Political participation

Young Mom’s musings about gay rights and how a Christian should act were very interesting, and I found I wanted to comment on them, also on some of my thoughts in reaction to the comments that came up. (She made a couple of inaccurate statements, but they didn’t change the overall thrust of her post, with which I mostly agree.) Plus, as I thought through my own feelings, I found I wanted to add some things. Tangents! the joy of blogs.

So, first, I know how you feel.

When I first read what Young Mom had written, my first thought was an instinctive agreement. Then I read some of the comments, and felt some doubts about my own agreement. I had to think about why for a bit, but this is actually something I have been thinking about, and so some of the answers came fairly quickly. And in some areas, I disagree. But writing them down, well that takes longer.

When I see protesters who profess to be Christian acting in ways that I feel are hateful, I fully understand Young Mom’s uneasiness and distress with political activity. I fully empathize with that emotion, because it is part of my own feelings. I cannot walk in a protest, especially as a Christian, with a group who are professing to act based upon their Christian beliefs, who write things like “You are going to hell because you are gay.” Its truth is not the problem. HOW it is said IS a BIG problem. I think that how a Christian supports something can be just as important as what a Christian supports. When my fellow Christians act in hate and not love, then I cannot walk with them.

But I don’t think that excuses us from ANY political participation. (She wasn’t suggesting that, it is just a reaction I’ve seen in many.) The entire idea of the United States is built upon the fundamental principle that every citizen has both a right and a responsibility to be involved. For some, a minimum level of responsibility is nothing more than voting. For others, it goes all the way to becoming a politician and actively working to change things. For the rest, there are many shades in between. (Actually, there is a large portion who do absolutely nothing, including vote, but they are copping out on their own citizen’s responsibility. I try not to despise them, but it’s hard not to feel negative about them.) Political participation is essential to the healthy functioning of a democracy, so I cannot simply say “I hate politics” and leave it at that. By doing so, you are handing someone else the power to make decisions for you, and I just can’t do it that easily. I can with God, but not with people. So I have to find a way to be involved that doesn’t support those shouting protesters but does fulfill the responsibility to be a good citizen.

When I am tempted to do nothing at all, I do sometimes remind myself of Christ’s admonition to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. While part of that message was to be sure to give him only what is his, there is also the admonition that that a total lack of involvement is not really an option either. The government, especially the US government, needs to have involved participants.

And something that bothers me a lot? We have started acting as if political discussion is as sensitive as religious discussion, with the result that people think it is impolite to bring it up in general conversation. Um, if we don’t talk about it then how can we reach ANY kind of consensus? We need to remember to be civil and self-controlled, not hateful and shouting, but we still need to discuss it.

It is actually rather funny when I think about my own family. My parents were never highly involved in politics as I was growing up, other than voting. But as they’ve grown older and had more time (no kids at home, you know) they have started paying a lot more attention to what is happening in politics and being a lot more verbal about their opinions. My brother and sister are also a lot more intense about it as well. All of them listen to a lot of talk radio, which actually drives me insane, even when I agree. (I find talk radio, especially call-in shows, hugely annoying. Endless repetition. Constant interruption. Really stupid questions. Irritating.) But what concerns me sometimes is that I don’t know that they’ve given it a lot of deep thought. Maybe they have, but I don’t always feel certain of that, and it worries me.

One of the areas where I’ve not been completely sure I agree with my family is the issue of having a law defining marriage. They agree with the idea, but I’m a little more dubious. One: this is, at least in part, a religious issue as much as a legal one, and I do believe in the separation of church and state. (This is one area where I don’t agree with Young Mom’s statements. Marriage is not just a legal issue, it is both religious and legal.) If I remember right, there are countries where people have to have two ceremonies, one civil and one religious. That actually makes a good bit of sense to me. Two: I’m not sure I am as bothered by the insurance, etc. consequences. If a gay couple wants to be sure that their gay “spouse” receives the same benefits as a heterosexual spouse, then I’m pretty much fine with that, even though I believe them to be completely wrong in their homosexual choice. It is their choice. Letting them have the same spousal benefits does not imply approval by me or by a religion that clearly teaches it as wrong. Three: I’m wary of defining homosexuality as illegal, since that has led to a lot of wrongs in the past. How many human beings persecuted others for their sexual choices? LOTS! The homosexual choice was certainly sinful, but so was the persecution.

On the whole, as I’ve thought about it, I decided that if a law came up to define marriage as between one man and one woman, I would probably vote for it, but I am certainly NOT going to campaign for it. But before I vote for it, it has to meet certain criteria for me. It has to be a positive law, meaning it establishes a right, not a negative law, that punishes someone for making the opposite choice. Being a homosexual is as sinful as being a fornicator in God’s eyes, as I understand it, so I’m not going to even ask for a law about either of those, so long as they bring no direct harm to another person. (This was one of Young Mom’s inaccuracies. There have been times when being a fornicator or adulterer has been illegal, in the US as well as pretty much everywhere else. And I believe there are some gays who are attempting to make it religiously acceptable to be homosexually married.) Yes, I understand that there are many cultural, societal consequences to these things that can be/will be mentally, emotionally, and/or spiritually harmful, but you can’t legislate everything. You shouldn’t legislate everything. That is not the province of government.

In a way, I suppose thinking about this goes back to my own struggles to understand what is the purpose of government. So much of what a government should do is based on definitions and opinions of what is harmful, what is a natural, human right, and what should be a choice. And this topic is deeply intertwined with my previous post about laws, regulations, and guidelines. What a law dictates and what a society approves are two different things. I am more distressed by the fact that being gay is “approved” by society than the fact that there is no law on the books that defines marriage in favor of a heterosexual couple.

Sigh. This is the kind of confusion you will find inside my head.

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