I’m Christian. My husband is Pagan. Sometimes, we get strange looks. I’ve been asked before if it bothers me that I will go to Heaven and my husband will go to Hell. I’ve been asked why I haven’t tried to save him or why I would spend a life with someone I can’t spend eternity with.
Here’s the deal: screw you guys. My husband is amazing. He is a better person than me, and has more scrupulous morals than many “Christians” I know. He judges rarely, loves completely, and would die in order to help someone else if he thought they deserved it more than him. So if there’s a deity out there who would demand that I choose between my husband and my God, I’m not entirely sure that’s a deity I even want to worship to begin with.
Why do we as a culture try to tarnish one of the most beautiful things in existence—love—by defining it, categorizing it, and condemning it? My great-great-grandmother was disowned by her family because she chose to marry a Protestant man. Because how DARE she tarnish the sanctity of marriage by choosing to live with someone who’s not Catholic? The nerve of some people. When I was young, I remember discussing with my father how strange it was when Kirk kissed Uhura. My students today have no idea why that’s strange. And hearing them say that was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever heard. Maybe their children will say the same thing about same-sex partners.
Marriage is a constantly-developing, always-evolving thing. The definitions of marriage change every generation or so, and still we scream “You can’t change it! It’s ALWAYS BEEN LIKE THAT!” Then some of us kick and scream and dig in our heels while others simply… grow up. Become something better than we were yesterday. Marriage changes. It is a human concept, and as such is not perfect. So it will always change. But love… love is perfect. I don’t think it changes like our concepts of marriage or ceremony do. I think love is primordial. It’s that thing that’s so deep within us that we can’t move or breathe or live without seeing the beauty in the world that makes us want to be greater than what we are. We even have a word for people who don’t exhibit love and empathy: sociopaths. Love is so much a part of who we are that the LACK of it terrifies us. People know of love, have experienced it, and so, so, so many of us have tried to define it. It’s been written about by millions of people, and not a single one of them have gotten it exactly right yet, even though we’ve had generations upon generations to try. It’s so big that our tiny vocabulary with its 26 stupid squiggly symbols can’t even begin to touch it. It’s so big that even the screaming people with their signs and their hatred can’t touch it either. And that’s wonderful.
So people look at gay marriage today and they use the same arguments against it that our grandparents said against biracial marriage and our great-grandparents said about interfaith marriage. Some of us start using the Bible as a weapon instead of as a bridge, screaming “You can’t pick and choose what are sins” while we wear clothes made of more than one type of cloth and eat all sorts of cloven-hooved animals. We get so caught up on why we’re better than other people, that we forget how we’re the same. And how we’re worse. Like the Afterlife is somehow a finite dining room, and we somehow think that there are some tables left but we HAVE to get one of them. It doesn’t matter who we trample in the process. And if we get a table by the sheer force of making sure that someone else DOESN’T get it, then so be it. Because, you know… that’s what Heaven should be about.
If there is a Heaven, then its occupants are determined by Earthly deeds. But we keep trampling other people in order to reach it ourselves. So many people apparently reach Nirvana by standing on the bodies of foes that they have defeated in the name of Faith. Each generation is made up of a series of Crusades, our crosses planted on top of the people we have told “you are not worthy.” And eventually… eventually the bodies are piled high enough that we can reach our ultimate goal. If that’s what Heaven is, then maybe I don’t want to go there either.
I suppose I should say here that I do, in fact, love the Bible. I love its stories and its symbolism. I love the faith it gives people and the hope you can find in its pages. I love that you can read it and understand our culture’s history and magnificence—our evolution as a society. As a people. I even love how it says that I will not be reaching Heaven upon my death, because now I have a better understanding of how our morals have evolved over time, just as our marriage has. I love the Bible for all these things, just as I love the Quran and the Eddas. I love stories about Zeus and Odin as much as I love Beowulf and Abraham. Because Faith and Love and Hope—those are the things that are beautiful. And every culture has them.
I am a wicked, wicked person. I constantly desire things that other people have, and I’ve given in to rage and gluttony and sloth. I am exceedingly proud. Like, really, extremely proud. It’s kind of a problem. I’ve read the Bible, but I’ve also read the Quran, and the Poetic Eddas and I can recite more stories about the ancient Greek Gods than I can out of my own religious book. I once wanted to become a Pastor, but as I grew older I realized that the ideas in my head no longer fit into the regimented slots that my Faith demanded. And, though I was told over and over again that I had to vanquish those thoughts in order to be Pure, I could not kill them anymore than I could an infant. Why would God give me the ability to think these things if He only wanted to see if I was strong enough to ignore them? So I left the path of the church. Now there are many reasons I will go to Hell when I die. I could not list them all here even if I desired to. But if the biggest of those is that I married a Pagan and I think that everyone else should be allowed to marry whoever they want, too… Well, then in the immortal words of Huckleberry Finn:
“All right then, I’ll go to Hell.”