You take the good, you take the bad

prayfastThe Los Angeles Times ran two stories about the California marriage proposition that deal heavily with religion. The first is a puff piece -- a pro-same-sex marriage press release, really -- about the gay weddings a rabbi has performed:

[Rabbi Lisa] Edwards has bounced from small weddings to large ones, from her modest temple on Pico Boulevard to a rambling mansion in Santa Monica called the Victorian. She's officiated in a Runyon Canyon home and on a Malibu deck. She's been to Palm Springs, Running Springs and Visalia, where she married two women -- who'd been together 37 years -- the afternoon before the grandson of one of them celebrated his bar mitzvah. ("They tacked it on because everyone was already there," Edwards said.)

It's not uncommon for her to double up on Sundays with afternoon and evening weddings. (A Jewish wedding cannot take place during the Sabbath, which starts at sundown Friday and ends at sundown Saturday.) Labor Day weekend was her Super Bowl of weddings -- she did four in three days. Each weekend this month she will officiate at three ceremonies.

The whirlwind wedding tour has left her exhausted but exhilarated.

"Even though I've just been crazy busy, it feels like such an extraordinary moment in time and it feels like such a blessing to be with these couples," said Edwards, 56, whose temple -- better known as BCC -- bills itself as the first synagogue for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jews. (The congregation has straight members as well.)

If you can imagine reading 39 paragraphs of that, feel free to go check out the whole thing. You can learn all about how wonderful same-sex marriage is in breathtaking detail and you can avoid learning about any religious, moral or philosophical opposition to it.

The other story is, thankfully, much more critical and incisive. It is, of course, about proponents of Proposition 8 -- which would define marriage in California as an arrangement for one male and one female. Right after the California Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage, media polls showed that the proposition had very little support. But apparently the battle is closer than was predicted and we're seeing a ton of stories about these people who somehow support the proposition.

The story begins with an anecdotal lede about Melissa Huff, a young woman who is part of a communal Christian home engaged in fasting and prayer about the issue:

"God, we are asking for an awakening," she prayed one recent afternoon, standing before a group of young people who had come together to ask for divine intervention in California's upcoming election.

Next to her, another woman, whose blunt black hair and fashionable clothing would not have been out of place at a Silver Lake club, added her own prayer: "I am asking for rains of revival to open up over California."

Huff and about three dozen others in their 20s and early 30s have spent every waking minute since Sept. 24 at a San Diego County megachurch praying for the passage of Proposition 8, which would amend the California Constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman.

The story handles the community and their life of prayer respectfully but isn't overly flattering or sympathetic. Most of the story, in fact, is about the group and not about the particular issue they're praying about right now.

But the story also does the simple thing that was lacking in the previous story. We hear from people who disagree with the group:

The praying and fasting have discomfited some religious leaders who oppose Proposition 8.

"I am a person of prayer," said the Rev. Susan Russell, a lesbian and a priest at All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena. But she said she does not believe prayer is "a weapon to be used to influence the political process."

That, she said, "takes us down a slippery slope from democracy to theocracy."

I don't imagine her views about prayer and a hard link to theocracy are shared by many, but at least we get the quote and the perspective. That's part of journalism.

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