Lindsay Lee Johnson and Neil A. Johnson
Having grown up in an evangelical church in this community, we can fully appreciate the quandary in which many conservative Christians find themselves as we approach the Marriage Amendment vote. How to be a responsible, fair-minded citizen of our proudly pluralistic republic without compromising one’s religious beliefs?
For starters, let’s remember that while our founders established this nation on broadly Christian principles, they wisely rejected the idea of making Christian Scriptures the law of the land. It’s a great blessing to live in a democracy with all its dynamic messiness, rather than a static, nothing-is-open-for-debate theocracy. History, from ancient to current times, makes that abundantly clear. Thus, as American citizens, devout or not, we willingly live in a secular society. In such a realm, reason is favored as the means by which matters of civic inquiry are settled. In contrast, religious matters rest on faith. Nonetheless, we are human, and even our most logical decisions are influenced by our hearts, as well as our heads. In the end, we each choose to do, and to vote for, what feels right.
In this light, it seems like a distraction to argue about the fine points of the Bible which may or may not have anything definitive to say about homosexuality, much less gay marriage. We think of all the talk in those sermons of long ago about an unchanging God, about the literal truth of His Holy Word. If it’s in the Bible, that settles it, and it’s good enough for me is the position we were encouraged to adopt. Probably to keep us from asking questions for which no one had solid answers. Over time, however, we realized that such rigidity was not reality. After all, good Christians did turn away from slavery; good Christians did open the door to science; good Christians did allow women to speak in church and supported their civil rights in the larger community. Surely such willingness to think deeply, to genuinely feel the plight of others, to adapt and change and grow — these are not signs of faithlessness, but of maturity of mind and spirit. Such changes, slow as they are to emerge, reflect a vital, living faith.
Now we find ourselves facing another crucial test. The Marriage Amendment: In the name of that old time stubbornness, will we force one of the iffy fine points of a single faith tradition onto the whole of society? Why be so stiff-necked? To keep them from enjoying the benefits the rest of us claim as our God-given right? Where is the love, the generosity, the inclusiveness in drawing a line like that? In our opinion, slamming the door on equal marriage opportunity smacks terribly of un-Christ-like Grinch-i-ness.
While it may be true that God is unchanging, we were not created to be automatons. Regardless of individual interpretations of the Bible, allowing room for the grace of enlightenment is good for the soul. For now, we’re grateful that gay and lesbian people are beginning to feel more accepted in our society, daring to live more openly in committed, monogamous relationships and to raise their children. Stopping halfway in welcoming them into the full banquet of human rights the rest of us enjoy by creating a constitutional amendment denying the safeguards and dignity these relationships deserve is just plain mean-spirited. It’s like grudgingly inviting the neighbors to dinner but making them eat out on the back steps.
This is no time to fret about compromises and slippery slopes. We encourage you to vote No, because it makes good sense, and it’s the right thing to do. If anyone says you err, take comfort in knowing you err on the side of love. Let’s open the doors wide. It’s time to welcome everyone into the marriage feast; there’s cake enough all.
The letter writers are residents of Cambridge, Minn.