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Adventists Against Prop. 8 – Religious Liberty

A growing number of Adventists are making a strong religious liberty case against the Pacific Union’s Church/State Council’s endorsement of Proposition 8 in California.

Here I respond to a friend who wondered how far Christian tolerance goes, and then I share how my support for this stand comes from my understanding of the Sabbath:

What the argument about religion-based polygamy misses is the overwhelming evidence that same-gender attraction does not come from a conviction of conscience – the support of it does though, – but from a less metaphysical experience, namely identity. For me, the slope of legal recognition stops at solid historical, peer-reviewed, contemporary social evidence that same-gender sexual desire is an identity rooted in the biological makeup of a reoccurring percentage of humans throughout history and culture. Polygamy (and the other scare arguments) just don’t have the evidence for biological identity which is defined as not predisposition, but actual restriction of alternative choice.

The fact remains that same-gender attraction itself does no harm and is not a purely social construction. (Polygamy is – alcoholism while apparently genetic, does no good.)

What sometimes lies behind the theological argument (and influences the conservative lean toward a less-culture aware hermeneutic) is the assumption that same-gender identity is a construction of pleasure or novelty. These sort of assumptions also drove overt legal and much more common familial goading/worrying about inter-ethnic relationships. I’ve even heard this expressed at a few inter-country and inter-ethnic marriages I’ve attended this summer. During the toasting, folks note the difference and off-handedly speak about some higher value tying the couple together. Everyone laughs and the anxiety is expressed as common and relieved. This fear of the unknown in both interracial relationships and same-gender relationships appears in the tales of aggressor Others, sexual excitement, and moral failing that ungird the laws against miscegenation and same-sex marriage.

Some Adventists in the South sided with the segregationists because of the argument that if the government forced the integration of schools, they might force worship. The same short-sighted argument is being used again by the Church/State Council and some of the supporters of Prop. 8 such as the Knights of Columbus which has given 1 million dollars to the effort.

I understand that this is a difficult issue, in part because homosexuality is an identity that acts vis-a-vis an identity that appears – like skin color.

But in this difficulty, my decision to stand against Prop. 8 comes from my conception of the Sabbath – an identifying symbol to God, but also a physical act in our Adventist community. I could wait for a perfect church/state solution (why are churches in the legal business? But until then I believe that the example of God on earth leads His followers to err on the side of the historically disadvantaged (Matthew 9:9-13), particularly via religious dogma (Luke 18:10-14). I act to move our American idea of freedom closer to protecting biologically-based identity over xenophobia, and protect the physical actions by one group against the metaphysical-based laws of another. Thus I believe that opposing Prop. 8 is a Sabbath act – an imperfect symbol, but a physical deed that protects our alternative corporate worship from restrictions on metaphysical grounds. Thus, one does not necessarily have to approve of same-sex marriage to oppose Prop. 8 because at its core, the issue is about protecting the rights of minority groups against

Here’s NOFX’s “Re-gaining Unconsciousness” from the album War on Errorism: inspired by Pastor Martin Niemöller.

Then they shooed away the bums,

then they beat and bashed the queers,

turned away asylum-seekers,

fed us suspicions and fears.

We didn’t raise our voice,

we didn’t make a fuss.

It’s funny there was no one left to notice

when they came for us.

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