Sunday, November 02, 2008

A Conservative Christian Case for Civil Same-Sex Marriage

Pretty Lady could not possibly say it better. Please read the entire thing, then if you live in California, please vote No on Proposition 8.

It is high time that we grow up and learn to play fair. Freedom for us means freedom for someone else too, even our fellow Americans in the gay and lesbian community. Is that too high a price to pay? Of course not. Civil liberties is what gives Christians the freedom to pursue our moral convictions in this country in the first place. It is what guarantees a future for ourselves and our children in which we will be able to practice our religious beliefs free of harassment and fear. It is what paves the way for us to make a true moral impact on our culture, not by trying to legislate the Bible as if that will change people's hearts, but through leading by example as Jesus commanded us: "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16).

How will this help forward the gospel of Jesus Christ? A wise Christian minister once said, "It is quite useless to approach a man with both a club and an argument. He will very naturally be in no mood to appreciate our argument until we lay aside our club."

It is no wonder that nobody listens to us anymore. For too long we have been trying to persuade people with the gospel while wielding the club of political authoritarianism. What a contradictory message this presents to the world. Does not our gospel say that God is love, and that he has come down to earth, stretched out his hands, and allowed himself to be nailed to a cross for our sins, so that the gates of paradise might be freely opened to anyone who believes? When will we lay aside our club so that this message may be heard more clearly, and felt more poignantly?

We often think being a witness for Christ means doing some extraordinary thing. But sometimes the best witness to the gospel is as simple as being civil enough to respect people's legitimate freedoms, and being decent enough to put aside the name-calling and treat people like human beings. Supporting the civil liberties of homosexual American citizens is decent, civil and, yes, loving. Loving at least in a way that gays and lesbians are more likely to understand.


Anonymous said...



George Pal said...

Pretty Lady

The imprimatur of a conservative Christian hardly makes this a wise decision (I refer to the general principle of civil gay marriage, not Prop 8 specifically). Such graciousness as the article proposes warms the heart … and then melts the brain.

If: (Chief Justice Earl Warren of the U. S. Supreme Court once wrote) "Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival."

Then: I, (a priest, minister, et al) must provide that ceremony, even against my conscience and/or religious tenets.

Don’t bother bringing the “civil” aspect into this. A more fully smoked, tastier, and ready to eat red herring you’ll never find. It would take the ACLU a week to find a suitable “J. Roe”, and another week to prep him/her. A third week to formulate strategy and tactics and by the fourth week the papers will have been filed in a cherry picked federal district court.

By all means, LEGAL means – a civil union (ONLY available through civil agencies).
No marriage – otherwise we may as well all go Derrida and have words mean whatever the hell we mean them to mean. Hell, my comment, this comment, could be deconstructed into asserting my total approbation and Christian blessing on gay marriage.

I leave you and the generous, gracious conservative Christian this (were I a better Christian I would know where it comes from, but I believe it’s one of the gospels):

“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”


Pretty Lady said...

George, if you know what's good for you, you will not even BEGIN to argue on this subject. We will, therefore, consider that the comment above has never been made.

Anonymous said...

Pretty Lady, merci.

George Pal said...

Pretty Lady

This is the second time I've come across a response such as yours to a comment made elsewhere by me on this subject.

Very well. Having always been a fair judge of what is good for me, and even though I've already begun, I will cease and desist. Yet I remain intrigued, respectfully intrigued. Was it the tone of my comment? Was I unknowingly being disrespectful? Was the comment beyond the pale? If so, which pale?

Pretty Lady said...

George, to be very brief:

Jackadandy is my friend. You just attempted to justify treating my friend, and many other friends of mine, like second-class citizens--even though you have never met my friends, and my friends have done nothing to harm you or to harm anyone else. This is simply not an acceptable topic of conversation. That's where my line is. Thank you for respecting it.

Anonymous said...

George Pal said...

Pretty Lady

I assure you, my intent was not, is not, and never will be to treat anyone as a second class citizen. Since you seem convinced otherwise I'll leave you to your misapprehension.

Chris Rywalt said...

