I’m struggling.  It’s been over a month, and I still don’t understand how we as humans – we as Christians (and yes, there are many different “versions” of Christians) – could take a class of people and send a message of “less than equal.”  You aren’t living your lives correctly, so you can’t have the freedoms that others have.  That’s what Prop 8 says.  How does that “protect” marriage?  If “marriage” isn’t ok, but “civil unions” are ok – if “they” shouldn’t complain because it’s “just a word” – what if nobody get’s the word “marriage?”  What if we’re all engaged in “civil unions?”

But to be honest, I don’t want to talk about that right now.  I want to talk about the backlash.

I’m beginning to hear more and more about the anger at the faith-based organizations that actively and even financially supported Prop 8.  The cry I’m hearing more and more is to “take away their tax-exempt status!”  Or, “what happened to the separation between church and state?”

I’ve only done a little research on the separation clause in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which reads, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”  How I read that is that there won’t be a nationally established or declared or financially supported religion.  I don’t read it as a law that faith-organizations don’t get to have a voice.  I don’t read it as saying that persons of faith can not or should not be guided by that faith even if they’re in elected or appointed positions in government.

So what might the founders have thought?  Keep in mind that all the founders were Christian and even Protestant, and – although they were rebelling against a nation that had proclaimed a national religion – I’m not sure they ever envisioned divisions beyond the various denominations within Christianity.  And even in that context, Thomas Jefferson wrote:

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legitimate powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their “legislature” should “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between church and State.

If we look even deeper into history, I argue that even Jesus himself spoke out politically.  I think that in speaking out against the scribes and pharisees he was making political statements.  I think that in setting aside the purity laws when he ate with prostitutes and tax collectors, he was making political statements.  I think that in preventing the murder of a woman for committing adultery – completely appropriate according to Jewish law of the day – he was making a political statement.

Now, some would argue that this had nothing to do with government but with religion.  But remember, at this point in Jewish history, the secular and political structure were combined!  Yes, the Romans occupied the area, but much of the social and political decision-making was left to the Jews themselves (which was common throughout the Roman empire; it’s how they maintained control).

So with this in mind, do we argue that faith-organizations should not have voice in politics simply because we disagree with their theology, because we disagree with their conclusions, because they’re flat-out wrong?  Keep in mind that shutting down all political voice shuts down both sides of the conversation.  I myself attend a church that organized phone banks and had a sign out front all that spoke against Prop 8.  Should this church lose tax-exempt status too?

I don’t have an easy answer to this.  I invite dialogue.  Please share your thoughts…

5 thoughts on “Separation

  1. Well, YOU sent me here! And for a Christmas list?

    But. I don’t see marriage as a “right”. I see it as an institution, created by a society primarily for the protection of children. Therefore, it is a responsibility rather than a “right”. A lot has happened to the mores & motives of marriage in some 4,000 years but one has to look at its long history & adherence to purpose before tossing out the baby with the bath water.
    One of the greatest changes in our society was the invention of the pill in 1963, prompting women’s lib & a lot of other things. But the “free love” of the 60’s wasn’t free. Our society is paying for it big time! When the pendulum swings back & marriage & children become important again, let’s hope the institution will still be important.

  2. On Marriage as an institution… I argue that marriage was not created by a society primarily for the protection of children – and on that note, I don’t understand how two loving adults of the same gender are less able to protect children than two loving adults of differing genders. The meanings and purposes for marriage have actually changed a great deal over the centuries.

    In the 17th century, marriage in most western cultures was about “an economic arrangement negotiated between families in which family considerations of status, future economic stability, and prosperity were the most important considerations in selecting a potential spouse” (Larry R. Peterson, Ph.D. The History of Marriage as an Institution, 1997).

    In the 16th century, servants and day laborers in Bavaria and Austria were not allowed to marry.

    From the 1690s through the 1870s, the common way for a man to divorce his wife in small towns in the United Kingdom was for him to put a rope around her neck in a public sale.

    In the American colonies (and then the United States until the mid-19th century), married women had no legal standing and were unable to vote or own property.

    Regulation between interracial marriage was non-existent until 1662 in Virginia. Maryland was the first colony to ban interracial marriage in 1664, and in 1750 all southern colonies had banned interracial marriages plus Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.

