Thursday, October 16, 2008

no on 8, #2

Today, I made calls to encourage people to vote no on prop 8. I had a number of discussions with people who said something to the effect of "The Bible says..." and then told me that they were voting for the proposition. It wasn't helpful to argue with them but it did get me thinking about the way this proposition relates to faith.

I have reasons to vote "no" on prop 8 that are squarely based in my faith and in my understanding of the Bible. I am sure that there are folk out there who have reasons to vote "yes" that are based on their faith. Neither is relevant to the discussion of a constitutional amendment denying the right to marry to gay or lesbian couples. We live in a secular country. It is irrelevant what the Bible says or doesn't say about marriage from a legal standpoint. Religious definitions of what is right and wrong cannot be the basis of public policy. For an idea to become law or public policy it must be able to stand on its own without the backing of any particular faith tradition. Our laws must have justification within themselves.

Yes, the general foundation of our ethics is based in a roughly Judaeo-Christian heritage and many of our laws reflect that tradition but it is never enough. The founders of our nation wisely realized that in a religiously diverse nation there must be more to our laws than religious dictates. They knew that there are scores of religious rules that do not stand up to investigation outside of a specific religious tradition. While those rules may be very good for an individual to shape his or her life, they are not adequate for forming public policy. If I believe that eating a cheeseburger is an affront to God, then I must not eat a cheeseburger. If you on the other hand, do not believe in the same god or any god at all, I have no right to impose a religious dictate on you. We do not need to appeal to the 10 commandments to outlaw murder. It makes sense for community life. At the same time we do not enshrine celebration of the Sabbath even though it is in the 10 commandments and even though it is a very good idea.

As a Baptist, I realize that as soon as we allow the state to impose religious ideas on the population, the question becomes, "Whose religious ideas?" There are a lot of religious folk out there whose ideas I find repugnant. I'm sure there are at least as many who find mine so. That is why we leave religious issues to individuals and faith communities and base our laws and our public policy somewhere else.

So... while I would disagree with those who argue that the Bible requires us to stand against gay marriage, in the end, it doesn't matter what the Bible says or doesn't say. We cannot and must not base public policy solely on religious faith.

Vote No on Prop 8

11 comments:

Chad said...

For me the question would be: "Is Jesus Christ THE way, THE truth, and THE life?" or is He merely "A way, A truth, and A life?" If He is THE truth and the Bible represents our primary source of revelation about the values of the Kingdom of God, then in every opportunity that I have, including public policy, it is my responsibility to apply what I understand to be those values. So, in that regard the Bible absolutely matters to me in the creation of public policy. It is the basis of my worldview. Everyone else gets to vote their worldview and that is celebrated. Why can't Christians?

The culture is asking how to define marriage. Jesus actually answered this question: "for this reason, a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife and the two will become one flesh.") I'm not sure what hermeneutical gymnasitics have to take place to explain this prescription for marriage away. Jesus isn't labeled as unloving for defining marriage this way. Why are Christians? I contend that speaking the truth is the most loving thing that we can do because it points to the fact that a loving God has something better. It is the truth which sets us free.

roy said...

the problem Chad is that we do live in a secular state. Yes, I believe that Jesus is THE way... but others do not and our constitution clearly says that is not the basis for our laws. One cannot impose a religious view on the society. You wouldn't want that either... if the majority religion was Santeria, would you want Santeria taught in the schools, imposed in every area of life? My guess is no. You want freedom of religion. That cuts both ways.

roy said...

another thought Chad... you certainly can vote your worldview... but this law shouldn't even be on the ballot because it is based only on religious ideas. Again, in a secular society laws need to be self-evident across religious traditions. this one is clearly unjust, mitigates no negative impacts, and does not deserve to be considered.
I believe this would represent the first instance of the constitution being used to limit the rights of a certain class of people... is that the role of the constitution?

Michael Mahoney said...

Roy, as a pastor, and a man of faith, you know that the bible calls us to to all things in the name of Jesus.

So while I understand your view that we live in a secualr world, Christians are called to use their faith to try to shape that world, not to be shaped by the world by turning your faith off. And there is absolutely no valid argument from a biblical standpoint that supports gay marriage. Homosexuality is clearly sinful behavior, and it would be my hope that Christians would not hide under rocks and simply allow sinful behavior to be legislativly protected. Not when they have a voice.

Secondly, this is not strictly a religious issue. There are some very good secular reasons to deny gay marriage and to support he idea that homosexuality is abnormal behavior, the main one being that from a point of view of natural selection, a homosexual population would die off in a single generation. Darwin would have a field day with that.

Michael Mahoney said...

And I'll give you another point, coming from your argument. Marriage is, at it's core, a religious institution. There is nothing that a marriage can do - legally, secularly - for a homosexual couple that a civil union cannot.

roy said...

