Wednesday, November 01, 2006

My thoughts today

Since arriving in Bangalore, I've become an avid podcast listener. At first, I downloaded only programs that supported my personal views. There's nothing better than driving through the city on my scooter listening to someone who is, in effect, preaching to the choir. However, I've become increasingly aware, particularly after our ahimsa conference, of the importance of understanding the "other". There is so much that bonds us together on this earth, yet we fill our lives with vitriol and hatred by finding the little things that make us different. So with that thought in mind, I've tried to expand my listening.

Ever since 9-11, I've been a bit of a news junkie. If you look at the news links posted on our blog, we have quite a diverse list. BBCNews is a western based source that is traditionally looked at as being balanced. The Times of India is one of the largest papers here and is the paper that is delivered to our doorstep every morning. Al-Jazeera is the largest Middle Eastern news source, one which I find to be opinionated but not irrational in it's critique and commentary. In addition, there are two small town papers which represent the perspective of our formative years: Brad's in Spartanburg and mine in New Fairfield. My podcasts are similarly diverse. I listen to Democracy Now!, which is an independent news source out of New York City. I listen to a few science podcasts which update solely on scientific news. Lastly, I listen to James Dobson's Focus on the Family and Point of Inquiry. FotF represents one segment of the Christian population while PoI represents the agnostic/atheist crowd. I find both programs to be both insightful and infuriating.

One thing I find interesting, however, is that both the Evangelical Christians and the Materialists claim to be attacked by the media. FotF states that the media is doing everything it can to ensure that "values" voters (one of the most offensive and self-righteous descriptions that Christians have come up with to date) stay home during the election because the media is a liberal sea where the "chosen" are rejected and ridiculed. Meanwhile, PoI points to a bias where the media ignores facts for statements that will sell their newspapers. They say that the media and the country at large reject them as immoral demons and therefore push them to the side without consideration.

The problem that I have with both sides is not that there isn't an aspect of truth to what they are stating, it's more the gross generalizations that their claims make. The whole of the country is not against Christianity, in fact recent polls show otherwise. And while there are those who feel it is their right to judge others, there are large segments of the population that don't care what you believe as long as you act decently.

It's extraordinary to me how intelligent individuals can become so illogical so easily. I understand why emotion comes into play. If you attack what I believe, I'm going to be hurt and strike back. But we've gotten to the point where we are so quickly offended that we never take the time to question the intent of the other party. Or, we expand the thoughts and words of a few as a representation of the entire group. In our supposedly enlightened society, we end up sitting in the corner, being petulant children.

My greatest wish for our country is for us to get back to the ideals where we started: equality, liberty. The right of the many over the right of the few. I know how I translate this in my mind: healthcare, education, housing, job security. Instead of squabbling over things such as gay rights or the use of the word "God" in the pledge, let's get back to doing what we say we are meant to do. Let's feed the poor, clothe the naked, love the orphaned and free the oppressed.

In my church in New Jersey, we finished each service with the following prayer. Now, whether or not you believe in prayer is immaterial to me. What's more important is that we all acknowledge that Humanist, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Jain, Jewish or any other form of faith, we all share these same goals of basic human decency.

The spirit of God is upon us.
God has anointed us
to bear good news to the afflicted,

to bind up the broken hearted,
to proclaim freedom to the captives,
to open the prisons of those who are bound.
Let us go forth in the name of Christ
to bring peace into broken relationships,
healing to alienated persons,
and justice into oppressive structures.


Brad said...

By the way, that's my favorite scripture - Luke 4:18-19. It is also called the "Nazareth Manifesto."

It seems that all the news is growing more and more divisive. It is easier to polarize people and drive them apart than it is to bring people closer together and unite them. The news networks and pundits have divided the American public so sharply that the healing, I feel will take a long time and will require a strong leader. I've felt for some years that John McCain might be that person, but I guess we'll have to wait and see.

As always, Elizabeth, thanks for bravely sharing your opinion and inviting others to respond. I love you :) 143, Huckleberry

Anonymous said...

