Charlotte’s Letter to Sen. Cruz on Marriage Equality

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. data-1

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.

Unknown-1The 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. IMG_1397Many, 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.

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Charlotte Vaughan Coyle

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle

Charlotte Vaughan Coyle lives in Paris TX and blogs about intersections of faith, culture and politics on her website and Intersections Facebook page. She is national president for Coffee Party USA and contributes regularly to the Join the Coffee Party Movement Facebook page. Charlotte is an ordained minister within the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and also blogs about Scripture from a progressive Christian approach in her Living in The Story Musings.

32 thoughts on “Charlotte’s Letter to Sen. Cruz on Marriage Equality”

  1. I have to wonder if this letter was out of pastoral concern or was it to be used to make a political statement about senator Cruze ? If it was the first reason then it would have remained private correspondence…… so to be honest Why is there a rush to seperate church and state and yet when there is a political agenda afoot then the church is used to beat upon the state.

    1. Frank, I’ve sent emails and hard copy letters to Mr Cruz. No, I’m not seeking confrontation but I am interested in contributing to this important issue in our larger public conversation. No, I’m not trying to make a political statement about Mr Cruz himself but I am articulating (what I believe) are appropriate values that should inform politics on many levels; not only how our elected officials govern but also how citizens understand and talk about the ethical foundations of our political life together. Thanks for your comments.

  2. Thank you, Charlotte, for your courageous witness in leading this civil discussion. Allow me to submit this. Karl Shelly, a pastor at Assembly Mennonite Church in Goshen, Indiana, was recently subjected to a review of his ministerial credentials for officiating at a same-sex wedding. Here is his response.

    http://www.bmclgbt.org/APastorsReponse.shtml

  3. It comes down to this. If two men, or two women love each other or even lust after each other, how does that endanger anyone else’s marriage. Why does marriage need defending? What are you defending it from? Look around you senator. Good marriages survive thru hardships. But as a former prosecutor and also a former divorce attorney, I can say that there are some marriages that need to be terminated. A marriage can only be protected by the two involved. The U.S. Senate should not be interfering.

  4. Sorry, I disagree with Reverend Charlotte Vaughan letter to Senator Ted Cruz. I am not a politician and not advocating traditional marriage values from a secular or American or any other country’s position but clearly from the standpoint that God instituted marriage between a woman and a man and said let no one separate them. The implication has been and it is that society would come against this institution that God established. God’s laws are universal and they come with consequences.

    To love your neighbor, you cannot honestly and selflessly love your neighbor without first loving God. To state that you are able to, you make yourself out to be a liar because your motivation has selfish desire.

    And to love God, is to die to self and live as Christ, 100% devoted to God’s work, out of love for God and His Law that He himself established, not man. God created us for worship, and to worship in truth and spirit. To do so is to obey God and turn away from evil and the practice of evil. If you are to tell me that God’s laws are not for today, you are saying that God is not God because it would be saying God is only relevant to time, but He is a God who created all things, even time and space. His Laws are truthful, faithful and righteous for all time and this is what He has said about His righteous purposeful laws:

    Leviticus 18 New International Version (NIV)
    Unlawful Sexual Relations

    18 The Lord said to Moses, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. 3 You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices. 4 You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees. I am the Lord your God. 5 Keep my decrees and laws, for the person who obeys them will live by them. I am the Lord.

    Jesus validated Moses, the Laws and the Prophets. By your letter Reverend Charlotte Vaughan you do not validate the claims of Jesus, who is the fulfillment of the Law. When you read the rest of this chapter it explains that sexual activity outside of the relationship between a man and a woman is an abomination to God and to His Laws. Are we to presuppose that these laws are not valid for us today?

    People say we are no longer under the law but under grace. This I am thankful for, for by Grace we are saved and it is of no works of our own, it is the mystery and power of God who gives us the ability to turn from sin and repent, and this includes sexual sin. Thank God for His Divine Grace which is Christ alone. But continue in sin, you will be subject to the consequences of your sin. Do not cause people to stumble, for when you do, you will be held accountable for the corrupt view of God’s grace. It would be better for you to quit teaching falsely rather than to lead a person, and according to you, thousands astray. God’s Grace exist and His Laws continues to exist as well for all times. God loves the sinner but hates sin. This is the truth of the matter.

    In Christ always,
    Paul Zarkas

    1. Yes, Paul, we do disagree, don’t we? I have studied long and hard and have come to different conclusions than you. I am grateful that God is my judge and you are not. I am perfectly willing to be judged for proclaiming a gospel of grace and welcome instead of perpetuating a so-called gospel of judgment and exclusion.

      But the point for this letter is that civil governments have no business legislating religious perspectives and especially biblical interpretations. Our civil government must ensure the civil liberties of ALL citizens. The DOMA does not do that.