Michael,
you've got a lot here...

first, from the state's view, marriage is not a religious institution. It is a legal one. If it is religious, then the state should not be involved at all, it should only grant civil unions to both gay and straight couples.

Still, you are correct, there is an emotional difference between the two at least in our culture. And that piece is important or at least it should be. There is a difference between a covenant made between two people in the presence of a community of loved ones and a legal document signed and registered with the courts. There is no logical reason to deny that benefit and responsibility to gay & lesbian people. That will be another blog entry though...

I won't agree that homosexual behavior is abnormal or necessarily sinful. That is another discussion that I think is irrelevant to this one.

As for natural selection? Come on. Paul says it is better to be single. So was Paul advocating something abnormal? You can't generalize from one individual or even a small percentage to an entire population when you're talking about natural selection.

And lastly, while I should do all things in the name of Jesus, the US government cannot do anything in the name of Jesus any more than it can do anything in the name of Allah or Zeus or any other deity.

You and I are both Christians and both trying seriously to discern the yearnings of God about this issue and we come out at opposing places. So again, if we are to impose religious standards, whose do we choose?

Michael Mahoney said...

I agree that the U.S. government should not act in the name of Jesus. Or the State of California for that matter.

But you are asking individuals to take specific action: vote no. And the individual of faith should and must act according to that faith.

I don't think we impose religious standards of any man, but the standards of God alone. Homosexuality is not supported in any way biblically. The most some arguers have to offer is that it doesn't specifically reject it. I suggest those people look up the word "abomination" in the dictionary.

Of course the fact that homosexuality is abnormal is relevant to the discussion. There are reasons that certain abberant behaviors are prohibited by law. Would you have paedophilia legalized and sanctioned by the state? How about incest? What legal reason is there to trounce on the rights of siblings in love? It's a moral standard. Law has to be moral.

I do not wish to deny homosexuals the ability to love and be loved, feel part of something, feel belonging. But this does not come through the sanctioning of sinful behavior. This comes through deliverance from such things, through the work of the Cross. I've seen it happen.

All that said, I admire your stand for what you believe. God has you where you are for a reason, I'm sure.

That Baptist Ain't Right said...

Roy: Great post. I'm going to link to it in my blog but it is late & I'll complete it in the morning. Your rational is going to fall on deaf ears. These are the very same arguments the theocrats in Colonial America used to have laws that persecuted Baptists for being "immoral & ungodly." he arguments are the same. These folks are a reminder as to why we have the 1st Amendment --- people can't resist forcing their religious interpretations onto others if others won't willingly acquiesce. If they cannot convince someone to become believers & live according to their view of Scripture, then simply resort to using the State to compel adherence via legal code. The very thing done =too= religious minorities in the Colonial Era are the very things those former minorities are doing to others now. The fact is that all Americans are free to be with whomever they want. And why aren't these folks trying to criminalize homosexual behavior? That is the "sin" not the marriage. The civil union/marriage is a legal matter; the "sin" is in the homosexual act. Seems to me they should be lobbying to make homosexuality a crime if they are really consistent in their ethic.

Anonymous said...

I’m a CHRISTIAN and I’m voting NO on 8.

Why?

Because it seems that all the funding has come from false Christian groups like ROMAN CATHOLICS and “MORMONS” both of whom are idolaters (worshiping Men, Mary, beads, little statues of saints, etc).

IDOLATRY is a worse sin. Voting yes on 8 supports idolatry.

Michael Mahoney said...

That last comment is just silly...

@That Baptist.... I see what you're saying, but you have it backwards. It's not the conservative Christians who are trying to force their viewpoints on people - it's the other way around. The same-sex-marriage crowd are trying to tell me what my definition of marriage has to be. They are trying to force their views on the rest of us.

Since the beginning of recorded history, a marriage has been something between men and women. Now, I'm the one who is supposed to redefine that unwillingly. And id I don't, then I am labeled as intolerant. If I say what I beleive, what I have been raised to believe, then I am labeled as promulgating "hate speech." If I decide that I do not wish to participate in anything to do with same sex marriage, then I get sued. Who's being intolerant? Who is pushing their views on whom?

Anonymous said...

This "beginning of history" argument is not applicable. Why does something get credence just because it is the way it has always been done? If this is how we should live, then we need to reverse a lot of things! (e.g. slavery, the subjection of women, need I go on?)

Yes, might be labeled intolerant if you will not tolerate two people making a choice to live in a committed relationship to one another. Those people in same sex relationships are not asking you to be in a same sex relationship, they are just asking that you don't interfere in legislating their relationship. I get the argument that you would not want to sanction something if it will erode the moral fabric of society, or infringe on another's rights, or affect their safety, but tell me how allowing same sex relationships does this? And please don't compare this to pedophelia or beastiality. That is more than insulting to the gay and lesbian community. Who are you trying to protect?