I Do Not Recognize You
A number of years ago, I was walking in downtown Minneapolis, on my way to lunch with a colleague who happened to be a (married) white woman. She also happened to be pregnant at the time. As we made our way toward some café or other, a black woman, stopped to confront me for “going out with” (and presumably having children with) a white woman. When she was done berating me, I informed her gently that I was on my way to a business meeting with a co-worker. I asked her to excuse me, and she did. We exchanged no other words.
On Monday, my brother, who lives in Kansas, wrote to me to share his upset at the result of Kansas’ recent vote to ban same sex marriage. With vigor he went to the polling place to stand up against fear and ignorance, and with shocking force, he learned that he lost and that he lost by a wide margin. It can make you ill to realize that you live among so many people who are driven by good intentions and fear and ignorance.
It has taken me a few days to process my reaction to it all. I am, by turns, not at all surprised, deeply saddened, angry, ill, silenced, inspired and devastated. My friend Michael, wrote with what I would describe as glee, that 70% of Kansans supported the constitutional ban – to him it is proof that we are moral people and that God is winning. He was happy to hear that another State Constitution has been amended to exclude same sex marriage. The tally is 18 amended State Constitutions for those of you keeping score at home. To me, it is proof that we are easily distracted and that good intentions matter not at all.
I have to admit that on a certain level I am afraid. I know in my heart that if we have the same vote here in Minnesota, people who love God and aspire to be Christ-like will line up to ban this love they regard as sinful. Many of them will drive past the homeless and the hungry to do it. I think the vote will be closer here in Minnesota, but I think the outcome will be the same. I can already see the damn-fool “protect marriage” signs in people’s yards. I fear that kind of ignorance, I really do.
When I am most calm about it, I realize it doesn’t matter. You can’t legislate love away, you just can’t do it. Refusing to recognize it is analogous to a child who plugs her ears and shouts so that she won’t hear something unpleasant. It doesn’t change the fact of the saying. It doesn’t even really change the outcome. It just gives you the satisfaction of knowing that you stood against it. My favorite part of all, it gives the satisfaction that you stood against it out of some bizarre notion that in so doing, you adhere to the teachings of Jesus, that in so doing you are more Christ-like. Yes, okay, sure – you’re moral. You’re Christ-like. Our God is a vengeful God, and you are his instrument. Or whatever.
Day in and day out, nothing changes. Gay men can still live together, love each other, build a home and a life and a family. Lesbian women can do the same thing. I suppose we’ll block them from adopting next, then perhaps we can consider internment or something else. We won’t allow lesbian women to get inseminated artificially (maybe we’ll block all women from doing it – I know JP2 was against it).
But until we do, gay men and lesbian women will adopt children or have children. They will raise them. They will work and pay taxes and contribute to the community (or they won’t). Banning same sex marriage in the Constitution really does only one thing. It says “I do not recognize you.” That is all. The lack of official recognition has the effect of denying people healthcare, visitation rights, tax breaks, property transfer rights, and influence over end-of-life decisions of a loved one, but most of those impacts can be overcome with the proper paperwork. So, in reality, it is just a refusal to recognize people – an effort to deny their love. All of it, motivated by the same fear and ignorance I encountered a few years ago on my way to lunch with a colleague. All Christians should feel good about that denial - I hope they go after gluttons next, I could use the motivation.
I am not a Christian. With each passing day, I get further and further away from Christianity. I do not understand it. I don’t imagine that I ever will. Everything I took away from it is wrong. Apparently, Christianity is not about love. If I understand Christ through the example of his most fervent followers, then if Jesus were here today, he’d be a raging Capitalist supply-sider with not even hatred for the poor – he would ignore them completely – worse than hate. Instead, he would focus his energy on ostracizing gays and lesbians, liberating Iraqis (while ignoring Rwandans) all the while wearing a Culture of Life tee shirt and listening to Rush Limbaugh! It must be true because people who say it is so, love Jesus and know Jesus way more than I do.
But in the end, beyond demonstrating how many people dislike gays (except on home decorating or personal makeover shows) it really doesn’t matter. In fact, as I type this, I bet two men are sharing a home and a bed together; two women who love each other are working on getting pregnant. I hope their love changes the world.
That’s right, religious conservatives, you cannot stop it, you can only hope to contain it.
In parting, if I may pass along one thought, from an ignorant man, to all my enlightened Christian brothers and sisters: perhaps you should find better things to do with your Christian love. I suspect that if you look closely, there is plenty of work to be done – I suspect that if you really look at it, you will find that the work which awaits your attention is more loving and more Christ-like than the work you do today. There is much to be done. Prioritization is called for. As you work to stamp out homosexuality, children are starving, hegemony is increasing, and suffering is in abundance.