Obama gets better: Faith, family and LGBT equality

Pete Souza AP President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC’s Good Morning America, in the … Continued

Pete Souza


President Barack Obama participates in an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC’s Good Morning America, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Wednesday, May 9, 2012, in Washington. Obama declared his unequivocal support for gay marriage on Wednesday, a historic announcement that gave the polarizing social issue a more prominent role in the 2012 race for the White House.

Being an ally on full LGBT equality has been, and continues to be, an important part of my faith journey as a Christian. Welcome, President Obama. Ally to ally, let me tell you, it is an enormous spiritual gift to be a part of this struggle.

Mr. President, your announcement of personal support for marriage equality for LGBT Americans is historic. But in addition to stepping out decisively on this issue, I think you modeled the way forward for many other Americans who may also be evolving on full civil equality for their fellow lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender citizens.

As I talk to people in seminaries, churches and communities around the country, I have learned that faith and family, as well as friends, are what move people to evolve and embrace full LGBT equality, including marriage equality.

Christian conservatives have done their best to “brand” Christianity as anti-gay, but as with so many civil rights struggles, it is the message of love of God and neighbor that Jesus taught that is decisive for overturning prejudice.

It was so important, therefore, Mr. President, that you explicitly cited your faith as a Christian and the “Golden Rule” as a basis for making this decision. The Golden Rule is the instruction to “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30-31).

When you love the neighbor as yourself, you cannot deny to that neighbor the same rights you have yourself.

But you also talked frankly and openly about how talking to your wife Michelle was important. You talked to “friends and family and neighbors.” You said it was important to know “members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together.” You said you thought about “those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage.”

This is it. This is how people evolve on LGBT equality. You ask yourself whether your faith supports prejudice, or the love of God and neighbor. You know family and friends who are LGBT and your love and friendship for them is unchanged, or sometimes even becomes even stronger as you realize how they are discriminated against.

And if you are a person of decency and courage, you become a vocal ally. As you did, Mr. President. Thank you.

Faith. Family. Fairness. It’s how we all evolve.


Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite Rev. Dr. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is Professor of Theology and immediate past President of Chicago Theological Seminary. She is also a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress. Her most recent books are "#OccupytheBible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power" and, as contributor and editor, "Interfaith Just Peacemaking: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Perspectives on the New Paradigm of Peace and War."
  • Kingofkings1

    I would have preferred to say to your otherwise brilliant analyses “no comment” to this one, professor, except for this observation: Do you have to love your neighbor who brought young boys into his home, then tortured and killed them for his pleasure?

  • cricket44

    That you would even link the two topics is telling. Nothing Christian to see here…

  • salero21

    NO, sorry but NO, he’s NOT getting better but worst. Like so many others before him all thru History. Power and the desire for that Power, at whatever the cost is CORRUPTING him. He is in a downward moral spin. Sinking fast in the quick sand of his lack of Strenght of Character. Just because your “friends” do wrong, you don’t jump into whatever the bandwagon. If all of your “friends” decide to jump off a mile high rift or of a high rise, you don’t follow after them just because they’re “friends”. Also Marriage is NOT a Right in the same manner as other Rights. Marriage is always a Priviledge and in some cases a duty or honor depending on the situation or culture. No he’s NOT getting better, he is up to his neck in the miry mud, in the cesspool of a Nation of Adulterers, Fornicators and of all sorts of Perverts, dating back to it’s very beginnings.

  • ccnl1

    Beyond religion and onto reality:

    From the Land of Loading More Comments:

    “Abrahamics” believe that their god created all of us and of course that includes the gay members of the human race. Also, those who have studied homosexuality have determined that there is no choice involved therefore gays are gay because god made them that way.

    To wit:

    o The Royal College of Psychiatrists stated in 2007:

    “ Despite almost a century of psychoanalytic and psychological speculation, there is no substantive evidence to support the suggestion that the nature of parenting or early childhood experiences play any role in the formation of a person’s fundamental heterosexual or homosexual orientation. It would appear that s-exual orientation is biological in nature, determined by a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment. Sexual orientation is therefore not a choice.[60] ”

    “Garcia-Falgueras and Swaab state in the abstract of their 2010 study, “The fetal brain develops during the intraut-erine period in the male direction through a direct action of testosterone on the developing nerve cells, or in the female direction through the absence of this hor-mone surge. In this way, our gender identity (the conviction of belonging to the male or female gender) and s-exual orientation are programmed or organized into our brain structures when we are still in the womb. There is no indication that social environment after birth has an effect on gender identity or sexual orientation.”[8

    See also the Philadelphia Inquirer review “Gay Gene, Deconstructed”, 12/12/2011. Said review addresses the following “How do genes associated with homosexuality avoid being weeded out by Darwinian evolution?”

