The uniformed children were a nice touch Tuesday at the Crenshaw Christian Center, marching out of school with U.S. flags -- like good little soldiers in a holy war -- to hear ministers preach against the evils of gay marriage.
I had hoped the event would be held in the FaithDome -- once before I die I have to enter the realm -- but instead everyone gathered on the lawn under heavenly skies. Three dozen members of the clergy were there to support Prop. 8, which would amend the state Constitution to define marriage as only possible between a man and a woman.
The Yes on 8 banners read:
"For Children. For Families. For Our Future."
Apostle Frederick K.C. Price stepped to the microphone.
"I believe and teach the Bible," he said, pausing briefly, as if nothing more needed to be said.
But he went on to quote Genesis, saying marriage is that which occurs between a man and a woman. To veer from that course, he suggested, would "jeopardize our children's future."
Off the top, I could name six dozen greater threats to children's futures than the prospect of same-sex people committing themselves to each other in love, especially in South Los Angeles. With so many single parents and foster children, in fact, two-parent families might be worth encouraging.
Another clergyman, Bishop Frank Stewart of Zoe Christian Fellowship, said he was insulted by the suggestion that gay marriage is a civil rights issue. The real civil rights issues, he said, are the rights of parents (I didn't quite get his point), and his right to choose whom he can join in matrimony as a minister.
Pastor Beverly Crawford of Bible Enrichment Fellowship International clarified that in supporting Prop. 8 she wasn't saying no to gays, but "yes to God" and doing what "the Lord Jesus Christ" would do.
I always envy those who know precisely what Jesus would do. I'm wondering, though, if Pastor Crawford made the right call on that one.
It would have been nice to hear even more spiritual guidance at the Crenshaw Christian Center, but I wanted to catch part of a competing rally several miles away, where clergy were speaking out against Prop. 8. On the way to the second event, I called Father Geoff Farrow, the Fresno Catholic priest who was stripped of his parish job last week for saying from the pulpit that he would vote against Prop. 8.
Had he remained silent, Farrow explained, he would have become "an accomplice to a moral evil that strips gay and lesbian people not only of their civil rights but of their human dignity as well."
Farrow's ouster wasn't surprising, because the Catholic Church is one of the leading supporters of the Yes on 8 campaign. Speaking up for the dignity of gay people must be a greater sin than being accused of molesting minors, which has frequently resulted in a mere transfer to another Catholic church rather than dismissal.
Farrow and I plan to get together later this week. And I'm hoping to chat with Gov. Schwarzenegger, another good Catholic who opposes a constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions but has done a disappearing act on Prop. 8. He could make the difference if he speaks up, and it's not as if he's built himself much of a legacy otherwise. But let me get back to the No on 8 rally, held at Lucy Florence Cultural Center in Leimert Park.
Unfortunately the party was breaking up as I arrived, and only four speakers attended, as opposed to the dozens at the other event. And by the way, if the turnouts are representative of the African American vote Nov. 4, which is expected to be large because of presidential candidate Barack Obama, that may tip the balance in favor of Prop. 8.
I told the Rev. Vanessa Mackenzie of the Episcopal Church of the Advent that the other rally was much larger and that those who spoke claimed to know God's will on gay marriage.
"How can you love God, who you do not see," Mackenzie asked, "and then hate the brother and sister whom you do see?"
It's not presented as hatred, I said, but as the word, as written in the Bible.
"Very clearly, that's an abuse of Scripture," insisted the Rev. Eric P. Lee of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
If supporters of Prop. 8 wish to literally interpret the Bible, Lee and Mackenzie said, why limit themselves to opposing gay marriage? They should also campaign for slavery, the subjugation of women and the beating of children.
"I've grown in this issue," confessed Lee, who used to oppose gay marriage.
Mackenzie and I both asked what turned him in the other direction.
"What changed me was the mean-spiritedness of this battle that exists today," he said. "How many times have people hidden behind God for a specific agenda?"
It happens now and again, I suppose. In wars, political campaigns and other nasty business.