The power of witness

It’s time for the burden of proof to be shifted to the opponents of same-sex marriage.

1 large matt johnsonBy Matthew Johnson

On July 28 I was one of about two dozen clergy, activists, family and friends who traveled with a couple to the Jefferson County courthouse in Louisville, Ky., to get a marriage license. We went knowing it was a fool’s errand. We went knowing they would be denied. You see, the couple, Sarah and Kristy, are both women. Same-sex marriage is not legal in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

So instead we boarded a bus chartered by the Campaign for Southern Equality’s “We Do” initiative and sponsored by The Fairness Campaign. We then traveled over three and a half hours to Illinois, where same-sex marriage became legal on June 1. There in the small town of Metropolis, under a gazebo in a local park, Kristy and Sarah were legally married. They filed their marriage license at the local courthouse, under the watchful gaze of a giant statue of Superman. (It is Metropolis, after all.)

You might ask me why I, a working Baptist minister who did not before that day even know Sarah and Kristy, gave up a day’s work to make such a journey. I could tell you about the years that I have spent in prayerful study and discernment learning the facts about homosexuality. I could give you psychological, biological, theological and biblical arguments to support my decisions and actions. I could do those things. But I won’t.

I won’t rehash those issues here, partly because they are all readily available to be read on the Internet for anyone interested. But I also won’t give those reasons here because I think it’s high time that the burden of proof be shifted to the opponents of same-sex marriage. Baptists have always placed a high value on individual conscience and personal religious experience. Many times, a powerful testimony is all the proof we need to accept that someone has, in fact, encountered the risen Christ. So my purpose here is not to give arguments; it’s to give testimony.

You see, the real reason I went that day was to be a witness. And a witness I was:

I was a witness to the love Sarah and Kristy share with one another.

I was a witness to a couple who declared that the Commonwealth of Kentucky cannot keep them from living their own lives as they see fit.

I was a witness to Kristy telling Sarah’s biological daughter during the service that she would always be there for her, that she would always be her mom.

I was a witness to the power of the God of love and justice.

I was a witness to a God who joined together two lives to make one family.

I was a witness to the palpable presence of the Holy Spirit under that Metropolis gazebo as this couple made lifelong commitments to one another before God and the people who care about them.

When the two travelers met the resurrected Jesus on the Emmaus road (Luke 24:13-35), they didn’t know who he was. But after his identity was revealed, they said to one another, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he was speaking to us on the road?” Before their knowledge of Jesus’ presence, they felt his presence within their spirits.

Oh, how I felt my heart burning within me at Sarah and Kristy’s wedding. Before and beyond any knowledge of the rightness of their actions, I felt its rightness within my spirit. That’s my testimony. I leave it up to the opponents of gay marriage to prove that it’s wrong. Opponents must prove that the Holy Spirit wasn’t there. Opponents must prove that Kristy and Sarah’s obvious love for one another is somehow harmful to both them and society. Opponents must prove that Sarah and Kristy aren’t full American citizens entitled to equal protection under the law. They must prove that this loving couple are not actually human beings created in the image of God.

But for now I will leave the arguing to others, or at least for another day. Instead, I’m going to stand with my friends, with my family and with my church members. I’m going to stand with the Kristys and Sarahs of this world. I’m going to stand with them in the simple truth that I know what I felt and I know what I saw. Yes, I’ll leave the arguments for another day. Because I was a witness.

OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.