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F3AR and H8 [***]

What happens when an animal is confused and cornered? I found out many years ago when my family and I house-sat for a friend of ours. Besides watching the house, we also watched the friend’s dog, a Cocker Spaniel. He was a friendly dog, but he wasn’t really sure what to make of us. Instead of seeing his owner who he was familiar with, he saw only us strangers for several days. He never fully adjusted to us being in his space. He did eventually accept that we were responsible for feeding him and letting him in and out of the house, but I wouldn’t say that he was ever comfortable with us. 

Being as young as I was and having grown up with several dogs of my own, it seemed natural to me to attempt to pet the dog, which he hesitantly let me do. My own dogs were always comfortable with me and so I could get away with things like wrestling, pulling tails, barking at them, and getting in their face. Well, this dog naturally was not that comfortable with me, and so when I put my face right up to his and made silly baby noises like “goo goo” and made silly faces, he didn’t know how to react. He tried to back away but since there was something behind him he couldn’t. I didn’t notice it in the moment, but the dog quickly began to panic. As much as a Cocker Spaniel can, this dog had an expression of fear on his face and in his physical demeanor. He started to freak out, and yet I persisted with my nonsense. So, the dog did what virtually any creature would do in a similar situation: He struck my face with his fangs and then ran away! He got me pretty good. There was blood but no long term damage.

Years of experience, starting with this incident, have taught me that neither dogs nor humans like to have unfamiliar people up in their face or in their business.

In a recent California election, there was a proposition on the ballot to amend the California constitution to include this text: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California.” The implications of this amendment are pretty clear in some sense but also totally ambiguous in other senses. There is nothing in the actual text that would make the marriage of a guy and a guy, a minor and a non-minor, or a woman and a horse illegal. It also makes no mention of polygamy. The key words/phrases are “man”, “woman”, and “valid and recognized in California”. “Man” is an adult male human and “woman” is an adult female human. So far, this is pretty clear. Things get messy when you consider “valid and recognized in California”. Again, this language does not forbid other types of marriage, but it does imply that certain rights, at least in California, would be lost or gained based on whether or not a “marriage” falls within this definition. Proponents of this proposition have argued that passage of this amendment simply makes clear what they believe is true of all societies regardless of moral conviction: that the basic building block of society is family, and that a family consists of a mother (woman) and father (man) that produce and raise offspring that perpetuate society. Opponents of this proposition have argued that passage of this amendment would take away the fundamental rights of those who have a different interpretation of what a family is. 

A few weeks after the election, news came out that then-president-elect Barack Obama, an opponent of the proposition, had picked Rick Warren, a proponent of the proposition, to give the invocation prayer at Obama’s inauguration. This raised quite a stir in the homosexual community and resulted in countless articles, blogs, discussions, and more on the Internet and beyond. When I first heard the news, I went to a popular news site to read an article about it for myself. The author, it seemed to me, not only strongly opposed the proposition but also strongly opposed Rick Warren as a person and Obama’s decision to invite Warren to the inauguration. Not being content with just the article, I decided to read some of the reader comments as well. I found that the comment section was saturated with hostile comments by self-proclaimed members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transsexual (LGBT) community and many of its supporters. Below are just a few of the quotes from among the reader comments. I have not changed the capitalization, punctuation, or spelling.

“I hope EVERY queer and our friends attending the Inaugeral, TURNS THEIR BACK to Rick Warren, a salute of a single finger wouldn’t hurt …either.”

“My gut reaction is: ‘bleep u too Barack Obama'”

“Warren is a low class, sleazy piece of trash.”

“Instead, a mega-millionaire ‘pastor’ of a mega-church that preaches ‘buy Jesus’ and encourages active bigotry against and hatred of gay Americans?”

“…they might as well have asked a white supremacist…”

“Rick, the smiling hater, Warren can believe what he wants…”

“Hillary would not do this. For one thing, believe or not, she has some taste.”

I don’t know about you, but these comments provoke many emotions inside me. Knots form in my stomach and I get a little queasy. What could cause people to get so out of shape about a public prayer? If Warren prays to a non-existent God then he is someone to be laughed at and to even feel sorry for. His words will fall on deaf ears. If Warren prays to an “all-powerful” God who disagrees with Warren’s view on marriage (and other matters), then all can be content in knowing that God will deal with him directly. I think such a God could manage for himself. If Warren and the God that he prays to are in agreement, well, I suppose then I can see a reason for these people to get upset.

