This article has been building inside me for a long time. I have hesitated to write it, since it will touch directly on a subject that has been debated ad nauseum on social media for many years without any meaningful resolution. I suspect that some people actually choose confusion because it justifies a good brawl. My intention here is not to persuade my opponents to switch sides ― only to clarify the issues.
But first things first: I got hit by a car the other night. It happened as I was riding my bicycle along Burnside Street Monday evening. Well, factually speaking, I hit the car after it drove directly into my path. While there is some question as to why the driver didn’t a) apply his brakes or b) open his eyes as he drove so as to notice good reasons to apply his brakes, the fact remains that the accident was legally my fault, since I was crossing against the pedestrian signal and should have been in the bicycle lane.
I remember thinking, “This is it!” I knew for certain that there was going to be a very bad collision ― worse than any bicycle accident I had ever been in before. Then I woke up in the emergency room with a doctor and a nurse tending to me. It was pretty eerie.
The trauma nurse informed me that he had to cut my clothes off. Having your clothes taken off by someone else is bad (generally speaking). Having them removed by a man is worse (if you’re a man). Having them cut off is worse still (Just try to put them back on afterwards). I looked mournfully at the ruined garments on the floor. I had just bought both pieces.
After that, there was a sinking further feeling. How many more brand-new experiences would I have before the day was done? All bets were off after starting the evening with some guy in scrubs using scissors on my person. During my entire time in the emergency room, bones clicked all through my midsection to remind me that my skeleton had been reconfigured.
When the X-Rays and CAT Scan had been examined, I learned that I had broken two ribs, herniated one disc in my back and gotten a generous case of road rash (forehead, elbow, hands). I had a perpetual headache in spite of the shot they’d given me, which hinted at unspecified damage sustained when my head hit the pavement.
All in all, however, I was lucky. Then the policeman walked in.
“Mr. Abbott, my name is Officer Lynd. I was at the scene of the accident. I have to inform you that, from all indications, you’re legally responsible for the collision. There were three or four witnesses, and they all said you crossed the street against the pedestrian signal when you should have been in the bike lane.” He then handed me a ticket, which I still haven’t read.
If I were going to feel resentful, this would be the time. So far, I’ve lost: my mobility for at least a month; at least two weeks’ wages; several months’ pay after the medical bills come due (contrary to popular belief, Obamacare was not passed with the little guy in mind. I have never been in a position to pay the premiums. The truth about the “Affordable Care Act” is summed up in the witty saying, “Obamacare: It only works if you don’t.”); one bicycle, a set of clothes, plus whatever fine I’d just been whacked with for getting hit by a car.
Now, let’s rewind this country music song. What if someone had approached me right before the accident:
“Hey sir! Yeah, I know you don’t know me very well, but I think someone needs to level with you here. You’re treading in dangerous territory…Yeah, I know you think the pedestrian signals are retarded, but you could get hurt out here. I know, you’re just out for a nice ride, but these cars are heavy, and not everyone pays attention to where they’re going.”
I may well have argued for a moment with my new imaginary friend. After all, I despise Big Brother. I think it’s just about the world’s biggest, unfunniest joke that little machines on poles tell a bicyclist or pedestrian when it’s safe to proceed, and I’m legally obligated to accept the verdict even if I don’t trust an object that has no feelings and is incapable of thought. I could literally write for an hour about all the things that are wrong with this picture, but at the end of the day, none of it would mean a thing.
In fact, literally, at the end of the day, I ended up with a whole list of minuses ― medical, legal and financial. This fact stands in spite of all my anger against the system. City Hall has fairly steamrolled over all my personal ideas about how the traffic should be organized. The reason is simple: the people who build and maintain the infrastructure get to decide how the infrastructure is used. As soon as I build my own system of streets and crosswalks, I can run it any way I want to.
While all this was going on, a historic ruling came down from the U.S. Supreme Court. As I often do with significant national events, I felt the urge to express my opinion about the ruling. As I took a closer look, my situation with the pedestrian signals began to look a lot like that of gays who want to marry.
For most of my life, I have been disobeying the crosswalk signals and justifying it for two reasons: 1) The laws governing people crossing streets on bicycles are “minor” ones; therefore, breaking them is okay. 2) These laws are poorly thought out and impose unjust encumbrances on the bicyclist, who has a hard enough time getting around in a timely manner.
In other words, I made my own rules. I did so without having any legitimate authority or even sound principles to stand on. My course of action wasn’t based on order and the common good; it was based on my desire not to wait around every time I had to cross a street.
The push for gay marriage seems to proceed from the same simple impetus. It pays no regard to the historical underpinnings and authoritative basis for marriage. It doesn’t acknowledge God, who invented marriage as a family structure intended to provide for the care and nurture of the children produced by heterosexual unions. Marriage has been in use for millennia this way. The right to make rules about marriage belongs to God, since he created it. Christians can (and many of them do) sympathize with gays in their predicament, but the institution of marriage is no more ours to tinker with than it is gays’. The nature and structure of marriage proceeds out of something higher than human authority.
Christians who weigh in on the topic of gay marriage have none of their own authority in this matter, as much as some hawkish people might assert otherwise; we merely point to the divine establishment.
Here, of course, the comparison between my flouting of traffic laws and gay marriage breaks down, because the Law itself has now put its hands on the institution of marriage and customized it to accommodate homosexuals. It wasn’t the authority of Christians the SCOTUS usurped: it was God’s.
Far be it from me to fight God’s battles for him. But followers of Christ are ambassadors ― representatives of God’s truth ― which is why we must have this conversation. If we’re going to have the conversation, it should be orderly. So I will attempt to clarify the Biblical position and correct several common misinterpretations coming from the gay marriage camp.
1) Christians condemn homosexuals. Wrong. There is no condemnation for people or their desires but for the homosexual lifestyle, which is condemned not by Christians but by Holy Scripture. Both those who deny Scripture’s prohibitions against the lifestyle and those who try to attach the prohibition to other things not mentioned in the Bible, are under a curse (Rev. 22:19).
2) Opposition to the homosexual lifestyle is a product of hate. Because of some misguided zealots, many of whom identify themselves as Christians (accurately or otherwise), there is some truth to this. But let the reader judge: have I written anything hateful, pejorative, condescending or insulting here? To the contrary, I have been respectful, even though I have often been insulted and maligned for having the temerity to challenge the mantra of the day. And I’m not alone. Let’s be honest, people. If followers of Christ hated gays, would we bother having a dialogue at all?
3) Christians are always trying to impose their own views on everyone else. Let’s be clear: none of the Christians involved in this debate personally wrote any part of the Bible. Even Jesus, who is the real authority here, left the decision — obey or disobey — up to the individual. This testimony about the words of Scripture as they relate to individual lifestyles is offered as a warning to people about the very real dangers along the path they have chosen. It is an act of love, not hate. As for those “Christians” who spew hate, it seems unlikely that they have more than a passing acquaintance with Scripture and the Holy Spirit. The Bible commands those who follow Christ to warn others lovingly: “We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak,” 1 Thessalonians 5:14. This is real Christianity.
I’m sure there are many in the opposing camp who honestly believe in what they are doing. I exhort all such people to ask themselves what it is about reasonable discourse they find so threatening. And while you’re at it: what could possibly motivate me, a polite heterosexual man in his 40s, to spend the time and effort to reach out peacefully to a group that has so often treated me disrespectfully.
Could it be that I just don’t want to see another bike wreck?