Friday, March 29, 2013

Don't Worry, I Got This: Responding to Bishop Jackson's Tell Me More Interview on Gay Marriage

It was with mounting frustration that I listened to Michel Martin's "Tell Me More" broadcast where Bishop Harry Jackson Jr. discussed the topic of gay marriage.  Martin, by no means my favorite host on NPR, is still a capable one, yet she lobbed the softest of softball questions at the Bishop.  Her most challenging questions were couched and tepid and I expected better from her.
To read an entire transcript of the interview, click this link.
For those of you who don't know, Bishop Jackson is the senior pastor for the Hope Christian Church in Maryland.  He is a well-known, widely respected theologian and extremely influential in religious circles.  I have no personal animus against the Bishop, and even from his interview yesterday, it is clear that he is a humble, devoted man.  I'm sure he's right about a lot of things.  Except this.  When it comes to gay marriage, he's dead wrong.
Since there were no phone calls allowed or differing points of view expressed, I'm going to respond to some of his points, as they seem to reflect the opinion of the larger religious majority.  Who are also wrong, I might add.
The Interview
Bishop Jackson: "I see marriage as a sacred institution."
Schaffer: Since when?  Marriage is not a sacred institution or even a religious institution.  It's a legal agreement that binds two people together in terms of finances, property, and benefits as recognized by the government.  And what's so sacred about it anyway?  Have you checked the divorce statistics lately?  It might be MEANT to be sacred, and people should TREAT it as sacred, but the sad fact is that marriage has been devalued alarmingly over the past century.  Clinging to any other pretense is foolish.
Bishop Jackson:  "Marriage as I understand it, is an architectural blueprint given to us by God to produce certain outcomes that two men or two women cannot really produce. Marriage, I think, is a container that God has ordained to release something in the earth that needs several ingredients, and the last ingredient is the grace of God for an institution that he has created and will bless."
Schaffer: Fancy words and lovely metaphors aside, what I think the Bishop is talking about is reproduction here.  The only outcome that two men and two women cannot produce together are children.  So if marriage is meant for the purposes of childbirth, what about barren couples?  Are they somehow not blessed by God?  Furthermore, if all marriages are blessed by the grace of God, how come so many spouses abuse and murder each other every year?
Bishop Jackson:  "I think that the worst case from my perspective would happen is that we're going to have to look at what's taught in schools to children who have slightly different family concepts."
Schaffer:  Right, because all children in schools are currently being taught the concept of a nuclear family that exactly resembles what they have at home.  Who are you kidding?  I guarantee the majority of children in the classrooms today NEED to be taught about "slightly different family concepts" just to try and make sense of what is going on in their homes.  Here's an idea: Instead of worrying about who's going to teach what to the children, we just TEACH THE CHILDREN.  Right now, there's a sore lack of education in this country on all fronts.  I am pretty certain what the kids think of Adam and Steve holding hands is less important than making sure they can READ AND SPELL THE WORDS "Adam" and "Steve."
The Debate About Gay Rights vs. Civil Rights
What I think saddens me the most is that so many African-American religious leaders have come out against Gay Marriage, which is diametrically opposed to their position on Civil Rights.
I'm here to tell you right now, without any hesitation, you cannot be in favor of Civil Rights and be opposed to Gay Marriage.  It's that simple.
On March 4, 2013, Bishop Jackson published an article accusing Gay Rights Activists of trying to "hijack" the Civil Rights Movement.  Right Wing Watch does a decent job of smashing his argument by illustrating the similarities in language from cases banning gay marriage to those that once also banned interracial marriage.
Further, the Southern Baptist Convention has adopted a resolution that gay marriage is not a Civil Rights issue.
Religion is the Worm in the Apple
The very notion that religious figures represent any type of moral authority over the rest of us is not only ludicrous, but highly dangerous.  You don't need me to spool out the countless atrocities that the holiest members of every single church on the planet have committed.  You don't need me to tell you that the clergy is infested with pedophiles and the church protects them.  You don't need me to mention how many ministers have been arrested for lying, cheating, and scamming.  You don't need me for that.  You already know it.
So you can see why I refuse to grant them any position of moral superiority.
Despite what the SBC and Bishop Jackson will say, gay marriage is absolutely a civil rights issue.  We are discriminating as a society against our fellow citizens by denying them equal privileges and we're doing it out of spite, fear, hatred, and sheer prejudice.
Shame.  Shame, shame, shame, shame, shame on black leaders like Bishop Jackson and those in the SBC who fail to see that.
Shame, shame, shame, shame on ANY American Patriot who would reject the glorious and defining concepts of the United States Constitution for the superstitious writings of an ancient race.
Mark my words, the Supreme Court of the United States will strike down DOMA.
What remains is you asking yourself what you are first and foremost: A lackey of religious doctrine as taught by its leaders and proponents, or an American Citizen committed to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness for All Citizens?
In the immortal words of Chuck D. from Public Enemy: "What Side You On?"
Bernard Schaffer
Civil Rights Activist
American Patriot
(On a side note, I found the coolest Facebook icon image that I've been using, and I'll share it here, just in case you've been looking for one. )

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