Lately I’ve been in a sort of funk. What I’ve been reading in the news is disturbing and frightening. The latest round of affronts on personal freedoms have had me feeling greatly saddened about my country and the value for which I believe it stands. America is about tolerance, or so I thought until “my” president sought an amendment to the constitution that would essentially define a group of second class citizens, much like it did to slaves by classifying them as 3/5 of a person.
The implications of this leave me breathless. Breathless with fear and shock at the blatant contradiction that cries out for resolution. Have we learned nothing after 4 centuries of classifying people as property? Have we learned nothing from laws barring reading, Christian worship, and oh yes, marriage for black people?
Remember, black people for many whites in this country in the past centuries were not much more than animals in the shape of human beings with little intelligence or “higher” thought. (Read Jefferson’s Notes on Virginia for an interesting discussion of some of this.) It was debated whether or not black people had souls. After all, how can an animal have a soul? It was clear that these people that the Negroes were being saved from their depravity by their exposure to “civilization.” After reading the musings of learned white men on these subjects of black people and slavery that I understood the dangers of certain philosophies, e.g. slave theology.
Many white slave owners believed in slave theology, that is, the place whites had in God’s world and their Burden, the belief in the Curse of Ham, the father of black people, to be the eternal slave to Japheth, the father of white people, and Paul’s charge for the utter submission of slaves to their masters. It’s little wonder that the laws of that past era existed. Marriage in the form of miscegenation is equivalent to bestiality. Why should it not be banned? Religious instruction for slaves is roughly equivalent to training your dog to go to Church. Isn’t that almost blasphemous? Many ideas that are obvious to us as modern people, white or otherwise, become ludicrous, even sacrilegious to these “ancient” folk. This was the mentality with which black folk had to contend.
Today when people talk about gay marriage, I hear echoes of slave theology. I don’t hear it’s philosophy, of course, but it’s pattern: God has disfavored some part of the human family and because of this condition, they do not deserve equal treatment as this would be defy God. I guess that is what I find so upsetting when I hear my honest, God-fearing brothers and sisters speak out against gay marriage. They know not what they do, to borrow a phrase, (at least from my perspective). It’s what I find so frightening when people hold up signs that read “God Hates Sodomites” or propose amendments that, for the first time in our country’s history, would restrict the rights of individuals rather than uphold them. Down that road lies terrible ugliness and suffering. Ask any Jew with a serial number tattooed on his or her arm.
Of course, there is always hope. We live in a society where we can dialog and debate, where we can struggle with the issues or each other without violence and alienation. That alone is reason for hope, because people of conscience on either side of this issue are motivated by love and the love of justice rather than hatred and selfishness. We can and will resolve this.