I stand for equal rights for all and now find myself standing at the intersection of religion and politics. President Obama’s decision to affirm same-sex marriage has forced me to talk publicly about my private faith and cast my vote in the open and not behind a veil. Some say that Obama’s public pronouncement ignited a firestorm, but I believe he really was inviting debate and discussion to bring about “evolutionary thought” such as he has undergone.
There is no doubt in my mind that his decision to speak out on the same-sex marriage issue when he did may have been prompted by earlier comments on the subject by Vice President Biden. Whatever his primary motivation, I believe the president should be applauded even though he may have risked his political future and perhaps his life after politics by publicly stating, “Same-sex couples should be able to get married.”
But what better champion of marriage between loving couples than the president and first lady? We have witnessed their public displays of affection and love and know the duration of their marriage, which has done much to strengthen the image of married couples, especially in the African-American community.
We also know that the institution of marriage has been in trouble for quite some time in this country when we look at the divorce rate and the popular practice and preference of living together without benefit of marriage. So there’s no good reason to fault the president or those seeking to have their same-sex unions fully acknowledged.
Our country needs more leaders willing to speak their true beliefs and not just those that are popular. To speak truth would allow us to become the “land of the free and the home of the brave” in reality, not just the ending for our national anthem at the beginning of our sporting competitions.
There are many political issues that are of concern to me, but I do not vote for candidates solely because of their stance on thorny issues such as abortion or gun ownership or marriage equality. Let us not forget there used to be other prohibitions against marriage — slaves couldn’t legally marry so they instituted “jumping the broom” to seal their committed love, nor could a white person marry a non-white person.
It wasn’t until 1967 decision that the Supreme Court in Loving v. Virginia struck down the ban against interracial marriage in that state. Although the president’s words have yet to be followed by a policy decision, it is left to states like North Carolina to legislate the issue of same-sex marriage.
I, personally, stand for the equal rights of all Americans. As I was reminded this week, Christians, like me, often run to the Bible for cover and lift up verses to try to substantiate our beliefs in an ongoing effort to resist change and growth. “I Don’t Care What You Say” remains the oldest, largest, most powerful and diverse denomination.
I didn’t need to rush to the Scriptures to find my footing on same-sex marriage as some of my fellow religionists are bound to do. I stand not only on the word of God, as presented in the Scriptures and as spoken to me by God, but on what I know about God in God’s fullness.
God is a God of love. He is the creator of all humankind and loves one and all. Indeed the Apostle Paul, whom I find troubling and problematic in some areas, gets it right when he exclaims that there is nothing that can separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Either we all have equal rights or none of us have equal rights.
Thomas Bowen is the minister of fellowship and outreach at the historic Shiloh Baptist Church of Washington, D.C., and has served on the Board of Trustees for the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia and Centennial Celebration Task Force for the American Baptist Churches Inc.
Read more on The Root DC