Thursday, November 02, 2006

Vote No! A Pastoral Plea: Pass It On

On November 7, Virginian's will be asked to write discrimination into a constitution crafted in a spirit of "forbearance, love and charity."
In the name of a narrow and restricted view of marriage based on an impoverished reading of scripture, leaders of the Religious Right are encouraging their followers to support this amendment.
Marshall-Newman is bad law, and such support is bad theology. Bad law and bad theology make a dangerous and volatile mix that Virginia does not need.
Marshall-Newman is bad law because it fails the first measure of good law: clarity of purpose. When two of the commonwealth's statewide elected officials come to diametrically opposed and fundamentally incompatible conclusions about the effects of a proposed constitution amendment -- as Gov. Tim Kaine and Attorney General Bob McDonell have -- you have a recipe for clogged courts and judicial confusion.
Supporting such bad law in the name of one-sided readings of brief passages of scripture taken out of their historical contexts is bad theology. Blaming a loving, grace-filled God for our own human tendency to fear those who are different from ourselves is even worse theology. Acting on those fears in ways that will hurt others is nothing short of demonic. Just as we opponents of Marshall-Newman say "read the whole thing," a faithful response to scripture requires that we read fully as well. A full reading reveals a God in love with all of creation and humankind made fully -- each and every one of us -- in the image of the divine.
As the full text of the proposed Marshall-Newman amendment reads, the amendment could deny legal rights and protections to the more than 100,000 unmarried couples in Virginia -- roughly 90 percent of whom are heterosexual. Domestic violence protections have been threatened in Ohio under an almost identical constitutional amendment.
In other words, a vote for ballot question 1 (the Marshall-Newman amendment) will affect someone you know and it could well hurt them. Passage of the amendment will not help anyone.
That many Virginia families are struggling no one denies. That many Virginia marriages are strained is equally undeniable. Only 17 states have higher divorce rates. Ten percent of Virginians live below the federal poverty rate. Surely these are signs that point to real suffering.
But Marshall-Newman will do nothing to support Virginia families or strengthen marriages in the Commonwealth.
Rather, it seems a smokescreen designed to focus attention on scapegoats instead of on the poverty of ideas that plagues the commonwealth.
In my own Presbyterian tradition we say that we are the church Reformed and always open to being reformed according to the will of God and the movement of the Spirit. In other words, we share a deep conviction that God is not through with us.
Virginia has an opportunity next Tuesday to speak boldly from that very conviction. God is calling forth a new vision of the commonwealth.
God calls us to loving and faithful relationships. Marshall-Newman inscribes hate-filled discrimination into the constitution.
God calls us to be filled with grace and mercy. Marshall-Newman is full of judgment and condemnation.
God calls us to build a commonwealth of belovedness. Marshall-Newman rests on a poverty of compassion.
God is not through with us.
With that deep conviction, I urge you to vote No on ballot question 1.

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