Less Unexepected?

We should not say it was expected, as such. That is, certes we’ve heard such things in the past, but one would think that if a stunt is laughed off enough times, people might realize it doesn’t work. Or perhaps that is simply the (ahem!) nice way of saying we would ordinarily expect such things except that we give people in general more credit than that.

Or, as Diana Buendia explains for WBEZ:

WBEZ 91.5 logoSome African-American clergy and conservative Catholics say they’ll ban Illinois lawmakers who vote for same-sex marriage from their churches.

About two dozen priests and pastors joined the Catholic Conference of Illinois to form a new religious coalition yesterday.

“We want to make sure that we a send a message to our elected officials that as a collective community and a collaborative, we will not allow you to speak in our churches, you will not be invited to our church when you’re running for office because we as a community are incensed,” said Bishop Lance Davis, senior pastor at a church in Dolton, who’s part of the group.

In a way, it falls within the realm of the obvious and expected; to the other, though, the problem with such a demonstration seems so obvious that it is hard to believe they are really—yes, really—attempting this stunt.

There is, of course, a larger context worth considering, though it is ultimately beside the point. Well, no, wait … how does that work? Concurrent threads, then?

Illinois is preparing for a state House of Representatives vote on marriage equality; it’s a matter of corralling and counting votes. The Chicago Tribune makes its argument as proponents scrabble for a dozen votes:

Chicago Tribune logoA carton of eggs. A box of doughnuts. A bouquet of roses. A table of apostles. A couple of six-packs. You.

You know who you are. You’re waffling. You’re worried. You’re tired of the squeeze. Why are people preaching at you? Strong-arming you? Calling you names?

If this were an obvious decision, you’d have made it, right?

But here’s the thing. You have made it, almost ….

…. Without your vote, same-sex marriage won’t become legal in Illinois.


But it will become legal. The question is only when. Now or later? It’s up to you ….

…. So one day, with or without these 12 votes, most Americans, most people in Illinois, will look back and think: Can you believe there was a time that people weren’t allowed to marry just because of their sexual orientation?

That would seem to be what this is about. Context is important, because it is easy to look upon the devilish tantrums of some preachers in Illinois as shocking and horrendous. But consider the context. Shortly, barring a Miracle of the Immaculate Scalia, the Defense of Marriage Act will be thoroughly destroyed. Gay marriage is going to happen, and the decades of trying to throw stumbling blocks into the course of the obvious, inevitable, and appropriate is coming to an end. This is their moment as Job. And like Job, they are faithless.

Their faith is broken, they are invoking for themselves judgment reserved to God. The crisis extends beyond simple religious faith; the Republican Party in Illinois put off an attempt to its chairman over marriage equality issues, taking another month to scrabble about for all of just one vote, apparently:

Daily Herald logoIllinois Republican officials were just one vote shy of ousting state party Chairman Pat Brady of St. Charles last week over his support for same-sex marriage, an email from one of them says.

In fact, proponents of removing Brady initially had just enough votes to prevail, but pressure from U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk of Highland Park and Illinois House Republican Leader Tom Cross of Oswego changed one committeeman’s mind, state Central Committeeman Bob Winchester wrote in an email to Republican county chairmen.

The meeting to oust Brady, which had been set for March 9 in Tinley Park, then was canceled. “Needless to say all of us were very upset,” Winchester, of downstate Rosiclare, wrote.

“We only had one shot,” Winchester’s email reads, “so we decided to save the loss and wait until the (April 13th) regular scheduled meeting and possibly try again then.”

Brady has come under fire from some in his party after calling state lawmakers late last year to advocate for their approval of same-sex marriage in Illinois. He said he was doing so outside of his official job as leader of the party.

But some Republican leaders pushed to get rid of Brady for taking a position out of sync with the state GOP platform.

This sort of purge is about empowerment. Equality is overwhelmingly an improvement in human empowerment within a society, but balance is achieved at the cost of imbalance. The heterosupremacist traditionalists are about to lose. Full stop.

It’s over.

Someone, somewhere knows this. Mike Riopell notes that Rep. Carol Donovan, Chicago, had been expected to vote against Brady but, apparently, House Republican Leader Tom Cross, Oswego, and U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk persuaded her not to.

The governor is on board, the state senate is on board, a majority of the public is on board. The Supreme Court could render the question moot*. The writing is not so much on the wall as it is scripted in giant flaming letters, and it is not prefaced with, “We apologize for the inconvenience”.

