Last night, Leora and I attended the Workhouse Theatre/Flower Shop Project production of But Not for Love, by my friend, mentor, and dude-what-makes-sure-I’m-writing-regularly, Matthew A. Everett. It’s a very good play. If you’re looking for something to do this afternoon, you could maybe go see its last performance at 2:00.
The play centers around a double wedding: Eleanor to Roland; Eleanor’s brother Ephram to her old civil-disobedience buddy Patrick. Roland and Ephram, reluctant activists at best, struggle to reconcile the intimate expression of commitment they believe weddings to be with the media circus theirs have become. Meanwhile, outside the church, Patrick’s brother Jacob leads a rabble of increasingly agitated anti-marriage-equality protesters. The play does an excellent job of exploring one aspect of the marriage equality debate.
It also made me angry. But that’s not Everett’s fault. Nor the play’s. It’s society’s fault. Stoopid society.
All the characters in But Not for Love are Christian. Most of their arguments for or against same-sex marriage are rooted in Christian scriptural and dogmatic interpretation. That’s fine; given the relationship structures of the play, only two characters could conceivably have been otherwise, and only one wouldn’t have made it a very different play than Everett was trying to write.
But thinking and talking about the play on the way home was, for me, a hop, skip, and jump to thinking about how much of the real-world debate around marriage equality and the marriage-restriction amendment on the Minnesota ballot come election day has been framed in terms of Abrahamic morality. “The Old Testament says this.” “But the New Testament says that.” “Allah commands this.” “But Jesus did that.” And that was when I got angry.
I realize that the majority of religionists in the U.S. are Abrahamists. Adherents of the Big Three monotheisms will have to examine their consciences and decide how they will choose to deal with any perceived incompatibility between their faiths and our rapidly changing society. This is valuable, noble, important work. Know what it’s good for? Deciding if your denomination will ordain LGBT clergy, or if your congregation will perform or recognize same-sex unions. You can do that, for your denomination or congregation, and no “political correctness police” or “gay-agenda activists” will swoop in and force you to toe some horrifying secular humanist line. The First Amendment has this nifty Free Exercise Clause, which says the government doesn’t get to interfere with the exercise of your sincerely held religious beliefs.
Know what this soul-searching isn’t good for? Making any sort of law regarding the rights of U.S. citizens. The First Amendment has another thing called the Establishment Clause, which says the government doesn’t get to favor one religion over others in its lawin’. No matter how fervently you (or your congressional representative) believe homosexuality is an abomination before G-d, or Jesus fought for the underprivileged, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster touches everyone with His Noodly Appendage wink wink nudge nudge, it should have no place in our Constitution. A great many Americans (and Minnesotans) do not adhere to your religion and should not be forced to live by its rules. Yet so many blithely carry on debating this issue primarily on the basis of which version of the Bible they think we should be reading.
Go see the last performance of But Not for Love, if you can. And vote on November 6. Vote your conscience. Your conscience. And, please, whether your YHVH, your Jesus, your Allah, your Buddha, your Lord Shiva, your Athena, your Zoroaster, or your Flying Spaghetti Monster condemns or supports marriage equality, voter ID, or the local Soil and Water Board candidate, leave them outside. One to a voting booth, please.