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May 12, 2012
A big announcement this week on the family values front: the president went on national television to say that he favored allowing gay people to marry if they wanted to. Nobody who has been paying any attention at all to this issue was shocked: we had been watching for months as President Obama's views "evolved" -- it was a bit like watching the grass grow -- and it was more a matter of when than if he would announce the completion of his evolution.

Others are speculating about whether this was a good idea politically or a bad one. Whether it was a misstep or part of a plan. Whether it will help the president or hurt him in the November elections. Fox News brayed an initial response -- OBAMA FLIP-FLOPS, DECLARES WAR ON MARRIAGE! -- but calmed down a few hours later and dropped the war part.

I've never understood just how it was that one person getting married constituted an attack on anybody else's marriage, except in the clear case of bigamy, which hardly ever happens. I stand by my longstanding advice to those opposed to gay marriages that they refrain from entering into one. That clergy who don't wish to bless such marriages not do so. That people who don't wish to attend such a wedding stay home. We are all adults; we can make our own moral choices. To the argument that such marriages damage children on a societal scale, I can think of things whose harm to children is many times more demonstrable: domestic violence, addiction on the part of a parent, parental unemployment and the poverty that accompanies it. To this list, I might add religious fanaticism: there are but seven statements about homosexuality in the Judeo-Christian scriptures, all of which deserve contextual scrutiny deeper than the God-said-it-I-believe-it variety. Scripture has been brandished in the service of more than one form of oppression -- one thinks of chattel slavery and child abuse -- and the devil can quote it as well as any of the rest of us. Where the Bible is concerned, we need to do more than just quote: we must also think.

But many have written at great length about all these things, and I need not rehash what so many others have said so often. No, what interests me about the Fox News lead is not the war declaration but the flip-flop part. For the past ten years, we have lived in an era in which the capacity to change one's mind about important things is seen as a character flaw.

I remember feeling this way myself, when I was very young. I remember truly believing that I was fully formed -- I was twenty-three at the time -- and that I would not change for the rest of my life, not about anything that mattered. Little things, maybe. But not the big ones. Those were settled.

But no. It's the little things to which we cling like addicts (What do you MEAN, I can't use my subway tokens anymore? This is an outrage!). We cherish our favorite brands of furniture polish or soda pop to the ends of our days; it's the big things we change, not the little ones. Painfully, we come to see our own racism; then we begin to change our behavior and our hearts. We grow into what love is; painfully, we leave behind what it is not. Reluctantly, we come to understand that our parents didn't invent hypocrisy, that it lives in us, as well. The things that really matter grow up with us, and we grow up with them. To be a responsible adult is to admit this, and to be prepared to explain it.

So I can't respect a politician simply because he hasn't changed his opinions about important things. I can respect one who can acknowledge that he has.


I can recommend one short but rich book that might be very helpful to those who struggle with scripture on this issue: This Far by Grace: A Bishop's Journey Through Questions of Homosexuality by J. Neil Alexander, Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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