It would appear that many of our pastors have a flair for the dramatics. Several of you have promised to burn yourselves alive in opposition to the Supreme Court’s impending decision on gay marriage. Before just you guys “catch on fire,” I think there are a few things you should know.
First, your protests are going under the guise that the decision on gay marriage will inextricably violate your rights as Christians and as clergy. Neither of these is true and you are either misinformed–which would make your immolation a tragedy–or you are intentionally deceiving your followers which, in this case, may make your immolation a contribution to society. But just in case you are simply misinformed, it is vitally urgent that I inform you that the extension of legal marriage rights to same-sex couples does not change religious definitions of marriage. Your definition of marriage is based on your faith and is, rightfully so, separate from the state’s definition of marriage. So long as the Church’s definition of marriage doesn’t involve children, multiple partners, or animals, we are free to base our marriages on whatever the Bible says. This also means you are free to not consider gay marriages as “Christian” marriages. And while some Churches are going along with the shifting societal definition of marriage, yours does not have to.
Based on the arguments before the Supreme Court, it is clear that you will always be able to refuse to marry a couple of the same sex. I know everyone points to the ministers in Idaho who were sued for not performing a gay marriage, but they were operating a wedding chapel as a business, not a church ministry. So you won’t have to perform gay marriages nor will you have to change your religious definition of marriage. So why set yourself on fire?
Is it, perhaps, that you are lamenting the end of Christian privilege–the time in American history when Christianity’s influence over the nation was far greater than the separation of church and state ever intended to allow? More simply put: are you so upset that you will no longer be able to dictate to random people who have no desire to live according to your moral code how they must live their lives and what legal rights they can and cannot have that you are willing to kill yourselves? Was it so important to your faith that you be able to control the non-religious rights that other people receive that you are now willing to die in protest? Clearly you understand that legal rights are entirely different than religious rites and– if we are to be true to the Constitution that you all ostensibly love– the rules guiding the latter should never determine the former.
Secondly, you have very impressionable people who follow you. There is a reason God holds pastors to a higher standard than their followers. There is a reason why the Bible refers to the congregants as sheep. We are responsible for our followers, and you should know that your words are influencing thousands of people who may follow your footsteps and kill themselves in what they believe to be protest. Sadly, it is actually over what amounts to be a temper tantrum. If this happens, you will be held accountable by God for their highly unnecessary deaths. They don’t have to die in protest because no legal rights are being taken from them. When gay marriage is the law of the land, they will wake up the same Christian they were the night before. They will still be able to preach homosexuality is a sin while they secretly struggle with their own.
With all of your talk of burning yourselves alive, there will undoubtedly be some in your congregation who are far more committed than you. If you don’t carry through with your promises and your members do, not only will there be a special place in Hell for you, but in some states there may even be a jail cell waiting for you. And while all of this is entirely unnecessary, if your members self-immolate because of your rhetoric, my advice to you would be to keep your promise and “go kill yourself.”
Finally, there are other options. Let’s say everything is as bad as you think. Let’s say the government is going to force pastors who wish to maintain the power of the State in the execution of the marriage certificate to also perform gay marriages –which they won’t. But if they do, you could always relinquish your state authority. You could simply perform marriages in the sight of God and let the happy couple get their licence at the courthouse on their own time. We could actually get the church out of doing the functions of the State and the State out of the affairs of the church–which I think would be ideal. Why would we want the government involved in religious practices anyways?
But maybe you’re reluctant about that option because it may also mean you would have to give up your non-profit status and your 501c3. Well, all of the evidence suggests that this will never happen. But if this was the case, are you telling me that you would rather kill yourself and possibly take thousands of members with you just so you don’t have to give up a tax break? That is some serious dedication to conservative economic principles. That is being “faithful unto death”–just faithful to the wrong god.
But before you throw yourselves into the fiery furnace, you should know that you and all of the people you are leading astray are killing yourselves over not being able to control the lives of the rest of America. And, if your worst nightmare actually came true, you would still only be killing yourselves over tax-breaks. I do believe that after we have mourned the loss of your faithful members who trust every word you say, we would move on to reflecting back on this grim time with horror. You won’t be remembered as martyrs; rather, you will be remembered with the likes of Jim Jones and Marshall Applewhite, the religious extremists whose unfounded fear of the world took the lives of all those who trusted them.
Just thought you should know.