Dear Senator Cruz,
In my first letter, I offered the paradigm “love of neighbor” as an appropriate and helpful framework for creating laws and policies for our American society. Since I am a Christian pastor and since you are my Senator and have acknowledged your Christianity publicly, I am writing these letters to reflect pastorally on the values of Jesus Christ and how those values might inform your work in Congress.
I received the most recent letter that you sent to your constituents and I must respond to say that your efforts to re-establish the Defense of Marriage Act is wrong on so many levels. I say this as a straight, middle-class woman; as a voter in your state; and as a Christian.
From my progressive Christian perspective, the call to “love our neighbors as ourselves” takes priority over any traditional approach or biblical example. When you use the term “traditional marriage” to justify discrimination, you align yourself with those who argued for the tradition of slavery; you align yourself with those who argued to continue the traditions of women’s subjugation and segregation. Now the question: Is the tradition of excluding loving, committed couples from the institution of marriage a tradition worth continuing? Many of us Christians say “No!”
Sometimes the traditions of a society are self-centered and self-serving. Perpetuating unjust and inequitable traditions and inscribing them into law are mistakes this nation has made again and again. We can rectify that history now by allowing our LGBT sisters and brothers to take their own marriage vows. This change does not harm the institution of marriage; in fact, the tradition of marriage can only be strengthened when more and more people are willing to make such deep commitments to one another. As a pastor, much of my work seeks to continue the reconciling work of Christ by helping people heal divides and come together in unity and harmony; marriage embodies such unity. My parishioners and your constituents deserve to be included in this important tradition of marriage.
I do appreciate that you are not basing your arguments for marriage inequality on the Bible. Thank you for that. There are too many outspoken government officials and judges who are foolishly justifying their broad based policy positions with a few controversial Bible verses. This small-minded, wrong-headed approach is an irresponsible way to engage in public conversation in a multivalent society such as ours. Of course, as a minister, I know all those Bible verses too, but it is only some Christians who interpret and apply these words from the Bible in the condemnatory, excluding way that we so often hear in the media. Many, many other traditional Christians place those biblical texts where they belong: within their own time and culture. Many of us Christians believe the inclusive gospel of God’s welcoming grace trumps any code of exclusion. Lawmakers and judges and other self-promoting public figures who improperly apply ancient texts to modern situations damage the fabric of our society.
The Christian principles I am advocating are not practices specific to any particular religion, but rather flow from ethics that have benefited people and societies around the globe and across the ages: Love of Neighbor; Do unto Others; Care for the Least of These; Respect for the Stranger; Justice; Compassion; Equity… These are not only private and personal principles for living; these are foundational values that must undergird all responsible, ethical governing.
Many people consider marriage equality to be an “issue” and of course that is true in one sense. But I urge you to remember these are people, not issues. The couple whom I recently married (just over the state line in Oklahoma) were in tears as they made their promises to each other; even after years of faithful love and relationship, they never imagined they would be able to legally marry in their home state. Many, many of us rejoice with them and anxiously await the day when Texas and the rest of the nation ensures everyone’s right to marry. Too many of our churches and too many of our state governments are on the wrong side of history in this. Marriage equality is right, it is just, and it is time.
As a United States Senator, you are called to “promote the general welfare” – the welfare of all, not just some. As a Christian, you are called to “love your neighbor as yourself” and to work for compassion and justice. As a human being, you are called to affirm the full humanity of every other human being and to cultivate a society that nurtures equity. Senator Cruz, I urge you to search your soul, open your heart, and change your mind on this matter of marriage equality.
As before, I invite your response. By the way, I am sharing this letter on the Internet and I’m thinking there are several thousand of us who are hoping to hear back from you.
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Charlotte Vaughan Coyle
P.S. Congratulations on your appointment as Chair of the sub-committee that oversees NASA. I think next month we might reflect on what it means to respect and care for God’s creation.
Charlotte Vaughan Coyle is an ordained minister within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) pursuing a Doctorate of Ministry at Brite Divinity School (TCU) in Ft. Worth TX. She is a volunteer at Coffee Party USA and contributes articles regularly to the Coffee Party Facebook page.