Conservative Christians live to feel persecuted. It’s what inspires them to get up in the morning.
What would it look like if an objection to same-sex marriage really were purely religious and not bigotry? Let’s take a look —
Did the Dalai Lama Endorse Gay Marriage?
Generally there are no particular prohibitions against homosexuality in Buddhism, and as far as I know only the Tibetans have a canonical text containing such a prohibition, and that text only mentions men. Whether it’s considered to apply to women also, I do not know. As I explain in the article, from the Dalai Lama’s perspective, if a man has received the Precepts and taken vows to uphold them, he would be obligated to not engage in homosexual sex. But other than that, His Holiness doesn’t have a problem with it.
Larry King:What do you think of the whole emerging gay question?
HHDL [His Holiness the Dalai Lama]: That I think is a personal matter. Of course, you see, people who have belief or who have special traditions, then you should follow according to your own tradition. Like Buddhism, there are different kinds of sexual misconduct, so you should follow properly. But then for a non-believer, that is up to them. So there are different forms of sex—so long as it is safe, OK, and if they fully agree, OK. But bullying, abuse, that is wrong. That’s a violation of human rights.”
Larry King: What about same sex marriage?
HHDL: That’s up to the country’s law.
Larry King:What do you think personally about it?
HHDL: That’s OK. I think it’s individual business. If two people—a couple—really feel that way is more practical, more sort of satisfaction, both sides fully agree, then OK …
Just from a Buddhist doctrinal perspective I disagree with the prohibition on homosexual sex. The only mention of homosexual sex in early scriptures is in the Vinaya, in lists of prohibitions for monastics. But the monastics weren’t supposed to have heterosexual sex, either, so it’s not exactly discrimination. The sexual prohibitions for laypeople are extremely vague and boil down to not causing harm. Over the centuries this has been interpreted to mean following local moral norms, whatever they are, so homosexual sex is discouraged by Buddhism in some parts of Asia, but in other parts nobody cares.
The prohibition against sex for monastics is not about “sin,” but rather is about dropping away distractions from realizing enlightenment. Although you can find the word “sin” in some English translations of Buddhist texts, the concept of “sin” as it is understood in Christianity doesn’t exist in Buddhism.
The point is, though, that His Holiness doesn’t seem to harbor any ill will toward homosexuality. It’s just that he’s obligated to honor a canonical text by a guy named Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), who was a great patriarch of his order. He doesn’t have the authority to override Tsongkhapa unilaterally but must have the agreement of other high lamas to change a canonical rule, so he has a duty to uphold it. This is what it looks like when somebody is honoring a religious rule but is not personally bigoted.
Compare/contrast most conservative Christians, who want to be given the power to dictate terms for everybody. As Sarah Posner wrote of the Duggars, “In their family, they police sex outside of marriage. In politics they police sex between consenting adults, sex between people of the same sex; they are “pure” and “godly” because they police and condemn other people’s sexual lives.”
See also what happened during a recent “panel discussion” on Fox News:
Sean Hannity began by playing a clip of Marco Rubio’s recent remarks that “we are at the water’s edge of the argument that mainstream Christian teaching is hate speech.” He then asked American Atheists President David Silverman if there was any truth to that.
“There’s nobody out there trying to get Christian preachers to marry people against their will,” he replied. “What this is really about is bigotry, and you and I can both agree that bigotry is wrong, bigotry is ugly, and bigotry is stupid.” After a moment of what was, for Hannity, unsatisfying cross-talk, the host turned to Pastor Robert Jeffress.
“If a priest does not want to marry a gay or lesbian couple because they’re following their religious belief, is Senator Rubio right?” he asked. “Are we at the water’s edge?”
Not surprisingly, Pastor Jeffress said Rubio “is absolutely correct,” and proceeded to rattle off what he called a “fact” — an interaction at last month’s Supreme Court hearing about same-sex marriage. Jeffress claimed that U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr.’s answer to Justice Samuel Alito’s question about the legal difficulties that states with same-sex marriage bans might face if the Court deems such bans unconstitutional proves that “the Obama administration is sending us a signal that they are going to come after those who believe in traditional marriage.”
That it does no such thing — it being an answer to a question during oral arguments at the Supreme Court — went unchallenged, as Hannity allowed Jeffress to continue to talk over Silverman before passing the conversation to Dr. Samuel Rodriguez, who began by noting that he “completely agrees with Senator Marco Rubio.”
“The moment in our nation when biblical truth becomes hate speech,” he said, “America as we know it will cease to exist.” He compared the “legislative persecution” of Christians in America to the executions of Christians by ISIS, claiming that the former “always” proceeds the latter. “Today’s complacency is tomorrow’s captivity!” he said.
Such over-the-top hysteria doesn’t come from a reasoned, devotional observance of scripture. It comes from fear and bigotry. It also strikes me as a violation of the Commandment against “bearing false witness.” The most conservative Christians will throw “God’s law” under the bus every time when their own biases are on the line (a point I address in The Book).