What Christians Should Understand about President Obama’s Recent Statement on Marriage Equality.”Posted in Democracy, Equality, Religion, Sermons, Social Justice
“What Christians Should Understand about President Obama’s Decision on Marriage Equality.”
Delivered on the Lord’s Day
May 27, 2012
Carlyle Fielding Stewart, III
Many Christians are very upset with President Obama’s recent statement that he supports marriage equality for LGBT persons.
Many pastors have told their congregations not to vote for Obama in the November election because of the Bible’s views on homosexuality.
Accordingly I have been in some very animated discussions from people who are very passionate about their religious views on this subject.
One man railed on for some time about the Bible’s condemnation of homosexuality as sin and that the government should not go against the Bible and grant “people like that” the right to marry.
Many Christians have cited the bible’s condemnation of homosexuality in the books of Leviticus 18:22; Corinthians 6; Romans 1 and 2; as reasons that Obama should oppose these relationships.
Let me make a few statements in response to requests from various people to address this issue and to help clarify the President’s position.
As I stated to you last week, I need you to listen without prejudice and do not take my words and twist them to your liking or your preconceived ideas. Too many of us do not listen well. We take what we want out of what we hear and form our own conclusions based upon a variety of things. I will try to explain the context and the basis for President Obama’s statement
I am not here today to make any theological statements on the LGBT or argue various biblical points of view. I will provide for you two or three books that you can read that will help you get a clear understanding of what the Bible says on this issue. You can get these books through Amazon.com or we can place an order from through the bookstore to help you. I am not here this morning to say things out of political expediency or because some people want to pressure me into saying things that they want to hear.
My role today is to provide an analysis of the context of President Obama’s decision to help us all get a better understanding of why he said what he said and to help us all think clearly through these issues and not get caught up in the emotionalism of the moment so that we say that we are not going to support the President this November Election.
If you are thinking that way you need to reconsider your thoughts because no president makes decisions all the time that please everyone of us. No ministers should tell their congregations who to vote for. Because if you fail to vote and allow people to get into office by default you have wasted your vote. When you allow your vote to go unheard and let those who do not care about the every man to get ito office then you must take responsibility for your actions.
First, as chief executive officer and commander and chief of the United States of America Barack Obama must make decisions that are in accordance with the Constitution of the United States. Even as a practicing Christian, all decisions that he makes regarding the rights, liberties and justice for citizens must ultimately be interpreted in light of this document. Many of you know that the holy Triumvirate of the United States is the Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights and the Constitution.
Thus President Obama, as Commander in Chief, as a former constitutional scholar and teacher at the University of Chicago Law School, knows the importance of these three documents and how they become the holy grail of American Representative Democracy.
Specifically, his decision is in line with the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution which also incorporates aspects of the Bill of Rights, which says, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens in the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
This equal protection means ensuring that all laws and rights are granted to all citizens and that discrimination on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation or alien status, which are those persons living in the U.S who are not citizens, are entitled to Equal protection under the law.
The Supreme Court has held that certain discrimination against homosexuals or same gender loving people or people of the LGBT community violates the Equal Protection Clause.
As Christians we must understand that as the Chief Executive Officer of the United States President Obama must use the Constitution and its Equal Protection Clause as a basis for any decisions regarding the rights of American citizens.
He has not made his decision based upon the Bible or any other religious documents although he and Michelle are practicing Christians. This position is based upon the Constitution and obviously has put him at odds with others who believe differently. He must make his decisions not based upon any specific religious beliefs but on the Constitution and what it grants by law to every citizen.
What we are talking about here are rights in the civil domain based on civil laws in a civil secular society. What we are talking about are the civil and human rights of all citizens in America whatever their race, gender or sexual orientation.
Friends, the United States is not a theocracy, but a representative democracy, and while the Bible should teach the flag how to wave in the words of Michael Eric Dyson, they do not become the primary basis on which the rights of citizens are determined. And while the Bible and other religious and non religious documents ma have informed the views of the founding Fathers in organizing this country, and may still influence our civic views today, those religious tracts are not the ultimate documents governing our relationships and determining our rights in a civil society.
Equal protection under the law means that all citizens, without exception, have certain inalienable rights that cannot be revoked on the basis of who they are, how they live or what their views or orientations happen to be. Undergirding those rights is the understanding that each citizen is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
If we do not understand this basic fact about his statement then we miss entirely the point he is making and the reference points of his statements.
