Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Paying The Price

The Rev. Joseph B. Fuiten, senior pastor of Cedar Park Church in Bothell, has an opinion piece in the Tacoma News Tribune lamenting the price Christians paid for fighting and losing Referendum 71.

We failed in our message.

We failed in our methods.

We failed in our money.

Furthermore, I still have to wonder if God was in the effort.

I'd like to address each of these.

They failed in their message.

Essentially it was fear based. School curricula would likely be changed to teach children that same-sex marriage and homosexuality are normal. Marriage was being redefined. Free speech would be criminalized. Marriage needed to be protected. Children growing up in nontraditional families--as if this referendum would suddenly make them disappear if it was defeated?--are not as healthy emotionally and physically as children in traditional families. Even the Catholic church I attend handed out pamphlets imploring us to preserve marriage and protect our children.

All nonsense. I'm reminded of the closing argument Clarence Darrow made while defending Henry Sweet for murder back in 1926. Darrow made clear that the real issue was race, not murder. (A wonderfully crafted speech I highly encourage you to read.) The real issue here was anti-gay bigotry. In that respect I think they were very effective making their message known.

They failed in their method.

As the reverend admits, they appealed to people who would likely agree with them--other Christians. And they fear mongered. They set up a web site just for this purpose adding to their claim to the high road when it comes to "values". Their video productions were emotional appeals to believers and offered nothing to dissuade or convince an open-minded person dealing in reality. Even the Catholic church, under the guise of a reasoned and rational argument, used "gay marriage" as a boogeyman. I think their method was very successful at conveying their message.

They failed in their money.

Hands down. (Select 71 in the Initiative list on the left) If there's a future attempt at legalizing same-sex marriage in the State of Washington, there may be a lot more money spent as was done in Maine. For example, the Catholic church in Maine, despite having to close parishes they couldn't afford to keep open, somehow managed to contribute over a half of a million dollars to help pass Proposition 1, defeating same-sex marriage. It will be interesting to see what the bankrupt Spokane Diocese does if legalized same-sex marriage is attempted in Washington.

Rev. Fuiten has to wonder if God was in the effort.

An interesting wonder. Why, because they lost? How many fights, battles, wars and arguments have taken place in which one or both sides claimed or was assured God was an ally? History has shown that the winner gets to claim the support of their divine being. The Great Spirit may have presided over the death of George Armstrong Custer at Little Big Horn, but God made sure it never happened again. There was no need for God to be in the effort this time. God's most fervent followers make God less relevant and that is what I think really concerns the Reverend Fuiten.

Pastor Fuiten should look at the email he sent back in May of this year when he listed reasons for not running a referendum. (The many replies from other religious leaders, attorneys, and friends are enlightening.) He knew this was a losing effort from the start. So why the anguish?

In support of my relevancy comment, Fuiten wonders if the reputations of Christians have suffered.

Was the referendum an effort blessed by God? Did the Kingdom of God advance because of the effort? I have not heard of people giving their lives to Jesus because of the referendum. I did hear from a non-Christian friend commenting about one of his friends. He wrote, “I noticed the anger building in him, and tried to soften his approach, but he’s fed up. Referendum 71 has turned him against Christians.” Neither is a Christian.

And who's fault is that? Small wonder when your most intense messages spread false fears. Intolerance is an attractive force for like-minded people and detestable to everyone else.

Like he said in his email, if they lose at least they make a statement of faith.

Fuiten continues.

We paid a price for the referendum. It was not just a question of the price we would pay if we didn’t run the referendum. We have to consider the price of doing it as well.

We clearly lost ground with some. Did we gain offsetting ground with others? I don’t know. I do know we all worked hard for what we hoped was the will of God. We did it mostly for the right reasons.

In our best motives, we might have done it for God’s glory. Unfortunately, it appears we have fallen short of the glory of God.

They worked hard for God's will and God's glory. And their statement of faith supporting intolerance has cost them.

1 comment:

Spokane Al said...

The question as to whether God was in their effort reminds me of the often quoted words of Lincoln when asked if God was on the Union's side, “Sir, my concern is not whether God is on our side; my greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right”