Saturday, March 20, 2004

Why are students so much smarter about same-sex marriage

So we had the big gay marriage/morality of homosexuality discussion today at L.A. Youth. By and large, we (editors) this it was a great success. Sure, it got heated (more so than two weeks ago, according to one of the other editors), but students we talked to (liberal ones, granted) said that they felt this was very valuable experience.

we had an evangelical pastor, Ben, who's in charge of his congregation's youth ministry, a baptist pastor James (though for only about an hour), a christian lesbian, Cecelia, and the pastor with the Metro Community Church Neil, (founded as a christian church for LGBT), plus we had 27 teens (four visitor types) and the eds.

most of our student staff is pro-gay marriage and even one, whose disgusted by homosexuals, feels like "it's their business, who is the government to legislate against it." several though are against, though one (joe) didn't show up today but for a minute and the other (nikki who also brought friends) didn't talk at all (and neither did the friends), so essentially today it was Julie left to fend for herself.

we all felt badly for Julie, like perhaps she may have felt ganged up on. we prefaced our discussion by talking about what we were trying to accomplish--basically an exchange of viewpoints in an open environment and to help many of our teen staff get a better handle on the Christian notion of love. but nevertheless, we're not sure if she felt this environment was totally open to her obviously minority point of view. she was a little overmatched against Neil from the Metro Comm Church (MCC). she would quote bible verses and he was ready. obviously, he's been through this before many times and is very savvy. however, he was a little harsh with her.

she is not the most diplomatic in talking about this stuff -- posture, tone of voice, rigid righteousness and she even condescends. right off the bat she referred to neil and cecelia as "supposed christians" (imagine that dripping with sarcasm). well, this time the tables were turned on her. i felt bad though b/c her age left her less diplomatically savvy (compared to say the other pastor) and MCC pastor, Neil, i think took that out on her somewhat. now while i abhor her belief system, we all got the sense that she was pretty angst-ridden when she left and may not have felt like we created a truly open environment. as an aside, the la youth signs that i hang up giving directions on how to buzz in, etc, we both on the ground after the meeting. the sign downstairs was actually outside on the ground. i am taking that at face value, somehow it fell (perhaps a poor taping job). but i cannot say that the thought of an angry student knocking it down hasn't crossed my mind. hell, i wouldn't have mentioned it here if i didn't think that at least once.

andrea (leave it to her as one of our best and brightest) asked one of the best questions... how could these christians have a god that loves the sinner but doesn't accept their "sin." they said that it was analagous to loving a person who cheats on his wife, but obvioulsy being aghast at the cheating. they essentially felt that homosexuality was a behavior that could be changed or at least avoided. coming from the other point of view were our gay speakers and most of our staff, that this is who these people are. period. so if you don't accept them, you cannot love them unconditionally. the idea that god, whose been portrayed to them as all-loving, could discriminate was really offensive to them deeply, we suspected.

our lesbian christian, Cecelia (a friend of rachel hamilton's who used to work here), was great. she was very measured, diplomatic and compassionate. she was less combative than neil. she also helped keep us on point. the discussion as you can imagine moved from legal to moral to the history of marriage (as a form of property exchange) to biblical interpretationism to what defines family. it was kinda nutty. as the hosts we weren't entirely sure when to jump in and when to protect the students. but we remembered that pretty much everyone knew what they were getting into so we didn't want to over-protect them. i mean we started LA Youth b/c teens are underestimated. we didn't want to do that, ya know?

rachel l, one of the teens, brought up a sad story about how gays come to her unitarian church b/c they've been hurtfully drummed out of their previous churches. another student broke down as she told about how her parents won't get divorced b/c of religious rules forbidding it in the catholic church. and yet they are a really messed up family. she just think it's horrible to think that god, who she believes in, would ever create rules that caused so much hurt. she says that christians would use that to discriminate or legislate against someone's happiness is really sad. i had to bring her a tissue and a glass of water after she started crying. my heart just broke with this one.

another student, stephanie, brought up how her mom and dad couldn't get married in church b/c her dad is divorced. but they are good christians -- good people that go to church, contribute to the community. but in some ways they are still second class in the eyes of church leaders, who imply that they're kinda second class in the eyes of god. stephanie is also christian and is very troubled by this idea. how can human interpretation of the divine make anyone second class in the eyes of an all-loving god. she also got choked up and then proceeded to break my heart, too.

i was so proud of the staff members. they showed courage, compassion, conviction, and at least enough open-mindedness to listen to someone else. and to try and adopt a new world view for at least a few minutes. it totally cemented in me the certainty that this is what i should be doing right now.

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