The Rev. Al Sharpton makes some interesting comments in a recent RollingStone interview. For those who don’t know, Sharpton is one of the Democratic Presidential candidates.
When asked about gay marriages, Sharpton had this to say:
“Asking about gay marriages is like asking about black marriages. It’s a human-rights issue. Gays and lesbians are human beings. You can’t support civil unions but not marriages — that’s like saying you can shack up but not get married. Either you’re for human rights or you’re not. You can’t say, ‘You have human rights up to here, but this part is not for you.’ [Former New York archbishop] Cardinal O’Connor once asked me how I could support a woman’s right to choose abortion. I told him, ‘God didn’t say you have to go to heaven — he gave you the option of hell. I think you may go to hell, and I defend your right to get there.'”
What an interesting take on politics and society. The typical Christian approach is to legislate morality. We tell you can’t do this or that based on the moral foundation of our religion. Of course if you’re not bound by the morals of a particular religion, things get kind of fuzzy. Sharpton seems to favor the approach of giving people the freedom to screw themselves. If you want to go to hell, that’s your choice. I think it’s a dumb choice, but it’s a choice you have to make, and I won’t make it for you.
Something about that approach really resonates with me, especially when dealing with homosexuality. I feel like it is a civil rights issue. While I don’t agree with homosexuality, that doesn’t mean I can impose my views on homosexuals. If they want to live in sin, that’s their choice. But that doesn’t mean I can deny them basic rights. I think some of the benefits that come with marriage would be basic rights, things like health care for your family and survivor benefits. While it certainly funks up the traditional model of marriage, I think it’s a slam to a homosexual’s face to tell them they don’t get health care for their partner.
Whether we want to admit it or not, homosexuality is something we need to deal with as a society. We can’t just thumb our nose at their lifestyle and hope they go away. They’re not going away. And if that’s how they choose to live, I think it’s better to accept their choice and move on. We can certainly disagree with their choice and love them and hope they change. But disagreeing with their choice and then moving to block everything they try and do in life is just wrong.
We don’t discriminate against other personal sins (by “personal sin” I mean a sin that primarily affects yourself). We don’t tell the greedy they can’t have survivor benefits. We don’t tell liars they can’t adopt children. We don’t tell hypocrites they can’t get married.
On the other hand, I’m not so sure about applying this perspective to abortion like Sharpton does. Being gay is a personal choice (on some level) that has little impact on the others in your life. It may make life harder on your children, but I think all our sins and faults would make life hard on our kids. In my view abortion ends the life of a child, not giving that child even the chance for a hard life. I don’t know if that road to hell is worth defending. I doubt Sharpton would defend a man’s right to kill, which is where this debate gets sticky.
Sorry to whoop some heavy politics on you on a Saturday morning, but there it is.
I also liked this comment from Sharpton: “Part of what bothers me about leadership today is we’re more poll-driven than we are moral-driven. And that we don’t want to be right — we want to be popular.” Oddly, I think George W. Bush and Sharpton would agree on this.