Facebook disinterred this chestnut, and it seemed an apt follow-up to Wednesday's column about religion. Ever wonder why certain issues—like gay marriage—burn brightly for a while, then vanish? Because haters hate whomever they think they can get away with hating then, denied that pleasure by the shifting sands of public opinion, fall back, and defend a new line in the sand. It's almost as if the object of their scorn doesn't matter half so much as the act itself of despising someone. Which seems to be the case.
'To Mr. Steinberg," writes reader Robert Zuback. "Once again the Sun-Times intervenes when they shouldn't. They should remain neutral on the Gay Marriage issue. But the media like yourselves wants to go against the Catholic Church and its Bishops, who oppose Gay Marriage."
Sometimes you find a moment of clarity where you least expect it. Such as reading Mr. Zuback's letter, which arrived in an envelope decorated with an American flag sticker and the scrawled slogan, "I prefer believers in Christ, Not sinners like the Gay People."
"It shows their disrespect for Catholics like myself and my Church," he writes, "disrespect to the Holy Spirit as a whole, too."
Well, no disrespect intended. Though I suppose you don't have to be gay to offer, by your very existence, what can be seen as implied disrespect. As a Jew, my entire non-baptized, non-confessed, Christ-a-nice-guy-but-no-Lord life can be—and God knows has been—seen as an insult and, believe me, I am grateful the question of my rights has been taken off the table. I can marry. I can hold a job. I can check into fancy hotels, now, which wasn't always true for my parents.
"Gay marriage is an offense against the Bible, the word of God," writes Mr. Zuback. "This union is sinful."
As has been stated repeatedly—the argument worn smooth, like a pebble—society happily shrugs off many grave Biblical sins.
Why gays? Why marriage? Why this sin?
"Marriage once again is between a man and a woman. Gay people should apologize to Christ and myself, being their neighbor."
That is surprising. You'd think a guy would warm to the neighbors. Then again, my ancestors' neighbors in Poland, well, not to re-open old wounds but, let's say: not so nice.
"Gay people have the right to vote, work and pay for their insurance as I do."
Broad-minded. The right to work goes back, what, 30 years? Depending on the job. A reminder gay marriage is not a battle in a vacuum, but the latest skirmish in a long war.
"The Gay Rights people are responsible for their acts by involving the Courts System that favor them," Mr. Zuback writes.
Here we agree. Courts favor them—or will—because justice is on their side. There is no reason gay people shouldn't marry, except for the religious qualm he so eloquently expresses. Back in the day . . . OK, the world up to this moment . . . the church held so much sway over our government that certain key facts—i.e., being gay is an intrinsic quality that doesn't make anyone a less fit spouse or parent—were overlooked. Now they are known and, barring some unimaginable cataclysm in modern society, always will be.
"It should have been settled by a natural vote, up or down. We the people, that's me."
And me, don't forget. And the rest of Americans, the majority supporting gay marriage now, increasing as the years roll on. We did have an election in November, and the leaning-toward-gay-marriage-as-soon-as-it's-politically-safe-to-do-so candidate, Barack Obama, won over the ewww-back-into-the-closet-with-you candidate, Mitt Romney.
"Gay people lack faith and wisdom. One judgment day is for all, even Gays. Hell's eternal pain, or Heaven's paradise. Repent Gay People to God, be Saved."
And here he signs it, "Believer in Christ, Robert J. Zuback, Catholic."
Thanks for writing, Mr. Zuback. Though you never did explain how gays marrying would detract from your life, except of course for the agony of knowing it occurs (though, I would think, if you truly believe in that Hell stuff, you wouldn't begrudge them their eyeblink of earthly happiness now, considering the eternity of superheated suffering ahead).
While the harm to you is assumed, though not demonstrated, your religion—having its hooks into the law as it does—hurts gays in very real, factual, no-need-to-take-it-on-faith ways. In taxes and inheritance, health care and housing, not to mention plain old dignity.
The gay marriage issue is, I clearly see now—thank you Mr. Zuback—a question of whether we live in a secular society of laws, or whether government is an arm of the church; Mr. Zuback's church, in his view, or the church of whoever happens to hold office. Those who push for the latter always assume it is their church in the driver's seat. If you don't believe that, ask them about Sharia law and watch their faces do a little confused contortion. Even though gays must be kept from marriage for the exact same reason women must wear veils—because God says so or, rather, God tells men to say He says so, or so the men say. But the funny thing about God is, we all have access to Him, in theory. Indeed, I was talking to God just yesterday, and He told me He loves gays—he certainly made enough of them. Though I'm not expecting you to immediately respect my beliefs just because I say so, Mr. Zuback, which is one of the many differences between us.
—Originally published in the Sun-Times, April 7, 2013