Friday, May 18, 2012

Some things that must be said

Before our Mother's Day sermon, I made a few comments about President Obama's approval of same-sex marriage.

Before we turn to Mother’s Day, a word about a current event.  I am glad that President Obama declared his support for same-sex marriage this week.  I don’t think that anyone doubted that this is, and has been, his true position for quite a while now. 

Now, what I am going to say is going to sound like bragging, but it must be said.  President Obama has caught up with the Unitarian Universalists.  The Unitarian Universalist Association officially endorsed marriage equality in 1996.   The earliest known “ceremony of union” for a gay or lesbian couple by a UU minister was in 1974, when Barack Obama was 13 years old. 

I know that sounds like bragging, but I think it is necessary.  A recent survey of young people showed that over 90% associated “Christianity” with “anti-homosexuality”. That to be “Christian” meant that one was necessarily anti-gay.  90% of the young.

Now, I know that whether UU’s are Christians or not is a subject of great disagreement and controversy. But I think most of the rest of the world thinks that people who worship on Sunday morning with organ music and meet in buildings with tall steeples are Christians.  So, I think that it is safe to assume that most of the young people who see this church from the outside assume that we are going to be anti-gay.   

So it is important for us to be clear that we are not, and that we have been supportive of gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgender and queer people for a decades now.

My second comment about President Obama’s statement:  I want you to notice the way that he referred to his religious tradition in his statement.  He cited two sources of authority for his pro-same sex marriage position.  One was his personal experience and observation:  the people he knew and worked with, including the people that he commands.  The second was his religion, and there he specifically mentioned the Golden Rule, which was pronounced by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.  

Anti-gay Christians look to Bible passages in Leviticus and in Paul’s Letter to the Romans which are, indeed, explicitly anti-gay.  The Bible is used as authority for two different positions.  There are obviously two ways to read the Bible. 

President Obama reads the Bible the same way that I read the Bible -- that is, to take it as a whole and discern its core meaning.  It is a contradictory book, filled with all sorts of material with all sorts of point of view.  It is a documentary history -- a book filled with documents, not a single story. 

What does it document?  It documents the twists and turns of the people of a particular religious tradition as they struggled to make meaning of life and to determine how people should live.  And while there are many voices in the scripture, it comes down to a final set of propositions -- that we live in a wild and improbable Universe, full of beauty and danger, sorrow and joy, and we must love it, embrace full-heartedly, and to the extent that we imagine it as made by a single set of hands, love its maker.  And, to love our fellow human beings.  To Love God and To Love our Neighbor as ourselves. 

This is, as Jesus said, it all of it in a nutshell, and to me, and I believe to all that read this book as I do, which includes President Obama, it means that we read every line of that vast and contradictory book through that lens.  And how could loving our neighbor as ourselves be ever reconciled with denying them the rights and privileges of civil society that we demand for ourselves?

These are things that must occasionally be said.

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