Saturday, January 26, 2013
The Difference Between Being Gay and Being Happy
With the recent election the number of gay, lesbian, or bisexual members of Congress rose to seven, one Senator and six Representatives. “Seven isn’t great,” conceded Denis Dison, a senior strategist with the Victory Fund, which works to elect openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered people to public office. In other words, he is not happy with less than one percent representation in Congress for openly homosexual people. (There may be – there likely are – closeted homosexuals in addition to those who are known, especially representing certain Republican or Democratic districts where to let their preference be known would be to sign a political death warrant.)
My attitude toward gay members of society has changed a great deal over my lifetime. As a child I was made aware, by my parents, of certain people in our community with whom I should “be careful” not to associate too closely. It was never explicitly stated but my childhood mind assumed they were dangerous in some sort of sexual way. (Perhaps some of them were pedophiles, justifying my parents’ suspicions and fears.)
During my brief (six year) tenure as pastor of a small congregation I began to engage the subject of homosexuality from a different perspective; wrestling with the theological questions about the acceptability of their lifestyle in light of Biblical teaching and the proper response to homosexuals by the church. I read a few books by Christian ethicists, psychologists, and theologians on the subject but didn’t, at that time, arrive at many fixed conclusions.
After resigning as pastor to continue my education the subject was moved to the back burner while I pursued a couple of degrees in history. It wasn’t that the subject never came to mind, but rather that I no longer faced the necessity to think and act regarding homosexuals as a representative of the church of Jesus Christ. My general attitude during this period was that homosexuals should be given respect as fellow human beings, granted “the rights of citizens”, and allowed to earn a living in ways that did not threaten the values of our society.
When I began teaching high school social studies in 1970 the sexual revolution was in full swing in our nation. Undoubtedly the sexual freedoms touted during those decades extended to both homosexual and heterosexual activity but society was still pretending that homosexuality was not “normal” and therefore not worthy of the same attention – and, at that time, the same approval – as heterosexual relationships.
Up until that time I had spent my life growing up in a heterosexual community of Christian believers, attending a Christian Bible College, pastoring a Christian congregation, and buried in my studies leading to a teaching degree. I was aware of homosexual “deviancy” but the only deviancy that I observed close at hand was heterosexual in nature, broken marriages, dysfunctional and abusive home situations, spouse swapping, couples living in common law relationships, or just hooking up for short term heterosexual pleasure. Our entertainment media made it abundantly clear that sex was fun, acceptable, and nearly trouble free. My daily work as a teacher in a public setting and an officer and active member of the teacher’s union brought me in contact with people making no claim to Christian values. I became aware of that many of our teachers, parents, and students were regularly engaging in sexual behaviors that I saw as inconsistent with my Christian values.
During my teaching/union representative years I knew several colleagues, friends, and students whom I suspected were homosexual but in those days none of them dared to declare themselves so. As long as they were willing to remain closeted and as long as they did their job well no questions were asked. It is an irony though that those who appeared to be homosexual would have faced quick and serious repercussions if their sexual behaviors had been as obviously “deviant” as some of their heterosexual colleagues. Such were the biases of that day.
In the years since my retirement the culture has become more open in its attitude toward homosexuals and homosexual lifestyles. As the recent election has shown, it is now possible for a known homosexual woman to be elected to the United States Senate in a state-wide contest in a morally conservative state like Wisconsin. She did so, by the way, with the help of my vote. The question might be raised as to whether such an event is the result of a change in the moral values of the voting population or a recognition by morally conservative people of the state that we elect representatives to serve us, not based on their sexual preferences but on their ability to help solve the many pressing problems that face our nation. Ms Baldwin (the new openly gay Senator from Wisconsin) did not once use her sexual lifestyle or sexual preference as a cause for anyone to vote for her. And her opponent (with one brief possible exception) did not raise the issue of her sexuality. Undoubtedly her known lifestyle caused some to vote for her and others against her but it was not featured as a part of the election rhetoric.
And that brings me back to where I began. Gay members of Congress are counting their numbers, as are African Americans, women, Latinos, and even Asian-Americans. None of those groups are currently represented in the halls of Congress in proportion to their known (or in the case of homosexuals supposed) numbers in the general population. That is, in my opinion, not a problem. We want the best representation of honesty, responsibility, and legislative skill in those positions and if fewer of one or the other “interest group” meets that criteria, or is able to convince the electorate that they meet that criteria, then so be it.
I do not intend to ever vote for a homosexual candidate simply to help them achieve a certain level of representation in Congress. Neither do I intend to vote against a candidate because of their homosexuality. I have too many other criteria that I need to consider. Does that mean that the personal life of a candidate is unimportant to me? No. I will not hesitate to vote against any heterosexual or homosexual candidate (or woman, or Black, or Hispanic, or Asian) who displays in his or her lifestyle a lack of honesty, responsibility or legislative skill needed to serve me adequately. And by the way, I usually tend not to vote for any candidate who seems to be seeking office to push a personal or self-seeking agenda.
Every human being stands responsible to God for their personal life choices, including, if they serve in government, those related to their work. I would be presumptuous if I chose to be their judge in those matters. But I can and should judge those who seek to, and profess to, represent me in the halls of Congress.
My message to the “gay caucus”, and every other minority caucus in Congress is, “So you are gay; then be happy that your fellow citizens have trusted you enough to put you in your elevated place of responsibility. Speak your mind and vote your conscience on every issue before you as the representative of all the people who put you there; red and yellow, black and white, gay, straight, male, female, Jew, Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, and any other designation you can think of. If you feel the need to form a caucus let it be ‘The People’s Caucus.’”