I WAS going to call this article, Why Everyone is a Loser on the Topic of Same-Sex Marriage, but it is too divisive.
This article is probably not what you think it is. I’m not ‘hating on’ anyone. I hope that’s what comes across. Or, perhaps I’m hating on everyone? Of course, by having a view – however neutral I think it is – I may inevitably be polarised into both camps. But here goes…
I think everyone’s a loser on the topic of same-sex marriage in Australia presently, because whatever side you’re on – and there are four I can see – you probably find yourself frustrated.
The question: Should the law be changed to allow same-sex couples to marry?
If you vote ‘yes’ you may not understand how others cannot see this as a moral / human rights / fairness / justice issue. You may only see bigotry and homophobia in the ‘no’ camp. If you vote ‘no’ you may not understand how others cannot see the threats posed beyond a continuation of, and consequences within, rewriting the law. If you’re neutral, you may not understand how others cannot see the importance of people respecting each other’s views. A fourth group constitutes those who have flexible views and may be undecided. You may not understand how others cannot see the complexity of the debate, and your right to be undecided, and you are probably silent.
Actually, silence is an important response to explore. You may be silent because your views don’t sit well with some you love and / or respect. Your silence might be because you don’t want to be shouted down. There are many reasons why people are silent, the worst of all, perhaps, that the circumstances of hateful behaviour on both sides of the divide have silenced you. You don’t want to upset people and therefore yourself. You desire peace over principle.
Over the years I have tried to look at all dimensions of this incredibly dynamic and complex debate and it confounds me as to how all-consuming it has become. Everyone seems stressed about it. (Although I’m sure there are some / many who aren’t.)
A THEOLOGY FOR LOVING DEBATE
I wonder if I can introduce the following quote as emblematic of the concept of love as it meets conflict:
“When you give and expect a return, that’s an investment. When you give and don’t expect anything back, that’s love.”
When people on all sides of the debate engage in ways that expect others to be convinced of their views, it’s not love. But when people can engage with the freedom for having their view – feeling safe within a community of two or more to hold those views as sacred – without judgment or recrimination either way – love is encountered.
Whenever we expect others to think as we do, we fall short of love, no matter how ‘right’ we are. But when we appreciate a person amid the right they have for their view, we meet love.
The SSM debate is so divisive because sexuality is fathomless in its complexity.
Firstly, everybody’s sexuality is complex. Maybe nothing proves our innate brokenness than our vulnerability regarding our sexuality.
Secondly, our human biases see our sexuality as either superior or inferior to others’ – sexuality in a broken world is inherently shaming unless it is valued and treated as redemptive. Yet, as sexual beings, none of us is inherently better or worse than anyone else.
Thirdly, our brokenness either deforms our views or it compels us to redeem our views. The redemption of views results when all persons are seen as bearers of God’s image – all as equally precious in God’s view – all as deserving of their sexual dignity.
And there is a plethora of other views that could be considered, but for brevity here, won’t be.
Perhaps the key response we can make is to have empathy for how the SSM debate is affecting individual persons – whatever their views are – whatever their stake is or appears to be or feels like, for them, not us.
If we can appreciate another person’s truth – what is real for them – we begin then to meet love, because we’re meeting them. From such a place, trust emerges and truth can begin to coexist with love in the realm of conflict. The endpoint, the perfection of understanding, is truth as love – both seamless within each other.
Every view expressed respectfully has value, but it’s people on the opposite side of their view who determine whether it’s respectful or not. If it is respectful, and it appeals to a context of truth, i.e. it has logic about it, whatever the content of the view, it is loving.
I feel for the gay man, the lesbian, the bisexual person, the transgender person, and others of sexually diverse groups. You deserve to be loved and respected as much as anyone else, and perhaps in your vulnerability more so. You deserve more than my or others’ ignorance.
I feel for the conservative, for their fears whether well-founded or not. Your true views that you may be scared to voice ought to have their place.
I feel for those who represent other important societal issues, drowned out because of the heat within the present debate.
I feel for anyone who genuinely feels indifferent or frustrated or something else.
I feel for the peacemakers and peacekeepers on all sides of the debate, who hate the stress it places people under.
It’s good to conclude on the concept of love.
Many bandy-about the words of Jesus as if they have the market cornered on love.
Well, love was never meant to be a thing, a philosophy, a statute of right-and-wrong. Love in this context is a verb, it is observable; a behaviour. The use of Bible verses by all sides of the debate to convince, compel or conquer is not love; it’s a doctrinal activity aimed at edifying others, and it can clearly be done ignorantly or arrogantly, which, pushed to its extreme, constitutes spiritual abuse.
Love is only given as it is received. Love is not love if it isn’t received as loving.
Love is always more about the other person than it is about the giver of, or how they, love.
We cannot say we are being loving if it isn’t perceived as loving.
Jesus is clear: in all things, love. Especially in conflict. Especially when solutions are beyond our comprehension. Especially when there is space for a divergence of views. And there always is.
Only then is everyone a winner. That’s when love finally is love.
Love seems so far beyond us in the vast divergence of views and presented maturities.