What a crazy few days this has been! In full disclosure, I’m really not one to play the whole “political game”. Any time I try to engage politics, I usually find myself seconds away from wanting to physically assault the television due to the immaturity present in the arguments of senior citizens dressed way beyond the intelligence of their rhetoric. Nevertheless, I’m pleased to see the ruling of marriage equality for our country. Clearly, opinions vary dramatically, but I’m happy to see a new landscape take hold for the discussion as a gay Christian.
This past weekend, I scrolled through Facebook to see hundreds of posts/blog links/rainbow avatars/etc. about the SCOTUS decision. I must say, the juicy pop culture lover inside of me really enjoys seeing both the orderly and disorderly discourse present on social media. Additionally, I’m grateful that a handful of you reached out to me directly with other blog posts aimed to encourage me or even to discourage me. Regardless of the sentiment, I’m thrilled to see this dialog is actually happening between both gay and Christian communities.
Last week, in my post reflecting on my personal relationship with the gay community, I made a brief side note to some speculations I had regarding how the gay community would look after the SCOTUS marriage equality ruling was made. Much to my embarrassment, I didn’t actually realize that this decision was being made last week, thus proving my tepid relationship with politics. Since this decision was made, I wanted to take some time to speculate on the influences that this could have on the LGBTQ community and the gay Christian discussion.
Much to the chagrin of many people in my life, speculation is a hobby to me. I could sit for five hours with friends talking hypothetically about various topics only to walk away feeling like I had an amazing Friday night. In contrast, those in my life just look at me and ask, “What the heck are we even talking about anymore?”
A Nerd's Obsession
As a teenager, I really was a full-blown nerd. Wait, to better phrase that: In middle school, I began to grow into my nerd-self that would stick with me for the rest of my life. For the majority of seventh and eighth grade, I was fixated on one thing: getting an Apple computer. I had begged my parents for this computer for nearly three years with no success. They refused to pay the higher price for the computer and told me that I would need to pay for it myself if I really wanted it. Now, since I had no money, saving up the $800 would be the most draining process of my life at the time. I continually pleaded with them to get me one for any possible holiday I could fabricate. They would not budge! It looked like it would be a long while before I would be getting what I wanted.
So, I did what any normal human would do. I kept everything Apple brand that I possibly could get my hands on. In my bedroom, where most kids had pictures of their favorite bands and hot girls or guys, I literally had brochures of Apple computers, iPods, etc. In case you’re wondering, yes, this is as embarrassing to write as it would seem.
This computer is all I talked about, it’s all I thought about and I was obsessed. If I couldn’t have the real thing, then I would get as close to it as possible. Although, the reality of it was, it just wasn’t the real thing. It was nowhere close.
Prior to the ruling on Friday, the idea of marriage looked non-existent for many gay people. Even for me, the idea of marriage wasn’t something I even viewed as a legitimate option until marriage equality legislation passed in Arizona last year. The desire for a legitimate marriage, the type that many straight people in our lives have, was an institution we could never have in law.
So, what do we do when we can’t have what we desperately desire? We try our hardest to get as close as possible to it. We create illusions of what we want just to feel as close as possible to the real thing. For some, this was achieved in more noble fashions: long-term, monogamous partnerships that disregarded the legal status of marriage. For others, this was achieved in a more illusory manner: fleeting relationships, disregard for relational ethics, non-relationships, cynicism toward the institution of marriage and desperate pursuits for partnerships that we could never officially claim. Regardless, many of us pursued the closeness of marriage in nearly the same way that I pursued the ownership of my hipster-style computer.
What was most fascinating about my computer drama was that when I was finally able to afford to purchase my first computer, all the illusion went away. I ended up removing all my Apple memorabilia from my room, I stopped relentlessly begging my dad to buy me the computer—I was finally content with what I had. I no longer had something close, but I had the real thing. This contentment wasn’t just some fake happiness, either. I was pleased with it! In fact, to this day my parents are stunned that all my pleading ended once I purchased this one simple device. Sure, things went wrong with the computer and I found ways to be annoyed with the technology, but generally speaking, I was content with it. Now, if my logic actually holds true beyond this trivial matter, I question what may happen for society in the coming years as a result of this newfound marriage ruling.
With the object of our desire (marriage) now attainable, I wonder if our attempts at false reality will wane. With the rise of marriage in the gay community, I’m curious if the idea of marriage will have deeper root and deeper meaning. After all, deep appreciation for something abounds in those who have lived a life without that something.
With mainstream culture already maintaining a lesser value of marriage (i.e. high divorce rates and lower marriage rates), will marriage equality influence the mainstream attitude? Being a community of people who profoundly value this newfound equality, will our deeply held respect for marriage encourage heterosexual couples to value marriage more highly? Will our efforts that once fought for marriage equality now be redirected to fight for marriage quality?
With marriage now an option for LGBTQ couples, is there a chance that the sexual ethic of the gay community can transform? Will more same-sex couples see the possibility for marriage as a reason to commit more seriously to fewer relationships overall? I mean, we weren’t messing around about wanting this institution; perhaps we’ll mess around less to find marriage for ourselves.
A Better Discussion for Christians
With the legitimacy of same-sex unions comes a different playing field for the gay Christian theological discussion. Heterosexual Christians often appeared to have an upper hand in this discussion because gay people didn’t have the same opportunities as straight people in mainstream culture. In my undergrad economics classes, I frequently heard the Latin phrase: Ceteris paribus. For those of you who have a real life, this phrase essentially means “all things being equal.” Most large-scale economic concepts are built off this presupposition as a way of allowing us to successfully predict future economic activity. I mean, we can’t wisely predict the future when the variables keep varying.
For Christians, what was once largely an argument that most people and laws had supported, this is now an argument in which equality levels politics and rests at a theological level. While theology itself is still highly contentious ground, I think that the leveling of the gay issue as a matter of politics will allow Christians to engage a less contemptuous, more loving discussion in the future.
No matter what your particular theological stance is, now that the contentious fight for gay marriage has waned, we Christians can begin a less politically charged conversation and engage this as a Christian ethics conversation. Now, I realize that this whole idea matters to very few people reading this post. But, as a gay Christian trying to seek genuine community in the Christian Church, this is quite a big deal. I’m suddenly incredibly grateful for Latin.
This ruling broke new ground for gay people. I’m tremendously hopeful that we can foster a more substantial sexual ethic in the gay community that can also influence larger society. For Christians, this ruling (just like many other acts of law) now forces the Church to examine its theology more closely and make a more focused discussion.
For both communities and society as a whole, I continue to hope that #lovewins.