I am not sure about the athiest station that you listen to because it would not be something that I would devote much time to, given that we are but here for only a short while and then gone in a vapor. But I do listen to Focus on the Family as much as I can, given that so much has changed in my life in the last year. I still have a brain and I am not a lemming, such as the media would like people to see (this is group a and this is group b--now get in the box that best suits you) Basically we ARE living in a Babylonian culture/giv eit to me now and do not make me uncomfortable during the nano-second wait process-- and it is a difficult thing to attempt to live according to God's plan when satan the enemy is working desperately to divide us as a nation, as a christian, as a spouse, as a parent and any other combination of things that should work together for the greater good but malfunction horrendously when we are divided. It is now and always has been "the enemy's" greatest tool, utilizing split and divide and it appears first in the 3rd chapter of genesis, where we get to the idea that it might be nice to know what God knows and then, boy I can't believe He is holding back on me, I should eat that thing, and then... uh, she made me do it....what a culmination of sin in such a quick amount of human-ness...and so we began and it has not let up. But for me, I am in the throes of change and enlightenment myself and I feel spoken to in alot of personal ways through the bible because I constantly refer to Jeremiah 33:3 as a daily request. I am all over the page here but my point is this--once I got off the fence, I didn't see the right wing as so far overboard anymore. There are things I want to protect my children from and I have certainly been further around the block than most people. I have a real good picture of what sort of things cause great personal pain in this world. I was either in the center of causing them or the recipient of the acts of others. Being kind and helping the poor is part of God's plan, but knowing him personally is at the forefront. Kind of like "A"="B"...if you get in tight with God and what he has left us in his instruction book then you would be wanting to be doing the nice things that would make this planet a better place to be. And so, off my soapbox I climb, realizing I feel as alienated as the press would like to portray!:) And by the way, all press is biased and that is their job, but alot of folks think of it more as the gospel and believe it is merely there to provoke thought and yet the liberties that are being taken are ridiculous. I am done now, thanks for the prod. Love cath

E(Liz)a(Beth) said...

I'm not sure that I agree that it's the job of the press to be biased. I think the press as it has become is biased, but that there is hope of it being balanced. I'm perhaps naive, but I think we should fight for a free and open press because I think it's an attainable goal. (There is actually a lot to say on this topic in the US right now with news organizations attempting to control a greater percentage of the independant press, but I'll leave it for another time.)

I also think that it's wonderful that you've found a purpose in life, if I can be so bold as to paraphrase you in that way. But my point is partially that while God and the Bible may be a solution for you, it may also not be for others. I think it is our right to choose where our inspiration comes from and it is our duty to make certain that others have the same right, even if it means they're conclusions disagree with our own. Also, if a humanist can justify acting in what you and I would call a Christian manner, such as giving up a year at their job to work as an nurse in a conflict zone, I don't think we should fault them for their personal beliefs. We can all agree on the things that need to be done in this world. Who am I to question someone else's motives if what they are doing is the right thing? I think that we are ill-equipped to be judges and should therefore focus on more productive works. And maybe, by working together toward positive goals, we can learn enough about each other to see that no one is hurt when we use the word God in the pledge. Or that preventing people from marrying merely because of their sexual orientation is absolutely a form of oppression. If we get to know the "other" (I'm intentionally refraining from using the word enemy) and walk a mile in their shoes, perhaps this world can take a step towards peace instead of the ugly, violent soup we have today.

Vivek said...

Interesting post, but I think that it is equally important to tackle gay rights and prayer in schools as it is to tackle unemployment and healthcare.

With regard to gay rights, it is a question of basic civil rights, which are often denied to a person based on their sexual orientation. This is no different than in the olden days when discrimination used to be based on race or gender. Giving gay people their civil rights and status as human beings, by allowing law-abiding and loving people to marry, adopt, etc is tantamount to freeing them from oppression.

Public prayer in schools is not such an important issue, but it is important nonetheless. If something such as public prayer is allowed in schools, even silent prayer, those children who do not believe in God may feel pressured. A school's purpose is to educate. Religious practices should be left to the parents and the various places of worship. Also, it is perfectly possible to teach right and wrong in schools without quoting Scripture.

The problem with America is that conservative Christians are trying to force their morals down society's throat in general, and this happens everywhere. In India, right-wing Hindus have hijacked the Hindu religion by going on rampages killing innocent Muslims and destroying non-Hindu places of worship. Whether it is America or India, society must stand against those who claim to do God's work, but only end up butchering the name of God by insisting that everyone follow their narrow-minded interpretation of their religion.

The Taliban, Bal Thackeray, Focus on the Family and other evangelical groups. What do these have in common? They all represent the same thing, the face of religious extremism and intolerance, only in varying degrees.

Vivek said...

And regarding your news sources, I really did cringe when I saw The Times of India.

