If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not... understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don't want to deny you yours. They don't want to take anything away from you. They want what you want -- a chance to be a little less alone in the world.
I can understand - though I disagree with them - why some people would be religiously opposed to same-sex relations. I can thus understand why there may be rules and regulations within particular religious communities prohibiting same-sex sexual relations, though such rules are not, I believe, supported by an appropriate understanding of Christian theology and ethics. I can understand why some, whose view of the divine-human relationship is shaped by what scholars call the Deuteronomist school, would try their best to remove "self-avowed, practicing homosexuals" (in quotes because I hate that phrase, which shows up in United Methodist polity on the issue) from their congregations and denomination.
After all, the Deuteronomists - whose main contribution to the Hebrew scriptures is the bulk of Joshua - viewed purity as the main religious concern. Purity of identity and purity of ritual. This purity is the driving force behind the covenantal relationship between God and the religious community. The fate of that community rests on their upholding their end of their covenant with God, which is to keep their group pure. Thus tolerating those who bring impurity into the group could, in this view, bring disaster to the group.
I saw this theology up close and personal in the church that I pastored. That church, part of a dwindling rural community with few jobs and fewer young people - who would leave in droves after they graduated high school - was in an uneasy position. They viewed their history in terms of their relationship with God. When things were going well they enjoyed God's favor, when things were going poorly they suffered God's wrath. In the brief time that I pastored them, things were going poorly. And, while I had plenty of sociological reasons for their decline, they saw it through a theological lens. They were suffering, they explained to me, because they had fallen from God. How had they fallen from God? By tolerating my heretical preaching.
That is how this theology works in a church. There it is destructive, forcing out those who in their mind bring impurity into the community. While I disagree with it, I understand it. It has ancient roots, and even in its most destructive moments articulates something constructive, that the religious community must live up to its covenant with God, striving to be who God calls it to be.
But the United States is not a religious community with a collective self-understanding of being in a particular relationship with God. We are not a church, but a nation, and a pluralistic one at that. The broad diversity of faith - which even includes those who say they have no faith - makes, in the interest of both peace and liberty, some distinction between the regulations of any particular religious community on the one hand and the laws of the state on the other absolutely necessary.
Yet in Prop 8 we have no non-religious justification for the imposition of a law that makes sense only within a particular religious community. In Prop 8 we have religious bodies - mainly the Church of Jesus Christ of Later Day Saints - both funding and even running a political campaign to alter the constitution of a state. Even for those who have religious convictions on the issue - and I should again state that I don't think that such convictions properly understand Christian theology and ethics - this should be chilling.
When churches help pass laws and alter constitutions, principally on the grounds of the rules and regulations of their own particular community, founded on that community's understanding of its relationship with God, it begs this most frightening question:
Which religion, which church, gets to decide which of its own rules get to become civil law?
Because, religious people, we don't all agree.
We may celebrate the imposition of our own religious code on the broader population, but will we celebrate when someone else's religious code is imposed on us?
Keith Olbermann asks of those who support Prop 8 and other such legal efforts to deny equal rights to LGBT persons, Why does this matter to you?
What do you think is at stake here, other than the imposition of a particular religious moral code on the general population? Does the notion that some people have different sexual desires than yours somehow threaten your own sex life? Does the notion that two people of the same gender want to carve out a life together somehow threaten the life and household you've established for yourself?
Because, outside of the religious concern, I just don't get this. And, if the religious concern is the driving force, it should be driving the other way! Because all people who value their own religious freedom should be scared to death of the imposition of any particular religious code on the general population, as the same mechanism may then impose itself on your own practice of your own faith.