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:

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

united-for-marriage

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:

Rally_SmallPromo-Actions_rev
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.

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Music, Monkeys, and the Art of “Where do I Start?!”

Last Friday, I went to a Nordic Cool 2013 concert at the Kennedy Center. The guy who sits next to me at work suggested it–or, rather, he smirked as he pointed to a picture of the evening’s band on his computer.

There was a monkey in the picture, you guys.  A monkey.

IBRAHIM_ELECTRIC_02
If I were a marketing director, I would probably put a monkey in EVERY picture.

No one was quite sure what to expect. I’m not used to that.  My fellow interns are uber-cultured musicians and ethnomusicology students (dammit, spell check, ethnomusicology is a word) who seem to know every nuance of every genre.

…though really, all I can confirm is that they know a whole lot more than me.  Which means I’m always learning.

Much like my own field (history), with music there is always-always-always more to discover. And the more you listen, the more you realize how much you have yet to listen to.

Like this band from Denmark with a monkey, for example.

And so we went. We took the metro. We filed into the packed Grand Foyer. We stood at the back, since all the seats were taken–clearly, word had gotten around that the Danish monkey-band was coming to town.  Inside our programs was this short description of what we were about to see:

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Oh, “of course.”

AFRObeat? C’est quoi ca? Can someone point me in the direction of their favourite soul/jazz inspired acid-power-beat song, please? And “almost-punk” just sounds like how I feel when I jaywalk or accidentally sleep through church. [Insert rebel yell here.]

In true millennial fashion, I googled the band before going. Specifically, I watched this mezmerizingly weird music video of a song entitled “Blue Balls.” The album is called “Absinthe.” And the music is rad.

(At least, it’s rad enough for me to try to bring back the term “rad.”)

Yeah. That. Don’t do drugs?

The show was fantastic. It isn’t that I didn’t expect it to be fantastic….just that I didn’t know what to expect at all. The music (whatever it was, exactly) was an awesome, awesome discovery.

I make lots of awesome discoveries these days.

Finnish tango. Hardcore conjunto. Underground folk revival. Central Asian pipa. Autoharp country.  Banjo masters. Those French Canadian songs that people assume I know (and I never do).

Took this shot at a Los Texmaniacs show last month.
Took this picture at a Los Texmaniacs show last month. Hardcore conjunto at its finest!

It’s almost overwhelming. Reading through the “Events in Washington DC,” trying to figure out what I can make it to…or what I should make it to…or what I can connect to, even just a little bit.  Finding that balance between learning new things and maintaining/expanding on what I’ve already got. Searching through the Folkways catalogue, working out what to listen to next.

You would think that the daunting excitement of “where do I start?!” would be second nature to me by now. History student stuff. Curator problems.  And yes, I have spent long days awkwardly navigating books, journals, and microfilm.  Having all this new music at my fingertips is no different, really. But for the first time, culture is my every day–my work, my play, my social life, my background, my foreground.

And I still don’t feel a sense of “competence.” Not in even a sliver of it.

How can I, when I have bands like Ibrahim Electric to keep me on my toes?

Oh, I don’t always do “new things.”  I still can’t seem to stay away from Ottawa. I even showed up to a Canada-US Relations event last week…and ended up being live-broadcasted on CPAC, asking a question about the Keystone Pipeline. Yeah.

“New things” can find you, though. They can creep up. It’s called “opportunity,” and it’s always hanging around–especially in a place like DC, especially if you make the first move. One “new thing” can breed familiarity with another. And another. And another.

Case in point: A friend and I showed up to the Kennedy Center to check out Finnish tango music (because, why not?) and some dude gave us his extra tickets to this:

photo2

We didn’t ask questions

Though to answer yours: It was one of the best plays I’ve ever seen. Seriously. “Bird in Magic Rain with Tears.” Who would’a thought?

Here’s to the art of “where to I start?!”