I really hope you do not think that The Times of India is the best that Indian media can offer. It isn't. The Times of India may be the most popular daily, but it's only because it's a product of today's society that demands brash, spiced up tabloid-style news rather than any substance. The Times of India is sort of like the USA Today in India, only much more tabloid like.

I would recommend two other papers any day over The Times of India and upon reading them, I'm sure you'll see what The Times of India really is.

The Hindu - The second most widely read English language newspaper in India and the most widely read English language newspaper in south India. This paper is India's New York Times with unrivaled international coverage and excellent in-depth news. The reason I do not myself read this paper is because I disagree with their editorial stance which is very leftist. Their sunday magazine often contains mainly articles published by writers part of the Communist Party of India. But the news quality is without-par.

Deccan Herald - The most widely read English language newspaper in Karnataka. This is my newspaper, it is Bangalore's newspaper, founded in Bangalore back when it was a small town in 1948 (The Hindu is headquartered in Chennai and The Times of India is headquartered in Mumbai). Deccan Herald's international coverage is not as extensive as The Hindu, but their City and State news coverage is excellent. If there's something going on in Karnataka worth knowing, chances are, you'll find it in Deccan Herald. I mainly choose it for sentimental reasons, since it my hometown newspaper.

But please give either of these a read, The Hindu in particular if you want more national and international coverage, and you'll clearly see why The Times of India is so inferior.

Mom (Bannon) said...

Luke 4:18-19 (red letter)-Jesus speaking: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has annointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." (The Messiah's ministry of preaching and healing-to meet every human need. (he has annointed me) not with literal oil, but with the Holy Spirit...
the year of the Lord's favor. Not a calendar year, but the year when salvation would be proclaimed ..with the death of Jesus and the ressurrection-the Messianic age. Isiah 61:1-2 alludes to the year of Jubilee Lev.25:8-55 when once every 50 years slaves were freed, debts were canceled and and ancestral property was returned to the original family. Isiah predicted the liberation of Israel from the future Babylonian captivity, but Jesus proclaimed liberation from sin and all its consequences.) I love this scripture also, and for me it is right in there with John 3:16.."whosoever believeth"..and the Good news is that Christ died for us all to pay for all our sins and aren't we grateful that He did...presenting believers with life eternal..I love your blog and the freedom, without criticism to express one's belief. I hope you never change your boldness in allowing this...thank you, I love you, Mom

Mom (Bannon) said...

I was just thinking about what a 'mess' this world is in, and wonder how much longer God will allow it to stand, rather than treat it like Sodom and Gommorah. I am glad we serve a merciful God, or surely He would just zap us all and start all over with a very small remnant of humanity...That would probably be a lot easier than trying to fix all that is wrong with us...What was Eve thinking when she listened to that serpent!! All was perfect until that moment...You 'guys' be very careful as a 'woman' will certainly lead you astray!! and just hink if Adam had stood up to her and said 'No way, woman, I am going to obey God, not you"...and we would not be having this signed: woman..that would be me!

E(Liz)a(Beth) said...

Vivek! Nice to see you again!

I agree that gay rights are very important. Brad and I weren't legally married for four months after our religious ceremony as a stand of solidarity with the gay community. And the NJ Supreme Court has moved the "cause" forward in a very promising way, in my opinion. But my point is that if we get to know each other and meet the person that we oppress, put a face to the name if you will, then maybe we can change our outlook on things. It's a different way of tackling the same problem.

And I wasn't referencing prayer in school but specifically the use of the word God in the pledge. I think these are two different things.

I think it's terribly unfair to compare Focus on the Family to the Taliban. James Dobson is certainly polarizing and he certainly has a lot of hatred and bile for those he disagrees with. The other day he had Ann Coulter and they spent the full hour ripping apart everyone on her silly radar. However. This does not compare to a group that grows poppy seeds for use as heroin. This does not compare to killing people without trial or context. It is completely unfair to place them in the same category.

E(Liz)a(Beth) said...

Oh, and thanks for the notes on the newspaper. I'll check to see if we can get either of those from our delivery guy.

Cathy said...

