Whenever the debate over gay marriage rears its ugly head, I always think about a certain couple I heard about.
I’m not even sure how they met, but I do know they eventually fell in love and that their love was a secret — had to be a secret. Because they had many neighbors who, if they found out, would angrily call them “unnatural” and “abominations.” And there were many more people who would look down on them, would treat them differently, if they knew the truth. I don’t know, but I bet there would have even been a few extremists who would have considered hurting this couple, if they had known about them. And as sad as that is let’s face it: There are always wacko extremists, and the real tragedy would be all the rest of their neighbors looking the other way, thinking they “had it coming.”
And the many people opposed to this couple and what they stood for had a lot of Bible on their side. Many Christians felt their lifestyle was “sinful,” even though many other Christians disagreed. And here is the still greater tragedy, the use of the Bible, the use of God’s Word, to condone hatred and violence, whether it is those extremists who take violent action or those who look the other way.
And that hatred had been institutionalized, had seeped into the government. And when this couple’s love grew to the point where they wanted to commit to each other, they went to another state and married each other secretly, because their marriage was illegal in their home state.
When they returned, the police raided their home in the middle of the night, hoping to catch them in bed together — because that would break another law. The police failed in this regard but were still able to arrest them for being married, to which they were eventually sentenced to a year in prison.
Did I mention they were a heterosexual couple, a man and a woman?
Whenever I hear about the gay marriage debate today, I always think about Richard and Mildred Loving, a white man and an African-American woman. In 1967, the Supreme Court finally decided that laws in Virginia (or any state) that barred interracial marriage were unconstitutional (Loving v. Virginia).
Now most of us are appalled that something like interracial marriage was illegal so recently. It’s hard for us to understand today. But there were two radically different interpretations of the Bible regarding interracial marriage (“curse of Ham” and all that) back then — just as there are two radically different interpretations of the Bible regarding gay marriage today.
Doesn’t it make sense to interpret the Bible with humility, allowing for the possibility we might be wrong as so many sincere people were about interracial marriage? Doesn’t it make sense to leave it between each couple and God rather than having the government prevent people from marrying when their conscience is clear?
Interracial marriage, gay marriage — is it really all that different?
Craig Rose is pastor of Howard United Methodist Church in Howard. He can be reached at craigqr@ yahoo.com.