I have coined this statement. “In a Christian theocracy the Bible is our “constitution.” In a representative democracy, the Constitution is our Bible.”
While from a spiritual perspective we all hope that the kingdom of God can be realized here on earth, a kingdom where there is no more war, poverty, division and discrimination among persons, civil society is governed by the laws of man and not always by the laws of God. That is why we have the constitution which allows for a variety of expressions, a variety of beliefs and lifestyles, and a variety of opinions and ideals and a variety of human beings, all entitled to basic civil and human rights as citizens of this great republic. Our disagreements with the Constitution or any other document is no reason to toss it away or treat it like it is just another piece of paper as some have said.
Now that is the basic point that I want to make here. But you must also know that President Obama’s statement on marriage equality is in light with other supportive measures that he has already implemented.
For example, the President signed the bill to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” on December 22, 2010. Here he put into motion the end of discriminatory policy that ran counter to our values as Americans. As of September 20, 2011, when the repeal took effect, gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans can serve openly in our Armed Forces and without fear of losing their jobs for who they are and who they love.
He ended the Legal Defense of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which means that if a couple is married under state law, whether they are gay or not gay, they are entitled to exactly the same legal rights as any other couple, and the federal government has no business invalidating those marriages.
In February 2011, the President and Attorney General announce that the Department of Justice would no longer defend Section 3 of DOMA against, Equal Protection constitutional challenges brought by same sex couples married under state law.
In July 2011, the White House announced the President’s support of the Respect for Marriage Act, introduced by Senator Diane Feinstein and Congressman Jerrold Nader, which would repeal DOMA and uphold the principle that gay and lesbian couples should receive the same Federal rights and legal protections as heterosexual couples.
He signed the Historic Hate Crimes Legislation: President Obama overcame years of partisan gridlock to pass and sign the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, which extends the coverage of Federal hate crimes law to include attacks based upon the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
Ensuring Hospital visitation rights for LGBT patients and their loved ones; which means that all hospitals receiving Medicare or Medicaid Funds-just about every hospital in America-are to allow visitation rights for LGBT patients.
Preventing Bullying against LGBT students. President and Michelle Obama, along with the Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services, convened students, parents and teachers, nonprofit leaders, advocates and policy makers for the first time ever at a White House Conference on Bullying Prevention in March 2011.
Developed and Implemented a National Aids Strategy, Expanding access to Health Care Coverage, addressing Health Care disparities through the Affordable Health Care act, and on and on and on and on and on.
Took steps to Ensure LGBT Equality in Housing and Crime prevention.
If you are paying attention to what is happening in our beloved country and watch what the president has been doing all along, you would understand the statement that he made on LGBT marriage equality and the context in which he made it.
It all fits with Equal protection under the law so that every single citizen and those who are under the jurisdiction of these United States can enjoy their civil and human rights as majorities, minorities and in between. Whether we disagree with the lifestyle or not, that disagreement or those beliefs cannot become a stumbling block to the President ensuring that every single citizen in our nation receives equal protection under the law. No exceptions.
As a faith community which shares a variety of different interpretations about how people should be treated in this world, some of those interpretations themselves bordering on the ungodly, hatred, violation and exclusion of people in the human community and family of God including LGBT persons in our condemnation of them as sinners, we must go back to the ministry of Jesus. We cannot afford to ignore his mandates on loving our neighbors, or forgetting how his ministry was always to the marginalized and rejected and the oppressed, those considered unworthy and unclean and wholly undeserving of God’s love and carrying the title children of God.
You must know already as Daniel Heminiak reminds us that “People oppose and abuse homosexual men and women for being different, odd, strange or, as they say, “queer.”Lesbian women and gay men are just not allowed to fit in. They are made to be outsiders, foreigners in our society. They are disowned by their families, separated from their children, fired from their jobs, evicted from apartments and neighborhoods, insulted by public figures, denounced from the pulpit, vilified on religious radio and TV, and then beaten in the schools and killed on the streets and in the backwoods of our nation. All of this is done in the name of religion and supposed Judeo-Christian morality.
Jesus entire mission was to save and restore the people of God in the right relationship with God the father. Jesus understood that this could not be achieved without agape love, loving one’s neighbor as oneself and treating them as we would want to be treated.
Scholar, theologian Marcus Borg reminds us that Jesus is for Christians the “Decisive revelation of God, which means that Jesus reveals and discloses what can be seen of God in human life and what a life filled with God looks like.
