A Tale of Two Churches: Living in DC During the Gay Marriage Showdown

I’m living in Washington DC.

The very same Washington DC where the United States Supreme Court will commence hearings on whether  marriage freedom is a constitutional right this week.

In other words: It’s a gay marriage showdown. And I have a front row seat.

I see a serious mix of messages on this subject, and not by accident.  I intentionally attend churches which disagree with each other.  I am a regular at a liberal United Church of Christ.  I also spend time at a very Conservative Roman Catholic Church.  Ten-thirty United Church service. Noon Mass. I do this for the same reason I wear one earring that says “Oui” and one which says “Non” every Sunday–because Truth usually hangs out “somewhere in the middle.” Also, because I can, because I like to pray, because it’s fascinating, and because it gives me a real perspective on organized religion.

In case you were wondering, it usually looks something like this
In case you were wondering, it usually looks something like this

Here’s what the gay marriage debate looked like on Sunday, presented from two very different Christian angles:

The members of the United Church of Christ prayed for marriage equality during the service–twice.  Everyone was encouraged to gather at the Supreme Court and stand for “marriage equality”.  During coffee hour, a new church member marveled aloud at the incredible support for gay marriage.  A clergywoman overheard and said “Well of course! Love. Equality. No questions asked.”

Catholic Mass, meanwhile, is a little (lot) different.  The members have been encouraged–strongly–to march for marriage.  Translation: Keep it between a man and a woman. That is the Bible’s word, and God’s design, period. No questions asked.

Well, now, this is interesting.  Both congregations serving up prayers and protests related to gay marriage.  Both praying to the same God. They make reference to the same Bible. They know the same Jesus. They both have scripture to back up their points.

But their positions could not be more different.

Christians who support gay marriage have the golden rule. They have affirming and inclusive scripture like Galatiens 3:28 – “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” They take a non-literal, contextual stance on scripture which condemns homosexuality, and reach instead for messages of compassion. They argue stuff like this, and this, and this.

Christians against gay marriage have words like “sin” and “family values.”  They claim to take scripture very seriously, especially bits like Leviticus 20:13 – “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.” They sound something like this, and this, and this.

Side by side, it’s all kind of confusing.  Again, these are all people, talking about other people, making reference to the same Bible/Messiah/God.

It gets more confusing on street level.

This is the logo for the big anti-gay marriage organization:


…and this is the logo for the big pro-gay marriage organization:


Here’s an anti-gay marriage advertisement:

Now here’s a pro-gay marriage advertisement:

.Here’s a kid testifying about her parents:

Here’s a kid testifying about his parents:

Want to hear more anti-gay marriage rehtoric? Visit frc.org
Want to hear more pro-gay marriage rehtoric? Visit hrc.org!

Want to show up to protest on March 26? GREAT:

If you’re for same-sex marriage…
If you're against same-sex marriage...
If you’re against same-sex marriage…

So, ladies: Wear red. Bring your kid. Quote the Bible.  You’ll fit right in.

(…wherever you go.)

I’m not trying to make a point with this, exactly (although, full disclosure, I am personally a big supporter of marriage equality). I just find it interesting to watch, especially from my current vantage point. Even though there are fundamental differences between the two movements, the superficial similarities are just so striking.

And with that, I present:

The ‘Which Side Said It?’ Gay Marriage Game!

Can you tell whether the quote is from an argument for or against gay marriage?

  1. God promises to find the lonely and place them within families. We are cautioned against the idea of making an idol out of our familial relationships, foregoing any alliance above that of our affiliation to Jesus.
  2. We first learn about diversity and acquire a respect for difference through the complementarity of our parents.
  3. Very few people would have believed just a couples of decades ago that the definition of marriage would be debated in the US Supreme Court, but here we are. The fact that so many have gathered in response to these critical court cases should give everyone hope as we find our way forward.
  4. It is our job to stand up and yell “sin!” any time we hear someone manipulating the words of Jesus to prove their own personal beliefs, to remind the world of the greatest commandments.
  5. Since Christians are a “people of the Word,” we look to the Bible to justify our thinking. That’s essential to Christianity, although all too often we get it wrong, at least at first.
  6. The single greatest argument we can present to the world is to live out marriage in all its God-ordained fullness and beauty. Every generation has its moment: This is ours.
  7. At some point along the way, we decided it was acceptable to misquote the Bible to prove whatever we felt like. It is in this that Christians have truly missed their mark.
  8. If the constitution says ‘marriage is this,’ then people whose marriages are not consistent with the constitution … (shrug.) I’d love to think that there was another way of doing it.

[Answer key: 1) For; 2) Against; 3) Against; 4) For; 5) For; 6) Against; 7) For; 8) Against]

Alright, Washington. Bring on the romance.

Alright, Washington. Bring on the love, and the freedom, and the rights, and religion.

…whatever that means.

4 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Churches: Living in DC During the Gay Marriage Showdown

  1. I find this subject always interesting to talk about, because truth be told, I don’t feel like it effects me. Let me explain: I have been content all through life letting people sort out their issues if I do not feel it directly has bring on me. I am not gay, so I do know that I won’t ever have a problem marrying. However, I feel for those that are gay because I am not completely sold on the notion that being gay is a choice. I don’t remember the moment that I decided I like men. I just know it has always been like that. I know when I used to joke that I would become a lesbian that I never would because I just don’t like women in that manner. I would imagine that it would be the same for a gay person. You can’t just flip that switch because you get sick of something. I am also Catholic. So I see the church’s view as well. But here is where I differ on most people; I view marriage as a religious institution before God, not in a courthouse. I know that “legally” you need to be married too, but I don’t view that as marriage. So, to me, gays wanting to marry in a constitutional format is not really even marriage to me anyway (the same as straights constitutionally marrying). Hence why I stand on the fence about it. We are so desperate to separate church and state all of the time, and guess what? We should. A constitutional marriage should have no bearing on a religious marriage. I also, not to change the subject, then believe that churches should not have to fund abortions or birth control by the constitution because that’s not what they believe. I think if we just separated church and state in every aspect, we wouldn’t have these issues. Gays marry constitutionally….Okay. Catholic Churches shouldn’t fund abortions….Okay. Separate the two to end the conflict. That’s what I feel would be an easy solution. Good post 🙂

    1. Thanks Ali! I like the separation of church and state. There’s this hilarious folk song called “Longhairedradicalsocialistjew” which suggests Jesus is on your side with this one. 😉 http://www.folkways.si.edu/TrackDetails.aspx?itemid=1259

      Haha, what a subject change! The “funding abortion” thing is tough, and not an issue I am TOO familiar with as a Canadian (cuz our health care coverage is all government). I think the Catholic Church is put in a strange position because in this context, it is not just a church–it is an employer. Employers do health insurance, and fair health insurance should probably at least include access to contraceptives.

      Health care has never been easy when faced with religion (probably because the human body belongs to neither the church nor the state, but historically has benefited from the care of both). There have been challenges with health care regarding other groups–I’m thinking groups like the Hmong and Aborigines, for example. I get that. I’m just not sold on the idea of making institutions exempt from labour laws on the basis of religion, though.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s