Friday, March 29, 2013

On Categories and Public Debates

Before delving into the post I wanted to preface my words with some qualifying statements that I hope will clarify my views:

The motivation for this post is purely for the purpose of seeking understanding in a polarizing issue, not for advocating a particular stance, one way or the other. 

I do not believe people who practice the homosexual life style are intrinsically lesser than, or somehow unworthy of basic human rights under the scope of the law.

I am a Christian, therefore my convictions and views are what they are because I adhere to the tenets and beliefs expressed in the scripture, and are the foundation of my worldview which is primarily Pre-Modern.

This past week I was a bit surprised to see that a certain court case was brought to the attention of a certain higher court system in the realm of the United States. The particular case evoked thus a shitstorm of public opinions that raged through the social media networks and printed media. To myself, personally, I found the views expressed rather nauseating for both sides. I'm the kind of person that hates it when other people tell me what to think and feel, so I can imagine what it would be like for a gay man to be told by a Christian man that they should change because they think it proper for them to change. Consequently, I also hate it when a person, gay or straight, attempts to dictate to me what I should believe through a "lens of tolerance."

Here we have a classic, two sided debate. As I said in my prefacing points I think that it's odd that we should be barring a certain demographic their civil liberties just because they practice a particular lifestyle. Especially through the lenses of a dominant religious worldview, this would only amplify tensions. It would be as if, for some reason or another, the Islamic community suddenly wrestled power from the Christian Right in this country and started imposing very Islamic laws on a very secular USA. Clearly, the LGBT community should be afforded the rights given to them. It's a no-brainer.

Then again, I am Christian. How does this interplay?

Before I say what I am going to say, I would like to set the parameters for what I am about to say.

The word "Marriage," in Western society has a lot of loaded imagery associated with it. For instance, were I to pick out a handful of wedding scenes depicted in Hollywood films (not known for pushing a conservative Christian message, most of the time) most of the wedding scenes would involve certain key imagery. Generally the wedding is taking place in a church, or some kind of building associated with sacred ritual. They are married by some kind of religious figure, which generally is depicted as a Catholic minister, or a Jewish Rabbi. Lastly, there is some kind of sacred text mediating the ceremony that gives cohesion to the importance and gravity of the event.

The Christian worldview and concept of "Christendom" (a worldview no longer observed in Europe or America) once provided the dominant understanding of the world in all facets of Western society.  Culturally the word Marriage and it's associations are profoundly nested in Christian culture. Even the traditional wedding garb had, at one time, deep symbolic significance. The man wore black, because in Protestantism it is believed that the man selflessly sacrifices himself for the sake of his wife, and therefore dies to himself. The wife wears white because she represents the Church at the last day when Christ comes back to wed his blameless Church. Regardless of whether or not one is privy to this imagery, there is a lot in the contemporary ceremony that stems from previous Christian undertones that have since become lost in translation.

That being said, in non-Western cultures the word Marriage does not really exist. If it does, it is only a borrowed word, and a product of colonialism. Though marriage as an institution is an old one, it is certainly not universal. Were one to travel to Kenya, or to Japan, or even to a deep remote region of the Amazon, the expressions of unity would vary in power and capacity. There would be different rituals, different clothing, and a different meaning behind the ceremony.

So finally after all of this, I make my point. In the effort to bring clarity to the non-Christian community I will say that this debate that sparks so much contention is purely a categorical one. While there are some Christians who have forgotten the Gospel, and loving one's neighbors, and would find it okay to look down on another person because they are sinful, I think the majority of evangelicals believe that their word should not be imported into other cultures that don't use the word with the same gravity that they do. As silly as it may seem, it makes a lot of sense. Imagine in another world if the USA began using a very Kenyan expression of marriage and began to use it without a sense of gravity or weight that the Kenyans did. I imagine the Kenyan community would take offense to this, and doubly so for a Japanese Shinto demographic.

While I think that being gay is a choice (my reasoning actually rooted in science, but that's another can of worms), I also think that if a gay couple chooses to be in a serious long term relationship and are afforded the tax codes and benefits of being married then there's nothing I can particularly do about it. God gives us the freedom to make our own decisions within the scope of his will. Again, I can't really back down on what I believe, but I and my other friends who know people in the gay community have developed great relationships. We can be amicable and live in disagreement fine, and that's okay.  I won't take away their rights because they are not Christian. That being said, I don't think it's right that they would use a word deeply ingrained in the Christian community to typify the seriousness of their relationship when they neither subscribe nor adhere to the things Christians believe or practice. Consequently I don't believe that straight non-Christians can use the word either, because their relationships are not adhering to the same principals.

I think this is an opportunity rather for a more constructive approach. Perhaps the gay community should create their own terminology for their relationships. Please don't misunderstand this for being petty or dismissive, but every culture sees marriage in a different light, and creates terminology to reflect those beliefs. The word "Marriage" in the USA has Christian connotations, therefore if the gay community wants to use it, expect flack. I don't say that in combativeness, but it's the unfortunate truth.

My intentions of writing this and getting it out on (internet)paper is purely for informative reasons. They are opinions, so take them for what they are. I am by no means an authority on sociology, but I felt rather pushed to weigh in on the issue at hand. Anyways, I hope you all have a great weekend. And stay tuned for more updates for Spirit of Orn.


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