Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Religious freedom includes the Christian Left

In a column in the NY Times, Frank Bruni writes about  Christian Conservatives who believe imposing their views of sexual morality is a matter of religious freedom.
But what about the morals and the God of people whose religions exhort them to be inclusive and to treat gays and lesbians with the same dignity as anyone else? There are many Americans in this camp... 
We refer incessantly in this country to the “religious right,” a phrase routinely presented as if it’s some sort of syllogism: to be devoutly religious is to gravitate to a certain side of the political spectrum, one set of values dictating the other. “Christian conservatives” is an almost equally ubiquitous bit of alliteration.

But there’s a religious center. A religious left. There are Christian moderates and Christian liberals: less alliterative and less dogmatic, but perhaps no less concerned with acting in ways that reflect moral ideals. We should better acknowledge that and them.

And we should stop equating conventional piety with certain issues only and sexual morality above other kinds..... 
“I find it perplexing the way the ‘moral values’ phrase is used,” said the Rev. Mark Greiner, [a Presbyterian] pastor ....
“Concern for the environment, concern for workers’ rights: those are moral values,” he told me. “But the phrase ends up being limited to matters of human sexuality, as if Jesus was primarily concerned with what people did with their reproductive parts. It’s crazy-making.”
Indeed.  One of the good things that has come out in the recent flurry of marriage equality hearings in different states is the number of people of faith coming out for equality BECAUSE of their faith. (Episcopalian faith leaders have been prominent.)

 And, in Minnesota, which may vote on equality this week, there was news that  state representative Tim Faust, who is also a Lutheran pastor, and who represents a conservative rural area, nevertheless will vote for equality.
He said nearly all the arguments against same-sex marriage are biblical but noted that many devoted people view it the other way. 
“Then the question becomes, do we have the right to impose our religious belief on others?” Faust asked. “If the reason we are arguing we shouldn’t be doing this is because of religious beliefs, it’s pretty hard to make that argument.”

(update) The Episcopal Bishop of Nevada agrees:
I respect my fellow Christians who do not believe a same-sex relationship can be a sacramental marriage. They have a right to their convictions. But this law is not about sacraments. It is not about what constitutes a “Christian marriage.” That is a question for churches, not the state, to decide. This is about civil law. It is about the right to enter into the legal relationship of marriage. That right is fundamental and should not be denied to gay and lesbian citizens who are as capable of maintaining stable family relationships as straight couples.
If this law has any effect at all on religious liberty, it increases that liberty by allowing those who believe in same-sex marriages to perform them while those who oppose same-sex marriages can still refuse. It is the current ban on same-sex marriages that infringes on personal conscience.
Why is this so hard for the conservatives to grasp?

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