Separation of Church (marriage) and State (unions)

One of the more frustrating aspects about the current debate over same-sex marriage is the utter shallowness of the theology on the anti-marriage side.  Having wrongfully presumed that it is their prerogative to determine whether other people’s civil marriages meet their theological criteria, the only theological criteria they offer up is that of gender. Britney Spears wants to drunkenly marry some guy for 15 minutes?  No problem.  A couple of straight swingers want to get married and swap partners every night til death do them part?  Let ’em.  But to allow any two women or two men to get married would go against their religion.

Of course, few if any would advocate that we hold anyone else’ civil marriages up to religious scrutiny.  That would be considered inappropriate, overreaching.  Yet, that is precisely what we do any time civil marriage is denied on the basis of gender, as there is no argument against same-sex marriage that is not religious in origin.

Here’s the problem:  gay people not only are allowed to get married in my church, but have been for decades.  As far as religious marriage – as opposed to civil marriage – is concerned, we will continue this forever.  Yet, other peoples’ concept of religious marriage have overreached into our church building, effectively neutralizing our religious marriages so that they do not result in the same civil benefits as others.  If religious marriage is going to be interchangeable with civil marriage, as is presently the case in American society, fine.  But not if only one narrow interpretation of religious marriage is going to be enforced on everybody.

So the sanctity of marriage should be protected.  The marriages that my church conduct should have the same legal standing as any other religious marriages.  People smarter than me have drawn up big arguments around the following idea, but in a nutshell, here is my plan for restoring marriage in America.

  1. Religious and civil marriages should no longer be synonymous.
  2. Civil marriages should be called civil unions.
  3. Civil unions would provide all civil rights presently enjoyed by those who are married.
  4. Religious marriages would retain the title of “marriage” but would not, in and of themselves, provide any civil rights, benefits, etc. from the national, state, or local government.
  5. Civil unions would be not be denied on the basis of gender.
  6. It is up to the individual community of faith to determine its own rules regarding who may be married there.
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Then and now

It’s fucked up to spend all day in a class about the Book of Judges, reading account after account about how Yhwh is understood to have demonstrated his love for the ancient people of Israel by helping them kill all their neighboring enemies – and then come home to this:

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This image (NYT) comes from airstrikes that occurred in Gaza City today.  This particular child was buried when the Israeli army destroyed a house filled with thirty people – because, naturally, the house belongs to a member of Hamas.  Other highlights from today’s airstrikes are that a U.N. school was hit, killing at least 30.

The most tragic thing is, this new violence isn’t new at all.  There have been 2800 years at minimum, and counting, of cyclical violence in this region – between roughly the same ethnic groups.  So will somebody please explain to me how even more violence now is going to finally achieve the peace for which both sides have so long been fighting?

The morning after

It’s weird to be elated and outraged at the same time.

I spent yesterday GOTVing all day long in Indiana (which spent most of the evening being a narrow McCain victory but has since flipped for Obama) (!) (the first time Indiana’s gone with a Democrat in 44 years).  Last night, my wife and I headed to downtown Chicago and joined in the truly awesome elation:

It is tempting to want to attribute this victory to the will of God.  After all, our God is a God of abundance, and the victory, for the Democrats, was certainly abundant.  Every Sunday, and quite often more than that, Christians pray unto God: “Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.”  For the last eight years, many of us have cried out to the Lord, praying that God would lay hands upon our national and global leaders and change  – change them.  We want God to be involved in our political process, especially when we sense that it is not going according to God’s plan.

And yet, if we attribute the stunning political victories to the will of God, we must also assume that it was God’s will that Proposition 8 has likely passed this morning.  Proposition 8 sets the appalling precedent that anyone can be targeted for the removal of existing rights.  Anyone!  Who’s next?  All that is needed is enough money and advertising to eek out a narrow majority.  This is frightening, un-American, and it is shameful that religious folks were heavily behind it.  Surely it is not God’s will that Ray and Bob, who have been together for 16 years, helped raise me as part of my church family, and were finally allowed to marry this summer and receive equal rights under the law, should endure retroactively becoming “unmarried” and lose those protections.

This election is clearly about what people are able to achieve, rather than the manifestation of God’s will. Accordingly, with the election of Barack Obama as president, my faith in the ability of Americans to govern ourselves has been restored.  And with the passage of Proposition 8, my faith in many of my religious sisters and brothers in California has been broken yet again.

It’s weird to be elated and outraged at the same time.