photograph by Amy Walters | Dreamstime
Back in August many of us witnessed long lines of cars snaking around Chick-fil-A restaurants, not just in Memphis but across the country. Patrons were turning out in support of Dan Cathy, CEO of the Atlanta-based fast-food chain. His comments, published in The Baptist Press, championed “the biblical definition of the family unit,” and prompted one customer to declare, “We can stand together for something we believe in.”
As I crept along Union Avenue that day, idling behind those waiting to pull into the franchise, I sat in puzzled reflection of these Christians who hold such staunch feelings against same-gender unions. With respect for their beliefs, I could remind these good churchgoers that Jesus, in recorded scripture, said not a word about homosexuality, but didn’t hold his tongue about divorce. And I could add that, according to many Bible scholars, the ancient Hebrew prohibition against “a man lying with another man” fell in the same category of laws as those against wearing two different fabrics at once, eating “unclean” food, and the remarriage of a divorced woman.
But arguing scripture rarely changes minds. Instead I’ll toss out a few other matters far worthier, in my opinion, of our concern.
Over this past summer alone, four different gunmen — with a sick need for fame or a warped sense of justice — opened fire in public places, killing and wounding scores of innocent victims and shattering the hopes and dreams of their loved ones. And while these chilling acts make fodder for 24/7 news stations, bullets are flying countless times a day across America as citizens arm themselves, legally or otherwise, and take aim at those who offend them, or at anyone in their path. Yet as these shooting sprees become more common, advocates against gun control don’t yield; the line in the sand grows ever deeper and bloodier.
In the Middle East, a war is being waged, out of sight and mind of most Americans, even as we foot the bill. Reports of casualties in Afghanistan (and in Iraq, though that war “officially” ended two years ago) are usually buried in the back pages of newspapers and aired briefly on TV. Meanwhile, the suicide rate of soldiers and veterans of these wars is soaring. The Defense Department reported 26 suspected active-duty Army suicides just in the month of July, the highest number in three years. And according to the V.A., veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are killing themselves at the rate of 18 per day. Yet we see no end to the conflict in countries where tribes have feuded for centuries.
Drug abuse continues to wreck homes. Every day children are surrendered to the state because their parents would rather smoke, snort, shoot up, and pass out than make a decent life for their kids. Adding to the usual suspects of alcohol, pot, meth, and cocaine is a somewhat new addition to the mix: synthetic marijuana. This little jewel is sold at your handy convenience store under such names as Spice and K-2, and packs a more violent punch than the real thing. Though some ingredients in the products have been outlawed, manufacturers tend to find a substitute that’s legal — and just as potent. Among fake pot’s effects are agitation, hallucinations, seizures, even death. Yet kids not only can buy the stuff, they’re making it.
Speaking of kids, too many continue to have babies who have babies who have babies, never thinking what it takes to raise them. Worse, some mothers leave these young ones with boyfriends, and when the child cries or messes his diaper, these “men” vent their fury by beating, raping, or shaking the child to death. Dozens of good-hearted individuals and groups try their hardest to stop the baby cycle that mires people in poverty year after year, and the violence that plagues them. Yet the terrible wheels keep spinning.
Animals suffer and die too, in horrific ways — in jam-packed puppy mills, in shelters that provide anything but, in factory farms where “living” conditions boggle the mind, in research labs where kindness is sacrificed on the altar of science, in backyards at the end of a chain no longer than my arm. Yet many of us look the other way, or simply don’t care.
I could go on — the widening gulf between rich and poor, 7 billion people straining earth’s resources — but my point is this: Any one of these unresolved issues is wreaking far more harm on our society than gay marriages. I’d be willing to “stand together” on these values — to save a life, stop a war, and offer a child hope — rather than block the way of two men or women who choose to vow, in God’s house, to love each other.