I have been sitting on this a long time, at least a month, actually. I have been turning it over and over in my brain trying to find the way to formulate the words to explain how disappointed I am and how excited I am at the same time.
If I’m looking honestly at how religion has looked to me for the past few years, I have been let down and confused and generally intrigued by the role it plays in how people understand issues, understand society, and understand themselves. Wanting to pursue a career in ministry, I honestly think about these things a lot. I think about the benefit of faith, the benefit of religion, the expectations we place on other people in our churches, the stereotypes we place on certain religions, the ways we subconsciously believe different things based on how we have grown up, where we have grown up, and the way we become a conglomeration of all our experiences.
I am astounded by both how much and how little I know about religions besides my own, and sometimes how little I know about my own too. I am overwhelmed by the idea of identifying as a particular religion, not because it’s impossible to agree completely with a religion, but because I think that religions are often not equipped to appropriately change with the times. Faith forms us, faith is formed by our every day choices, interactions, and experiences. But religion is a community we go into to find people to share our faith with. We set rules and understandings based on tradition, based on the Bible, based on the experience of the church as a whole and sometimes based on what changes in society. It’s a strange concept, and even those who are “religionless,” so to speak, still often stay within a framework. Identify with a set of beliefs–even if those beliefs are not having beliefs at all. Religion is how, for many years, we have classified ourselves, whether we know it or not. It’s a socialized concept and helps many people feel connected, understand how they view the world, and identify their humanity. It’s a beautiful thing–particularly in theory.
But I have been disappointed by religion recently. I’ve been disappointed by the way that people form opinions, and the way that they choose to share them.
About a month ago, the Supreme Court made the decision that people could marry whoever they wanted in whatever state they wanted. Obviously, on a personal note, this was incredibly exciting for me. If I end up with a woman being the person that I want to marry (which at this point, is a pretty good possibility, :)), I don’t have to move to a specific state to have a marriage be legalized. I don’t have to worry about the two of us dealing with custody issues of children if we weren’t able to be legally married to each other. I don’t have to feel like a basic human right–one that is rooted in love for most people who do it–is not available to me. It was a very real moment for me in realizing that there ARE human rights not accessible to certain populations, and our country needs to continue moving in that direction. I posted a status that day, intentionally trying not to be a boastful one about love winning, but rather, about human rights moving forward, and how there is still so much that needs to be done.
I will also be the first to say that I don’t need everyone to agree with me or understand the excitement that I feel about it. I don’t need people to believe the same things as me. I don’t EXPECT that. How could I expect for people of other belief systems or other ideologies to let me think what I think and respect me as a human for what I believe if I cannot let other people do the same? I am not out to convince anyone that they need to get on board with gay marriage, or get on board with something outside what their religion that they profess to or grew up in believes. That is not my purpose of this.
But there are some things that I would appreciate if people would stop saying–things people would stop doing.
1. Stop being upset that the government doesn’t align with one of your religion’s (and therefore most likely your) beliefs about an issue.
I understand that for a long time, for Christianity especially, church and state were very tied together. There was this idea of church and state remaining separate, but so much of the nation–particularly the lawmakers, were in fact Christian. There’s nothing wrong with that. But think, for a second, about what it feels like to be of a religion outside Christianity and having so much of the law that literally rules the land be opposite of what your religion says is true. Think about what it feels like to never have your religious holidays be national ones, and other things like that. It’s crazy to wrap our heads around the fact that people might not be the same as us–particularly if most of the circles we’ve run in are people similar to us. I can’t blame people for not thinking the things I think, because I’ve had specific experiences and places that I went that caused me to understand the world the way that I do. But I think that we all could stand to be a little more patient with the government being different from our beliefs, especially when the ruling the government makes is in favor of something fundamentally part of human rights.
2. Stop making the argument or expressing a fear that the supreme court decision on marriage is “taking away religious freedom.”
I’m sorry, but this argument is one I have trouble understanding. It kind of goes back to the idea that people are more upset that the government isn’t upholding their own personal beliefs anymore rather than the fact that religious freedom is actually being violated. Just because people around you have the right to marry, this does not play into your own personal religious freedom. The government is not asking churches to perform gay marriages. The government is not expecting Christians who don’t currently believe in marriage to commit to this new idea simply because it is now a law. And in fact, the argument that this decision decreases or takes away religious freedom is actually ludicrous because this decision INCREASES religious freedom. It allows people who are of different viewpoints, or religious backgrounds that support the rights of the queer community to HAVE THE FREEDOM TO BELIEVE WHAT THEY TOO BELIEVE. If marriage is not restricted by government, but by religions themselves, all religions then have the right to believe what they believe.
It’s fine, however frustrated the queer community may become, for people who have differing from the government opinions on marriage to be scared. Change is hella scary, whether or not people are often willing to admit it. A big change like this, in society and promoted by the government, is one that makes people wary. It makes them wonder if religious freedom will someday be infringed upon because people are now allowed to marry whoever & wherever. I respect that fear. But I cannot stand back and let people say that it takes away religious freedom when this decision by the supreme court does QUITE the opposite of that.
3. Stop saying that you’re afraid for America’s children or your children because of the Supreme Court decision on marriage.
Like I said, it is okay to be afraid of change. Religion is often how we define ourselves, and the people who are giving you push back for that are afraid, too–just of different things.
But when we say that we are worried about children growing up in a society where this is the reality, that’s making a lot of assumptions and presumptions about the way that certain things impact children and the way that certain things impact society, and even making assumptions about YOUR CHILDREN.
