Now that I have had some time to cool down from this week’s results on Amendment One, I thought I should share some thoughts and reflections in an attempt to make sense of this situation. I realized that my initial emotional response Wednesday would most likely incite a shit storm of equally angry opinion, backlash, and feedback that would only further divide fellow North Carolinians. I feel that a more cool headed response allows room for more logical, less divisive rhetoric. The purpose of standing up against this amendment was to protect North Carolina families and bring people together, instead of widening the gap between what is seen as “right vs. wrong family units”. Whether or not you agree, disagree, vehemently disagree, or are inundated by the sheer mediocrity and disorganization of my writing style, I welcome your feedback. I am not looking for a religious or political pissing contest in the form of an Internet argument, as I do not think this brief treatise warrants such reactions. If you take that much issue with it, I invite you hash out our differences over a cup of coffee sometime. I’ll buy.
In the spirit of appreciative inquiry, I will start with the positive aspects of this long and drawn out process. The way that communities, neighbors, friends, families, and strangers banded together to promulgate the true implications behind Amendment 1 was inspiring. The process of uniting together with no underlying pretensions, but only the purest intentions of protecting and salvaging the rights of North Carolinians was uplifting. During this struggle, at times it felt disheartening and overwhelming to bear witness to such condemnation and vitriol aimed at particular groups of people (usually with flimsy logic or merit). Conversely, the love and community cohesiveness always seemed to outweigh the hurtful convictions of others. I saw a diverse group of people unite from often-dissimilar backgrounds, ethnicity, religions, and sexual orientations into one dedicated and unified body. I saw much of my generation band together to stand up for the name of social justice, equality, and human rights. Alas, come post-election day, I was reminded that Orange and Durham County are not representative of traditional voting patterns in North Carolina.
The most encouraging, yet surprising discovery was the unyielding support conveyed by numerous religious communities across the state. I will admit, I have not considered myself in some years to be a particularly religious individual and I often tend to disagree with merits and social/political views held by traditional religious bodies. I often tended to ere towards the more spiritual essence of faith rather than the religious piece, which is why I never felt a comfortable place in a traditional church setting. But how churches, denominations, and religious communities rose to defend same sex unions was more than emotionally gratifying, it completely redeemed my views on faith communities in our state. Hearing stories from pastors like Jimmy Creech and others, united two previously disparate concepts I held, religion and social justice. While for some, contempt for same sex couples is often misconstrued by the false pretext of “Christian” morality. After witnessing faith communities band together and unite the ideas of the church with the fight for social justice, I feel a complete renewal and transformation of my own spirituality and faith in the goodness of church bodies.
Twenty-three years is certainly not a great amount of time, but if anything has taught me that our lives are not rigid, and nor should we be in our logic. Life is experiential, fluid, and subject to changes throughout our life courses. I am neither disagreeing nor disparaging the way some folks of religion and Christianity that live in accordance with their interpretation of scripture, literal interpretation or not. As I was raised in a Christian home, church, and school, the God that I came to know was not one of exclusion or non-acceptance. I never became a theologian or evolved into a man of exemplary faith, but the God I was raised with was one of love, not of exclusion or condemnation, but just simply of love and acceptance. How far people can drift from the true spirit of God, the love for all people, whether or not for Christ followers or non-followers is undoubtedly the most frustrating issue. Perhaps I am just too much of an idealist when I reflect on religiosity.
An attitude of exclusion does not proliferate the love of God or speak to the heart of Christianity. When I think of God and spirituality, I think of an attitude of unadulterated uplifting faith and compassion for a fellow human being. Embodying a spirit of hate for a group of people is not in the spirit of God. People are always entitled to exercise their religious beliefs however they see fit, but why go out of your way to hurt others and engrain discrimination into our state constitution? I refuse to accept the argument conceived by conventional religious thought stating that the driving logic and force behind Amendment 1 is somehow “God’s will”. I refuse to accept the rather banal Christian platitude that argues that voting for this Amendment is an act of furthering the message of God or reflecting “God’s Kingdom” as prescribed by strategically selected passages in the Bible. But I suppose it’s easy for me to make that assumption because I do not feel threatened by marriage, or as some like to say “gay marriage”. In my nine years of Bible classes at a Christian primary school, I do not recall Jesus speaking against homosexuals at any point in the scripture.
Sure, one can say the Bible condemns homosexuality, however, it also offers scripture that vindicates slavery, the subjection of women, and an argument that the sun revolves around the earth. Pardon the rhetorical question, but do people in today’s era currently practice all acts that can be properly substantiated by scripture? Of course not, human logic and spiritual growth supersedes literal interpretation of ancient scripture, and should not adhere to stringent and uncompromising ideologies. It is not unfathomable to comprehend that the world is much different than it was 3,000 years ago when the Old Testament was written. Much as it clear to see that our county is incomparable to what it was when the amendments in the Bill of Rights were ratified over 220 years ago. That is why we add amendments such as the 13th Amendment to outlaw the barbarism and injustice of slavery, the 19th as a victory for the women’s suffrage movement, and passed milestone legislation such as the Civil Rights Act in 1964. After all, homosexuals have endured years of persecution and bigotry. This group has traditionally experienced isolation and feeling estranged from the rest of society that has historically labeled their expressions of love as a mental illness, an outright crime, immoral and evil, and a threat to security and morale by the military. I cannot fathom how people refuse to equate gay rights advancement as a momentous civil rights movement that is unworthy of their vote.
Time changes, people’s morals evolve, acceptance permeates attitudes of resistance and it’s time for us all to grow a little ourselves. Furthermore, when you take a rigid black and white stance, you do not just marginalize others, but also yourself. You trap yourself when you outline the guidelines and blueprints for your life and others’ lives in pen, instead of pencil, because when you outline it in pen, you’re stuck. Because when you strip away a few black and white interpretations of old scriptures, you’re left with passages like Galatians 3:28, “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus”. Someone’s orientation should not designate him or her as immoral, unequal, or unworthy of the equal rights and protections as any other American taxpayer. Granting same sex couples should not be a religious issue, but of basic human rights, but maybe I’m just too idealistic.
I refuse to resort to name-calling. I refuse to give in. I refuse to allow the rights of fellow North Carolinians to go unrecognized. I refuse to let friends, family members, neighbors, and proud communities suffer because their relationships are somehow deemed invalid or unequal under the false pretexts of misconstrued religion or morality. How many more children, spouses, and families have to suffer? I believe in the good in people and I refuse anything otherwise. While I am disappointed and somewhat disillusioned with the decision of fellow voters in my home state, I refuse to give up this fight. Our communities, neighbors, friends, and religious communities did not unite as boisterous advocates for social justice only to concede upon an initial setback. I believe our African American brothers and sisters dealt with adversity quite admirably as they conceded not an inch in the struggle for their rights. I for one do not care to resign our efforts with the recent passing of amendment one, this fight is too important. Let us continue the fight as allies for our fellow North Carolinians, LGBT or heterosexual alike. This amendment hurts everybody. I say enough is enough.
Another frustrated North Carolinian,
Reiss M. Powell