I am so tired of talking about gay marriage. Maybe it’s the crowds I surf, maybe I am a pretentious elitist with the luxury of thinking about such issues critically, maybe it’s the denominational identity I have chosen, maybe it’s the denominational heritage I have been forced out of and later abandoned myself. But I’m so tired of the conversation. So here I go again on it.
I was in Washington, DC, at the Children, Youth, and a New Kind of Christianity conference when President Obama announced his safe and disengenuous endorsement of gay marriage as a response to the North Carolina amendment passed just hours before. There was an air of excitement around the conference, who were getting texts and tweets trickling in about the news on their $300 iPhones, and a few talks in the conference were on such radical ideas as acknowledging that gay people are in your community, and if they dare to show up in your church for some reason, you should welcome their children, etc. Instead of peeing myself with excitement or sweating on the upper lip as these Reformed mainlers and wannabe hipster emergents were doing at the conference, I do what I always do, which is listen to the crazy people who host right-wing radio to hear what the Other Side is thinking, and the immediate response was “President Obama is making a non-issue an issue. President Obama is using this issue as a smokescreen to avoid talking about his record.” Is this really the best conservatives can come up with, to claim that the President keeps bringing the issue up while celebrating their own legislation being passed in North Carolina?
In the last couple of months I have been in some fairly involved conversations with church based or faith based groups about gay marriage. People don’t believe me when I say that I am honestly tired of talking about it. Folks think I have something to hide about it by just being tired of talking about it. Yet here I am, to repeat, talking about it more.
While I was on vacation last week–one night in Ohio, five in Chicago, and one more in Pittsburgh, and I went back to work this morning–I began to reflect on the nonsense of the entire conversation of the last two weeks on gay marriage: Can one really “evolve” on an issue, and when does this make one a flip-flopper? Did it really happen that the African delegation leader at the United Methodist General Conference compare gay people to those who practice beastiality? Does Fox News still really interview “authoritative” people who advocate a direct and uncomplicated cause-and-effect relationship between homosexuality and suicide (yes; click here)? Do progressives really think that this issue is all that important in the long scheme of everything else going on in the world–are liberals really looking this hard to have a “deal-breaker” issue like conservatives have with abortion? And if so, don’t liberals see how ineffective the right’s anti-abortion campaign has really worked out, with fools like Rick Santorum talking a good game but essentially hiding from the issue when he is employed in a capacity which requires him to wear a tie to work (that is, the U.S. Senate)? Why doesn’t the right-leaning Tea Party folks understand that it’s entirely inconsistent to believe that government intrusion into gun use is a violation of civil rights, on one hand, and on the other, to advocate further legislation to define what is always said to be a “religious institution,” that is, marriage?
Why can’t we just de-regulate all marriage? If right-leaning folks or self-avowed and practicing heterosexual homophobes want to advocate that gay marriage is not a civil right–and I agree that it’s not a civil right–then why don’t we just do the right think and take away all immediate and assumed legal and financial privileges that are awarded by the government for heterosexual marriage?
The obvious problem with this is, obviously, that the legal arrangements when a couple divorces may become an issue here: but would it really be any less messy?
On the whole drive home from Chicago to Pennsylvania, every single religious radio broadcast I could find on AM and FM was talking about gay marriage, whether it’s talk radio, call-in shows, or sermons preached on Sunday morning broadcasted from Pittsburgh. Even the Catholic stations were talking about the grave immorality now abundantly evident in our culture now that Obama has disclosed his “feelings,” as if all of these folks needed another reason to hate the President, and as if there isn’t real incompentence and disaster within the Obama administration to really talk about.
But I am now convinced that this issue is not just a political smokescreen for talking about the economic issues on both sides of the aisle or to galvanize certain kinds of religious voters. This issue is a smokescreen for the reality that heterosexual marriage is destroying our culture. The statistics are now saying that 50% or more of all households with children have a single parent. Nearly 80% of all single mothers are on some sort of welfare and nearly 30% of all single fathers are taking some sort of government support. First marriages end in divorce 45-50% of the time, second marriages end in divorce 60-67% of the time, and 70-73% of third marriages end in divorce. Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate and Nevada has the highest divorce rate in the US. For unmarried heterosexuals who cohabitate, roughly 80% end in a separation or divorce, 45% of them ultimately get married. When children are involved in cohabitations, they are five times more likely to live in poverty than if their parents were married.
My point here is not to start an argument about the ethics of cohabitation, etc., etc., because of all of the weddings I have officiated only a handful of them were not cohabitating already–and those who were cohabitating were more likely to tell me that they would not attend a United Church of Christ congregation because of our “liberal” stance on gay marriage. My point, however, is that heterosexuals have a lot to account for the problems in our society. It isn’t that folks aren’t listening to what the church has to say, it’s that the church has totally failed to make connections to marriage and the common good.
This week President Obama released a political ad with “Julia,” a woman who needs government at every point in her life. While I can appreciate what Obama is doing in this interactive ad, the conservatives’ response attacks this fictional “Julia” to be promoting welfare queens, and the liberal response is that the GOP is out of touch. But isn’t this the same argument on every economic or social issue in America? Or is the point of the “Julia” ad to simply encompass these entire debates?
I suggest what is probably a deeply unpopular position: “Julia” functions in the same way that the gay marriage debate functions in the political realm, namely, that just about anything else can be scapegoated from the actual crisis of heterosexuality in America today. Heterosexuals have a lot of explaining to do. Churches should be spending hours thinking about the marriages that are legal as a much deeper crisis of society than gay marriage. This is not to say gay marriage isn’t something worth debating, but it’s not the issue that should be tearing churches apart. But we should name the debate for what it is: a smokescreen for the real issue, which is the crisis of straight marriage.
As mentioned before, my spouse always says “You are so Larry David.” So here I share my awkward and unpopular views.