The question whatever our position on this issue theologically or religiously, do our acts in response to such persons allow them to see the grace of God as they live their lives each day? We know that we cannot know or see God without the presence of love and we know that as his followers, disciples and earthly representatives that we cannot achieve the revelation and realization of God without love. Love is the absolute, indispensable and essential quality in knowing God and loving God and loving our neighbors.
Jesus entire ministry was a demonstration of that love; a love of compassion and empathy and understanding; love that knows suffering and pain and is willing to be crucified for it. Jesus ministry was a ministry that brought an alternative consciousness which created an alternative community; not a community of the world that lives with the numbness and indifference to the poor and oppressed that worldly systems give and live, but an alternative community that invited in without caveats the lost, the lonely, the rejected, the dejected, the despised, the hated, the misunderstood, the marginalized and the oppressed; those who were considered unworthy, ungodly, unclean by the worldly and religious systems from receiving love because they were different, unknown, unwanted.
Whatever we say about Jesus who is the primary founder of Christianity, if we do not grasp the purpose of his mission which was to restore the people back into stature and standing with God by showing them love first, then we miss the point of what it means to be a Christian.
My comments today should be understood not only in the constitutional context of President Obama’s decision to protect the rights of all American citizens, but also understanding them in the context of God’s desire to restore his people; redeem his people and save his people through the person and work of Jesus Christ, priest, prophet, savior and liberator of the world.
He is the primary focus, the principal founder of the religion of Christianity; and it is his life; his love; his suffering; his sacrifice; his mission and his ministry that become the primary mainstays of our faith as a Christian community.
We cannot offer the people of God a message of salvation when we hate them. We cannot offer the people of God a message of love and hope when we only condemn them. Love becomes the primary entry way by which we get people’s attention and let them know that God’s love is also available to them.
It is not like ending welfare by throwing all the people off of welfare. It is not like ending all sin by banishing all sinners.
No God’s love is still the primary pathway into the hearts and minds of people. The community of faith should be a community of love; a love that helps people know the love of God; that helps them live the love of God; that helps them share the love of God despite their pain, their brokenness, their alienation and their non acceptance in society.
God’s message is a message for the exiles; those who cannot find a home; those who cannot find a place of acceptance and love and understanding.
I was talking to a man the other day who felt very strongly about this issue. He was an avid Christian and strongly opposed to Obama’s statement.
Why do we keep touting a theology that says that God only loves and accepts us after we become Christ like? Why don’t we ever hear a theology that says God still loves his children even though we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God? Why do we keep presupposing that the only way that God will love and care for us is after we are saved; after we have become perfect; after we have arrived? Is not his love needed now more than ever while we are on the way to salvation; as we have not yet reached salvation; as we are becoming saved as Christians.
God’s grace and love are still available to each of us and all of us and if our presence in this world is to show the world that God’s love is real and does exist, how do we manifest that love in the midst of brokenness, sorrow, pain and trouble. That is why Jesus had then and still has now places at his table for everyone; saints, sinners; full Christians, half way house Christians, Judases, and all the rest.
So friends my message today in closing is this. President Obama made a statement based upon the equal protection clause of the fourteenth amendment of the United States which is a civil issue in a civil society. We are not a theocracy. We are a democracy which means that the guiding writ of all decisions regarding the rights of persons is the Constitution.
Jesus our Lord who had much compassion for the lost, the lonely, the sick and despised, would have a measure of empathy and concern and love for outsiders, for the oppressed, misunderstood and mistreated which includes members of the LGBT community and every other oppressed minority.
The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church says the following:
We affirm that all persons are individuals of sacred worth, created in the image of God. All persons need the ministry of the church in their struggles for human fulfillment, as well as the spiritual and emotional care of a fellowship that enables reconciling relationships with God, with others and with self. The United Methodist Church does not condone the practice of homosexuality and consider the practice incompatible with Christian teaching. We affirm that God’s grace is available to all. We will seek to live together in Christian community, welcoming, forgiving, and loving one another, as Christ has loved and accepted us. We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons.”
Now if you want more information on the Bible’s interpretation of homosexuality, I suggest that you read the Bible, but that you also read these important books on this subject “What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality, by Daniel Helminiak, “The Bible and Homosexual Practice,” by Robert Gagnon, “Jesus, The Bible and Homosexuality,” by Jack Rogers, “The Bible, Christianity and Homosexuality” by Justin Cannon and Hate Thy Neighbor, by Linda J. Patterson.