whether that person is rich or poor, male or female, slave or free, that person is created in the image of God. Isn't it interesting that those words were written roughly 2000 years before the Declaration of human rights was even thought of and to this day is not thought of in many parts of the world. “Image of God” would be older still, 3500 years and to read it today, when there may be more slaves than ever before and while people tell us that religion has nothing to offer.

I look around me and I see a world that is suffering. Every day it seems like the stories are getting more grisly, more inhumane, and so often people are dying for ideas, for perceived causes. I see that I'm living in a secular culture and I don't know if that secular culture has the depth to take on radical Islam, for example. Christianity does have the depth and the content to take on radical Islam. I'm convinced of that. Christianity also has a gift to offer the world and when we started this gig 2000 years ago we didn't have any political power and in many parts of the world today Christians still don't have much and yet it seems to be in those very places that the church is exploding. Contrary to what you'll hear about the growth of Islam, the conversion rate to Christianity is twice that of Islam if my sources are correct. Why is that? And why is it that in the western world where we are perceived as being more concerned about holding on to power that hundreds if not thousands of churches are closing every year?15 Coincidence?

Let it go. It's not worth it. It's not worth the pain, it's not worth the division. It's not worth the cost that this political division is turning people off from hearing the Gospel with open minds and open hearts. Towards a rights based apologetic, where we love our neighbour by respecting the individual's right to disagree, regardless of the cost to a social institution, precisely because we recognize that the kingdom of God is not something that can be legislated this side of heaven. Jesus said that his kingdom is not of this world. We need to get back to our true mission as the church, in loving, serving, and humbling ourselves as Christ humbled himself in reaching out with the love of Christ to those in need.

I used to think that I could change people. The folly of youth I guess. I can't even change myself, that's why I need Jesus. The church began in personal transformation and continues through personal transformation through Christ working in us and through us. I'd like to see some of those churches that are closing open again. One might be a soup kitchen. One might be a daycare. One might be an ESL for new Canadians. There are needs all around us. In reaching out to people where they are at and honouring their right to make decisions for themselves, by being authentic ourselves, the church will grow spontaneously. I'm not talking about the social Gospel replacing the Gospel, I'm talking about living out the Gospel in our own lives firstly, before we concern ourselves with what other people are doing or not doing.

In my own life, I came to a point where I had to accept that I couldn't change people. But you know, when I gave up on the idea of trying to force my values on others, both personally and politically, I felt such a sense of freedom. I still do apologetics, I'm debating and talking with people most days as mentioned, but I now take the approach of just getting good information and the Word itself out there, and allow people to respond and ask questions. I feel such a peace in accepting that I can't make decisions for other people and I've wondered if there is a relational principle in that, that God himself understands. It's part of what makes us human after all, the ability to make choices. And yeah, maybe God could have made a perfect world but it wouldn't have been a world with human beings. It would have been a world of robots or puppets. Despite all the misery and pain, I'm glad I'm not a puppet.

And with that said I am so thankful for the people before me who have stood up for rights of conscience. The Jewish people and the first Christians, in refusing to bow to Caesar or anyone but God himself, and to Martin Luther and others, the reason we can call ourselves Protestants and Catholics and not die for it. And I hope that never changes, I fear sometimes that it is changing, but from the perspective of the Gospel, even if it does, we will keep proclaiming the Good news, as long as there is time.

The times they are changing, spoken for another generation, but still seems relevant today. We need to get out of the way, and let the church be the church and the state be the state. Keep the church off the state and keep the state off the church. I personally take inspiration from the early church. They didn't have any power and they turned the world upside down. Jesus was executed by the Roman empire and yet the church that followed him would hasten the decline of the Roman empire and they would do it without a sword. Some people would say the church then became the Roman empire. Regardless, people don't want the Holy Roman empire now, the culture is making that very clear. But that doesn't mean we can't still speak up for the value of marriage and the sanctity of human life. We can still present our ideas, we can still dialogue, we can still be a voice within the culture, while focusing less on political implementation and more on outreach and being an example firstly.