I think it is important to note here that dr. Dobson does not hate anyone that I am aware of, though I do not know him personally I do listen to his commentaries. While he may not agree with the values that are in question I have not heard him ever reiterate the essense of hate, that seems overstated in my estimation. This is the thing I keep running up against that I don't get. The goal of being a christian is to point your soul to God and don't let go, joining together with the reach that He has offered us. He is a very relational God if you read the words of the old and new testament. There are crazies in every aspect of every group that is a group, extremists that go overboard in their own quest for power and honor--this is the nature of the beast although it is not the goal of my understanding of choosing to be a christian. Still, that is the albatross that is placed around our necks as a way to define our intentions. I have trouble with making it illegal to pray in school since that is where our kids most likely need strength and guidance since so many of them are essentially raising themselves--to me THAT is oppression. If they want to lift a prayer why make them feel that it is useless or unfavorable? If God is taken out of the printed words and spoken words, how is anyone supposed to consider Him available? To me, THAT is oppression. If people wanting to believe in God makes a few uncomfortable, like smokers, let them go elsewhere:) Don't keep taking away the right to speak out for God. And I challenge anyone reading this, if you do not believe, prove it to me that He does not exist. There will always be poor and oppressed and we all will always face trials. It is how we live and react to our situations that strengthen the fibers of our being. Not politics or putting bandaids on the leaking hoover dam of poverty. We need to be the best we can be inside, soulfully alive, before we start taking on the world. It's tantamount to putting on armor. And as a personal clarification, My understanding of the love that Jesus offered us through his sacrifice is not really my purpose in life. It gives me a zeal I have never had, a Love on Fire, a desire to see how I can serve him today. I am not out to destroy anyone but to share the hope that was found inside my heart when I asked for His help. It is more than a psychological leg up--way more real than anything I have ever experienced and it gives me the third dimension to being. A peace that I can face anything and not be afraid or lost in the waves ever again. And bless the little children for letting me actually get through this with minimal diversions. Love, cathy

Cathy said...

It is the day after I have signed my last post and something is really eating away at me. That part about your wedding not being for real.. If you were standing in "solidarity" with the gay community I assume you mentioned it only to your gay friends as none of brad's family knew anything about it. That is not much of a stand but if I had known about it, I would not have busted my buns to get there with two small children in the heat of the year, I could have just waited and come to the real wedding, the one I was obviously not invited to be a part of. Nice to find out the party was a farce from the word go. And why do you call it a religious ceremony when you obviously manipulated the events to be about you and your issues? What did you actually have the ceremony for in the first place? You were already living together and you weren't "married" by the event anyhow. I will likely back off of the blog for now as I have alot of things going on that demand my energies and this one is getting to me in ways I had not foreseen. It bothers me way too much to see the Word of God bent around and "apostosized"(sp?) so everybody can 'Feel Good" about getting to do whatever it is they feel like doing in this world without ramifications. He left Us instructions and the many many divisions in religion usually occur when yet another fine group comes along and thinks they can improve on it. I constantly feel like I am tippying around on eggshells when it comes to conversating about these things that we have engaged in but this one made me pretty mad. It doesn't mean I do not love you both because I do. But I hope you that before you embark on being a full fledged chaplain or pastor, Brad, that you learn alot more about God, enough to be very very certain of the direction you are going to be leading people. And I would start by trying to determine how leadership wil be a fitting move for you when you have such a difficult time communicating with your simple family. You both think you hide the feelings you have about mom but neither of you do a very good job of it. You preach tolerance and yet I see little. You only want tolerant behavior for the issues you stand up for. That is simply not tolerance. And yes, I know tolerance is what I am lacking here too, but that is now my problem and I am going to go work on that. An education of your mind is virtually useless without a heart that can see just as well. Pardon the ranting but I could not let this go by because it is affecting the way I feel in ways you could not possibly imagine. I am sorry to let go on you like this but what you believe is right will affect so many because of what you have chosen to do with your life and alot of it is unsettling to me. Enough said. Cathy

Brad said...

Cathy, you WERE invited to our real wedding. I'm sorry that you do not see it that way. For me, it would not have been a "real wedding" without you and my family there to support me and Elizabeth. You have hurt us deeply with many of your comments, but I certainly understand that they are coming from a place of sincerity and deep emotion, so I will try to keep that in mind. I don't know if or when you will read this since you said that you will take time away from the blog, but I hope you will be able to forgive us in time. If I’d have known that you didn’t know about that aspect of our wedding and that it is such an important issue to you, please know that I would have discussed it with you. Even though it is after the fact now, I would still like to discuss it with you because I really do want to understand your feelings on it.