      In Christ with you,
      Charlotte

      1. i never cease to be amazed at the way liberal ministers choose characterize a Biblical world view of sex and marriage as being based on “a few controversial verses.” Not only do both the Old and New Testament condemn the practice of homosexual sex, but likewise nowhere does it mention or condone any form of same sex marriage. It only SPECIFICALLY condones sex and marriage between a man and a woman.
        Your use of slavery and women as parallel issues is not only without merit but not an accurate depiction of scripture. Nowhere in the New Testament is slavery CONDONED. Likewise, Jesus actually elevated women and Paul said there was no more male or female, Jew or Greek.
        But Jesus DID validate marriage between a man and a woman at Cana. This was not incidental – He was the Son of God! Nothing He did was accidental, unintentional, or done to conform “to the times.”

        I realize I won’t convince you because you apparently hold a low view of Scripture, which you feel needs a modern twist. These are not “ancient texts,” they are the Word of God. I’m sorry you’ve been taught otherwise and thereby teach and lead others astray.

        I pray that the Holy Spirit comes upon you and overwhelms you with truth.

        1. Larry, I am happy to be judged by a loving God for proclaiming a gospel of love and welcome. Leading God’s people away from judging and into grace is never leading them astray.

          And by the way, I have a very high view of Scripture; I take the Bible far too seriously to take it as literally as you do. Peace my brother…

    2. But in my religion, gay people are allowed to marry. Are we only supposed to do what your religion says? Then there is no freedom of religion and if that’s the case, I think MY religion should be the one we follow and yours should not be allowed. In my religion god said straight people shouldn’t be married. So now let’s make that a law. Does that sound reasonable to you?

    3. My response to people who use the Bible to advocate against gay marriage is this. What is your stance on divorce? Jesus never spoke of gay relationships but was adamant that someone who divorced and remarried was committing adultery. Unless you plan on also preventing divorce, which is currently legal, I think the Biblical argument does not hold water. In fact, permitting one and preventing the other is a textbook definition of hypocrisy. The faith of my childhood, Catholicism, has never recognized civil divorce decrees and has never been taken to court by a divorced couple to force the church to perform a service. I think gay marriage should be treated the same. Legal through our secular court system.And up to individual churches on whether or not they want to recognize it.

  5. Loved your letter, and thought you might want to help him and many other Christians understand that, as you said, “Love They Neighbor” is the message Jesus gave us.. the Old Testament has many conflicting things in it, but Jesus said that the New Testament was his new covenant with us, and that its major emphasis was just his message, to love…not hate..not judge..to love…

  6. I have to disagree. Love of Neighbor and the other quotes you provided do not mean have sex with anyone you want to. God said a man should not lay with another man. I assume it would also apply to woman. It makes me fearful when a pastor changes the meaning of the bible. As for as same sex marriage, I know it’s not my place to judge the actions of other people. Judgment will come when we stand before God.

    1. Thanks for your comment Jimmie. My argument is that civil governments should not limit civil rights and protections of citizens because of particular religious understandings. Christians have a very wide range of beliefs about a lot of issues. Add people from other religions and no religion into that mix and we see the wisdom of our Founders who enshrined the separation of church and state into our Constitution.

  7. Thank you so much for writing your letter and making it public.I live in Atlanta where there is still no marriage equality. My partner and I were married on 12/12/14 in Asheville, NC, the state where he was born. Being able to marry makes a huge difference. It no longer relegates our relationship to 2nd class status. Hopefully, marriage equality will come to Georgia soon. Thanks again for your bravery, willingness to speak out and your compassion.

  8. I appreciate your calm and clear approach. I am the mother of a gay man who has been in a loving relationship for about 15 years, they were able to marry last year in Maryland. All the arguments against gay marriage have struck me as strange. The very name of the federal effort, “The Defense of Marriage Act”, has such a hollow ring. My marriage needs no defense from homosexuals, the only time my husband and I discussed something being a negative influence was when we lived in Silicon Valley. The group my husband worked was seeing a lot of separations and divorces. Men and women in the group were leaving their spouses and getting together with others in the group. My husband was getting concerned about the atmosphere at work, it seemed to be unhealthy for marriage. We decided that a change of location would be a good idea, fortunately an opportunity came up within the company to relocate. That is a case for defense of marriage.

    1. I’m not holding my breath either Joan. But maybe what’s more important is for regular people to have more meaningful dialogue. For real people to really get to know each other and keep breaking down these barriers. Thanks for your comment.

  9. Thank you for your efforts to bring about marriage equality. I am straight and an atheist who believes that we should each be able to marry the person we love regardless of sexual orientation. That is what a “Defense of Marriage Act” should do rather than discriminate.

  10. Thank you Charlotte, I am an educated person, however, the frustration and anger I have felt with this has left me having a difficult time being a voice of reason. you have done a wonderful job.

  11. There is no greater commandment than love. Jesus even went further in saying, love covers a multitude of sins. Judging is not our business. It’s God’s, because only he knows how and why we do what we do. Love one another.

  12. A loving mind and heart is God’s grace – in all the many ways we perceive God. That is the compass, the touchstone, the true North of our souls. I am so grateful for your words!

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