taking the words of Jesus seriously

Lots of folks have been chattering about the mass wedding that took place in the middle of Macklemore’s “Same Love” performance at the Grammys this past week. The lighting-quick ceremony included dozens of couples, both same-sex and opposite sex, presided over by none other than music and film star Queen Latifah. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ song, which deconstructs the biases around same-sex couples and promotes an openness to marriage equality, went viral this past year, particularly as the Youtube video that accompanies the song was shared more than 100 million times.

Yes, more attention was afforded to the performers than to the couples getting married. Yes, it felt rushed. Yes, I was disappointed when two men who had just exchanged vows leaned in to kiss each other, only to have the camera cut away.

But despite how much better it could have been, I fundamentally disagree with those who claim the whole ceremony, brief and Hollywood-ish as it was, symbolized a sad day for marriage as an institution, even if you support marriage equality.

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I agree it’s not how I’d want to get married, and that it was a little bit cheesy, superficial and exploitive. But my friend, Marnie, who is both a minister and a member of the LGBTQ community, offered this in response to criticisms of the event by some straight allies:

So, tell me what wedding, on some level at some point is NOT superficial (can you say thousands of dollars spent on food, plates that matches the attendant’s clothes, flowers, cakes, candies, rehearsal dinners, a fancy ring — I could go on but I’ll stop), impersonal (hundreds of guests, really? Or Elvis-in-a-drive-through) and mutually exploitative (okay, so it’s mostly women that get exploited in the hetero marriage). But how’s this? How about after decades of being submitted to hetero-as-normal (“every kiss beings with ‘K'” as a start — seen any queer people in those commercials?) I felt good about it, so Amy, you feel good about it too. When everyone has the privilege of having their marriages recognized publicly, then perhaps we can talk about how demeaning and emotionally manipulative such displays as the Grammy weddings are. Until that time, I’ll take the positive affirmation of my life anywhere I can find it. If the church ain’t gonna step up and step out, then God bless the Grammys for doing it.

Far from trivializing marriage, this ceremony actually was, I’d argue, a sacred act in itself. Yes, it could have been done differently — arguably better — but what matters most is it happened. For millions of people, it’s likely the first time they’ve seen anything other that stereotypes or caricatures of gay couples, especially in the context of marriage. It got people talking, which is huge, and perhaps more importantly, it helps to normalize an expression of mature, committed love in a culture that still wrestles with the difference between good/bad and typical/atypical.

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Something is not inherently bad simply because it’s unfamiliar. But history proves that, as something becomes a more common encounter (like seeing regular same sex couples getting married, buying groceries, mowing the lawn or doing their taxes) the less we resort to the natural reflex to label it as somehow bad, dangerous or threatening to how we see the world.

For this, I’m grateful to Hollywood, to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, to Queen Latifah and to the couples who used their commitment to one another to advance a cause who time has more than arrived.

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