Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Why Jesus Would Vote No On 8

Throughout this election season we have seen wild accusations, strong feelings and deceitful advertising on many issues. Nationally, this is focused on the Presidential race, but here in California we are seeing the same kind of bitter focus on a piece of legislation that, for a large portion of our population, is equally important.

I am among those with strong feelings about the proposal to amend the state constitution to define legal marriage as being between a man and a woman. Simply put, I must tell you that I am categorically against any law which denies any citizen their civil rights.

The primary opposition to that view is being based in the churches. It’s predictable. It is also, from my point of view, incredibly sad.

Approximately two thousand years ago, a transformational figure emerged from a small town called Nazareth. This man’s teachings and morality were so revolutionary that they have literally transformed the globe. He was an incredible pioneer… not in the area of religion, although that certainly applies. But in civil rights.

Let’s look at the man, his actions and his teaching. I am restraining this discussion to the actual words and deeds of the man Jesus. I am not, for the purposes of this piece, interested in the epistles of his followers. Also, I am taking the Gospels at face value, ignoring the questions about the literal truth of the document and focusing on the man they describe.

Jesus of Nazareth was the one of the first major western figures to propose such revolutionary concepts as the separation of church and state, pacifism in the face of persecution and a commitment to care for the poor, sick and disabled. But the leadership position I wish to emphasize here is his belief in equality.

If you examine the teachings and words of Jesus, you find a dramatic difference between him and his contemporaries. One that is less obvious to us because of the very changes his teachings helped bring about.

In that time, it was an accepted truth that a king was in all ways superior to his subjects, that only a priest could speak to God and that people who were different were inferior. Women were chattel. Children were an expendable commodity. Slavery was common. Those who worked in certain professions were not only misguided, but evil and sub-human.

Jesus rejected all of the above. He recruited his disciples from the ranks of fishermen. Laborers, whose lack of formal education was appalling to the men who sat in the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem. He dared to suggest that a common man was as valuable as a king or priest. He not only suffered the attentions of children, he adored them. He sought out the companionship of women, not as sexual vessels, but as his intellectual equal. He healed lepers, who were considered to have been afflicted by God for their sins. He comforted the insane, who were considered to be possessed by demons.

And perhaps most shocking of all, he preached that Samaritans and Gentiles of all sorts, even Romans, were worthy of respect. Just as were such “scum” as tax collectors and prostitutes.

When he would not desist from these teachings, he was considered so incredibly dangerous that he was put to death. Not by the civil authorities. According to most accounts, they did everything they could to avoid condemning him. He was condemned by the religious establishment of his own country. By those viewed by the masses he preached to as closest to God. By the men who should most have embraced his message, were they truly concerned with souls instead of shekels.

Now, those who occupy the same place in the consciousness of California are arguing that a group of God’s children are somehow less deserving of civil rights. That granting these civil rights, despite not changing a single thing about their own lives, will somehow reduce the value of marriage. They are arguing that a “true believer” has no choice but to vote yes on Proposition Eight.

In doing so, they take a direct stand against the ideals of Jesus of Nazareth. They betray the very concepts this man died a horrible death to defend. They deny his example. Note that I am not talking about sin. I am talking about the legal principles that Jesus pioneered.

Peter denied his Lord three times. These people prepare to follow the example of Peter on November fourth. Peter’s guilt, by all accounts, followed him for the rest of his days and even influenced the manner of his death.

There is no doubt in my mind that if Jesus of Nazareth were to cast a ballot this November, he would vote against this measure to disenfranchise a portion of the masses. Every position of his ministry expresses this. He died rather than reject his convictions.

If you truly honor this man, how can you betray the principles of his life?

Ignore your personal Sanhedrin. Vote no on Proposition Eight.

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