Thursday, May 10, 2012

Gay Marriage: A Buddhist/Christ Perspective

This is not 'the' Buddhist perspective but merely 'a' perspective from someone who has a deep respect for Christianity and Buddhism. Yesterday, history was made when a sitting US president expressed his support for gay marriage. President Obama created another historical moment in his first term by stating the obvious: gay people are the same as everyone else and should be allotted the same rights.

His 'evolution' on this issue wasn't so much as an upward progression as just stepping back and allowing the decaying walls of political prejudice to collapse under their own weight. His leadership on this issue isn't as heroic as some left-wing pundits will make it seem nor is it as obvious to just say he's following the poll numbers. But President Obama looked at the untenable political, cultural and ethical position and refused to hold it any longer.

It is the same shift that President Kennedy was forced to make with the civil rights movement. Kennedy knew the situation of continued discrimination was absurd, obviously unjust, and going against basic concepts of America. But he wasn't in a rush to help out Blacks. If civil rights leaders would have taken another 10 years to set out demands, then I'm sure President Kennedy would have been fine to let the discrimination continue for another decade. But the issue came to a boil under his presidency due to outside circumstances, increasing violence, media attention, and an organized movement demanding change. At that point Kennedy was merely simply stated the obvious: Blacks are equal and the time to pretend otherwise has ended. Some times leadership takes the form of just stating the obvious. And that is when the greatest violence can erupt. 'The obvious' often triggers 'the delusional' fears of those who see themselves as guilty of benefiting from discrimination.

The backlash against school desegregation that started under President Eisenhower spilled out across the country as White parents were forced into seeing the obvious. The courts, the president, and even the legislative branch finally agreed that it was time to muster up and to be willing to look at what was always there: there is no inherent difference in nature and therefore should be no difference in government policy. Segregationist clung even more desperately to their delusions of the glorious past. When that failed to work, racists switched tactics from the halcyon bigoted past to the dystopic equalized future. Race wars, mongrel children, and white kids 'infected' with lower intelligence all became a part of a whisper campaign to get people to fear the future.

Generations later we see the same tactics played out on gay rights. The glorious past of hetero-normative marriages never existed and it certainly didn't exist on the premise of discriminating against same-gender couples. We will see a backlash against seeing each other as equal that will  be phrased in foreboding signs of God's judgment against greater freedom. It will be the same excuses and same logic used in past arguments against liberty for all.

Conservatives will insist that marriage has always been between a man and a woman. This is an outright lie. Marriages in many ancient cultures have been between same genders. These cultures seemed to exist just fine for hundreds -and in some cases- thousands of years.  No smiting, no asteroid-inflicted apocalypse to signal some spiritual deficiency. Those ancient societies collapsed and reformed as societies often do. There seemed to be no reign of fire for Ancient Greeks, Native American tribes, African empires for allowing gay marriage. There extinction was almost always due to warfare, greed, and human factors.  But let's pretend for a moment. Let's pretend that it's true for the purpose of analysis that  'marriage has always and will always be between a man and a woman.' The reasoning splits for this historical and spiritual lie off into several contradicting points, as illogical reasoning often does.

The first and most crude reasoning is that God wants it that way. This is kindergarten logic that's spouted mostly by Christians on this issue but is used by all religions when it suits them. It supposes that one side knows what God wants over another. How they came to this conclusion is anyone's guess. But God -the very definition of infinite love and light according to every religion- wishes to exclude a particular group from His presence. God wishes for some people to remain in darkness and pain. If this were true then that voice of exclusion contradicts the very definition of God. It would be impossible for one to both 'be infinite love' and exclude at the same time.

God doesn't deal in exceptions. Humans, on the other hand, are all about exceptions and divisive rules. By deduction those voices of exclusion can't be of God but are probably of something else. Furthermore to believe that God is only speaking to some people is Old Testament logic that only some are 'chosen people.' Once again, this goes against Christian values that atonement has made everyone the chosen people. The concept of Jesus being the Son of God wasn't exclusionary. The principle of his teachings is just this: I am and the son of God AND so are are you. Once again, this is based on the principle of infinite light and love. Jesus was following this perfectly and therefore there could not be any difference between him and others. If there was even the slightest bit of exceptionalism ('I am Jesus, son of God, and you are unwashed trashed.') then all of his teachings become meaningless. Atonement means that the riff has been healed between brothers and sisters. Love extends itself because God is here and now in each person. This is important because it can be applied to any issue where one side says 'God said 'no' to these people.'

