Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Speech delivered at a "Get Engaged" meeting in LA on July 14th, 2009.

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.


Luther said...

Fr. Farrow, I am an Episcopalian and I could not agree with you more! It is just like a friend of mine says, "Regardless of your denomination Christ's message is the same." The Christ came so that we may have life and that we may have it abundantly. So that if any activity is ever taken in the name of God that we worship or the Christ that we serve that violates the life of any human-being, it can not be of Christ. It cannot be of God.

We should seek to be a place where open dialogue across different perspectives is possible and encouraged and look to accommodate the tension between conservative and liberal viewpoints without losing our unity, our sense of community or our sense of humor.

Pax vobiscum,

Kay Ebeling said...

Hi, Geoff, just found your blog at blogspot, mine is here too. I write about Catholic priests who Should Be called "rogue" but aren't, as I'm am adult victim of a pedophile priest. You can read the blog at cityofangels5 dot blogspot dot com.

You say you are in LA and so am I and we might be kindred spirits, maybe we can meet for coffee.

Kay Ebeling
City of Angels

Steven said...

Education is power. The more they (those who oppose us) know, the more they will understand and "get it."

"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." That's a scary thought...reminds me of what Al Qaeda does in the name of Allah.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate you being on this Internet and your comments. We need to keep on pushing for the right things that Jesus wants us to become. We are in the earth, but not of this earth. We are children of God and He loves us so much, we just need to give our heart to Him and we will be happy always. God Bless you Father Geoff Farrow, I am including you on my prayer list. Keep on helping us with your comments. Marlene

Anonymous said...

Dear Father Geoff Farrow,
God Bless you for your following with Christ Jesus. Thank you for your comments about the Godfather II. We are all God's Children and He Loves us with such Love, we cannot even comprehend. Keep on teaching us His Word and God Bless you always and Love you.