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Celebrating the Overturning of Prop 8 with the Body of Christ

2010 August 16
by Julie Clawson

I wrote this post last week as a submission to Sojourner’s God’s Politics blog.  But Sojourners is not yet sure of if they will respond to the Prop 8 verdict or what that response will be.  Maybe this will get posted there eventually, maybe it won’t.  So I’m just going to post this here because I feel it has to be said.

I’ll be perfectly honest – I had a hard time writing this post.  I’ve had multiple people ask me recently why there has been nothing at the Sojourner’s blog about the overturning of Prop 8 or about the struggle of LGBT folks for basic rights.  My queer friends who deeply respect the organization as a defender of justice for all ask why no one is writing about justice for them or celebrating when such justice is achieved.  My usual response has been, “yeah, someone really should write about that for Sojourners.”  That is until I was called out on my hypocrisy.  Why was I so willing to stick my neck out (and be ripped apart) for so many other oppressed groups, but not for homosexuals?  Why was I remaining silent?

Those challenges hit me hard.  They opened old wounds and deep regrets of a time when I had been silent before that still cause me pain.  Tim was one of my closest friends in high school.  We knew each other from church youth group and would spend hours together discussing books or playing cards in some coffee shop.  We went to college in different states and in those pre-cell phone and pre-Facebook days when AOL was still pay-by-the-minute, we drifted apart.  I heard through the grapevine that he had come out of the closet and that all of our other youth group friends refused to associate with him anymore.  But even then I didn’t reconnect with him, caught up as I was in my own college life.  After graduation, I had no way to get in touch with him, but the desire to contact him and just let him know I still was his friend weighed heavy on my heart.  I always thought that someday I would find a way to reach him.  But then a few years ago while I was still living in another state my mom called and mentioned offhand that Tim had died after being hit by a car while walking home from a grad school class.  Apparently many of our former close friends from high school had refused to even attend the funeral in protest of his orientation.

I had remained silent for too long.  I don’t know if he assumed I condemned and rejected him like the rest of our youth group friends, I never got the chance to tell him otherwise.  I missed an opportunity to show love to the hurting and I will forever regret my silence.  And I miss my friend.

So I knew that I could not remain silent now.  Even as I am unsure of what exactly to say, I knew I had to be a voice standing in solidarity and celebration of the overturning of Proposition 8.  Our LGBT brothers and sisters need to see now more than ever that they are loved by the church – that we can come alongside them and mourn when they mourn and rejoice when they rejoice.   They need to see that the church sees them more than just as objects to be debated.  If we remain silent now by failing to publicly celebrate this momentous occasion we will have missed our opportunity to show love to the hurting.

So I am celebrating with friends who can now enjoy the same cultural and legal benefits of marriage as I can.  Who can now visit their partners of many years in the hospital and include their spouse in their health coverage.  And I join them in their hope that one day these basic civil rights will not only be available in a small handful of few states, but all across our great nation.  At the same time, I express my sympathy as they and their families continue to be thrust into the centers of controversy – forcing them to fight to hold onto basic civil rights in our society.  I don’t even pretend to understand their struggle to simply live normal lives and the day to day pain that causes, but I do know that I can’t contribute to that continued pain by choosing to remain silent.  I can’t wait for someone else to speak up for me – I can’t outsource loving my neighbor.  And so I rejoice with the parts of the body of Christ who are celebrating being granted one small portion of the privileges I already enjoy.  It seems almost pathetic and nowhere near enough, but it’s all I can think to do.


18 Responses leave one →
  1. Mick Bradley permalink
    August 16, 2010

    Goodonya. I’d rather read your stuff on OneHandClapping anyway.

  2. August 16, 2010

    Brilliant, beautiful. Thank you.

  3. August 16, 2010

    I join you as a Christian and straight-ally in celebrating the overturn of Prop 8. Standing up against bullies is a good thing. I hate that some of my brothers and sisters in Christ are those bullies, but it’s good to see other voices added to the throng saying, “Nope, that’s not okay.”

  4. August 16, 2010

    Julie, thanks for this. I continue to be nonplussed at Christians’ lack of thought to the question, “What does it mean to love my homosexual neighbor as myself?”

    I ranted about this last week: “Gospel” Response to Prop 8? I don’t think so….

  5. August 16, 2010

    Julie, I celebrate with you in the name of Jesus Christ.

    I must confess that when I started to follow Christ ten years ago, my attitudes toward gay marriage changed… and I went from a ‘who-cares attitude’ to being someone opposed to gay marriage.

    But then something happened. I started spending more time with people who were gay. As you would expect, these discussions and encounters (in both the real-world and the blogosphere) covered all aspects of life from politics and movies to work to home life. And over time, two things became clear. One, the Christian opposition to gay marriage was extremely hurtful, hateful and painful. Second, that these relationships were filled with an abundance of love.

    So I went back to my bible and reread the scriptures that so many preachers love to quote and came away with a much different understanding. Opposition to gay marriage was anything but Christlike.

    Thank you for this post — it is something we need to be shouting from rooftops.

  6. August 16, 2010

    I am celebrating too!

  7. August 17, 2010


    I continued to be so impressed and thankful for your ministry here at “One Hand Clapping.”


