Sitting in the downtown coffee shop tonight, taking a few precious hours of "me" time, I sat with my computer on my lap, listening to two rather loud college students at the table next to me.
The first, a girl, sat despondently at her laptop and the other, a boy, joined her, greeting her as a good friend and proceeded to ask what she was doing. She replied that she had an essay assigned, to analyze a current political commercial and it was due tomorrow. She continued to elaborate that she had no idea what she wanted to say, though she had all sorts of opinions regarding the commercial, which, it turned out, was about same-sex marriage.
She and the boy watched the commercial together, laughing about the idiocy of the people who would produce such drivel and he gave her some ideas on methods for picking apart the commercial line by line to discover any hidden subversive meanings and to expose its absurdity for what it was.
From what I could hear, the commercial was a political campaign commercial for the State of Massachusetts, on the conservative side, advocating for laws banning same-sex marriage (or something of that ilk) and the two college students not only watched the commercial repeatedly while chattering about how dumb it was and how anyone who agreed with it is equally dumb, but they also dug up some Youtube parodies of it and watched them with equal explosive mirth.
Then they began drafting the essay together, first taking the symbolism of storm-clouds gathering and "exposing" the fact that idiot Christians believe that gays are taking over the world. They went on to agree that they could not believe that Christian people would be so stupid as to believe that gay marriage is a "fight", saying that if everyone would simply live and let live, we'd have no storm whatsoever. They joked about "sunshine and rainbows" being somewhat appropriate in comparison to the ominous conservative storm-clouds.
There was quite a long discussion between the two about whether Christian doctors are threatened by same-sex marriage (apparently a doctor in the commercial had made a statement along the lines of "choosing between his conscience and his job") and they laughed at length that the commercial depicted conservative Christians as multi-racial, multi-age professionals instead of the middle-class white bigots everyone knows they are. They decided doctors would never be put in a position to choose between their religion and their job in a situation with same-sex marriage because it would never come up, except possibly on admittance paperwork or a spouse picking up prescriptions, which would hardly qualify for discriminatory action on the part of the religious doctor. They figured that a doctor who was bound by the code of the Golden Rule would treat a Muslim who was dying and would likewise take a gay person into the ER with no questions asked.
Then they tackled the issue of parents and the public schools. Since one of the people portrayed in the commercial was a "parent", they discussed whether the public schools pushed a gay agenda as Christians claimed. They decided immediately that it was a load of hogwash and that public schools don't talk about homosexuality at all and that Christians are wrong to think they do. All while they worked on the girl's essay on same-sex marriage for her public school assignment.
They spent a good two hours hashing this issue out using conversational tones that carried over the usual quiet buzz of the coffee shop. Their unshakable belief that Christians are gay-hating, intolerant middle-class white Republicans who try to paint the issue as black-and-white (recall they are watching a political campaign ad), who want everyone to believe as they do instead of embracing a "diverse rainbow of love" came out in constant mirth over the stupidity of a group of people who could actually believe and advertise, or even blog about such beliefs. Likewise they could not understand why a Christian definition of marriage might be threatened and came to the conclusion that it wasn't and anyone who thought so was ignorant.
At last the boy left, heading, as he announced, to the library to finish a bibliography. The girl hunkered down at her computer to type her essay, content in her thoughtful analysis of what was to her a completely stupid and senseless political commercial.
I sat for a while, flabbergasted by what I had heard. It had been tempting the whole time to announce my presence as a Christian, even one who believes that the Bible says homosexual acts are wrong, but I refrained, choosing instead to listen and not get into a swordfight. The amount of cruelty, intolerance and ignorant malice I heard stunned me because these two were the self-proclaimed "tolerant" crew. Rebuttals for every argument came to my head, stories of doctors not wishing to perform IVF on homosexual patients because it violated their conscience, or even the fact that we Christians might not actually think in black-and-white, that we might wrestle over this issue, that we might have friends who are gay, that we might not all vote a straight Republican ticket or that the Bible might actually be worth reading, even the parts that deal with homosexuality.
Who knows if my decision not to speak up was right or wrong. I might have been able to make them think; on the other hand I might have done more harm than good in a discussion where I was not invited. Part of me squirms under the doom of "When Good People Say Nothing" but another part of me has seen well-meaning Christians sail in where they were not wanted and drive the wedge deeper. So I pray. And I wept (yes, I did. I came home and bawled. Less, to be honest about the "decaying moral state of our nation"--I don't think it is decaying-- and more over the fact that I don't personally enjoy being overgeneralized as a political imbecile and ethical monster for my choice of religion). And I hope somehow these two learn to think beyond their own black-and-white world where all "intolerant" Christians are verboten and see that it's not quite that simple.