For me, human rights is not simply a political issue, it is a moral and theological issue. Our position has not been a secret. Mom and dad knew that we were not signing the marriage license. We had a long discussion about it several months before the wedding and I was open with them about the fact that because Rev. Ariarajah is not a citizen, he was not even eligible to sign our license. We had a very good conversation, in fact, about their marriage ceremony and they agreed that God had blessed their union and that the blessing from God was not because of the civil court but because of their love for one another and their love for God. Elizabeth and I agree with that belief. Our parents, our pastors, most of our friends, and most of our congregation knew that this was not a civil ceremony but that it was a religious ceremony. I can’t say that everyone knew, partially because we didn’t make a big issue out of it – that would have been somewhat against the point. Also, I know that there were plenty of people that didn’t understand it or simply disagreed. Mom and dad certainly didn’t say that they agreed with it, but they seemed to agree that the important thing was that we were married in the eyes of God.

Elizabeth and I feel bad that you found out from this blog, but believe me when I say that I thought you knew about it. In fact, I really thought that you and I talked about it in the kitchen at the church when you were helping me prepare the reception food. I remember you making a joke about eloping before the wedding or something and I said that, for us, the wedding is what is really important – a public profession of our love for each other in a church consecrated by God with the help of a pastor.

I did not realize that the legal aspect of it was such an issue for you or I would have tried to discuss it with you. I also did not know that you didn't know. A little bit in my defense, however... you said in a blog last week that you had no idea who Rev. Dr. Ariarajah is. Rev. Ariarajah is the minister that married us at our real wedding... our only wedding... the wedding that you came to. I do not believe that a county clerk assistant with a raised seal and blue stamp has the power to determine an issue like marriage, so I do not refer to that as a marriage and I certainly wouldn't call signing a piece of paper a wedding. Our legal ceremony was held just 3 hours before I boarded the plane for Ghana last December. There was absolutely nothing special or unique or auspicious about it. It was one of about 10 things on our to-do list before I left the country and we literally checked it off the list when we were done. In our minds, we were married on August 27, 2005.

There are very many things in your 2 posts and I don’t feel like this is the right place to respond to all of them. However, there is one thing that I want to make clear. Just because I want to be ordained does NOT mean that I will be or that I can be ordained. The process is long, difficult, and multi-faceted. There is an ordination committee and a liaison that evaluate me over the course of at least a year. In my case, it will be at least 2 years and possibly 3. That committee has the address of this blog and I have encouraged them (and will continue to encourage them) to read it and comment on it, if they wish. I want to make sure that you know and everyone else knows this because you are a part of the process.

I certainly am not telling you this to get you to censor your remarks or shy away from difficult issues. Quite to the contrary, I am encouraging you to be a part of the process. You made some strong statements that imply that you do not feel that I am fit for ordained ministry. Although those are hurtful to me, as your little brother, I also think it is important, for everyone’s sake, to get it out in the open and discuss whether or not you think I am fit for ordained ministry and why or why not. This blog, in my opinion, is a very good forum for a discussion like that.

As always, I love you very much and I admire your courage and the strength of your convictions. We may not agree on a lot of politics and we may read the Bible differently, but even as we stand on our soapboxes and fight for different issues, you will always be my big sister and you will always mean the world to me. I love you, Tully, Caylyn and Evan very, very much.


E(Liz)a(Beth) said...

I don't know if Cathy is going to read this, but I'd like to address some things that she's written. For full disclosure, I've also sent her an e-mail. This discussion has moved to the point of personal attack, which is not what this blog is meant to be about.

I, for one, think that Brad is going to make an excellent preacher. He is inspired in his interpretations of the Bible, and in our personal discussions, he always adds a dimension for me. He also poses more questions than anything else, which is what I revel in. We had a group at church called Living the Questions and it seems that Brad and I are on that path. I know what he preaches may not be for everyone, but I believe that they are many ways to interpret the Bible and Brad is merely pointing out one of them.

I also disagree with Cathy's assertion that Brad and I are coming to conclusions and then using the Bible to justify them. My interpretations of the Bible, which the prayer in the blog post neatly sums up, leave me feeling guilty more than anything else, because of the constant reminder that I've not done enough today to help the oppressed, hungry and poor of the world. This is the focus that I take from the scripture. In fact, this is the focus that I find in most religious scripture.

I would also like to say that if anyone else is wounded by something that I said or did, or is wounded by the openness of our blog, I am sorry. We never want to be the cause of someone else's pain. But what Brad and I did intend when we began this blog was for it to be an exchange of ideas. We are blessed with a diverse range of people in our lives and these people come here to read our thoughts. To have the group at large engage and debate is what we hope to achieve. So I hope that this is not the end of the discussion but a new, safe outlet where we can all discuss and share and come to some understanding of why we each hold the views that we do. We aren't looking to convince, only to understand.

