May 14, 2012 by Nicole
I am curious whether, by the end of this post, someone will (and I am sure that someone will) accuse me of being either irrational, homophobic, or both.
Normally, I don’t say much about controversial topics in the news. I also know that many times what I think is not very popular, so I keep my mouth shut. But, the recent headlines about gay marriage has really made me wonder–can you be in the minority and be able to express your beliefs without getting shouted down or being accused of being intolerant, narrow-minded, or dangerously old-fashioned?
I know that my way of thinking is not popular, and I know that most of the people I know or whom I count as friends do not agree with what I believe regarding same sex marriage; in fact, some of my kindest, compassionate, most intelligent, and most sensitive friends, many of whom are God-fearing Christians, are very vocal about being in favor of gay marriage. The fact that I don’t agree with their position does not mean that I respect them any less.
On one hand, I wholeheartedly agree with advocates for gay rights; treating people with contempt or hatred because of their sexual orientation is every bit as repulsive as being racist or sexist. All people, regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation, deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and love. People struggling to come to terms with their sexual identity merit dignity and compassion, not shame or ostracism. All men and women are created in the image of God, and as Christians, we are called to be compassionate to all people, not just the ones that we look at as being created in the “image” that we find most socially acceptable or normal. Granting lawful civil unions (which I suspect is what many people mean when they are talking about gay marriage) to same-sex couples, on the other hand, well, what men and women do in the name of law is a separate issue.
I have seen marriage referred to as a “civil liberty” or a “civil right,” but it is not. To me, marriage is a sacred covenant or a sacrament (depending on where you come from) between a man and a woman, ordained by God. Marriage is the domain of the Church, not the law. The civil aspect of divorce, which is not sanctioned by the Church (Lest I be misunderstood, let me be clear in saying that I do not believe divorce is always wrong, specifically in circumstances of adultery, spousal abuse, or even being abandoned by one’s spouse), is governed and dictated by human law. When a couple gets divorced, who gets to keep what and what rightfully belongs to which person is something that the courts decide. It is surely a heartbreaking process for all those involved, especially in light of recently having watched someone very close to me struggle through a very painful divorce.
As I said earlier, if people advocate for legalizing same-sex civil unions or commitments, this is a matter of law and politics, not of religion. Marriage is a rite of God’s church, not a right of the legal or political system; by its very nature, it exceeds the boundaries of merely social and legal partnership between a man and a woman. The issue of gay marriage is a very different one than of gay rights. I find it equally interesting that as a country which so proudly cherishes its separation of church and state, people vehemently recoil at the thought of the church exercising any authority over the secular world, yet the secular world seems to have no issue with imposing its own values on the church.
And, at the point when my convictions as a Christian enter into this particular debate, people are bound to look at me with contempt, as though I am being mislead by my Church, that my values are old fashioned, or that I am homophobic. What I can say is this: I have friends who are gay–some who have a partner, some who do not. All of them are kind, good, talented, and generous people, and many of them are devout Christians. In all honesty, I don’t think any differently about them, love them any more or less, or treat them any differently than I do anyone else, nor do I judge them. If I did judge them, that would make me an incredible hypocrite, as there is at least one major issue in my own life with which I deeply struggle that contradicts Catholic doctrine.
Thus, before you make any assumptions about me and ask me whether I believe that all homosexuals are naturally going to hell, well, if you know me well, you know my answer to that question is no. Aside from the reality that all people are created in the image of God, and that sexuality is not something that people “choose,” I am fairly certain that there are many heterosexuals on their way to hell for a variety of things–adultery, murder, or any other mortal sin in which they deliberately choose to turn their backs on God and walk away from his Grace, specifically when they have hardened their hearts to the extent that they either cannot or will not express genuine remorse and repentance for what they have done. Everyone–white, black, male, female, straight, gay, Catholic, Protestant (the list can go on and on I think)–has sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.