Monday, May 30, 2005

Synod Resolutions: The Controversial

'Now we can focus on the real enemies of Christianity: monogamous gays and stem cells.' - Ned Flanders

One of the latest battles to be fought in Christian circles concerning the 'H' word will take place at General Synod. Three resolutions will be presented to the floor: two supporting gay marriage, and one against it. It will actually be the first flesh-and-blood debate over this issue that I'll see (all previous have taken place on this wonderfully useful device on which I spend way too much time), and if media attention to the issue in general (and Christian attention in particular) is any indication, this could be the issue most hotly contested at Synod. The backlash, if either or both of the positive resolutions are approved, could also be something to behold. But many in the UCC take pride in the denomination 'leading the way' on social justice issues, so we forge ahead to all the screaming and yelling that is to come.

Many advocate a return to 'the Biblical model of marriage.' When they say this, they only mean one particular model exhibited in the Bible: Adam and Eve. The argument is that the explanation given during the second creation story in Genesis ('A man will leave his father and mother and join the woman and the two will become one flesh') is THE definition of marriage in the Bible, THE Biblical model. But we forget others: Jacob had two wives. Solomon had....whew....Abram had one wife, but also slept with a concubine (but the concubine was chased off, so maybe he's okay). Jesus was single and said if you don't hate your wife because of me, you're not my disciple. Paul advocated abstaining from marriage if you could help it, since Jesus is coming back soon and we have more important work to do.

None of these other 'Biblical models' of marriage are given to support gay marriage as much as they are given so that one might rethink what 'Biblical marriage' looks like. Even so, two gay men or women who have decided to enter into a committed, monogomous, loving relationship is hardly a threat to 'our way of life.'

Synod will also consider three resolutions related to Israel and Palestine: two to advocate or at least 'consider' divestment from companies that aid in the conflict, and a third calling to tear down Israel's 'security fence.' I'm never going to be an expert on this messy situation, and I'm afraid I don't have the time or energy to become one. Even so, Thomas Friedman has written an excellent book on the situation based on his own extensive hands-on experiences. No one comes out clean in this situation. Israel has moved in on territory that is not theirs no matter how one slices it. The same people who decry these proposed resolutions as too biased toward Palestinians do not seem to have much to say about the settlements on the West Bank, other than that they are necessary for Israeli safety.

Hateful extremists among the Palestinian have helped encourage a stigma of all Palestinians as 'terrorists.' Under Arafat the PLO was hopelessly in the hands of these extremists. Any move forward and threats to the PLO's power and relevance were imminent. The cuts run deep on both sides. Jews in Israel are, as they always have been, theatened by anti-Semites and Islamists, and so the existence of a state is necessary. However, Israel has such power militarily that their playing victim is not always believable (their storming of Beriut in the 70s is one example).

I don't think that divestment is a healthy option at this time. Sharon and Abbas are hopefully still working toward the latest attempt at peace, and Sharon has begun ordering the removal of settlements (although there may be others planned). It's an incredibly complicated situation and frustrating to try to understand completely (pretty much because that's impossible for us to do). Such a move would be ill-timed, and I question the effectiveness of actions such as divestment, anyway. There are other, more effective ways to advocate a fair and just handling of the Palestinian territory while recognizing the need for a Jewish state.

I've not yet read enough on the situation on the Sudan to comment on that resolution, but check this post for updates as the week goes on.