Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Importance of Ceremony

Guest post today from C. Ewing:

Since gay marriage became a national issue, same-sex couples have faced mixed reactions, to say the least. Among the most adamant opposition has been the religious community. I won't bother citing such directly. If you want venomous hatemongering, you are welcome to look that up on your own. However, I was pleasantly surprised to come across this article:

I'm left wondering just how significant such a decision is. There has been limited acceptance of homosexuality in the Christian community. And it has become a dividing issue between the younger church members and the older generations. While the younger groups tend to be more accommodating (as a rule), the elders tend to be far more readily opposed. But the issue isn't just one of acceptance. While, yes, part of progressing gay rights is acceptance, there is a sharper divide here. Churches are part of a community and part of the larger social circle as a whole. By excluding people from mass (feel free to google "lesbian denied Eucharist") or other services, the people in question are making a clear declaration: you are not welcome here. You are not one of us.

This, however, seems to be heading us sharply in the other (and methinks, far more positive) direction. This seems to touch on the more significant issue of inclusion versus exclusion. By including same-sex couples in the religious rituals themselves, they are being brought into the broader churchgoing community by extension. This doesn't seem like a wholly lip-service gesture, but a genuine olive branch being extended in the direction of same-sex couples, and the gay community at large. The church is explicitly stating: you're one of us. This is a formal ritual that indicates not only an acceptance of, but a formalized acknowledgment of the union. Same-sex couples are getting a blessing too. A liturgy is explicitly a public ritual. So this is a public statement.

That seems like a big deal. And I'm reservedly excited about it. But there is the addendum that "conscientious objection" is not to be punished. If the church--as a whole--were oh-so-agreeable, that surely would not be unnecessary. So there's that. But there's also the question raised that this may create a sort of separate LGBT subclass. In other words: there's the concern that this may simply become a case of "separate but equal". After all, this is the creation of a specific liturgy that will specifically be used for same-sex couples. And maybe that should throw up a reg flag for us. But it's hard for me to not be optimistic about this one. It seems like a tentative, but decisive step in the right direction.

Is this as significant as I would like to think or are we just being placated? Is this segregation or integration? I'm not entirely sure myself, but I'd like to think that this is yet another step on a slowly shortening road.