Anonymous said...

i must say...people have their opinions! and rightfully so! I think.....everyone needs to take 2 steps back and take a deeep breath! breath in......breath through the nose, out through the seems to me that everyone is getting a little too "deep" and losing focus of what this "blog" is about! This is the first time I have been "here" and its maddness! focus on family! LOVE!!!! focus on the love of one another/each other and family NOW!!!!!Open your "big eye"!!! OPEN YOUR HEART!!!!!!!Family should always be first! No 2 people will EVER agree on anything 100%! we must agree to disagree and find peace in our love for eachother! L O V E ...I really belive its that simple! TWB

E(Liz)a(Beth) said...

Thank you, TWB, whoever you are! :) That is in essence what my post was about. We need to get back to loving each other. I wish I had been so succinct.

And I hope you keep coming back and visiting with us. Always great to have a new voice.

Brad said...

TWB - I'm guessing Tully Wynton Bachman? We certainly respect your right to anonymity, but we reserve our right to speculate! :)

TJ said...

I think the prophet, Paul McCartney, said it best when he said.....All we need is love...All we need is love....All we need is love, love....Love is all we need....:)

TJ said...

I will add this one thing as a comment on one of Elizabeth's most recent posts. It makes me sad to know that the Bible evokes feelings of guilt for you. Jesus came to set the captives from guilt, free from the sin that binds us all. The truth of Jesus Christ has set me free and because of that I praise His Holy name forever. He willingly sacrificed His perfect life as the perfect and final atonement for the sins of all mankind. If you believe that in your heart and confess your sins to Him and ask Him to be your Savior, you will be cleansed and reconcilled to God for all eternity. That is what freedom truly is. I pray for that for all who don't know Jesus in that way. Any questions? Love you always.

Mom (Bannon) said...

I keep trying not to respond to the wedding ceremony, but I am losing that battle with myself...Brad, I know that Elizabeth told us that Dr. A was not able to do a legal ceremony for your wedding, and I knew that you two were pondering how to work the actual legal marriage...and the week of the wedding I asked about it, and you said "we worked it out' I let it go at that...assuming you had worked it out, and it sounded like 'end of conversation'..I had no idea that you were making a "stand of solidarity with the gay community" and waited 4 months to get married after your religious ceremony until reading it on Elizabeth's blog to her friend Vivek...There is no doubt in the mind of anyone who knows me that I am not in agreement with people living together without them being married...I could not be more against it, but you know that. Your Dad was Catholic and me being Baptist, we were married by a Judge in Boulder, Colorado...for us that kept a lot of family issues at having to sign to raise the children Catholic..a wedding we could not that is the way we chose, but we were married (41 years ago)...It would certainly create issues for me if the girls thought that I knew you were not married for those 4 months...I did not know that, neither did your Dad...You two are grown and one day will teach your own children values. I do know one thing that everyone's values seem to change when they have children, but it is a new world that we live in today, so who knows how that will go in the future. The only values that never ever change are Gods. I love you two no matter what choices you make in your lives. We are your parents, and there is nothing you could do or say that would make us stop loving you, nor anything you could do to make God stop loving you. I love you both, your Mom

Brad said...

Can anyone explain to me why this is a big deal? I really, truly do not get it.

Elizabeth and I stood in front of 100 close friends and family and vowed our love and committment to one another for for the rest of our lives. We exchanged rings. Our union was blessed by two ordained pastors. We read scripture. We ate cake. How is that not a wedding? How is that not a marriage? I would very much like an answer to that that is not political - preferrably Biblical or theological.

For me, the central issue was not about gay marriage. My belief (we ARE talking about respecting one another's beliefs) is that the definition of "marriage" is a religious issue, not a political one. Marriage, for me, is not a list of legal protections or legal definitions, it is an issue of the spiritual union between two people. For me, the government cannot, should not, and does not make a determination of spiritual union. Elizabeth and I simply wanted to keep the two events separate. We had planned to sign the legal document after our honeymoon, but our lives were quite busy. We only did it when we did because of the travelling we were doing (to Ghana and Egypt) and we feared what might happen to the other financially if one of us was injured or worse. In essence, we did exactly what we intended to do - we had a public, spiritual union called "marriage" and we had a private, legal contract-signing for legal and financial reasons.

