A plea for empathy and equality

by Karen Phillips

Dan Cathy, president of Chick-fil-A, has been in the news recently for expressing the company’s stance on marriage, announcing that we are a prideful and arrogant nation for having the audacity to think we can redefine marriage from something other than that between a man and a woman, and may God have mercy on us all. He says he’s “guilty as charged” for taking this stance. Cathy’s comments did not come without controversy. Gay-rights supporters and activists vowed to protest against the restaurant. On the other hand, supporters of Chick-fil-A praised Cathy for standing by his religious beliefs throughout the backlash. Religious beliefs. That’s where this argument comes to a head. Many Christians believe that being gay is a sin. If we take the traditional interpretation of the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments make statements rejecting same-sex relations. The most commonly referred to text is in the Book of Leviticus, where same-sex relations are referred to as an “abomination.” The longest passage in the Bible to discuss same-sex relations is in the Book of Romans. Here, men and women knowingly and willingly turn away from God to worship false idols. They then abandon all their “natural” feelings towards the opposite sex and give into lustful desires with members of the same sex. To this, Paul says that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. Matthew Vines, a student at Harvard University, has devoted two years to dissecting the views of the Bible on this specific issue. If we look into the first passage a bit deeper, he says, it is a common Christian belief that the Book of Leviticus is no longer applicable because when Jesus died on the cross, he liberated Christians from these laws and created a new law. If Christians were to continue obeying these laws, eating shellfish, rabbit or pork would also be an “abomination.” So would charging interest on loans and having relations with a woman during her menstrual cycle. The Book of Leviticus has a vast number of rules that the church does not consider relevant anymore, so why is the passage against same-sex relations targeted as one to continue following? In the Book of Romans, men and women give into their lustful desires with same-sex partners, and they are denied the glory of God. However, upon deeper interpretation of this passage, we come to understand that there are two things God is truly angry about here: He is angry that His people are idolizing other gods besides Him, and He is angry that they are abandoning their “natural” feelings towards members of the opposite sex for lustful feelings for members of the same sex. Vines points out that in order for homosexuals to be denied the glory of God under the teaching in this passage, they would have to abandon their natural sexual orientation and succumb to lustful relations with their unnatural counterpart. In other words, they would have to reject their natural feelings to members of the same sex, and give into lustful desires with members of the opposite sex. Recently, mayors of Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and Washington DC, and a city council speaker in New York City have all expressed that they would like to either block new Chick-fil-A restaurants from opening in their cities, or ask the ones already there to leave. They feel their cities are diverse and accepting, and do not wish to have businesses with discriminating views among their welcoming communities. Supporters of Chick-fil-A argue that Cathy has merely publicized his religious view about marriage and cannot be banned from growing his business because of this. Although unclear as to what other redefinition of marriage he could have been referring to, and why God should pass judgment over us for it, this issue is not just a religious belief, it is a discriminatory stance and a civil rights discussion. Just like a black person cannot remove the color from her skin, a gay person cannot change her natural sexual orientation. Amendment one was passed in May 2012, confirming that a marriage in the state of North Carolina only be recognized between that of a man and a woman. Similarly, Proposition 8 in California also passed in 2008. However, the California Supreme Court repealed Prop 8 in 2010, declaring it unconstitutional. How can the same verbiage be unconstitutional in one state, but not in another? Is there more than one Constitution we should be referring to? Matthew Vines, 21, recounts how difficult it has been for him growing up a gay man in our society. He expresses that homosexuals, like heterosexuals, are capable of love, but under our current system, while straight people fall in love, get married and have families, gay people are believed to just have sex. However, gay people have the same capacity for love and self-giving that straight people do, Vines says. The emotional bond that gay couples share, and the quality of their love is identical to that of straight couples, he continues. Gay people come from families and they long to build families of their own. What gives us the right to say it’s our “belief” that they shouldn’t be allowed to do that? We are in the midst of a gay rights movement here in America, and I urge you to advocate in favor of equality. Watch Matthew Vines’ video, “The Gay Debate: The Bible and Homosexuality,” on YouTube and share it with your loved ones. We worked through women’s rights and segregation together, now let’s wipe out homophobia with knowledge and understanding.