    Of course, those gays who belong to Abrahamic religions abide by the rules of no adultery or fornication allowed.

    And because of basic biology differences said monogamous ventures should always be called same-sex unions not same-sex marriages.

    From below, on

  • Kingofkings1

    This is sick. We can do without the detailed description of what gays do to each other to obtain pleasure

  • Kingofkings1

    The author starts with citing these biblical verses: “love the Lord your God with all your heart” and “love your neighbor as yourself”, and goes on to explain her support of certain policies. While I agree that your neighbors should be loved, there are some neighbors who have murdered others or done similar things – the bible is silent on this topic. That was my question to the author

  • usapdx

    Like it or dislike it but no one can take a right from a American by our supreme law , the Constitution and it will be the end product . The Farmers left room for change of the Constitution but it is not made to be easy for they wanted only correct change as time goes by for our nation.

  • ThomasBaum


    You asked, “Do you have to love your neighbor who brought young boys into his home, then tortured and killed them for his pleasure?”

    No one has to do anything but if one takes what Jesus said seriously, the command is to love, it is not to love except for…, is it?

    However there is no command to like.

    This however does not get one off the hook, so to speak, with worldly justice, remember Jesus said, “Give to God what is God’s and to Caesar what is Caesar’s”.

    Jesus took upon Himself all of the sins of all of humanity not just those sins that some seem to be alright with Jesus taking.

    Maybe if one were to actually think about this than one might come to realize why the Apostles said, “These are hard sayings” and also why some of Jesus’s day looked upon Jesus as quite insane.

    One might also come to realize that when God said, “Vengeance is mine”, God was speaking about judgement not revenge and that only God is capable of “cleaning up”, as it were, ALL.

    God Is a Being of Love and one could say that the difference between heaven and hell is whether the Consuming Fire of Pure Love that Is God either caresses or burns one.

Read More Articles

Screenshot 2014-04-23 11.40.54
Atheists Bad, Christians Good: A Review of “God’s Not Dead”

A smug Christian movie about smug atheists leads to an inevitable happy ending.

Ten Ways to Make Your Church Autism-Friendly

The author of the Church of England’s autism guidelines shares advice any church can follow.

Valle Header Art
My Life Depended on the Very Act of Writing

How I was saved by writing about God and cancer.

Sociologist: Religion Can Predict Sexual Behavior

“Religion and sex are tracking each other like never before,” says sociologist Mark Regnerus.

The Internet Is Not Killing Religion. So What Is?

Why is religion in decline in the modern world? And what can save it?

Why I Want to Be Culturally Evangelical

I’ve lost my faith. Do I have to lose my heritage, too?

What Is a Saint?

How the diversity of saintly lives reveals multiple paths toward God.

An Ayatollah’s Gift to Baha’is, Iran’s Largest Religious Minority

An ayatollah offers a beautiful symbolic gesture against a backdrop of violent persecution.

river dusk
Cleaner, Lighter, Closer

What’s a fella got to do to be baptized?

Magical Thinking and the Canonization of Two Popes

Why Pope Francis is canonizing two popes for all of the world wide web to see.

Pope Francis: Stop the Culture of Waste

What is the human cost of our tendency to throw away?

chapel door
“Sometimes You Find Something Quiet and Holy”: A New York Story

In a hidden, underground sanctuary, we were all together for a few minutes in this sweet and holy mystery.

Mary Magdalene, the Closest Friend of Jesus

She’s been ignored, dismissed, and misunderstood. But the story of Easter makes it clear that Mary was Jesus’ most faithful friend.

From Passover to Easter: Why I’m Grateful to be Jewish, Christian, and Alive

Passover with friends. Easter with family. It’s almost enough to make you believe in God.

Top 10 Reasons We’re Glad A Catholic Colbert Is Taking Over Letterman’s “Late Show”

How might we love Stephen Colbert as the “Late Show” host? Let us count the ways.

God’s Not Dead? Why the Good News Is Better than That

The resurrection of Jesus is not a matter of private faith — it’s a proclamation for the whole world.

The Three Most Surprising Things Jesus Said

Think you know Jesus? Some of his sayings may surprise you.

Jesus, Bunnies, and Colored Eggs: An Explanation of Holy Week and Easter

So, Easter is a one-day celebration of Jesus rising from the dead and turning into a bunny, right? Not exactly.