This is the first in a three-part series.
In August, I voiced my thoughts on same-sex marriage and Anne Rice's much-publicized renunciation of organized Christianity. The feedback I received was, to say the least, energetic.
Were I the extremist pastor of a 50-member church threatening to burn copies of the "Twilight" books, I may have gotten more attention. But, I figure the president, secretary of state, secretary of defense and the commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan have better things to do than quell any civil uprisings I might generate.
To reiterate briefly, like Rice, I've grown weary of a religious institution that has suffered from its own hypocrisy and made others it disagrees with to suffer more. I don't believe it is my mission to force others to hold the same set of standards that are set for me by my faith.
There is most certainly an intersection of religious values and moral values, but in a free and civilized society where the separation of church and state is best for both sides, religious values don't necessarily trump moral values. I believe that organized religion has done a very good job of saving lives — mine included — but also of making too many lost souls feel unwanted or unworthy of the salvation it is preaching.
I believe in the due process of laws, even laws passed by a majority of voters and even if the overturning judge is gay and was appointed by a conservative president.
I wish as much time, resources and money were spent on outlawing adultery as has been spent on banning same-sex marriage. Nothing threatens the sanctity of marriage more than that. After all, it did get its own commandment.
However, while I would renounce the black eyes on the church as I see them, I cannot renounce the church itself; the church is people, not buildings, laws, dogmas, politics, lower taxes, higher ratings or Ann Coulter. And the people comprising that church don't always agree, which makes it a microcosm of our human race.
Not surprisingly, my opinions were called into question. I received some incredibly thoughtful counter arguments from people who have spent much time in sincere study on the topic of faith and the course it should set for one's life. I am grateful for their respect and kind words in challenging me and providing me with their insights, wisdom and brotherly love. I most certainly don't have all the answers, and they gave me much to think about.
I was kindly asked by one reader to double check whether I was indeed a Christian. To help me, he supplied a 10-point checklist, my answers to which would determine whether I was a real Christian or an imposter. I won't tell you how I scored.
Gladly, none of the feedback was hostile. Despite the fact that I write a newspaper column, I'm as petrified of rejection as an "American Idol" contestant. The angriest response was not to the things I said about religion or same-sex marriage, but in claiming Fox News panders to a rabid fan base. Apparently one can say whatever they want about God and homosexuality, but smear Fox News and you've crossed the line. Perhaps I could have chosen more respectful words. Sorry, Mom.
The majority of the responses were supportive. And though that's far from scientific research, something about it surprised me. The positive feedback came not only from admitted non-believers, pagans and druids, but mostly from those with a self-professed Christian faith. Imposters or not, that tells me this topic deserves more dialogue. It tells me that many people, in the pews and outside, are seeking answers on these difficult subjects and want to avoid the hurtful rhetoric that has harmed so many for centuries.
Despite my score on the Top Ten Reasons You Might Be an Imposter list, I am a Christian. And that means my faith will be tested each and every day. I'm not afraid to admit that these topics test my faith. Apparently I'm not alone.
I'm not attempting to change anyone's mind here. That's impossible. I'm not debating here whether homosexuality is a sin or immoral. To those with years of theological study, this is an open-and-shut case, and that closet door remains closed.
I can't argue against their well-documented reasoning. But to those who are unable to reconcile faith with feeling, a doctrine with a devotion, the rules of life are not so clear. To those whose God-given gifts are seemingly at odds with the God that has been preached to them, the path is decidedly rocky.
And that brings me to Marguerite, Maggie to her friends. But I like the former. It sounds more lyrical — like the woman herself. Her response got me thinking more than all the others combined.
I'm not a faith page writer, so I don't usually quote scripture. I know how that can turn people off faster than watching your parents engage in public displays of affection. But I thought this passage from Ephesians was appropriate to the conversation: "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you."
Lost in our debate is the fact that we're talking about people — real people with real beliefs, emotions and rights. And Marguerite has graciously allowed me to share a little of her story. It's not a perfect story. The reason for that is because, as I just pointed out, it is about people. And people cannot be perfect. But I hope it helps us to see some part of the brokenness of a broken situation. I ask you to walk that road with me briefly, before we go back to our own.
Next week: Maggie's Story, Part 1.