Regarding this last point -getting upset- let’s look a little deeper. Perhaps I oversimplified my view on prayer and God a moment ago, especially considering that many of these upset people likely have differing views on prayer and God. So let’s take a step back from religious matters for a moment and look at things objectively. What’s really at stake here? Or, more specifically, what right or rights are at stake? Is it the right to marry? No, even with this proposition’s passage into law, I can still technically marry my neighbor’s dog. Is it the right to be gay or straight? No, neither gay nor straight people are in any danger of being locked up or fined due to this proposition. Is it the right to visit loved ones in the hospital or share medical benefits? No, these rights are granted in California via Domestic Partnerships (and other means). Is it the right to love someone, live with someone, have a child with someone, or make a life long commitment to someone? No, no, no and no. So what are we left with? What is at stake? Is it a right, a fundamental privilege?

By restricting the validity and recognition of a marriage to only apply to marriages between a man and a woman, I suggest to you that what is being withheld from the LGBT community is acceptance. The 6.8 million people in California who voted yes on this proposition have publicly stated that they do not accept homosexual marriages as a valid way to build a family. To be clear, this does not necessarily mean that these 6.8 million voters do not accept homosexual people. Certainly, many of these millions of people have homosexual friends and relatives, people that they love. In fact, I strongly suspect that at least some of these voters are homosexual!

Acceptance is a big deal! It’s huge! If my family did not accept me, I would be devastated. When I was picked last for teams in elementary school, I was deeply hurt. Every time I have been dumped by a girlfriend or shot down for a date, I have grieved and questioned my self-worth. Fortunately for me, my family does accept me and I wasn’t always picked last for teams. Also, my heart has healed well despite the numerous rejections. But what if the majority of society said that they rejected me? What if they said that something that is fundamentally true about me is unacceptable?! I am a straight, white, American male without physical handicap, and so I have never experienced mass rejection. I do foresee the day coming when my belief in an almighty God will be frowned upon by a “progressive” society, but until that day is closer I have no need to live in fear or even concern of rejection by society.

I am blessed to be able to hang out with members of the LGBT community on a regular basis. I can thankfully call some of them my friends even. One common theme presents itself in many of our conversations: Acceptance. Without exception so far, my LGBT friends and associates feel that they are not accepted by mainstream society. Even worse, many of them are not even accepted by their own family! I can’t fathom that, but I suppose that if I were in their shoes, I might live in a constant state of apprehension and, dare I say, fear. This recently passed proposition is, as they say, a great big “slap in the face”. It’s yet another reminder that something about them is not acceptable.

Apprehension and fear are uncomfortable feelings to say the least, but, in my experience, they are not the only negative feelings that members of the LGBT community seem to share. Another common theme among them, at least those that I know, is pain. Again, without exception, they all have experienced a great pain in their early years of life. Most, if not all, of them were abused in some form or another, often sexually! To be fair, every one that I know is the child of a heterosexual parent. I suspect that a child who is raised by a homosexual parent or parents is likely to become a homosexual too when they reach adulthood whether or not they have been abused. However, I have never met such a person and I imagine they are few and far between since a man and a man cannot come together to produce offspring. I have on the other hand, sadly, met countless abusive heterosexual parents, an ideal breeding ground for sexually deviant offspring. Regardless of how a person makes their way into the LGBT community, they seem to tend to do so with fear and pain. More importantly though, their lifestyle is what they know and are familiar with, for better or worse. Being a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transsexual is what defines them. It is their identity and their livelihood just as much as it is to heterosexuals.

If I were backed into a corner by someone I didn’t know or trust and being told that something that I believe to be fundamentally true about me was in fact false and unacceptable, I too would strike them!

Regardless of where you stand on this issue, if you believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, you must take at face value what the Bible says about one’s sexual behavior. What we do with our bodies is not a casual affair. God does care.

Whether you believe that the Bible is God’s word, a history book, a collection of fairy tales, complete hogwash or somewhere in between, consider the following story from the Bible that tells about Jesus’ encounter with an outcast woman. Note that this story takes place at a well at noon. In those days, a well was a common gathering place in the early hours of the day, but it would be deserted at noon except for foreigners and outcasts. Also keep in mind that she was a woman and that in that culture women were lower in society just like in today’s Middle Eastern cultures. Finally, note that she was a Samaritan. A Samaritan is a half-Jew and they were frowned upon and even resented by the Jews. (If you are familiar with the Harry Potter books or movies, think about how he-who-must-not-be-named and the death eaters viewed “mud bloods”. It was a lot like that.)

Jesus came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.

A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)

The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)

Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”

The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”

Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”

The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!”

He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.”

“I have no husband,” she said.

“That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”

“Oh, so you’re a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?”

“Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.

“It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”

The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”

“I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”

Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.

The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot. Back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” And they went out to see for themselves.

[…]

Many of the Samaritans from that village committed themselves to Jesus because of the woman’s witness: “He knew all about the things I did. He knows me inside and out!” They asked him to stay on, so Jesus stayed two days. A lot more people entrusted their lives to him when they heard what he had to say. They said to the woman, “We’re no longer taking this on your say-so. We’ve heard it for ourselves and know it for sure. He’s the Savior of the world!”

(John 4:5-30, 39-42 The Message)

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