What it Now Means to Support Gay Marriage (in the Popular Imagination)

Last week I encountered this charming commercial for the same-sex marriage campaign in Ireland that went somewhat viral (I found it through slate.com):

The video features family members accepting the invitation from their LGBT family members to go vote in support of the gay marriage initiative on the ballot this May. At the end, the voiceover explains, “On May 22, we can change forever what it means to grow up LGBT in Ireland. Ask your family to come on this journey with us.” A soft folksy song in the background chants “If you love me, why’d you leave me,” softly implying that staying at home or not supporting the referendum means turning your back on your LGBT family member. The ad seems pretty successful; it has only slightly fewer views than Hillary Clinton’s official campaign announcement video, and it has a later post date. It is interesting that the chosen angle is not one about rights, about “equality” or “fairness,” or even railing against “bigotry.” It points to a deeper need: one for people to feel supported and loved by their family members. My reading of this commercial is that mainstream western discourse now equates supporting gay marriage as the antidote to the things that have traditionally made growing up LGBT absolutely miserable and dangerous–high rates of substance abuse and suicide, rejection, subjection to thoroughly discredited ex-gay therapy, and being kicked out by (often religious) parents. I would like to posit that we are at this point of only one widely conceivable option for supporting our LGBT friends and family (voting for gay marriage) largely because of an absolute failure of Christian discourse in the western media to offer love and a positive outlook on growing up for an LGBT person (granted, I know little about Ireland, but will assume for argument’s sake that it is generally similar to the US in this regard). The Church did not, and still needs to, offer a compelling alternative to what is now the obvious, easy, feel-good option for telling our queer youth that we love them, can offer a valued place for them in society, and desire their well being above all else.

The Church can (and in many ways and places has and does!) offer LGBT people this love, a valuable place in society, and promotion of their holistic well being. But for my adolescence (the last 15 years), the bishops and mainstream Christianity as a whole shouted a firm stance in the culture wars far and wide, ignoring the suffering and drowning out the popular perception (if not the actual existence as well!) of any opportunity for the aforementioned affirmations within their ranks.

Could your parish make this loving of a commercial about how it has not and will not leave behind its LGBT youth, and how it understands and affirms their dignity, truly desires to open a place for them, and that they should never be on their journey alone? If not, I posit that traditional churches are failing in both the culture war, and the mission entrusted to them by Christ to preach his Gospel. I hope that our abject defeat in the former might make us self-critical enough to see our failings and endeavor to improve in terms of the more important one.

San Sebastiano, Roberto Ferri. Italy.

San Sebastiano, Roberto Ferri. Italy. 2005-2009.


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