Tuesday, June 17, 2008

For what it's worth, congratulations...

So today begins in earnest the legalization of same-sex marriage in California. We can all expect to see a lot of footage on the news of same-sex couples standing and facing each other with big smiles while people stand at a distance with placards reading a variety of messages, the most common word probably being "sin". It's an odd day in California for me in particular, because nominally, I'm a person who has lived in both parts of that picture.

I think it's obvious to most people who know me presently, even if it's just through my blogging, that I'm one of those "fundies", or whatever society likes to call us this week. What is less obvious is that there was a time in my life when I had more gay than straight friends, few of which (among both orientations) were Christians. There's a certain emotional investment in my life on both sides of the debate, and I know virtually nobody was asking, "Hey, where does Brucker stand on this issue?" But I'll share anyway.

As loyal followers of my blog should know, I'm an ordained minister, and the day I became an ordained minister, I suggested here that ministers that support gay marriage and the separation of church and state should be performing ceremonies for same-sex couples regardless of the legal ramifications. I don't think I've expressed it in this blog, but really, if two people want to be together and simply say that they are a married couple, the government can refuse them certain rights, but they can't refuse them the right to simply say it, and live as if it were so. Same-sex marriage, polygamy and other alternatives to "traditional" marriage are being practiced whether the government sanctions it or not.

On a more personal level, though, I came to the realization a couple days ago that I am once again in life coming across a situation where my political beliefs and my religious beliefs are in conflict. Like times before when I've had to balance the concept that I have a duty to do what I am asked by my employer with the concept that my employer may be asking me to do something I morally oppose, there's a conflict. (I recall stories in the news of pharmacists who refused to fill out prescriptions for drugs they morally opposed; I think if you're morally opposed to something that's simply part of your job, then your duty is not to fail to do your job in that area, but find a different line of work.) I saw that as an ordained minister who is not under the authority of my church in any palpable way, I could very well go out and perform same-sex wedding ceremonies. Really, given the landslide of such ceremonies we're likely to see in the next few days, it would be an opportunity to make some quick, easy money simply by being there to say a few words to make people happy. Is that so bad?

I realized that, even though I have no strong political opposition to this ruling, even though I have friends that will likely be taking the day off of work today to stand in line at a courthouse somewhere to finally claim government recognition of their dedication to one another, and I am happy for them, even though I am a lover of controversy and would enjoy being there in the middle of it...I simply couldn't do it.

In the end, my religious beliefs won out. I see God as saying, no, this is unacceptable. Despite what I may feel about individual couples on a personal level, and despite my support of separation of church and state, I really could not condone it.

Does that make me more of a hypocrite for not sticking to my political beliefs, or does it make me less of a hypocrite for clinging to my religious beliefs? I can't decide, but I think it's good. I mean, in the end, don't we all need to cling to what we think is right?

Anna Quindlen says in Newsweek that "The gay-marriage isssue is over and done with." Oddly (to me at least) she quotes from a second-century poem about two men getting married in Rome. If it's so over and done with, then why are we still fighting it 19 centuries later? Why is it that pointing out that same-sex marriage has been around for two milennia bolsters the case for it while people argue about the outdatedness of Biblical principles for the very same reason? Despite the fact that Quindlen is delighted her children are so accepting of homosexuality, it neither means that homosexuality is morally acceptable nor that the matter won't still be debated long after her children are dead and gone another two milennia from now.

If this single issue is complicated enough that it can't be fully sorted out even within a single mind without being oversimplified, what makes anyone think this is even close to the end of the matter?