My morning started innocently enough. I was doing some reading about the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals’ Proposition 8 decision, Perry v. Brown. This led to commentary about the timing of the decision, which is, if you haven’t noticed, smack dab in the midst of another election cycle. An election cycle during which a Black man will, again, be running for president.
You know where this is going, right? You heard the statistics coming out of California on November 4, 2008: 70% of Black voters, the same voters who put Obama in office, voted yes on Prop 8. And while those numbers have since been debunked (it was really closer to 57%), the conversation doesn’t stop there. It turns out that church attendance was a much better predictor of voter outcome than race and Black folks attend church more than other folks.
Admittedly, I haven’t been to church in a while. But let’s take a quick jaunt down this road anyway.
Alright, says my brain, this can’t be the first time that the church has held a belief that, even if not relinquished, they’ve had to refrain from imposing on the nation as a whole. Or, put another way, this country has previously shaken loose the chains of religious doctrine in order to move forward toward greater cultural integrity.
The obvious example is slavery. I know this one first hand. I was taught the doctrine of Ham in my parochial school and grew up believing that the institution of slavery was not a shortcoming of man, but the divine fulfillment of a biblical curse. Seriously. As a believer in the Bible as the inerrant Word of God, I was taught that slavery was a holy institution that saved the souls of an entire race. Thus, condemnation of slave owners, the institution, and/or the world governments that supported it was akin to questioning the will of God.
(Yes, Howard was a very, very good decision.)
But slavery is a different animal. The Bible has been used to support the institution, not to condemn it. Miscegenation, the other “unnatural” relationship, is a much better fit for comparison here. Apples to apples, so to speak.
It turns out that there appeared to be just as many scriptures against interracial relationships as there appear to be against homosexuality. So the church’s support for anti-miscegenation laws isn’t surprising. I would even argue that it’s understandable. I might even go so far as to say that I’m a little surprised that the church has accepted* miscegenation, but not homosexuality. If it had to choose one, I would think it would choose the latter.
Crazy talk? Perhaps not. Let’s look at a few anti-miscegenation passages:
6And behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
7And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand;
8and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.
So one guy marries a foreign woman and brings her home. Another guy kills him and the woman. By killing them, a plague on an entire nation is ended. Interesting. Here’s another:
1 While Ezra was praying and confessing, weeping and throwing himself down before the house of God, a large crowd of Israelites—men, women and children—gathered around him. They too wept bitterly. 2 Then Shekaniah son of Jehiel, one of the descendants of Elam, said to Ezra, “We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel.”
Ok. I think I see a pattern. Some of the men marry foreign women and there appear to be implications for all of Israel. Got it. The Bible tells us that intermarrying by one or a few has consequences for the entire nation. Hey, no offense, but I can’t fault someone for feeling strongly about interracial marriages in that context. The Bible appears to say that those relationships will effect others, even those that aren’t doing the marrying or even in their family. From a Biblical perspective, miscegenation is a national issue and allowing it will condemn us all.
You know what, we probably just got lucky. Or God was merciful. Or something. But homosexuality? That will DEFINITELY condemn us all —
“We’re heading that way as a nation. In history there’s never been a civilization ever in history that has embraced homosexuality and turned away from traditional fidelity, traditional marriage, traditional child-rearing, and has survived. There isn’t one single civilization that has survived that openly embraced homosexuality. So you say, ‘what’s going to happen to America?” Well if history is any guide, the same thing’s going to happen to us,’” he predicted. —Pat Robertson
Yup. This nation is going to hell in a flaming hand basket and my marriage lit the flame.
13 If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.
Well that’s weird. Only the two homosexuals die in that one, not a whole country. Let’s try again:
For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature. Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due.
Well damn. It doesn’t look like God is going to punish anyone but me for my “sins”. Not even my children will be cursed because of my actions (see Ham, above). Just me, my Creator, and my judgment.
So why are many churches and many of the members of the churches so concerned about what it is that I do? Or at least concerned enough to vote against a personal right. This isn’t the first time we’ve heard the doomsday prophecies. Considering the way that our country hasn‘t imploded post 1865 or 1967, you’d think the boy crying wolf wouldn’t get such a strong reaction any more.
Sure, I ask this question tongue in cheek. But beyond the snark, there’s a real quandary here. What is it about homosexuality that allows the church to use it so effectively to scare people? And what was it about race before that? Why would Pat Robertson damn an entire country when the Bible he professes to follow tells him that such damnation will never occur. Maybe it’s not race or homosexuality. Maybe it’s just the fear.
“…moral or social equality between the different races…does not in fact exist, and never can. The God of nature made it otherwise, and no human law can produce it, and no human tribunal can enforce it. There are gradations and classes throughout the universe. From the tallest archangel in Heaven, down to the meanest reptile on earth, moral and social inequalities exist, and must continue to exist throughout all eternity.” — Scott v. State, 39 GA 321 (1869)
I challenge Christian and Catholic believers to examine their fears. Where did they come from? Who put them there? Why? Are you holding fast to beliefs that do nothing than further a view of world order that is harmful not only to me, but to you? What do you really know?
I know that I don’t make my decisions believing that God will visit his wrath upon you or your children or your country. I know that my decisions are true to who I am, the person my Creator created me to be. I know that my decisions are mine alone and will. not. harm. you.
The Bible tells me so.