I really, really want an answer to my question, though, if anyone is able to proffer one. Personal politics aside, can anyone give me a reason for saying that walking down the aisle of a church in front of a hundred family and friends, exchanging vows and rings with one another, listening to an inspiring sermon about marriage, listening to scriptures about marriage, eating a meal to celebrate the marriage, and eating wedding cake... how is that not a marriage?

E(Liz)a(Beth) said...

Tonja, I'm sorry my comments made you sad! Now I feel even GUILTIER!! :) This is what I get for having a Catholic mother, I guess.

I can say that my guilt empowers me to act. If I didn't have it, I think I would become complacent, mostly because that's how I used to be. Of course, there's always room to do MORE but I hope I never do less that what I'm doing now. So while I understand how it can seem to be a saddening thing to embrace, my guilt is very important to my place in the world and my goals in life.

TJ said...

I’ve actually been studying this very subject this week in one of my Bible studies, so I’ll share some of the insights God has given me just yesterday. Boy, God is always right on time. God is looking for the healthy response of godly sorrow that brings repentance, not emotional self-mutilation. 2 Corinthians 7:10 says: “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” The Amplified Bible puts it like this: “For godly grief and the pain God is permitted to direct, produce a repentance that leads and contributes to salvation and deliverance from evil, and it never brings regret; but worldly grief (the hopeless sorrow that is characteristic of the pagan world) is deadly [breeding and ending in death].” Hopeless sorrow totally misses the meaning of the biblical word redemption. God redeems something by buying it back through the payment of a ransom. He gave the life of His Son as the ransom to buy us back from the clutches of sin. He has also bought back the rights to our past and all its failures. If we cooperate, He’ll turn every single one of those failures into something useful for His Kingdom. He wants to redeem every part of your life until even your failures bring Him Glory! Romans 8:28: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Oh, sweet Elizabeth, lay your guilt at the foot of the cross and let our Savior, Jesus Christ, work through you to accomplish His good works. Romans 8:29: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son....” Love, your sister.

TJ said...

OK, once again, I have been studying this exact subject matter in another one of my Bible studies. I’ve been doing a study on Covenant and how much I’ve learned and how much it has opened my eyes as to the relevance of the marriage covenant. I see no reason at all to think that you and Elizabeth were not married at your marriage ceremony, and I really don’t think anyone else doubts that either (though I haven’t specifically discussed this with anyone). Anyway, I just wanted to share some of what I’ve learned about covenant because I think it is so totally awesome. There’s so much that it’s hard to know where to start, but here goes...In Old Testament times covenant was a very serious matter, much more so than today. It was made between two parties before God. They would slaughter an animal, cut it in half, and then walk barefoot through the blood path. The slaughtered animals symbolized what would happen to either party if they violated the terms of the agreement.

This was the ceremony God chose to use when he entered into a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15. God asked Abram to take a heifer, a got and a ram, plus a dove and a young pigeon, and slaughter them. But there was an unusual twist in this ceremony. While Abraham and his descendants were committed to this covenant with God, only God walked the blood path, thereby signifying that if Israel violated the agreement, God would pay the price with His own blood. That price would later be God sent to earth as man in his Son, Jesus Christ. Doesn’t that just get your heart racing, it does mine! While Abraham didn’t walk the blood path, there was a symbol of his acceptance of the agreement, he and every male descendant was circumcised. (the significance of this is equally exciting, but I’ll save that one for another day).

So, technically, Abram and his descendants weren’t married to God in the same sense that we understand a wedding ceremony today. It would be more accurate to say they were betrothed, which means that they were promised to each other. It is the same for Christ and His bride, the church. The wedding feast celebrating this marriage remains in the future at the wedding supper of the Lamb. In our culture, couples are first engaged, declaring their intent to marry, but either party may back out before the wedding day, and there is no legal consequence for breaking an engagement. Such was not the case with betrothal. A betrothal was an ironclad contract that could be severed only by unfaithfulness or death. Though a couple might not celebrate and consummate their marriage for years, legally they were still considered married. (because their fathers had made a covenant with each other for the marriage, sealed in blood). Historically a covenant was always a religious ceremony, made before God as a witness.

I’m sure this is way more information than anyone expected, but I think it’s too cool not to share. So, as far as God is concerned, your marriage ceremony is a binding one. Even though you didn’t slaughter an animal and walk through blood, thank goodness, you made vows to each other and to God. Your rings are a reminder of that. We were all witnesses to this as well, so it is our duty to hold you to your vows. So go kiss your bride and tell her you love her!
Love, TJ

Brad said...

