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    Let me into your temple

    Paul Varnell’s newest article at IGF notes something I was kind of wondering about, too: People are taking longer than I expected to freak the hell out over gay marriage in Massachusetts. Not that I’m relishing the prospect, or anything. I trust it’s not surprising that, while I’m troubled by the methods that are being used to bring these changes about and not at all confident in the motives of some of their loudest proponents…well, seeing the pictures and reading the accounts from Massachusetts makes my heart leap. How could it not? My deepest hope (read: it’s the Lagavulin talking) is that obsessive activists on our team will see this as a sign that, while we still face a lot of opposition, there’s a real fund of goodwill out there that we don’t have to get hysterical to tap into, and that anti-gay types will at least recognize something familiar and human in seeing people want to make the relationships that sustain them official. Then maybe (wait–there’s a little Scotch left…not anymore!) we could start talking in terms of how we’re going to treat behaviors as a society and not screeching past each other about what constitutes “approval” of this or that.

    I was vaguely bemused, though, by this paragraph in Varnell’s article:

    And not just legally wed, but welcomed with religious marriage ceremonies by the venerable and influential Unitarian church, whose ministers almost to a man � and woman � have made themselves available to same-sex couples wishing a blessing in the religious tradition.

    Oh, my. In the sense that today’s Unitarianism evolved from challenges to the concept that God is a trinity, sure, it’s…um…old. But I have to say, my first boyfriend took me to a service in Lower Manhattan ten years ago, and I just didn’t get it. My idea of a religion is the church I was brought up in: two-hour services every week, during which you looked up every cited scripture and took notes, no work allowed on the Sabbath, and a kind, accessible Christ balanced by a God the Father whose attitude ran more toward, ARE YOU PEOPLE GOING TO LISTEN TO ME ALREADY OR DO I HAVE TO SMITE YOU WITH A BLEEDING CURSE?!

    The idea at the Unitarian place–and I understand that it may have been somewhat extreme in this regard, but from what I’ve read of Unitarian beliefs it wasn’t way, way on the fringes–seemed to be that you do whatever you felt like doing anyway, and God loves you for it. In fact, the atmosphere of strident, you’re-special! good cheer was so irritating that by the time I left the building, I just wanted to go kick puppies. This is America, and people are, of course, fundamentally free to worship whatever God they choose. I also understand why gays who don’t believe our lives are sinful don’t have a whole lot of choices of denomination. I just can’t help thinking that it doesn’t profit us much to be leaning on a sect with (what appears to me to be–I’d love to be proven wrong) quite that degree of an I’m-okay-you’re-okay approach to life.

    8 Responses to “Let me into your temple”

    1. Auntie Mame says:

      You so get it. Thrills and saddens me, simultanously.

    2. IB Bill says:

      Regarding the thoughts on the Unitarians … well, you can either have dogma, or you can have feelgood whateverism in place of dogma, but you really can’t have “sodomy isn’t a sin” without watering down the dogma so much you’re not left with much besides unitarism or a left-liberal episcopalism.
      On your discussion of the reaction to gay marriage … The reason you haven’t seen an outcry is because many people have stopped talking about it. The political game was rigged, you see, and most people are smart enough to realize that. It’s not acceptance; it’s more of a low-level anger / resignation at a political fix.
      And many people are really, really sick of talking about the whole issue: Gay marriage will be imposed on the country no matter what; those that continue to oppose it will be ridiculed as bigots, and as a result they will consider themselves even more alienated from the contemporary culture than they already are.
      And a lot of other people have a libertarian mentality or think there are bigger battles to fight.

    3. Kris says:

      I have nothing intellegent-sounding to contribute, other than to say that there’s a Unitarian church here in NYC (not the one you attended, I think Sean) that I love to attend, mainly because they have an intellectually stimulating mininster (who alternates with an emotionally pandering one). It’s barely one step removed from a seminar, with the difference that people get dressed up, are nicer, there’s music, and everyone there agrees with the idea that we should all stop beating on each other in the name of dogma.
      I think the idea that a church that doesn’t have rigid black-and-white as its foundation is somehow a non-church not quite right. I mean, it’s parallel to the argument that letting gays marry leads to beastiality. I’d recommend reading ‘A Chosen Faith’ by Forrest Church (the intellectually stimulating minister, btw) if you’re truly looking to gain insight into Unitarianism.
      Though, to be fair, they are dangerously similar to ‘The Church of the Global Standard Diety’ from the Thursday Next books.

    4. Sean says:

      Well, Kris, I think to an extent that we’re talking about two different things. If you’re going to services in the understanding that thoughts will be provoked and that you’ll be exchanging ideas with other open-minded people, great. You’re coming in a spirit of inquiry and willing to assess what you hear based on criteria you’ve already established. Where I think the potential for trouble comes in is when people try to play both ends against the middle, simultaneously wanting to seek answers from God and wanting to find a cosmic justification for the way they’re already living.
      BTW, the congregation I went to was the Something Street Church, I think. It wasn’t actually called the Christopher Street Church, but it may as well have been.

    5. IB Bill says:

      Where I think the potential for trouble comes in is when people try to play both ends against the middle, simultaneously wanting to seek answers from God and wanting to find a cosmic justification for the way they’re already living.
      Exactly. Well put.
      All of us have gone to God for answers, and not like the answer. As John Barth put it in Giles Goat-Boy, self-knowledge is [usually] bad news. This doesn’t apply only to sexuality issues, of course.

    6. Sean says:

      Thanks, Bill–though, of course, we’re coming at the issue from opposite sides of the believer/non-believer spectrum. :)

    7. Nathan says:

      while I’m troubled by the methods that are being used to bring these changes about and not at all confident in the motives of some of their loudest proponents…
      Well, yes. That’s why you aren’t seeing anti-SSM screeds on my site. It’s not the SSM part I have a problem with, so much. I ranted and raved against the methods when the situation was still not settled, but now that it seems to be, there’s not much worth getting riled up over until the advocates hypocritically drop the States’ Rights argument they belatedly embraced to obtain the passage of SSM and turn back to the 14th Amendment to force it on States that emphatically don’t want it.
      The Unitarian “church” strikes me as being the antithesis of a church precisely because it seems to stand for nothing. There are places for different churches to come together under the banner of “peace” or simply “belief”, but that place is an ecumenical council or a charity drive or something. If you want to sit around and talk about life the universe and everything under the caveat that whatever each individual thinks is okay, go hang out at Starbuck’s or something.

    8. Sean says:

      I don’t know that it’s the word church that bothers me, or that I’d condemn people to Starbucks for misusing it–though, since I’m an apostate, my opinion on that topic probably isn’t worth much. What piques me is that many such people want to consider themselves Christian. If you believe that spirituality means looking inside yourself for truth, trusting what’s there, and meeting with like-minded people to celebrate it at what you call a church, okay. But I just can’t figure out how, even if they believe that the Bible is a repository of age-old wisdom, people can consider that Christianity. I say the same about dilettantish Buddhists and Zoarastrians, by the way. Either choose a pre-existing belief system and stick to it, or go your own way and resign yourself to explaining what you believe as often as needed.