Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Supporting gay marriage: a note on acceptance

I posted a link on my Facebook wall to an article by Amanda Vanstone on the debate on gay marriage.

Gay marriage, I am excited about. Perhaps it is because I got married and then realise that hey, it can actually be pretty good, despite the bad rap that it has received over the years, you know, divorce ugliness and all that. This marriage, to me, is like an act of faith that there is still goodness in this one person that I have decided to spend the rest of my life with. That, plus the legal recognition of our relationship. Yes, you may laugh all you want, but this is nothing to sneeze about. Prior to this, I have been largely nonchalant about marriage. I did not grow up to be one of those girls who fantasized about what their weddings are going to be. Then again, I took it for granted that it would be an option that would be available to me should I decide to walk down that path.

I admit that I have never given gay marriage a lot of thought other than this: it is just a matter of time before gay marriages are recognised in the eyes of the law. Until then, I hope that not too many people embarrass themselves in the process. My stance on the matter is neatly summarised as: we have no right to deny another human being the right to have a union that is recognised by law by the mere virtue of his/her sexual orientation, topped with a generous borrowing of this quote from Vanstone: "Society is built on relationships of mutual dependence. In this era of me, me and more me, the more that people are prepared to commit to one another, to be responsible for each other and dependent on each other, the better. High divorce rates tell us heterosexuals are more and more discarding this. But the gay community want it. Open the gates and cheer, is my response."

Except that I forget that I don’t keep a streamlined friends list on Facebook. Some of these people are people that I used to know once upon a time, because we used to go to church together.


I have not been inside a church for a very long, long time. Yet to these people, to openly declare my support for gay marriage is like spitting on my religion. By their standards, I am a stray-er. I have forgotten God, or some even go as far as labeling me as forsaking God. No matter. I am used to a lot of labels in this life, so these just get added on the list. That said, these are no ordinary label. Plus once upon a time, these happened often enough that I have a strategy. To clarify, the contexts were different, but the labels were the same. The context was, well, my extended absence from the church. For those with an I am holier than thou attitude, for those who were involved in some form of activities, like the church band, or choir, or dancer, or whatever, for those who have taken no time to get to know me and are obviously not interested in my answers, but said the labels anyway for whatever reason, it goes something like this.

It starts with an invincible eye roll. Come on, you can’t deny me out of this pleasure. Then, a polite answer: Yes, I have been absent from church. And yes, I would like to go often. I’ll try to make the time.. By the time I am done being polite, I am exhausted, my interest of attending church has fizzled out, just in time for a quick exit. Moving on.

That people need to stop judging those of us who seemingly cannot make time for God, that attendance at church does not always correlate with kindness, and that holiness can be a valid goal, but is not something for human beings to judge, are a small part of the series of sentences that I often hold my tongue for. Just because you don’t see me or hear me praying does not need to be reconciled with my religious-ness, or lack thereof, because deep down, we all know that your views are a reflection of you more than they are a reflection of me.

For these people, I cannot be both a Christian and a supporter of gay marriage; I have to choose between them. I don’t need a counselling session with a pastor to pull out biblical verses that are frequently cited as condemnation of certain queerness. This is not to say that I have analysed all these verses, nor scrutinised all the explanations and interpretations of some renowned religious scholars. Out of the ones that I have had the pleasure of coming across, some are convincing, some, not so much; some feel like stretching the meaning through manipulation of the words. In one of the churches that I used to attend regularly, I was told that I should not rely on my own understanding, but that of God. This line I struggle with till this day because I find it difficult to believe that the God that has given us a functioning brain actually intended us to forgo their use. As Galileo Galilei put it, "I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use and by some other means to give us knowledge which we can attain by them” .

But what this has highlighted for me, again and again, is that the Bible is essentially a collection of texts, written by some people, a very long time ago. Yes, it is possible that these people were enlightened, which subsequently, made the resultant text, a source of enlightenment. And it is also useful for us to be mindful of the fact that any piece of writing comes with contexts, and interpretations, and everything else in between. To take a piece of text out of context is to essentially, misquote, misinterpret, mislead.

So, now what? The Bible is not completely irrelevant and it is also should be utilised accordingly. The main themes inherent in the Bible, to me, are love, faith, mercy. These are the things that speak to me louder than anything else, and in turn, I rely on my faith, on God’s love and on mercy. And to extend these things to the world in general, independent of religion, race, or sexual orientation. To give others the freedom to choose and do what they see fit them best, namely, in this case, to get married, or not, and give recognition of these choices in the eyes of the law.

I am not actively involved in any church, nor regularly attend one, yet I get the sense that when it comes to churches and Christianity, there exists a certain element of homophobia, and this is more prevalent in social circles that are largely homophobic, which still exist in a country that is so far removed from homophobia. I don’t want to defend my stance on gay marriage, I don’t need to. I don’t want to establish a distinction between how ‘forward thinking’ an individual can be. I do not want to marginalise these social circles. These imperfect communities, just like any other community embroiled with insecurities, struggle with foreign concepts and new ideas, and in all likelihood, are probably scared in losing their identities (or perhaps, just doing whatever they can to preserve their current identities). It is easier to say all the right things to preserve order than to actually believe them, let alone live according to them. It is easier to give up and pretend that the issue doesn’t exist and will never eventuate to reality and if it ever does, then you would revolt: get divorce just to make a point.

That aside, I believe, or at least, would like to believe, that it is also possible to find a happy medium: that of a revolutionary break through; that supporting gay marriage and be a Christian are not mutually exclusive, to let go of what we should be, and just simply be.  

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