God would never say 'yay' or 'nay' because that is a dualistic mode of thinking that could only exist in a split mind that sees darkness and light. There is no darkness in Christ consciousness and Buddha-mind because where it goes, there is light. So to be present is to be light. No epic battle of good vs. evil is needed. God merely needs to exist and contradictions go away. Oneness is the natural state of all things.  God is. There is no stance to be taken because God is above stances and exceptions.

We have started off with the first, biggest, and most egregious contradictory rational that supports the  lie of 'marriage only being between a man and woman.'  This is a Buddhist debate tactic: start off with biggest error first and all others fall away. The smaller arguments don't hold up against any legal or ethical standard.

The other reasoning dispassionately states that it would be nice to help gay Americans but that has to be left up to the states. Federal government can't interfere with states and their rights. Mitt Romney began floating that trial balloon out there only moments after Obama's announcement. The federal government always interferes with states when it deals with civil rights. If the national government didn't do this then we would be living in a confederacy of loosely attached independent regions. We do not. We live in a federal system where certain protections and fundamental values must be the foundation for 'Americans.' In cases of ethical conflict we are always "Americans first' and "Floridians and New Yorkers' second. We pledge allegiance to a national government and its values. This reasoning is not only unsupported by history but it's the very crux of why we moved into a federal national government: you can't live in a country, trade, and pursue liberty if there is no community standard. Marital choice along with property rights and freedom of religion are the principles to an individual's 'pursuit of happiness.'

Another argument bridging from this last statement is that freedom of religion is being intruded upon by federal government. There is no religion that is based on denying gay marriages. Furthermore, these same-gender marriages aren't forced on to churches. They are legal contracts forged between willing parties to enter into a union. That is what a marriage is in the eyes of the federal government. All the dressings, religious ceremonies, and traditions are left up to the individual. If there isn't a religious order willing to undertake the marital demands of the two parties, then they can have their marriage at a courthouse.

The final main argument is that gay marriage some how threatens heterosexual marriages. Gay relationships no more threaten straight relationships than people eating meat threatens my vegetarian diet.  Even people eating meat in my presence does not threaten me because I know what I want. That's why I can joke with my friends who are carnivores and try to 'tempt' me with flesh. There is no allure because I know what I want. If I didn't know what I desired, then there might be temptation. If, for example, I was a militant vegan and became irate at anyone eating meat in my presence, then I probably have some lingering questions in my mind about what I'm eating. If straight people feel threatened by the presence of gays, then there is probably some internal doubt about their own status. All defenses come from feeling attacked. All feelings of being attacked come from some internal guilt or uncertainty. In that case, the issue to be resolved isn't the external conditions that shift with the situation, but the internal mindset which reacts out of guilt.

There are several more illogical reasons used to support a historical lie, but why go into all of them? It's still a lie and all of the varying contradictory rationale come from the same source: fear.

There's a famous Zen statement: let go or get dragged. At a certain point, fear protects us. At a young age it encourages competition, analysis, debate. But as we grow up, fear becomes a hindrance to progress. The same things basic stimulus I used to study as a child ($5 bonus from parents, cookies from teacher, and fear of falling behind) now seem silly. The reptilian brain only go so far in a progressive, multicultural, fast-changing culture. It's time to let go of fear.

When this country was founded most of the people were not free. Women were in bondage to husbands and fathers, Blacks were enslaved, poor farmers existed as serfs for the wealthy. The writing in the Constitution wasn't a statement of reality but a promise of the future. The founding fathers -slave owners, wife beaters, illegal brewers, and Indian killers- knew what the people were capable of taking on. They were a wild civilization living under the threat of attack by local tribes and European nations. America existed as a young ideal trapped on all sides by the fear of basic survival.

Once basic security was established it wasn't long before the abolitionist calls became too great to go unheeded. Then it was women's rights, civil rights and now gay civil rights. It is an upward spiral toward what we said this country would become. If we are to show our best face to the world, then we must know our fellow man as equal, regardless of race, religion, or orientation. There is no other way to overcome the outside darkness of fanaticism, terror, and fear except to dispel it with liberty. President Obama took one more further step toward extending the light to all people.

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