Gandhi taught a principle called Satya-graha, the power of truth. In his thinking, the adversary is not those who oppose us, in this case the “yes on Prop 8” crowd, but rather “untruth.” While this principle is intellectually sound, it requires discipline to adhere to it in the face of people saying hateful things, or brandishing hateful signs. Gandhi would have us see that the person is not the adversary, but rather the untruth, which is misdirecting them.
In the early 1990’s I read an article in Crisis magazine, a conservative Catholic theological publication. In that, article the author made the point that we would soon reach a point in the United States where Orthodox Jews, Traditionalist Catholics and Protestant Fundamentalists would have more in common with each other than they would with their co-religionists, i.e. Reformed Jews, Progressive Catholics and Liberal Protestants.
What happens when a Traditionalist confronts a Progressive person in a discussion of social issues, the law, religion, or the “truth?” There are three great religions of revelation, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Traditionalists who are members of a “revealed” religion view themselves as possessing “the truth,” In their thinking it becomes their responsibility to conform their personal lives to these revealed truths and to impose that “truth” on society and thereby become agents of expanding the reign of God on earth.
It is important to realize that all of these traditionalist views are counter balanced by progressive views within each of these three great traditions. If we can access these progressive theological traditions, we can bring new insights and a conversion to the person holding the sign. An excellent resource is a book entitled “What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality” by Daniel A. Helminiak, Ph.D. ISBN 1-886360-09-X By invoking the scriptures and sharing different theological understandings we can move people to a new consciousness.
It is important that when we are engaged in conversation with those who oppose us, we remain calm, polite and respectful. We need to extend the same dignity and courtesy with which we ourselves wish to be treated. Weeks and months after the conversation, people will forget many of the particulars that were discussed, but they will remember the tone, and the affect with which they were treated.
People on our side of this issue sometimes say, “You can’t legislate morality.” A law professor once quipped, “What else is there to legislate?” The reality is that laws reflect the mores, values and in fact the morality of a people. In fact, we too are trying to legislate morality. Dr. Eric Fromm, a noted psychologist, defined equality not as “sameness”, but rather as respect for differences. We live in a democratic and very pluralistic society. What makes civil society possible is that we respect others in our society who have different theological, political and social opinions. We are trying to enact such laws.
The greatest thing you can do to move minds and hearts of those opposed to full equality for same sex people is to simply “be.” It is one thing to be opposed to an “issue” it is quite another thing to be opposed to a “person.” This means much more than just “coming out.” Yes, that is an important and difficult first step, but beyond merely announcing your orientation, speaking your story is critical.
When you tell your story, from the heart, you put a human face on being LGBT. Each of us can relate many instances when we suffered personal attacks/injuries. You are not an intellectual abstraction you are a human being. You are a family member, a relative, a friend, a co-worker, a colleague, a teacher, a student, a police officer, a marine, a mom, a dad, etc.
You are not asking for “special rights” you are asking for the same human rights that others enjoy in society. The right to civil marriage, which society preserves for the incarcerated who have been stripped of most of their rights, has been stripped from law abiding same sex couples in California. The right to be protected from discrimination, the right to be able to live in peace without fear of socially sanctioned verbal, emotional, economic or physical abuse. The right of all citizens, regardless of their sexual orientation, to be free to fall in love and establish a home with a spouse by a secular, civil law marriage.
We need to engage those who oppose our civil rights in open and honest conversations. We need to listen to their concerns and fears. We then need to address those concerns and fears, respectfully and systematically. We need to tell our personal stories with sincerity and strength. In the end we will prevail, because what we seek is simple justice and equality under the law.
- Boycott the Knights of Columbus
- A wedding sermon.
- An open letter to my parish community.
- Why was a college student in the car of drunken Archbishop-elect Cordileone at 12:26 AM, when Cordileone was arrested for a DUI?
- When the Church married Same-Sex couples.
- How It All began
- The Supreme Court’s Decisions and the New Mason-Dixon Line
- What the Vatican & American bishops DO NOT want you (and Politicians) to know.
- The Morality of Sex, gay & straight.
- San Francisco in archbishop Cordileone’s sight