Our generation is in a funny place, because we've been taught to be so tolerant. Most of our adult life - our college life - society has been wrestling with the issue of homosexuality and marriage. Unlike many of our parents, we don't have a gentle, innocent and simple childhood to hearken back to. We didn't live in a Norman Rockwell age as children. Okay, maybe some of us did. I suppose I did. But the vast majority of us did not.
Is there a gay marriage agenda? I suppose. I'm not going to take this space to argue about the morality or the immorality of gay marriage. I will save my two cents on that and possibly share at another date. At the moment, I just want to look at culture.
Culture could be defined as the current that moves a civilization, the direction that it is moving in, the feelings and thoughts of a lot of people, expressed well by a few, and supported willingly by the rest. Culturally speaking, books are on the way out and Youtube videos are on the way in. Culture is a kind of litmus test for the direction of a civilization.
Take two examples of the pop culture relating to homosexuality; both examples present people who are gay and the horribly difficult situation that so many confront with a new face that is real, compassionate, hip and sexy.
In Downton Abbey, one of my favorite television shows of all time, one of the footmen hits for the other team. At first, Thomas Barrow comes across as a harsh, sarcastic and nasty man, inhuman and calculating. He enjoys making trouble among the servants and likes to alienate other people and make them suffer. With a character like that, not many people like Mr. Barrow. For good reason. His character does not change - but it takes five seasons to discover more about the suffering that Thomas hides under a mask of sarcasm and calculation. Homosexuality is painful for Barrow. He desperately wants to be like normal people - he wants to be included and he feels suffering and sorrow when he's alienated from the people around him, even when it's his own fault. But the suffering he feels is real.
Take Me to Church by Hoozier is another example; a great beat and pounding lyrics paired with a phenomenally well done music video made the song an instant hit. The music video's basic storyline is the sexual drama between two men. The image of two men kissing would have been completely outlawed a century ago, a half century ago, a generation ago. The more an image is employed, the less foreign it becomes. Nobody wants lovers to be apart from each other; and we can all agree on that.
I would like to be able to say that this "culture war" - so to speak - is barking up the wrong tree. I would like to be able to say that no one claims that gays are less than human, that they have no feelings, that they don't feel emotion, hardship or suffering. So trying to prove that gays are people is really a battle that has already been won, a battle that doesn't need to be fought.
But that is not true.
To my great sadness, many people who call themselves Christian do treat persons dealing with homosexuality as less than human, as perverts who belong in Hell. This behavior is absolutely shameful. And I have no tolerance for it. Zero.
If all it took for me to support gay marriage was meeting a nice, normal gay person, I would already support gay marriage. But that's not what it takes. That will never be what it takes.
Each and every person is valuable. Feels pain. Suffers. Needs to be loved. Needs to be understood and listened to and valued. If I could have my way, I would be able to look into the eyes of every person that I meet and say without words, "It is good that you exist. It is good. It is very, very good that you exist."
So a couple conclusions. I do not like the direction that the whole debate is taking. People are not defined by their sexuality: gay, lesbian, straight or anything else. People are people, valuable across the board, and they deserve love. It is beneath our dignity to identify our value with our sexual orientation. We've got to separate the person from their behavior. Woefully ill-informed though probably well-meaning people are at least partially to blame for the direction of the debate, reducing people to their sexual orientation and condemning them based on it.
I'd say it's about time we shoulder some responsibility here.
That’s the kind of toleration our generation needs.