  8. August 17, 2010

    Ed G: Thank you for sharing your story and your persistance. Your openness to allowing questioning within your Christianity has served you (and others) well.

  9. August 17, 2010

    Thanks for sharing in such a personal way, and may changes throughout the world come sooner rather than later so that justice and inclusion are the norm. Every blessing

  10. August 18, 2010

    Thank you for being willing to speak the truth of what you believe. Strong voices like yours truly could change the world.

  11. Suzy permalink
    August 18, 2010

    Rose Marie Berger, who is a editor for Sojourners magazine has written a very thoughtful piece on her personal blog about the ruling and what Christians might learn from the legal brief.

    She pulls out sections of the brief for further study that might help Christians consider issues like:

    – why the “love the sinner, hate the sin” rhetoric is so dangerous, or
    – what marriage means in a legal sense,
    – the correlation between church and union membership and voting behavior on Prop 8.

  12. August 20, 2010

    Where and how can Christians who seek to be socially progressive but remain theologically conservative stand on this?

  13. August 21, 2010

    A. – theological conservatives can be 100% pro-gay and pro-gay marriage. There is nothing about accepting homosexuals that is contrary to conservative theology. The small handful of passages in the Bible that actually address various types of homosexual behavior are (IMHO) generally misinterpreted, misunderstood, or misapplied by most conservatives when it comes to contemporary homosexual relationships and the whole reality of sexual orientation, therefore (again IMHO), a true conservative (i.e. one who wants to take the Bible seriously and submit themselves to what it actually says, rather than what their theological traditions assume it says) should find no conflict between maintaining a high view of scripture and affirming people of homosexual orientation. As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing in the Bible that condemns people of homosexual orientation or homosexual practices within loving and committed relationship, and I think the burden of proof rests with those who want to claim otherwise. In other words, you don’t have to throw out the Bible or your conservative theology to accept homosexuality. You just have to get past a surface reading to what the Bible actually does and does not say about it.

  14. August 21, 2010

    thanks Mike.. perhaps I should have re-phrased my question slightly. I *don’t* want this to turn into a “is position A or B on homosexuality right”. I believe that just leads to more polarization. It’s clear you have a definite answer on this, and I’m someone who doesn’t- I just believe both sides should have the right to believe their own convictions regarding this issue- as long as they do so respectfully. I believe religious convictions should not impose on people’s beliefs- so I am in full favor of overturning Prop 8.
    My issue has to do with those I know who have sincerely prayed and searched the scriptures, *wanting* affirmation of same-sex non-celibate relationships, but every time always find themselves coming to a different conclusion. And as much as they too believe in overturning the Prop 8 decision, treat same-sex couples and their relationships with respect and love rather than condescension or judgement, and never ever mention or imply that same sex relationships are ‘unscriptural’, a part of them cannot fully agree with it the way those whose theological convictions point them to fully affirming same sex relationships.
    It’s very hard for me to label these people “bigoted”, as I’m sure many people will. I’m not commenting on how right or wrong they are- I believe this is a matter of personal conviction and I guess I personally believe the answers will be different for everyone.
    I guess I’m just saying for those who do end up on the other theological ‘side’ (and I believe it to be more of a spectrum than ‘side A’ or ‘side B’), how do they negotiate such issues- trying to be fair while disagreeing? I know Andrew Marin’s book Love is an Orientation talks about this a lot- but then his book has been slammed in some quarters as a cleverly disguided homophobia. What then?

  15. August 21, 2010

    My apologies A, I thought you were referring to people who are theologically conservative in general, but I should have realized that you were primarily focusing on those are “conservative” on this issue in particular. In regards to the kind of people you describe, I would agree with you that it is not necessarily fair to call them “bigoted.” However, as much as they might wish it otherwise, I think such folks are simply going to have to accept the fact that their opinions on issue are still, nevertheless hurtful to gay people. That may not be their intention, it may just be their honest and (in their mind) unavoidable reading of scripture that forces them towards those opinions about homosexuality, but regardless, it is still nonetheless hurtful and it may be hard for them to have the kinds of friendly conversations or relationships with gays and lesbians that they might wish to have. That’s just the way it is. Some theological opinions, even if they are your honest opinions, are simply divisive and hurtful and there’s just no way around it.

    In such situations one can either hold onto the opinions regardless, judging one’s convictions to be more important than one’s relationships, or one can investigate whether it might be possible to alter one’s convictions for the sake of relationship. But I’m not sure it’s often possible to have it both ways – to hold convictions that hurt and marginalize others, and yet still want to have open and friendly relationships with those others. In that regards, while I’m sure Marin is a nice guy (Julie has interacted with him in person some), and I respect what he’s trying to do, I can understand why many GLBT folks look at his approach and say “thanks, but no thanks.”

  16. Child of God permalink
    September 4, 2010

    There is nothing to discuss, anyone who lives in a war torn country knows that you focus on the continuation of your own and don’t worry about the enemy until you encounter it. I want to thank the judge. He drew a line in the sand and whether you like it or not the rise of the Christian Right occurred at the same time. For those of us who believe it is one like donkey kong. Praise God

  17. Child of God permalink
    September 4, 2010

    Ooops correction ” ON LIKE DONKEY KONG “

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