Whet has Jerusalem to do with Trenton? As marriage equality is debated in New Jersey—with a governor as compassionate and reasoning as Captain Ahab determined to stop it—three local religious leaders have the courage to lay their cards on the table. When Bishop Beckwith (Episcopal, Newark), Bishop Riley (ELCA, New Jersey), and Rabbi Gewirtz (Millburn) penned a piece entitled “Religion shouldn’t sway Trenton in this debate” in the New Jersey Star-Ledger, it almost restored my faith in religion being capable of some good. The three leaders, from different theological perspectives, agree that the Bible can’t be used for a one-to-one correspondence to modern society on this issue. They correctly point out that theologians disagree and that the remit of the government is not to uphold the view of any one of those traditions. When church leaders start making sense, I begin to tremble.
Politicians are never among the most astute of theological thinkers—and I would include those clergy elected to public office in that number. The rare public official who is qualified to think about such things intelligently frequently has trouble swaying his (almost always his) colleagues who have visions of pork barrels dancing in their heads. Marriage is about commitment, not sexuality. Studies have indicated many sexless marriages exist, yet we applaud them for their consistency. For those with a different orientation, we outlaw formal recognition and call them sinners. In the name of a government sworn not to uphold any one religion. It is time our legislators awake from their snoozes and realize that many mainstream religions have gotten over homophobia, and their religion is discriminated against by such petty power plays.
I applaud the efforts of religious leaders to point this out to a governor who has gone on record saying he’s not one “who changes positions with the grace of a ballerina” (propriety forbids me from finishing that thought). If that chunky ballerina, however, has ended his twirl facing the wrong direction, doesn’t the audience expect him to hike up his tutu and correct his error? I note that our Roman Catholic compatriots did not sign the letter. If ever a church showed the signs of centuries of sexual neuroses, would we trust it to make informed decisions on who might sleep with whom? Is that what marriage has been reduced to in the minds of the celibate clergy? It’s all about sex? Maybe if politicians and unenlightened theologians could pry their minds out of other people’s bedrooms and learn to treat them as complex, descent human beings we might actually see New Jersey leading the world in the right direction for once.