Thanks, TJ, I really needed that! It is very difficult to have my family tell me that the greatest, happiest, most joyful day of my life was not "real." Family means a great deal to me, so when my family uses a very public forum like this to hurt me like that, it cuts very deep. I know that we have differences in beliefs and I know that that is difficult for the family, but it really doesn't mean that I am a bad or immoral person. All it means is that we relate to God in a different way from one another. I think that is a testamony to God's grace... not a character flaw. So thank you for your post and I hope Mom & Cass will, at least, respond by email so that I can understand why they consider my wedding day to be something other than "real."

As for covenant, I think your interpretation is very good and perfectly valid. I happen to disagree a little bit, but, once again, I don't think that is a bad thing - I think it is a wonderful thing.

From your interpretation of covenant, it sounds a lot like a contract. But in the Jewish tradition, there is an important difference between a covenant and a contract. A Contract is one that is entered into by two parties; both parties agree to the contract and attest to their agreement by their signature, or sometimes by trading property. If one side breaks the contract, the other is released from their obligation. For example, if I contract to buy your house and I pay you, you are obligated to give me the house. If I don't pay you, the contract is void and you don't have to give me your house.

In a covenant, though, it is different. Two people covenant with one another, but a covenant cannot be broken simply because one person doesn't live up to their end of the bargain. In the case of the covenant with Abraham, God pledged to give the land to Abraham's descendents so long as Abraham and his descendants kept the law (circumcision, etc.). The fact that Abraham did not walk through the sacrificed animals does not make it an exceptional case - it makes it an exemplary case. God's promise to Abraham is one that God will keep regardless of how Abraham or his descendants behave. The moral of the story (in my humble opinion) is that God always keeps promises, even when we don't carry our end of the bargain. The important thing is that we remain faithful in our attempts to keep our promises to God. We all stumble, of course, and we feel guilty about it, as Elizabeth said, but in some ways it is our guilt - knowing that God is faithful and yet we are unfaithful - that compells us to be more faithful in the future. Jeremiah's covenenat is another exemplary example because God is deeply hurt at Israel's unfaithfulness, but writes the covenant on the hearts of the people so that they are more aware of their infidelity. A more poignant, though painful, example is the first two chapters of Hosea, which is about Israel's unfaithfulness to God's covenant, yet God remains steadfast, culminating in Hosea 2:16 "In that day," declares the LORD, "you will call me 'my husband'; you will no longer call me 'my master.'" (no mention of a marriage license in Hosea, by the way!)

I just want to emphasize again, though, that I think your interpretation is very good and quite valid. I read it a little more literally, but that certainly doesn't mean that I am right. For me, the fact that you and I can both read the same Bible and take away different but meaningful things is a joyous testament that the Bible is the Living Word, not simply dead parchment.

Thanks again for recognizing my marriage as valid. It really does mean a great deal to me. Also, I'm grateful for your interpretation of the Scripture. I think it would be great if we could have more of those kinds of discussions on the blog. I'd rather keep the personal stuff more private, but perhaps others would benefit from Bible study, too.

Thanks again, TJ. I love you, very, very much,

Cass said...

You two matter to me too. I have been searching for appropriate responses but have had a hard time keeping up with the blog banter. All I know is that what ticked me off was that Elizabeth stated that you two were not legally married because you were taking a stand for gay marriage. Brad, you say it is because you all were too busy. If marriage is such a moral and spiritual affair, why stand up for the political right for gays to marry? Couldn't those who feel the need to feel married just have a religious ceremony? I am thinking out loud here but the gay solidarity stand came up when Vivek appeared--could it be this mere cyber-utterance was a way to make Vivek feel more welcome? Never mind that no one ever comments so vibrantly on any of mom's commentaries, much less at all, and she cares more for you both than ANY of us ever will be ABLE to. It is well out of proportion by now and I am over it. I just want you two to know that I care very deeply about you and your well being. Our relationship to God is directly related to our relationship to those around us--and my relationship with you is more important than being surprised and frustrated by word choices and who meant what. Some day I will personally write you more about things that make me restless but for now, lets just all play nice and drop this thing. I am not jabbing at anyone or trying to make anyone feel bad or good. I just want to put an end to this speed bump of a conversation. It has slowed me down one too many days now. Love you both, Cath