I voted yes on Prop 8. I lived to regret that vote and I wrote about it here. I also ended up apologizing to my gay neighbors. In my case, loving my neighbors as myself really meant loving my literal neighbors.
Today, a California appellate court ruled that Prop 8 is unconstitutional. I’m thankful for the appellate process which is, as one of my lawyer friends noted, “luxuriously embedded in hindsight.” Ah, if only there were an appellate process for every area of life (for one thing, I’d like to appeal this piece of pie I just ate–can’t we rule calories as unconstitutional?).
The great thing about hindsight is that it gives you a chance to fully re-examine the ways your actions affected other people. For many Californians, loving our gay neighbors as ourselves isn’t an abstract idea. It’s real. It’s here. It’s right next door.
There’s nothing like the immediacy of an idea to drive its meaning home. Which is to say, when I vote to deny someone else the same rights I enjoy, there’s nothing quite like seeing that person every day to realize what exactly it is I’ve done.
Quite honestly, I was unable to reconcile my voting yes on Prop 8 with Jesus’ command to love my neighbor as myself. Ultimately, I had to ask myself this question: is it spiritually consistent for me to vote on a measure that would deprive my neighbors of rights I wouldn’t dare be deprived of myself?
For me, that answer is no, it’s morally inconsistent to deny others the same basic rights and freedoms I enjoy as an American citizen.
I appreciate what Daniel Kirk, a professor at Fuller Seminary, wrote in his new book Jesus Have I Loved, But Paul?
“It is incumbent on us to show the homosexuals in our communities that we will work tirelessly for them to have what we would never stand to be deprived of ourselves…Have we loved and served the people around us, have we worked for their good, with sufficient passion that someone who is not part of our community would come to us and ask for help? Do we show the world that our deepest concern is to spread abroad the love of God?” (p.190)
When it comes to loving our gay neighbors as ourselves, it’s not enough to simply do no harm. Kirk points out that it’s not a “sufficiently faithful enactment of the Christian story to refrain from going out with the ‘God Hates F*gs’ sign.”
In other words, Christ calls us to positive action on behalf of our neighbors, particularly those who are disenfranchised members of our same society.
The sad truth is that the Christian church has done a very poor job of loving our gay neighbors. Indeed, not only have we failed to show God’s love, we’ve done substantive harm. Christians have often withheld love and community. We’ve condemned and excommunicated. We’ve shunned and cast out.
Regardless of our religious beliefs about the sanctity of marriage, I daresay Christians have much to answer for in how we’ve treated our gay family members and neighbors.
I want to live a better, more faithful enactment of the Christian story than one that majors in shunning and minors in positive actions of inclusion and love. All I know is that I can’t truly love someone while simultaneously condemning them.
“Love the sinner, hate the sin” sounds like a nice little Christian-y loophole, but in my experience it simply doesn’t work. Mainly, it sounds like a good excuse for keeping far, far away from the difficult work of actually loving others.
And loving others is precisely my mission in life. I’m starting small. My gay neighbors just had a baby girl. I think I should take them a pie to celebrate.