So, I might be in trouble here, because this is supposed to be a research paper and all I've done is go on and on about my personal thoughts on this issue. There was a day when I was scouring articles on statistics for the results on traditional vs. alternative arrangements, and I had all my ducks in a row. There was a day too when I was scouring the research for what gay people were born and what they are not. And now, the reason I haven't gotten into much if any of that is because I don't think any of it is relevant to the topic at hand. We don't scour statistics on Mormonism before allowing people the right to be Mormons and to be seen as full citizens, even if we disagree with Mormons, we still allow people the space to be Mormons. We also don't look at the obvious results of Jehovah's Witnesses refusing a blood transfusion before respecting their right to make that choice. Gosh, I'm sounding awful liberal here (haha), but I think we owe it to the gay community to respect their desire to be seen as full human beings before the law, even if that makes us uncomfortable.

In speaking to religious conservatives here, I remember the fear that I felt with this issue. If you ask a religious conservative, what's the most important thing in your life? Chances are they will say their faith, God, their personal beliefs are number one. What's number two? Yeah, family. In dialogue with religious conservatives, please keep in mind that it really felt to me back in 2005 when same-sex marriage was put through in Canada like the sky was falling. I was devastated. I truly was. What I want to say now as a religious conservative who has experienced many a dark night of the soul on this issue, I now long to express from my own beliefs, to affirm the dignity and worth of gay people as human beings, created in God's image. I'm not going to mislead anyone here, I can't agree with the lifestyle, but I think the part of the Bible that gets missed in all this is arguably on the first page, “created in the image of God.”

And so in closing if I may, it seems fitting to quote the part of the Bible that is so overlooked on the issue of same-sex marriage, that has been so overlooked in our churches and in reaching out to the gay community as our friends and as our neighbours. How did we miss it, how did we talk for so long about sin, and miss the point of the Gospel, that God so loved each of us, enough to die for us, because we are created in his image,16 because we are his beloved children. We must never lose sight of the value and the worth of each precious individual standing in front of us. Jesus said there will be no marriage in heaven, it's temporary in that sense, and yet the individual is eternal, and so has an unending, uncompromised, intrinsic, inalienable right to be seen as an equal human being with equal worth before the law and to be considered more highly than ourselves.

Thanks for listening,

M.A. Harvey


For Your Marriage: An Initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. “Why Married Parents Are Important for Children.” Accessed December 20, 2014.

Hutchings, James, and Skeleton Army (Melbourne Anarchists). “The Starvation Army: Twelve Reasons to Reject the Salvation Army.” December 20, 2013. Accessed December 20, 2014.

Fiorillo, Victor “30 Companies to Boycott If You’re Going to Boycott Chick-fil-a.” Philadelphia Magazine/Metro Corp. August 1, 2012. Accessed December 20, 2014.

Shackford, Scott “Bakery That Refused to Make Gay Wedding Cake Shuts Doors.” September 3, 2013. Accessed December 20, 2014. that-refused-to-make-gay-wedding.

Guy Dads and Pink Panthers. “Boycott These Anti-Gay Companies! Do Not Give Them Your Money! Let's Make It Clear That No Business Has the Right to Profit If It Discriminates Against Love! Reblog, Spread the Word, and Commit to Change.” 2010. Accessed December 20, 2014. not-give-them.

Gettys, Travis. “Indiana Church That Fired Gay Employee to Close After Falling Attendance.” December 18, 2014. Accessed December 20, 2014.

Wolterstorff, Nicholas. “Are There Christian Foundations for Political Liberty?” (audio). Lecture, Veritas Forum, University of Virginia, March 22, 2005. Accessed December 20, 2014.

Garnett, Richard W. Review of Justice: Rights and Wrongs, by Nicolas Wolterstorff. First Things, October 2008, Accessed December 20, 2014. righting-wrongs-and-wronging-rights.

Flax, Bill. “The True Meaning of Separation of Church and State.” Forbes, 7/09/2011. Accessed December 20, 2014. separation-of-church-and-state/.

