Thursday, March 11, 2004
Competing theologies in Boston.
It's impossible to take in all the signs that hundreds and hundreds of people have been carrying outside the Massachusetts State House all day as the legislature debates amending the Constitution to block same-sex couples from marrying, but a few stand out. My favorite is "I gave up hate for Lent."
But here are two from the news wires that capture some of the competing theologies on display:
"Gay marriage opponent Leonard Gendron, a local pastor, holds a sign reading 'Homosexuals are Possessed by Demons' outside the Massachusetts State House in Boston March 11, 2004 where the Massachusetts Legislature is debating an amendment to the state's constitution banning gay marriage." Haven't we met "Pastor" Gendron somewhere before? Why, yes! Here he is being nasty to clergy exiting the Rev. Gene Robinson's consecration as bishop of New Hampshire last November, in a Boston Globe story:
"You liar. You thief. You whore. . . . You liars with your white robes and your dark hearts," Leonard Gendron called to one. Gendron said he is pastor of a church called The Secret Place in Lawrence, Mass.
Ah. (Feel free to speculate.) But there were better theologies on display today, too.
"Laure De Vulpillieres of Somerville, Mass., leads a pro-gay marriage crowd in a chant outside the Statehouse in Boston, Thursday, March 11, 2004." Her sign — "Stop using Jesus to justify inequality" — is actually pretty good gospel. ("Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Matthew 25:40.)
Which reminds me of a story I recently read about a minister testifying before a legislative committee on same-sex marriage. He told the panel that he would read them everything that Jesus had said on the subject of homosexuality. He then opened the Bible, sat back in his chair, and said nothing.
Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley's op-ed in the Globe this morning makes me hope that he spent some time today seeing what his side of this debate looks like. He wrote: "The church does not countenance hatred of homosexuals or violence against them. We invite all people in the church to unite in discipleship and fidelity and to work for the common good in society." That's sure a nice sentiment, but I'd like to see him prove that "not countenancing" hatred goes a bit beyond "not countenancing" abusive priests. Some of what pretended to be Christianity outside the State House today looked much more like hatred.
Update 3.12.04: The Boston Globe's Scott Lehigh also met "the putative pastor" Leonard outside the State House:
A moment later, up walked a man who identified himself as "Pastor Leonard" from Lawrence. He expressed his opposition to same-sex marriage but professed his love for the gay men standing nearby.
When Robert Vetrick, one of those men, accused him of hypocrisy, the putative pastor responded: "Would I be standing here with a sign like this if I didn't love you?" Now, perhaps I'm not versed enough in religious matters to judge, but given that the sign in question read "Homosexuals are possessed by demons," I can understand how Vetrick might have formed a different impression.
("Signs of war at the State House," Scott Lehigh, Boston Globe 3.11.04)
And Sean Ferrier of Allston writes a great response to Archbishop O'Malley's op-ed:
Archbishop Sean P. O'Malley did not elucidate Saint Augustine's call for "freedom in nonessential things" in his op ed piece "Charity needed in debate on gay marriage" (March 11). Consequently, it is hard to see how the legal matter of an alleged "redefinition of marriage" is so essential that it demands unity from Christians. Surely the issue belabored by O'Malley is considerably less essential to Christian belief than, for instance, the doctrine of the Incarnation.
Moreover, in speaking nebulously about the "institution of marriage" in general, O'Malley risks confusing it with the narrower issue decided by the Supreme Judicial Court, which is civil marriage. Civil marriage is certainly no more essential to faith than common-law marriage, which, in states that recognize it, requires no particular ceremony or even witnesses to become legally valid.
The love and respect of others enjoined by Christianity require more than merely wishing people not to hate or mistreat others; Christianity also asks us to consider whether our activities further this end. Unfortunately, O'Malley's willingness so far to form alliances with some groups that uncharitably exploit people's fear is unlikely to bring about the elimination of prejudice from people's hearts.
Copyright © 2004 by Philocrites | Posted 11 March 2004 at 6:00 PM