Seems to me, PL, that's you've cut George off for no good reason. All I see him saying is that the legal standpoint is beside the point: Homosexuals can never be "married" unless we redefine what the word "married" means, which he'd rather not do. I also think he might be saying we should allow gays to join in "civil unions," meaning they should be equal, under the law, to married couples.

It doesn't sound to me like he wants to treat Jackadandy, or anyone else, as a second-class citizen. He just doesn't think the government can legislate regarding a religious concept like marriage.

I think the argument here boils down to your definition of "married." The two of you, PL and George, may have different definitions of the concept. You can argue about that if you like. But beyond that I think you pretty much agree.

Pretty Lady said...

Marriage is not JUST legal, it's not JUST religious; it's also social and cultural. It is not even primarily about sex. Primarily, it is about families, commitment, and maturity. It is about having one's family, one's commitment, and one's responsibilities as a mature adult recognized by one's community.

And when a person is denied the possibility of engaging in what is THE primary social and cultural coming-of-age ritual in our society's families, that person is being treated as a second-class citizen--not just by the courts, not just by the church, but by the people they are closest to.

I refused to discuss this with George because I take this particular issue so personally that I am not able to be 'detached, open-minded, and rational' about it. I am highly likely to go off into a blinding emotional diatribe. I warned George, and I am warning you, Chris. Don't push it.

Chris Rywalt said...

See, what I'm saying is, that's your concept of marriage. George's is apparently different. I take his comment to mean that he considers marriage primarily, if not wholly, religious, and presumably Judeo-Christian.

I'm not sure how he squares his definition with Buddhist or Hindu marriages.

Anyway, the key point he's making, I think, is that the government shouldn't pass laws regarding religious marriage. If the government made a law legalizing gay marriage, it seems he expects gay people would be able to legally force all religions to perform marriages between gay people. So a Catholic priest would be required by law to perform gay weddings.

I don't personally see how this follows, but I'm not George.

It does seem to me that lots of people have their own definitions of marriage, though. Here's a page with various religious definitions regarding same-sex marriage.

The short version is gay Buddhists can get married; gay Catholics can't; gay Hindus are okay; gay Muslims are totally screwed; and Judaism splits. Unitarians are, of course, all for it, because they're pretty much all for anything.

Different sects have different beliefs, of course.

I personally think everyone should be allowed to do whatever they want pretty much. But then I'm in favor of getting rid of the prescription system for drugs, legalizing all illegal drugs, pardoning all drug offenders, and freeing Tom Mooney. Gay marriage is great, straight marriage is great, and if you want to marry a toaster and a chihuahua, go for yours, girlfriend!

Carol Diehl said...

I attended the 14th Street Friends Meeting when the decision was being made (I’m guessing maybe 8 or 10 years ago) whether or not to allow same-sex marriage. Oddly, this liberal congregation, in liberal New York, was one of the last nationally to do so. There were some memorable moments. One was when a member of the congregation complained about the subject always coming up during meeting, to which another responded that one of the reasons we no longer have slavery is because Quakers refused to let the subject drop. Another that has stayed with me was when the artist James Turrell, a visitor from the Flagstaff (AZ) meeting, which had already ratified same sex marriage, said they did so because they felt they “didn’t have the right to tell anyone who they should or should not love.”

Pretty Lady said...

Anyway, the key point he's making, I think, is that the government shouldn't pass laws regarding religious marriage.

The government ISN'T passing laws regarding religious marriage. Proposition 8 is about explicitly trying to ban SECULAR, civil, legal marriage. The article I posted made the point that this isn't about religion at all--it's about civil liberties. The issue at stake is the same principle that defends our right to freedom of religion in the first place. As you point out, various religions are all over the map on gay marriage, demonstrating that its legality or not in a civil sense doesn't affect religious belief at all.

I find it ironic that so many allegedly Christian folk are so all-fired paranoid that their religion is under attack by civil, secular gay marriage, when they're the ones attacking. Gays aren't attacking the church; the church is attempting to attack them, and they, for the most part, are being very nice about it.

George Pal said...

Mr Rywalt, thank for for the defense. Your reading of my comment is pretty much what I meant to convey. There are minor points but I will leave them for another time, perhaps another place.

