September 29, 2005
By Rev. Kharma Amos, Pastor, Metropolitan Community Church of Northern Virginia, Fairfax
It became clear to me this week that we need to prepare ourselves for a long season of fearmongering from religious conservatives in Virginia. The rhetoric of fear that has been used so successfully in recent years to galvanize citizens for war is being redirected to bolster support for another battle -rel this one against anyone who supports marriage equality for same sex couples.
At a “Defense of Traditional Marriage” meeting held on Monday, Sept. 19 at the McLean Bible Church, representatives of sponsoring organizations (the Family Foundation, NOVATownHall.com and Concerned Women of America) spoke with rehearsed unanimity in favor of the proposed constitutional amendment that will likely dominate the upcoming General Assembly legislative session. Their language was all too familiar. The words “terror”, “attack” and “battle” rang out repeatedly in the small gathering. They claim that “we” (by which they mean religious conservatives) are being attacked not only by terrorists outside our country, but also by social terrorists (by which they mean gays and lesbians) in our own communities. They claim that the “traditional family” (by which they mean one man, one woman, and children) is being intentionally eroded and destabilized by those whose family relationships do not match that “ideal.” They fully intend for the fear invoked by these highly-charged statements to create and mobilize a “vigilant citizenry” who will fight against the “horror” of same-sex marriage with all of their might.
Well, I have to admit: I am afraid. But not in the ways they intend. I’m not afraid of love. I’m not afraid of people who commit their lives to one another in love. I’m not even afraid of those who wish to legalize that commitment in order to create more stable families in which that love can thrive. What I am afraid of is that people of good will and religious conviction are being manipulated to believe they or their families are in danger simply because there are other families whose configurations are different. I am afraid that fair-minded Virginians might be taken in by this rhetoric of fear and begin to worry that love, affirmation, community support and equality are in limited supply and that they must secure their own family’s access to such by restricting others’ access. And I am afraid (and appalled!) that the core moral values of my faith tradition (love of God and neighbor; mutuality, kindness, mercy, justice, respect) are being misused to spread fear and inspire hatred.
It is my earnest prayer that the people of Virginia will not let this sort of fearmongering make us become ugly, irrational people. Let’s be clear. If “traditional families” are endangered by anything, they are endangered by the corrosive effects of dishonesty, lack of commitment and other factors that lead to divorce in so many marriages. They are not – I repeat, not – “under attack” by the loving couples I know. It does absolutely nothing to damage, diminish, or erode the marriage of Dan and Sheila, if their neighbors Ken and Dennis or Karla and Debbie find new ways to celebrate, strengthen and stabilize their own relationships.
The cause and effect relationship between marriage equality for same sex couples and the demise of traditional families simply does not exist. If we want to strengthen and defend families, then let us do so extravagantly in ways that will actually matter for all families. Let’s encourage people to love and care for one another. Let’s give couples and families access to resources that will help them through the ups and downs of life together. Let’s encourage religious communities to support relationships of mutual love and respect. Let’s remind one another about the highest ideals of our faith and empower one another to live them as each of us is called. Let’s not be suckered by the direct and deceitful appeal to our survival instinct into being afraid of differences. Let’s not funnel our energies negatively into being mean and trying to bully everyone else into looking and thinking and acting just like us. Let’s not get distracted from our shared goal of creating a community and a world in which every individual “” with equal access and opportunity “” can strive for life, love, liberty, meaning, and all of the other things we each desire … and of which there is enough to go around.