Richards, Sabrina. “Can Epigenetics Explain Homosexuality?” The Scientist: Exploring Life, Inspiring Innovation. January 1, 2013. Accessed December 20, 2014. articles.view/articleNo/33773/title/Can-Epigenetics-Explain-Homosexuality-/.

Natalie Alcoba, “John Tory Says He Would Deny Funding to Pride Toronto If Its Parade Includes Queers Against Israeli Apartheid,” National Post (Toronto), September 19, 2014, accessed December 20, 2014, funding-to-pride-toronto-if-its-parade-includes-queers-against-israeli-apartheid/.

Brian Macleod, “Can't Force-Feed Catholic Faith in High Schools,” London Free Press (London, Ontario), August 13, 2014, accessed December 20, 2014,

Wyler, Rich. “A Change of Heart: My Two Years in Reparative Therapy.” People Can Change. 2010. Accessed December 20, 2014.

CBC News. “Trinity Western University to Challenge Rejection by Law Society of B.C. in Court.” CBC News. December 18, 2014. Accessed December 20, 2014. rejection-by-law-society-of-b-c-in-court-1.2878164.

Krejcir, Richard J. “Statistics and Reasons for Church Decline.” 2007. Accessed December 20, 2014. articleid=42346&columnid=4545.

1 “Why Married Parents Are Important for Children,” For Your Marriage: An Initiative of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, accessed December 20, 2014,
2 James Hutchings and Skeleton Army (Melbourne Anarchists), “The Starvation Army: Twelve Reasons to Reject the Salvation Army,”, December 20, 2013, accessed December 20, 2014,
3 Victor Fiorillo, “30 Companies to Boycott If You’re Going to Boycott Chick-fil-a,” Philadelphia Magazine/Metro Corp., August 1, 2012, accessed December 20, 2014,
4 Scott Shackford, “Bakery That Refused to Make Gay Wedding Cake Shuts Doors,”, August 3, 2013, accessed December 20, 2014,
5 Guy Dads and Pink Panthers, “Boycott These Anti-Gay Companies! Do Not Give Them Your Money! Let's Make It Clear That No Business Has the Right to Profit If It Discriminates Against Love! Reblog, Spread the Word, and Commit to Change,”, 2010, accessed December 20, 2014,
6 Travis Gettys, “Indiana Church That Fired Gay Employee to Close After Falling Attendance,”, December 18, 2014, accessed December 20, 2014,
7 Nicholas Wolterstorff, “Are There Christian Foundations for Political Liberty?” (audio of lecture, Veritas Forum, University of Virginia, March 22, 2005), accessed December 20, 2014,
8 Richard W. Garnett, review of Justice: Rights and Wrongs, by Nicolas Wolterstorff, First Things, October 2008, Righting Wrongs and Wronging Rights, accessed December 20, 2014,
9 Bill Flax, “The True Meaning of Separation of Church and State,” Forbes, 7/09/2011, 1, accessed December 20, 2014,
10 Sabrina Richards “Can Epigenetics Explain Homosexuality?,” The Scientist: Exploring Life, Inspiring Innovation, January 1, 2013, accessed December 20, 2014,
11 Natalie Alcoba, “John Tory Says He Would Deny Funding to Pride Toronto If Its Parade Includes Queers Against Israeli Apartheid,” National Post (Toronto), September 19, 2014, accessed December 20, 2014,
12 Brian Macleod, “Can't Force-Feed Catholic Faith in High Schools,” London Free Press (London, Ontario), August 13, 2014, accessed December 20, 2014,
13 Rich Wyler, “A Change of Heart: My Two Years in Reparative Therapy,” People Can Change, 2010, accessed December 20, 2014,
14 CBC News, “Trinity Western University to Challenge Rejection by Law Society of B.c. in Court,” CBC News, December 18, 2014, accessed December 20, 2014,
15 Richard J. Krejcir, “Statistics and Reasons for Church Decline,”, 2007, accessed December 20, 2014,

16 Gen. 1:27 (Revised Standard Version).


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