Chris Rywalt said...

PL sez:
The government ISN'T passing laws regarding religious marriage. Proposition 8 is about explicitly trying to ban SECULAR, civil, legal marriage.

The argument crops up again: The trouble is, George -- and people like him -- see the phrase "secular, civil, legal marriage" as an oxymoron. Their use of the word "marriage" cannot be put in the same bucket as anything with the word "legal" because the two, in their minds, simply do not overlap.

So George is only concerned that this law involves the word "marriage." Everything else is beside the point as far as he's concerned: He just wants to draw a line around the word "marriage" and stop people from misusing it.

Again, not sure I agree this is a misuse. I think of marriage as you do, Pretty Lady, as a social and cultural institution. In fact there's nothing religious about it at all in my mind. When Dawn and I got married, it was just to announce to our friends and family that we were officially going to try to have kids, and those kids would be legitimate -- because by then it was clear to everyone that we were staying together our entire lives, whether we wanted to or not. That Dawn could visit me in the hospital was a happy side effect (and since we actually had had to lie to a hospital once and claim Dawn as my sister, a real one).

What I'm trying to point out is that George isn't arguing for Proposition 8, except that the word "marriage" should be set aside for something particular. Which is okay, I guess. We'll just start using some other word, like we did with "fireman" and so on.

George Pal said...

Mr Rywalt

You are right that my concern is the word “marriage” and its meaning but there’s a bit more to it.

The word “marriage” has a millennia long meaning, a traditional meaning, i.e. man-woman. I see no reason to subvert the meaning. That doesn’t mean that I believe the word to be sacrosanct and/or exclusive. Any couple, ANY COUPLE, can consider themselves “married” by whatever standard they conceive or even imagine. This goes for all “important" words. “Freedom", for example, has a very real meaning, a general meaning that you and I can generally agree on. Yet anyone can call himself “free”, even people in the Gulag have professed themselves to be free. The problem begins when the State gets involved. I don’t trust the State. If the state can redefine the meaning of one “important” word (marriage?) what’s to stop it from redefining another important word (freedom?) I’ll leave it at that.

Nancy said...

The government already makes laws defining marriage. Pluralistic marriages are illegal in the US.

George Pal said...

Nancy, the State was not really defining or redefining marriage in this case. It was upholding the existing, extended definition of marriage, i.e. one couple, i.e one man and one woman.

Chris Rywalt said...

George, I think one thing you should note is that the state was (and is) upholding an existing definition of marriage, not the existing definition of marriage. Because marriages have been defined all kinds of ways across all kinds of cultures.

You could perhaps argue that the state is upholding the American definition of marriage, but I'd argue that leaves out important groups who define marriage differently, I mean, who's more American than the Mormons?

The fact is -- and this is important, George -- the fact is, marriage has never only exclusively meant "one man and one woman". Anyone who thinks so is hopelessly ignorant. Even Solomon had 700 wives. According to Judeo-Christian theology it was sinful for him to have so many wives (not to mention pagan ones) but they were still wives, not just really good friends, not civil unionists.

George Pal said...

Mr Rywalt, very well, an existing definition, not the. I'll stick to one man, one woman as the definition of marriage as it has been considered throughout Western culture over a couple millennia. Oddities and exceptions do occur but we define things by what they are predominantly.

I do note that definitions change throughout a culture over time. For example, my computer dictionary has, as one of its definitions for "marriage" the following: "a similar long-term relationship between partners of the same sex." I am not so hidebound as to make it my life's work to thwart this cultural change. My vital concern is the State involving itself in definitions and changing meanings of words. Orwell was prescient in his concern for just this sort of thing. It turns out he was right to be concerned.

Nancy said...

Who is more "married" than a couple that has been together, "through thick and thin, poorer or richer, in sickness and in health" for more than 20 years?

How can a pair of 18 year olds be "married" for all of 3 months and a couple I respect greatly NOT be married?

Chris Rywalt said...

Keith Olbermann gets worked up over Prop 8.

"The world is barren enough.

It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work.

And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling. With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?"