– – –

I Have Chosen My Word for 2013 (and it’s going to make for one interesting year)
I Have Chosen My Word for 2013 (and it’s going to make for one interesting year)
Welcome to America: Yes, I have gotten horribly lost. Already. Twice.
Welcome to America: Yes, I have gotten horribly lost. Already. Twice.
Non-boring, non-fiction. It happens.
Non-boring, non-fiction. It happens.

Welcome to America: Yes, I have gotten horribly lost. Already. Twice.

I didn’t check the time on Friday.  I slept in until 2 pm.  I’m pretty sure my daily Adventures involved trying to open a can of beans without a working can opener (this turned into a 15 minute, 3-person job) and rocking an hour-long game of Wizard.

If this is the “relaxing” thing all you kids have been talking about…I could get used to it.

We spent the day at a big cottage in the-middle-of-nowhere, Pennsylvania (est. never, really). These cottages, set up as retreats in the middle of state parks, cost about $80-100 a night and give you (in our case, at least) a monster of a house overlooking the lake. There was a full kitchen, beautiful wooden furniture, board games from the 80s, and (most importantly) this awesome lamp.

So, this is my selling feature. There's a reason I'm not a real estate agent. BUT ISN'T IT COOL?
So, this is my selling feature. I may not have future in real estate, BUT ISN’T IT COOL?

Frozen lakes are kind of boring to look at, but they’re definitely pretty.  I was really feeling the “peaceful” thing. I probably could have stayed there forever.


^nothing like that.

I think my parents were tempted to stay there, too, for fear of leaving if nothing else.  The drive in is currently being referred to as “Hell.”  “Hell” took us up and down steep mountains in a brutal snow fog.  For a good 30 minutes, my ears were popping (altitude problems) and my father was breathing out G-rated cuss words: FRIG.  FRICK. DANG. (Repeat).

Don’t worry, I evened the language score by referring to the cottage’s location as “a**-f**k nowhere”–which was totally allowed, because even though that phrase makes zero literal sense, it was (f**king) accurate.  Isolated was an understatement.  But I suppose that’s what gave the place so much charm once we arrived. (And yeah, yeah, I did just bleep out my own swear words on my own blog. Feeling dainty today.)

But Shauna! I thought you were going to DC to be a big strong, independent young professional! What’s with the stopover in a**-f**k nowhere? And why in the world are your parents in this story, risking their lives (slash being adorable)?

Well friends, it seems that where I come from, “Shauna’s moving to DC!” sounds a whole lot like “ROAD TRIP!!!”

I value my parents’ love of the family vacation much more now than I did back in the day.  This is mostly because “back in the day,” family road trips meant being strapped in the backseat with 3 dudes for an 8-hour showdown over whose turn it was with the Nintendo DS (“I don’t even want screens being used on this trip. This is ridiculous.” — Mom, every single time).  These days, the road trips are a “whoever wants to go, wherever we want to go” thing, and have more to do with taking a break from routine than corralling four kids. On Thursday, four of us (my parents, one of the middle brothers and I) packed into the car, crossed the border, shopped, chilled at a cottage, and generally burned time/midnight oil/gasoline until my moving day came.  January 5th.  The move in was quick and painless, which is something I have never been able to say before.  I was sad to see them go so soon, but it was amazing to have the company en route.

…and to have a day to relax, which I totally did, contrary to my usual curse of not being able to. I even wrote half of this blog post by hand in a notebook on the cottage couch, because it just felt like the right way to do it in a place like that.

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Barefoot and everything. Kickin’ it old school.

Once I reached DC (yesterday), I wasted no time releasing my awkward self around town.  This is my first full day in the city, and I have already gotten horribly lost (Twice. I want you to look at a map of the lovely, grid-like DC and tell me if YOU could get lost twice.).  I have also already had a 3 hour political conversation with a Republican from Mississippi (we disagreed on most things, but we listened to each other and we both liked Football, so I think it worked out okay).  I also wore a t-shirt outside while everyone else had jackets on because it was 10 degrees and sunny and I’m Canadian, dammit.

With that, I think it’s fair to say: Welcome to America, folks!