Warning: This is another one of my longer posts. I'm sorry, in advance. But I think you know me by now...
As you know, last week the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned the ruling by the Ingham County Circuit Court that allowed state universities, including the University of Michigan-Flint, to continue to offer health benefits to same-sex domestic partners. According to the ruling, we will be able to honor our commitment to provide agreed-upon benefits through the end of 2007, or through the end of the current contract for bargained-for employee groups.
On a personal note, I am deeply disappointed by this decision of the Michigan Court of Appeals. At the University of Michigan-Flint, we value all members of our campus community equally. The withholding of health benefits to certain families is not only unfair, but will inflict undue hardship to a number of our faculty and staff and their dependents.
While this news is disheartening, I am proud to be part of a University that will continue its fight to make healthcare benefits accessible. I greatly value the inclusive, respectful environment that all of us have created and fostered at the University of Michigan-Flint. This latest court ruling will not deter our efforts to make our campus a welcoming place for all members of the University of Michigan-Flint family.
Jack Kay, Provost and Professor
One of the biggest buzzes in Michigan right now, especially on college campuses, involves the decision of the Michigan Court of Appeals to overrule a decision that allowed state institutions like universities to provide health benefits for same-sex couples. Though as a single, heterosexual male this decision doesn’t impact me directly, I can’t help but to feel disturbed at the harassment that homosexuals continue to receive. Even if they made the choice to be gay (which I don’t believe), it bothers me to no end to see how people, especially those of us in the church; respond to them.
When we examine the religiosity of our day, it’s important for us to recognize that the only real playing chip that religion has is its license of morality. Once that’s lost, then credibility is compromised. Once credibility is lost, we may as well go out of business. It should be noted that this isn’t the first time that the foundations of Christianity have been rocked. Recall when some dude named Galileo conducted groundbreaking research to disprove the long-held biblical contention that the Earth was the center of the universe. Not only did he prove that the Earth wasn’t the center of the universe, he proved that the Earth wasn’t even the center of our solar system. The Roman Catholic Church had a field day in persecuting him for discoveries that were later proven to be irrevocable. From there, the credibility of religion plummeted with many people; almost to the point of being irreparable.
In today’s time, religion is facing the likelihood of losing its moral currency by subscribing to the discriminatory actions against the homosexual community; especially doing so despite many scientific claims that sexual orientation has little – if anything – to do with personal choice. As I mentioned earlier, studies have shown that homosexuals are born with predispositions and ‘abnormalities’, but not by choice. So this begs the question: If there is an absence of choice, can there be moral culpability? I’ll try to biblical examine this from all angles:
For the religious folks who hold on to their beliefs about homosexuals despite scientific evidence suggesting the opposite (not just Christians, by the way. This also applies to Jews, Muslims, etc.), their argument is simple: The Bible explicitly points out homosexuality as an abomination. As the Old Testament tells us we are not to lie with our own. Most people are quick to point that out. Back in my “God said it. That settles it” days, I would’ve left it at that. But after exploring the Bible with more than just literal interpretation, I realize that the Old Testament is laced with rules that call for death from offenses varying from eating shellfish to committing adultery to working on Sundays to being disrespectful to your parents. If you accept one law as an undeniable absolute (homosexuality being an abomination), you must accept them all, right? If that’s the case, we’re all screwed:
For starters, everyone who played in the Super Bowl yesterday without gloves needs to be executed since the Bible clearly points out that we’re not supposed to touch the skin of dead “unclean” animals. Likewise, in addition to both teams, all the fans at the game, and the millions watching around the world also need to be executed since we all violated the Sabbath day. This weekend, I received a haircut and a beard trim. But according to Old Testament law, this is expressly forbidden. A few Sundays ago at church, I noticed people who had poor eyesight, facial blemishes, disabilities, and hutched backs approaching the alter; something that is clearly forbidden in Leviticus. As I've pointed out before, the list of infractions that we commit can go on for days.
But the fact is: progressive religion has put aside the primitive and archaic practices followed in Biblical times. That being said, for religious folks to selectively subscribe to proscriptions regarding homosexuals is not only religiously off-base, but is ethically unreasonable. We’ve basically turned into a state where we practice selective imposition of certain rules, but not of others. But if you want to use the Old Testament as a barometer, why not turn your attention to the book of Genesis? If memory serves me correctly, God made the declaration that everything He created was “good”. If science is correct and people are born with predispositions to homosexuality, how can something that God created NOT be good? I’ll let that one marinate…
Now, I’d like to shift gears and examine the New Testament; the part of Bible upon which Christianity was created. If you cite some of the works of Paul when he points out the ‘sin’ behind homosexuality, you can reasonably conclude that he was actually referring to the Roman observance of pedophilia; where grown men had sex with their slave boys. In fact, Christmas itself was originally a pagan holiday where men exchanged gifts, had sex with each other (and, of course, boys) and beat their wives. But, the practice of owning slaves and having sex with boys has long sense been outlawed. I say all that to suggest that applying Paul’s contextual writings to homosexuality between two consenting adults is like comparing apples to lima beans.
Perhaps the most important question is: How would Jesus handle the situation? After all, Christianity is ostensibly committed to following His teachings, right? But, if my Bible trivia serves me correctly, never ONCE during His ministry did Jesus address homosexuality. Sure, He talked about revenge, divorce, greed, praying, poverty, and an assortment of other things. But I can’t find a single reference made to homosexuality. If this was such a morally complicated issue, why wasn’t it mentioned?
Oppositely, Jesus did devote much of his ministry to teaching us how to treat one another. He taught us about not passing judgment on others, how to love others and how to treat others as we’d expect to be treated. That being said, let me ask you: How would you feel if you were discriminated against like homosexuals are? How would you feel knowing that your job, benefits, and quality of life stand to be compromised based on something that you probably didn’t have control over? How would you feel if you were told that you couldn’t have benefits that we heterosexuals take advantage of everyday?
Even if I don’t personally endorse the homosexual agenda, I can’t deny that it exists. The discrimination they face from society; especially from religion, is inexcusable in this day in age. When will we get to the point where science and religion can provide a sustainable balance; as oppose to conflicting views? When can we get to the point of thinking that maybe God saying “Let there be light” is analogous to “The Big Bang”? When will we realize that the Bible wasn’t meant to be followed word-for-word?
To me, the growing conflict between science and religion is an accident waiting to happen. You know its coming, you see it materializing, but you feel helpless to do anything about. Let’s hope that – for the sake of the Christ I try to serve – that I’m wrong. But with each anti-gay piece of legislation passed, and each Biblically-justified act of discrimination committed, I’m not so sure I am.