Nov 18, 2008

California Burning

Saturday morning I woke up to a clear blue sky. So clear and blue, like only Los Angeles can do to autumn. One would never know there was a fire raging 2o miles away in Sylmar. But that's what the Santa Anas do, they blow smoke westward out to the ocean. So the smoke blew west across the valley and I couldn't see it, not from Eagle Rock.

But around noon I went out to meet a friend, and saw a funnel of smoke billowing up toward the southwest. Yorba Linda, I found out later. By the end of the day the sunset was blood red and the air was thick with smoke. Smoke was everywhere, in every room. I woke up in the middle of the night with a weight on my chest, it was that oppressive.

The city felt oppressive even before the fires. Prop 8 was voted down, and people got really, really pissed off. I know a lot of gays who really do want to marry, to be monogamous, and they are good souls. I voted against Prop 8. I figured, let everyone to have equal rights under the law. We live in a pluralistic, secularized society; and when it comes to the secular estate of marriage, I don't think the church can dictate how the state defines it; nor should the state dictate how the church defines it. Some Christian conservatives argue that marriage is an estate of the church. But we recognize marriages between atheists and agnostics and Buddhists and egad, Methodists. I've even been to church weddings where one party was an atheist. So really ...

I know what the Old Testament says about homosexuality. But the Bible also tolerated polygamy and slavery. Two hundred years ago, devout Christians thought slavery was okay. Fifty years ago they thought interracial marriage was an abomination. So what is the church doing right now? Is it standing up for biblical truth? Or are we so committed to the law that we fail to see that God has come in and changed it? Jesus defied so many biblical laws that the devout had him killed for it. We must be very careful not to miss what God is doing. Yes, you can argue that homosexuality is a sin. Dost not thine own shit stinketh as well?

One of my oldest friends, whom I met at a Christian conference, tried not to be gay for years. She did all the programs. She went to seminary, and spent years working in homeless shelters and advocating for the poor and oppressed; speaking up for those who had no voice. Like Jesus did. And she was still gay. One day she said, "Okay, either God is cruel, and me being gay is his curse upon me. Or, God is good and merciful, and this is a gift." She chose to believe in a god who was like the latter. She became a pastor to the outcast. I look at her life and what she has done for the kingdom of God, and it's far more than I have.

I do not have an answer, but I know God is merciful. He knows the heart of every person. He knows what they have gone through. Because I am not homosexual, I don't feel like I can judge those who are. When I think of all the crap God has endured for me, I'm sure he will have grace for others. I mean, he put up with slavery and polygamy. Don't you think he can handle someone being gay?

Jesus said there will be no marriage in heaven. I wonder if that's because, our current experience and understanding of sexuality and intimacy are so puny and superficial, compared to what identity and intimacy will be in the afterlife ... when the veil is lifted and we see and know God face to face. as CS Lewis wrote, "I know, Lord, why you did not answer. You yourself are the answer. Before you, all questions die away."

I wonder if arguing over each person's broken, or fixed, or cobbled-together sexual identity is splitting hairs. When the fact is, one day we will all be washed clean not by our own goodness but by God's grace and mercy. So why would I throw a millstone around someone's neck? Prevent them from knowing God's infinite love and mercy and acceptance, by arguing that my shit stinks just a little less than theirs? Let he who is without guilt, cast the first stone.

At least that's what I had been thinking.

And then the Prop 8 protests started. Angry mobs targeted one restaurant because the manager was Mormon and had donated to the Prop 8 cause. They picketed and taunted customers and employees. What if Pro-Prop 8 supporters had picketed and taunted patrons of gay bars in West Hollywood? A theater director in San Francisco donated money to Prop 8 and got fired. (Okay, so what was he doing directing theater in San Fran? But then, what was that gay guy doing on eharmony? Demanding they match him with other gays? Should we force gay dating sites to match heteros? It seems petty. Is this like a meat eater demanding that a vegan restaurant serve him rib-eye? Jesus came to liberate the captives. But he didn't free us so we could bicker and attack each other. I think he said something about turning the other cheek.

Some say it's a moral issue, some say it's a rights issue. Tony Jones and Rod Dreher are blogging about it on Beliefnet. I'll leave it to the experts to hash it out, because I'm at a loss. More than that, I'm grieved over the hateful spew going on. Author Robert Hughes aptly labeled our fraying American culture as The Culture of Complaint. Every splinter group demands their rights, like petulant, angry, immature children. It starts with "accept me," and then it becomes, "dig me, fund me, love me, obey me. Or else." And it goes on everywhere, from James Dobson to GLAAD to PETA to you and me.

Know what happens? The loudest, angriest, biggest bully gets their way. And then some extremists come along to restore order, and make you wear a burka.

At least, that's what I've been thinking, as the smoke clears from Los Angeles. What began as a clear blue autumn day turned into a charred wounded, oppressive landscape. What began as a proposition has disintegrated into cattiness and bullying. Who started it? Does it matter? I think the better question is, who's going to show a some maturity and grace? Who's going to say "Sorry" first? Someone needs to. Because I'm in no mood to put a sheet over my head.


Bryan Allain said...

wow. that's a lot to think about. thanks for being honest and venting like that. i think i need to bookmark this and read it a few more times.

Anonymous said...

really good post, Susan...thanks for writing it. I too am going to read it again, and I think I'm going to send the link to it to a few people.


Anonymous said...

Yeah, good points and they're understood...however as someone who was called out of that lifestyle and DID receive freedom and healing, I see how destructive that life is to christians and non-christians alike and the lies that liberal society has foisted on the masses. There are so many voices ( for one) being ignored, voices that declare healing/therapy is possible, but to no avail. Same sex marriage isn't just something people do in private, it affects other people and then society as a whole. These relationships say that a family can exist well to the exclusion of the opposite sex, when God has created both genders equally to represent His nature to the world. Men need women, and women men. Not to mention the psychological damage to children brought up in homes without the example of both genders to look to and learn from. Secular as the society might be, it doesn't mean that Christians don't stand up for what is right for both believers AND nonbelievers. I would say promoting Prop 8 is like promoting slavery, and sure, there are some who use scripture to back up gay marriage. But they, like the backers of slavery and polygamy, use very limited verses and keep out the biggies that blow those ideas out of the water. When Paul writes "do not be deceived: those who do these things (homosexuality included in that list) cannot inherit the kingdom of God." I think it's best to heir on the side of caution, don't you think? Especially when its a specific warning not to be deceived into thinking that you could be both a homosexual and a Christian. I understand your friend's plight because I've been there and decided "to settle" myself with what "God made me", but thankfully He turned me from that mindset into years of horrifying and difficult times, times I could have left the faith and have "felt justified" in leaving it but chose not to. It's not easy dealing with pain and wounds you've repressed all your life. It's much easier to go with what you know and just deal. Unfortunately, Prop 8 and other such ideas help reinforce the idea of "why fight it" when fighting against and rising above our natures (both physical and psychological) is what makes us most human. Came across your blog and really enjoyed its content, but this one hit too close to home so I had to comment. Thanks for letting me do so!

Susan Isaacs said...

Wow. Awesome comment, Anonymous. I'm so glad to hear from you, who's on the inside and has your experience to comment from! Susan

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