When you say you worry about your child growing up in a society where this is possible, you are saying that children who grow up with two moms, or two dads, or grow up with a transgender parents are not getting the life that they deserve. While it might be something different than you know, there are plenty of children who are not loved the way that they should be. There are plenty of children in homes with parents who have unhealthy relationships. But their parents having unhealthy relationships or not being good parents or not loving them the way they should often has NOTHING to do with what gender or sexuality they are. Don’t blanket children in those homes into the same category as abused children, or neglected children. It is not the same and it is unfair to all of those people being amazing parents to say that society should not have that happening.
If you are talking about your children growing up in a society where marriage is more than just the joining of a man and a wife, then there are a few issues that I personally have with this. You’re essentially saying that your religion might not be 100% convincing of the fact that marriage should only be the union of a man and woman and your child might believe otherwise. Is that then society’s fault that the “truth” your religion professes is not convincing enough to keep your child from being “brainwashed” outside of the church? I have trouble with this fear because it’s essentially the idea that perhaps your religious views’ definition of marriage that differs from the definition of marriage within society is going to be poisoned by society.
If you are in the belief that marriage is only the union of a man and a woman and you hold that to be truth, I completely respect you for holding to your beliefs. I’m not asking you to believe otherwise. But don’t tell me that the truth that I believe is poison to your truth. It is not poison, it is just a different truth. It is the truth I know based on who I am, the experiences I have had, and the life I have lived.
But most of all, I am most disheartened by this fear for the “children of America” not because of all these other reasons but because these children of America who might be “ruined” or “come to know a wrong sort of truth”..might be part of that queer community. And while they might spend their whole childhood growing up in a house, or in a religion where they know love, feel loved..they might also feel like God has made a mistake with them. Or that they cannot be fully who they are in society because of these people worried about them growing up the “wrong way.” That who they want to be, who they identify as inside, and who they understand themselves to be is fundamentally wrong according to the people who spend the child’s entire life telling them that they love them most. That is something that will take years to heal in a relationship–and that makes me fear for the children of America.
4. Stop making blanket statements for a religion or sexuality or something else that you identify as.
I have known a lot of people in the past few months to make statements on behalf of an entire religion. On behalf of an entire belief system. “I” statements are not just the way of community, but the way of the world. You believe what you do not because you are “fill in the blank religion,” but because you grew up with the parents you did or did not have, because you went the places you did, because you lived where you lived, because you had the experiences you had. You cannot speak for a whole religion, a whole age group, a whole ANYTHING. You can speak for you. And you can also respect other people for being humans and coming where they are coming from a lot more when we start speaking for ourselves. And not for anyone else.
5. Stop acting like America is so much better in terms of human rights because of this Supreme Court decision. Do not stop caring about human rights or care about only the issues that other people are posting on Facebook.
Not that this was the only cause that people cared about or anything. But I think there was and still is a difficult juxtaposition of issues brought up in regards to this.
In a very real way, I was made very aware of the exclusion in the queer community on the day that marriage decision came out. Since I most strongly identify as pansexual at this point–which I know for a lot of people is not something that they even know the definition or meaning of–it was funny to me that the social media/general world is trying to make an acronym that is more inclusive for the queer community. It’s most commonly known as the “LGBT” or “LGBTQ” community. More recently, they’ve created a more inclusive acronym. the “LGBTQIA+” community. Which in theory is a great idea. But identifying as pansexual, I have literally become a plus sign in the inclusive version of the community..
And I just watched a 16 minute video today (which trust me, I don’t watch youtube videos longer than 5 minutes usually) about all the issues that transgender people are facing in society, and I am frustrated by the fact that there is no middle ground on this. When the decision was announced, people on Facebook who are of the more liberal type were either saying “Oh we’re so proud to be American now” and so happy about the decision. They were essentially saying like “welp, now us liberal 20 somethings can be a lot happier.”
But then there were the other people saying that we need to not be too excited because there is so much still to be done. Which while I agree that there is still a lot to be done, why can we not revel for a moment about this step? WHY CAN WE NOT BE BOTH EXCITED AND MOTIVATED TO DO MORE.
And most of all, we cannot turn our backs on the racism or injustice still happening in our world–particularly in our nation–every single day. I think it’s easier for us, for our generation, to get on board with causes like marriage equality because it’s about love. Being on board and seeking justice for causes like poverty, racism, transgender issues, sexism, etc. are harder because it’s often about the pain in our world, or about hurt. But we need to open our hearts to this pain and this hurt because that makes room for more love to grow in our world.
We need to stop acting like only the easy causes are the causes worth posting about on Facebook or reading the news stories about. We need to stop pretending like society is a fair place to live for everyone in it–because it simply isn’t. And the sooner we acknowledge that, the easier it is to move forward in causes, in justice, in hope.
And that’s why I write things like this. Not because I am trying to shame anyone, or convince anyone, or really even to disagree with anyone. It’s because my beliefs are a huge part of who I am, and I cannot stay quiet. I cannot sit back and let other people say things that are so hurtful to so many people. That are hurtful to me. That are pushing our society in directions that I worry will be harmful to what I believe America’s children deserve, or harmful to the forward direction of a society that I would like to live in, or harmful to MY understanding of religious freedom. As I make these statements, I think perhaps I sound selfish. But maybe working for justice is a little selfish, because it means we care enough about ourselves to care about the world we live in. And that means–at least for me–caring about other people. Because I believe in a God that is not concerned only with my salvation and the salvation of all people, but in the liberation in the life that we’re living every day. And that is why I have to speak about this. This is why I cannot remain quiet.
I encourage you all to not only open your ears to listen to others about these issues, about what’s happening in society and how people feel about it, but also open your mouths. Share what you feel, and see where it leads you, too. Because every voice matters.
“Speak louder than the words before you, and give them meaning no one else has found. The role we play is so important: we are the voices of the underground.” -A Great Big World.