Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ohio's Baffling Sexual Politics

Ohio politics mystify me. I've lived here for over eight years now, and the contradictions still leave me spinning. We may be known as a swing state, but don't be fooled. Ohio is often immoderate, a patchwork of extremes. My own little town is a progressive island in the midst of Appalachia, surrounded by the tattered traditions of trade unionism, Bible-thumping fundamentalism, and plain disenfranchisement and despair.

Ohio's sexual politics are just as contradictory. On the one hand my adopted state made the news a few days ago with an abstinence-only sex ed curriculum that promotes rape culture. My county isn't quite within this particular program's scope, but the curriculum does cover the large Columbus market - and public schools along with private ones. Jill at Feministe has all the gory details, including "in the end they all get STDs," which sounds about right. One of my former students told me about a sex ed program at his high school that warned kids if they had sex, they'd likely wind up addicted to drugs, passed out in a New York train station, and possibly missing a kidney to boot.

Ohio is also the home of Derek the Abstinence Clown, another fabulously wise use of your federal tax dollars. 'Nuff said.

On the other hand, Ohio's Presbyterian Church just took a strong progressive position by voting to open the clergy to persons in same-sex relationships. According to this morning's Columbus Dispatch:
The Presbytery of Scioto Valley of the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted 115 to 88 to delete language from the church constitution that says clergy must be in a faithful marriage between a man and a woman or be chaste.
In order for policy to change, a majority of presbyteries nationwide would have to vote to remove the old language, and so far the the results don't look promising. If the new policy fails, unmarried but sexually active heterosexual clergy stand to lose, too. The policy change promotes sexual freedom - and removes the incentives to hypocrisy - for everyone, irrespective of sexual orientation.

Whatever happens, I'm glad that in a state where the Reverend Rod Parsley often seems to dominate the religious landscape, Presbyterians have taken a step toward the equality that any just or merciful God would demand.

No comments: