September 27, 2007

Battle Lines Being Drawn In Maryland, in the Legislature and Churches

Groups on both sides are mobilizing in Maryland after last week's court decision that upheld the state's law banning same-sex marriage. It's not just in the political arena, it's also from pulpits around the state. From the Baltimore Sun (thanks to Equality Maryland for the tip).

Religious leaders in Maryland are sharply divided on the question of same-sex marriage, a fact that is likely to weigh heavily in an anticipated debate on the issue this winter in the General Assembly.

Religious leaders bring podiums, votes and organizations to a hot-button issue that is both religious and political.

When the Maryland Court of Appeals rejected same-sex marriage in a 4-3 ruling last week, "friend of the court" legal briefs from religious groups were among the stacks of material urging support for each side.

The decision prompted advocates from both sides to say they would seek legislation or a state constitutional amendment further clarifying the issue.

"Churches become very involved when they perceive it is a moral issue," said John C. Green, senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Marriage, closely tied to Scripture and religious teachings, falls into that category.

Overall, he said, a 2004 Pew Forum study indicated this: Evangelical Christians tend to oppose same-sex marriage, with mainline Protestants somewhat more supportive and people with no religious affiliation tending to be more in favor. The more traditional the beliefs and practices -- such as with Hispanic Catholics -- the more likely the opposition to same-sex marriage. But younger people, even within conservative churches, are more open to same-sex marriage.

Douglas Stiegler, executive director of the Association of Maryland Families, said the Christian organization would continue pushing in the Legislature for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as one-man, one-woman through its Family Protection Lobby regardless of what the opposing lobby seeks.

"We are not going to wait for the ACLU or Equality Maryland," he said. "We do it on our own."

Bishop Harry Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Bowie and chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition, has been a vocal critic of same-sex marriage and of framing it in a civil rights context, in opposition to the political action leadership of the Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches.

"I know people who used to be gay. I don't know any people who used to be black. This is not about civil rights," he said. "I take personal offense with someone equating their gayness with my blackness."

The Maryland Catholic Conference, opposed to same-sex marriage, "will oppose anything that appears that way -- if it is marriage by a different name, we will oppose it," Richard J. Dowling, executive director, said.

Nationally, the faith community on the pro-same-sex marriage side has mobilized more slowly, Green noted.

Equality Maryland has organized a coalition of religious leaders favoring same-sex marriage.
"I think some day, people are going to be embarrassed about the opinions they wrote and votes that they took," said the Rev. Phyllis L. Hubbell, who serves with her husband as a minister of the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore.

"We are going to continue the struggle as long as it takes," she said.

"We are in turmoil about this, like many other churches," Bishop H. Gerard Knoche of the Delaware-Maryland Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church said last week. "It is presently the most divisive issue in our church."

I was particularly stuck by Bishop Jackson's use of the phrase "personally offended" to describe comparisions of the GLBT civil rights movement to the one African-Americans have struggled so hard for. I found this on Joyce Meyer's site about "The Spirit of Offense."

The spirit of offense poisons lives and attitudes. According to Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, the word offense is derived from a Greek word skandalon, which "originally was 'the name of the part of a trap to which the bait is attached, hence, the trap or snare itself....'" It was the part of the trap that lured or snared an animal.

We easily see that offense is what Satan uses to lure people into full-blown cases of bitterness, resentment, and unforgiveness. Satan uses offense to cause us to stumble and fail to go forward with God.

The temptation to get offended is a trap that should be avoided like the plague. If we would not take poison, we should not take offense. If we would be champions for God we must not be easily offended.

Many people never become what God desires them to be because they get offended. They get bitter. Offense becomes a stumbling block to them, and they never progress beyond that point. They are the loser and the devil is the winner.

No person can do permanent damage to you if you are willing to be mature enough to refuse offense and trust God. This kind of attitude will make you a winner in life.

Although Joyce Meyer does not share the full revelation of the GLBT community's place in God's kingdom, she is an internationally reknowned evangelist and best-selling author. There are many things she gets, and this is one of them.

Is it any surprise that someone filled with the spirit of offense is trying to lead the charge to deny a group of people their legal rights?

1 comment:

  1. Great post. This is the sort of info needed on blogs! Joyce Meyer is right on concerning this matter. God bless you for posting this.

    Christian J.