The gay fray exists at a point in its curve where all signs point to inevitability, and of such gravity that genuinely transcendent absurdity is required to avert the obvious outcome.

Losing particular political battles is one thing, but should we pause to think about it, losing an entire cause outright is a bit more rare.

While none of this should inspire tears—crocodile or otherwise—on behalf of conservatives, it does diminish some of the shock and horror to bear in mind that the judgmental, exclusionary belligerence shown by certain heterosupremacist preachers in the Chicago area is right about on schedule. Not these particular individuals, but more the idea that someone, somewhere, would attempt this stunt.

What these people are about to lose is a certain notion of entitlement and preference; it is undeniable that Christian heritage has played a tremendous role in American legislation and jurisprudence over time.AdvisorySticker-1 There has been a witch trial during my lifetime. Christian sensibilities were a common unit of measurement in my youth, when popular music faced criticism and demands for censorship of such magnitude that we now have those little advisory stickers nobody pays attention to anymore. How many libraries have faced how many complaints about J.D. Salinger, Madeleine L’Engle, Robert McCammon, &c., and for how many years, based on assertions of Christian mores? Even now, in the twenty-first century, some are asserting Christian privilege over women’s birth control.

In order for other people to become more equal, some must become less superior. We need not weep for the supremacists, but we do need to recognize the impact this has, and that can be challenging.

For supporters of marriage equality, losing battles is a familiar routine. Sure, it helped to believe we had rational reality on our side instead of a spiritual dictum, but supporters lost those battles with an exasperation born of inevitability. We lost those battles knowing we would win the war. Somewhere, in the backs of their minds, some of the supremacist traditionalists must have similarly felt they were winning battles in a war they would lose.

For the diverse components of Christian identity, it is true there has been a lot to give up over the years. Social customs across the spectrum of American society are changing, and as other influences gain proportion, a certain comfort of Christian authority is reduced.

And they are not about to lose a mere battle. The war–an entire cause—is about to come crashing down.

The Christian community does face a reckoning. The traditional outlook has long been recognized as dissonant unto itself, but has thus far avoided this form of the question. In North Carolina, a Methodist Church has decided to protest for marriage equality by refusing to sign any marriage certificates until same-sex marriage is legal.

This provides a stark contrast to the Chicago conclave. It would seem that some Christians recognize that, by whatever will of God, they exist in a society in which justice defined includes gay marriage. Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s; the marriage equality outcome is inevitable.

Serrano, Piss Christ (detail)But what, then, to do for the sinners of the world? Can one reasonably refuse them the shelter of Christ’s mercy? The Green Street solution to the conundrum seems to be one of faith. Minister to all sinners, and have faith that God will do as He sees fit. He has already blessed their conception and birth; He has made them such that their natural expression is homosexual. True enough, He has rules about this sort of behavior, but in the end, He also has His purpose in willfully crafting such existence. It is easy enough to suggest that one have faith that God knows what He is doing, but the practice is understandably less secure a feeling. Faith is difficult, and can seem dangerous even to the faithful.

The Chicago conclave is a faithless reaction; that need not be any indictment of these people’s souls. For the moment, though, they have lashed out, called unto themselves the power of judgment. They desire the authority to decide who is worthy of Christ’s ministry. It is erroneous to do so, but it is also, in its way, less unexpected than more complicated and challenging outcomes.

One need not seek to walk in Christ’s footsteps in order to see the need for mercy. Stupid is as stupid will, but sometimes stupid is simply human. The grotesque presumption that the minister of Christ should decide who is worthy is a predictable reaction, not because these are Christians, but because they are people.

It’s not every day that one loses an entire cause. Skirmishes, battles, and rhetorical unrest are commonplace. But losing the war is at least as significant as it is rare. We ought to guard against underestimating the impact this has on one’s outlook. The message they want to send sounds more desperate than cruel. And this, too, shall pass.

* Or it might not; the two cases before the Court at present could, with certain delicate Scaliamandering, find its way through to an utterly inconclusive decision, though one would wonder why they bothered taking up the cases in the first place.

The dissonance is highlighted in the question of “lifestyle” sin, in which a distinction was drawn between a sin ceased, confessed, and atoned for and continuous sinful behavior. Having performed oral sex on a same-sex partner once would count as a sin ceased, confessed, and atoned for. Gay marriage, though, presents a question of continuous practice of behavior denounced in the Old Testament. The difference is easy enough to see. Meanwhile, many American Christian churches have no problem marrying people who have previously divorced, a behavior denounced in the New Testament … by Christ.

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