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As times change, will desire for tradition be tolerated?

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Posted: Saturday, April 13, 2013 12:00 am

With the issue of same-sex marriage argued before the Supreme Court and raging elsewhere in America, a question:

Is it possible to be a traditional Christian or Muslim or Orthodox Jew — and hold to one’s faith on what constitutes marriage — and not be considered a bigot?

And is faith now a problem to be overcome, first marginalized by the state and then contained, so as not to get in the way of great changes to come?

The issue of same-sex unions is by nature contentious and divisive. It is not merely about equal protection under the law, but redefining the foundation of our culture, which is the family itself.

It’s not my intention to add to the anger and the noise. I’m not angry. Yet I am struggling. And I’ve been silent on the subject for some time, trying to figure it out.

I’m not opposed to same-sex unions. Americans have the right to equal protection under the law, and same-sex couples should be able to expect the same tax benefits and other considerations allowed to those of us who are now being called, in some quarters, “opposite-sex couples.”

As far as I’m concerned, Americans have the right to do as they please as long as they don’t infringe upon the rights of others. America is all about liberty and freedom.

But this all came up during the season of Lent, a time of fasting and prayer, when Christians are compelled to confront the obligations of their faith.

And while I hear the new moral arguments, about equal rights and equal protection, I’ve read little about the religious freedom aspects and what the Supreme Court’s ruling might mean for houses of traditional worship.

All I’m asking is that in the rush to establish new rights, that tolerance for religious freedom be considered as well.

The federal government has already told religious institutions that run hospitals that they must provide contraceptives to their employees, even if it runs counter to their beliefs. So now, if the government ultimately compels us to describe same-sex unions as marriage, what’s next?

To speak of faith in this context is to invite the charge of bigotry — if not outright, at least by comparison to angry fire-and-brimstone preachers who seem to use the Bible as a lash. Some wield the Old Testament like a cudgel, and avoid the New Testament, in which Christ asked us to refrain from judging and to love our neighbor.

No one with half a brain wants to be thought of as a bigot. But that’s what I and others risk as members of a distinct and irritating minority — as traditional Christians in journalism.

Now that the debate has been framed, if I hold to my faith and resist applauding the changes, I’m easily cast as some drooling white cartoon bigot of the Jim Crow era, denying black Americans the right to sit at a lunch counter and have a meal.

What is also clear is that, given demographic shifts and attitudes, particularly by young people regarding sexuality and family, traditional Christianity is no longer the dominant culture. It is the counterculture, fast becoming a minority view.

Again, I don’t oppose same-sex unions. I think Americans should have the right to associate as they please. My wife and I have had friends and family members who were gay, and died of AIDS. We loved them, and still do.

But I am Greek Orthodox, a never-changing faith.

In recent weeks, with the advent of a new Roman Catholic pope, there have been many beautiful words written about tolerance and change, written by those who on one hand support abortion rights and gay marriage, yet on the other talk lovingly of the comforting ancient rituals and the sound of ancient prayers.

Forgive me, but I find this all quite difficult to reconcile. The liturgy is not a costume drama. The incense isn’t a prop. The singing isn’t about nostalgia. These are means to reach a timeless place, where the state and its laws do not go.

And while I struggle with the fast-moving issue of the redefinition of marriage and its effect on our culture and how to reconcile the rights of others and my own religious beliefs, I ask only one thing:

Tolerance. Remember that word? Tolerance?

Tolerance for those whose faith and traditional beliefs put them in what is fast becoming the minority.

John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may send him email at jskass@tribune.com.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • Robert Jacobs posted at 10:37 am on Fri, Apr 19, 2013.

    Robert Jacobs Posts: 298

    Mr. Kass (and many, many others) reminds us of everything about the bible and the verses concerning how we should act as Christians "except" for several verses (concerning Homosexuals) of which is condemned by the word of God...

    Romans 1:26-32 speaks clearly to the position of God, this so-called right of people to lust and fornicate, men with men and women with women.

    Most people (and many so-called Christians) take from the bible what they want and ignore or deny the parts they don't agree with! The bible talks about taking from and adding to the word of God, which is not pretty. I'll leave you to look it up! The word of God is not up for debate, nor is this an issue about equal rights for individuals, or the right to marry or to have the same benefits as heterosexuals do.

    This is about morality and what God says is right and true!

    If you truly believe in the word of God, and God, then you will follow his commandments. Otherwise you suffer the consequences.

    Mr. Kass if you or anyone is going to quote verses in the bible then you must quote them all not just the ones you want to make your point or to exempt those who insist on sinning with impunity poisning a union that is a sacred union that God created! If he wanted men to marry men or women to marry he would have made that clear.

    No one denies we are to be tolerant of all people, including homosexuals. No one denies we should be kind and loving to all human being (including homosexuals) without judgment. And I personally can (and do) do these things... But that doesn't mean I will turn my head to a disgusting and despicable things others do and then want to invade or ruin a union of marriage that God created! The marriage of men and men and women and women is certainly disgusting and despicable and should not be legalized nor recognized because God says so in his word, the "Bible"!

    If you Mr. Kass or anyone else thinks they can justify this kind of behavior by quoting some bible verses "you and they" have another thing coming indeed...

    Good luck with that....

  • L. Christopher Bird posted at 12:11 am on Sun, Apr 14, 2013.

    ZenMondo Posts: 4

    Mr. Kass asks, "Is it possible to be a traditional Christian or Muslim or Orthodox Jew — and hold to one’s faith on what constitutes marriage — and not be considered a bigot?"

    The short answer to this is no, no its not. It is because such views *are* bigoted. Even if one justifies it with text that dates to the bronze age, and only recently has come under scrutiny in large numbers, that does not make the views any less bigoted.

    Mr. Kass continues: "No one with half a brain wants to be thought of as a bigot. But that’s what I and others risk as members of a distinct and irritating minority — as traditional Christians in journalism."

    I can agree that no one wants to be thought of as a bigot. The shortest path to avoid this is not to espouse bigoted views. During the civil rights era just a short generation ago, people used religious convictions and bible verses to justify institutionalized racism. Just spend a few minutes on google, and you can find examples from the 1950s and 1960s of protesters who objected to integration (or as the protesters called it "race mixing") as an affront to god, as anti-christian, against god's law and many other objections couched in religious justification.

    I suspect sir, that you would have no problem here in the second decade of the 21st Century looking back at such attitudes towards race in the 6th decade of the 20th as anything but bigoted. God's word may not have changed, but society has. How do you think a biblical justification for racism would be received today? The bible still says what it did 60 years, but what devout followers would use it today to justify racism, and how would they be viewed?

    Now look at the generation now in primary education -- and look at their children. Do you think history will be so kind against those who had bigoted views against non-heterosexuals or do you think tomorrow's children will view today's opposition to civil rights for non-heterosexuals the same way today's children view those who opposed civil rights for non-caucasians?


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