“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19)
In the first public statement of His ministry, Jesus’ quoted from the book of Isaiah (61:1) announcing His temporal and eternal purposes and intentions. He came to set the captives free! The issue of marriage equality hammers home the need for all people of good will to fight for the rights of oppressed people. Gay people are citizens and as such are entitled to all of the rights and privileges afforded any other citizen, including the right to marry. When we see professing Christians carrying signs quoting Bible verses out of context to justify oppressing other people, Christianity becomes characterized by such hate-mongering oppression. It reminds me of the 1950’s when many clergy and professing Christians claimed that integration was a communist and Jewish plot and that if we became integrated our country would become communist. There is no culture war here! It is a war that has always existed: the oppressed versus the oppressor. People have to take a stand and decide which side they are going to support! It must be remembered that many people of good will are not Christians, but every single Christian is a person of good will. If one professes to be a Christian and seeks to oppress others, he or she is not a Christian! We witness many egregious sins occurring such as many elderly people having to decide whether they are going to buy food or buy medicines; the working poor who can’t afford medical insurance; our invasion of another country based on false premises. Yet we have people who call themselves “Christians” who are obsessed with the issue of who loves whom, and who sleeps with whom, and who want to prevent loving couples from enjoying the sacrament of marriage and attesting to their abiding love before God and the community. Moreover, these professing Christians seek to thereby deny same-gender couples the many rights that accrue to those who are married. There is the assertion by opponents of marriage equality that children raised by same-gender couples will not fare as well as those raised by straight couples. Beyond the fact that many children live with single parents, the above assertion has not been shown to be true. A few examples: a child’s sexual orientation is not likely to be affected (Bailey, et al., Developmental Psychology, 31, 1995, pp. 124-129); styles of parenting are not likely to be different between gay and non-gay fathers (Bigner and Jacobsen, Journal of Homosexuality, 23, 1992, pp. 99-112); gender identity and sex-role behavior are similar between children of lesbian parents and heterosexual single-parent households (Golombok, et al., Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 24, 1983, pp. 551-572). Of course, no study is without flaws, so it would be interesting to replicate studies such as these and also examine a variety of measures of social and personal health and adjustment in gay and non-gay families. Many people talk of the “sanctity of marriage,” in which I believe, despite the fact that there is about a fifty percent divorce rate; about one-third of children are born out of wedlock, and there is frequently a need to have two incomes to support a household with the attendant strains on a marriage relationship and care of children. The mantra concerning the sanctity of marriage is a smoke screen to hide the real reason why people don’t want marriage equality: pure, rank prejudice which no Christian or anyone of good will should abide or in any way support! Moreover, how is same-gender marriage going to in any way impact straight marriage? If a gay couple become married, how is that occurrence going to in any way affect anyone else’s marriage? To assert that marriage equality will in any way destroy the sanctity of marriage or destroy civilization as we know it is ludicrous on its face! We have also heard that if there is same-gender marriage, it will lead to pedophilia, bestiality, and polygamy. To talk of two consenting adults seeking the sacrament of marriage as opening the door to the marriage of adults with children is not only foolish but also cynical and hateful. And how marriage equality might lead to polygamy and bestiality is a mystery to me. We have heard arguments that there has never been same-gender marriage before. The same arguments were used, justified by appeal to the Bible, to justify the existence of slavery, of segregation, and the subjugation of women. Each generation presents its own issues that confront us and have us decide whether we are going to be on the side of the oppressed or on the side of the oppressors. Jesus is unequivocal as to which side Christians are to take!
Rev. Dr. Jerry S. Maneker, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at California State University, Chico, served as an ordained priest in the Congregational Catholic Church, a division of the Independent Catholic Churches International (ICCI). For many years he published a weekly column in the Sacramento Valley Mirror titled “Christianity and Society,” where he dealt with a variety of social issues from a biblical and sociological perspective. Maneker also published a blog called “A Christian Voice for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Rights” and the website Radical Christianity.