Let’s agree not to legislate sin.

I recently stumbled across this blog post from The Atlantic, posted in April of last year, in which a young woman explains her position opposing gay marriage. I always appreciate reading opposing points of view that are written thoughtfully, and I have to commend this young woman for sharing her perspective.  And now I’d like to explain why she’s wrong.

Everyone in the whole world has sinned

The center of her argument is that she believes that homosexuality is a sin as defined in the Bible; but where others stop there, she does go further and acknowledge that even believing that homosexuality is a sin doesn’t mean that she believes that gay people are evil or bad.  Everyone is a sinner.

My belief is that sin is anything that goes against God’s design and His rules. People who don’t believe in sin obviously do not see anything wrong with homosexual behavior and they don’t know why people like me speak out against it, so their reasoning is that what I say must come from hatred.

But if I hated all sinners, I’d hate myself.

There are lots of sins that exist, and in fact, everyone in the whole world has sinned.

I have no interest in making an argument whether or not the Christian Bible does define homosexuality as a sin, although there are certainly a large number of Christians who would happily engage in

that debate.  My obvious issue is that the Christian Bible does not define my legal rights.

Do you really wanto start legislating sin?

yay-10050992If you really want to start legislating sin, let’s start with the Ten Commandments.  Let’s make it illegal to work on Sunday, to curse (or if you want to be more literal, specifically taking the Lord’s name in vain), or to commit adultery.  Should you have to pay a fine if you are jealous of your neighbor’s boat?  When you are mean to your mother, you spend a couple of nights in lock-up.

That all seems ridiculous, of course.  Even for Christians, sin is a part of life.  Some sins are also crimes, but there are a lot of sins that we know we’re going to end up committing from time to time – and we don’t expect to be arrested, fined or censored for them.

We legislate to protect citizens against acts that damage our society and hurt other people.  Gay marriage hurts no one.

Is it really just semantics?

The young woman in that original blog post did say that she wasn’t sure if maybe government shouldn’t just get out of marriage entirely.  I could argue that no one should be legally “married”, but all couples have a right to a legal commitment that is equal for hetero and homosexual couples.  However, a lot of members of the gay community feel strongly about that word “marriage”.

If it comes down to definitions, can we agree that we define words differently in a biblical sense than in a secular sense?  When you watch American Idol, are you really worshipping a false God?

In the end, if all individuals who are against gay marriage were as well meaning and well reasoned as this young woman, we could have a reasoned discussion and almost certainly end up on common, equal footing.

It is not easy, but it is also not “complicated”.

michaelbrownLike so many others today, I’m sad.  Frustrated. Angry.  There’s a sense of impotence, not knowing what I can do or say that will make tomorrow better than today for the community around me.  I don’t know what else to do, so I’m going to write.

In an editorial on CNN earlier today, Safiya Simmons, a black woman married to a police officer, said that she is  conflicted on the Darren Wilson verdict.  On one hand, she is raising her son and living in a society that displays “a pattern in this country of killing black boys without care or consequences”, while on the other hand, she believes firmly that her husband should do what he needs to do to stay alive and come home to her at the end of day.  In her words, it’s “complicated”.

Being a police officer is dangerous, thankless and unbelievably self-sacrificing.  It also comes with a legal and moral obligation for discipline, objectivity and restraint when asserting your authority and in the use of your firearm.  I would guess that 99.99+% of the police force in America are great men and women with great judgement, who are worthy of our support, praise, thanks and trust.  Darren Wilson is not one of them.

Don’t make Ferguson about people who support cops versus people who don’t.  Doing so is to completely misunderstand and minimize the depth of the issue.  This is about justice for victims of cops who go too far and get away with it.  This is about a system that is broken. This is about respect for all lives of all colors.  This is rooted in hundreds of years of history.  This isn’t easy, but it is also not “complicated”.

If Michael Brown had been armed with a gun…  If Darren Wilson had fired only to disable or deter the unarmed teenager…  If Darren Wilson had fired only one shot…  If the fatal shot had been at close range while Michael Brown was within reaching (punching, tackling) distance of Officer Wilson… If any one of those things had been true, I might believe that Darren Wilson was doing what he needed to do to stay alive and go home at the end of the day.  But 12 gun shots – only one, non-fatal, at close range – is in no way simply what he needed to do.

12 gunshots and a body left in the street for more than 4 hours is a disregard for the life behind the skin color.  It is, at the very least, a loss of control and negligence in the use of a firearm that deserves the due process of a criminal trial by jury.

(This post fails to address so many other critical issues that the shooting death of Michael Brown and subsequent protests brought to light.  The handling of the protests, the numerous questionable decisions of the prosecutor, the violence in the midst of pleas for peace from Michael Brown’s family, and the underlying systemic racism that so many want to deny.  I’m going to try to spend some time over the upcoming weekend digging into the grand jury testimony, and I expect this will not be my last post on this topic.)