    Finally, according to John Boswell – noted historian and professor at Yale University – found supporting documentation indicating that the Roman Catholic Church conducted special ceremonies to bless same-sex unions which were almost identical for those to bless heterosexual unions.

    I don’t think that the push for same-gender marriage is an effort to “throw the baby out with the bath water,” nor is that what I intended in my original post. I think the inclusion of same-gender couples in the institution of marriage is the best way to “protect” a rich and meaningful tradition.

  3. I really should simply agree to disagree. But…

    As a pre-note, I have had many gay friends over the past 40+ years, most involved in the theatre & film community. Coming out of the closet back then was only among close friends. They wouldn’t dream of standing on a soapbox in order to announce what they do in the bedroom. Not all gays are for “gay marriage”. And not everyone against “gay marriage” is homophobic, hateful & intolerant. (The gay community seems to be the most intolerant about this issue.)

    But I digress.

    Are you saying that marriage is not an institution? (Larry R. Peterson, Ph.D. The History of Marriage as an Institution, 1997). Then what is it? Is it, in fact, a right? created by who for what purpose?
    And, yes, it has changed over the years as I indicated in my first note.
    The “economic stability & prosperity” Dr. Peterson writes about were necessary, I submit, because of the need to support a likely-to-become-pregnant spouse & the eventual offspring. Periodic banning of marriage at different times & among isolated groups I think were attempts to control population growth (& the necessary family nurturing that would follow) among those groups. Furthermore, history is full of instances where men abused power over women. But these periods are pretty isolated among the 4,000+ years that the institution has continued as society’s investment in future generations.
    (There have also been abuses within the Roman Catholic Church but I don’t think their blessing of same-sex unions helps your argument.)

    Historically, I don’t think society cared if 2 people were “in love” except that “being in love” usually resulted in children. I think society was more concerned about species renewal than which family had the most goats, & those people making babies needed to stick around & be responsible.
    Not all heterosexuals who marry intend to have children. Some can’t. Modern science has developed ways to fool mother nature so that we can all be promiscuous with no repercussions. (Well, except for Aids & other STDs.) Or not.
    But, as Goldblum says, “Nature will find a way.” There have been pregnancies with all forms of birth control except hysterectomies. (Lyz was born on the pill). There is historically a greater chance that a heterosexual couple will get pregnant than for a homosexual couple. And since I believe the institution’s purpose is the care & feeding of children, our society supports the heterosexual couple within the institution.
    You mention homosexual parents. Homosexual couples do adopt. Some “fool mother nature” & become pregnant. (I have a real problem with that even if Cameron Manheim did do it!) But most psychologists agree, most people agree, that the IDEAL parenting group consist of 1 male & 1 female. The most fervent concern I heard at 15 years of Single Parent Retreats was the gender deficiency perceived by single parents. I myself have worried about raising two Chauvinist daughters.

    Many people are concerned about the perceived erosion of the marriage institution. The divorce rate is hovering around 50%. Children are growing up without fathers or even any responsible parent. Abuse seems rampant. We seem to be increasingly secular. Abortion appears to be a casual means of birth control. Even the Catholic Church isn’t immune to irresponsible behavior. Most* people see the redefinition of marriage as another unnecessary threat to a struggling institution. They see the possibility of polygamy, incest & bestiality as future changes. They fear legal ramifications for anyone refusing to participate in gay marriage ceremonies on religious grounds. They fear teaching homosexual how-to’s to grade school children. Most of these are ungrounded fears. But perhaps the biggest fear is redefining marriage as a “right” for 2 (or so) people rather than a responsibility to society to nurture their offspring. They see activist groups overturning the “right” of the majority to define its own institutions.

    The “Movement”: In the 60s young people took on various causes, some good, some not so good. Rallying behind Kennedy was a good thing. Removing the mores of the 50s may not have been so good. But they, along with public figures like Jane Fonda, protested the war in Viet Nam so loudly, so often, that it became a “movement”. Not everyone involved were so involved. It was fun to be a part of a movement with all those hippy-chicks & pot & free love & protest marches overpowering cops & burning buildings & planting bombs &… And the “movement” prolonged the war by several years, causing more KIAs & vets coming home to be spat on. (North Viet Nam said they would have given up years earlier except for the protest in the US.) There is a new “movement” by American youth. Rallying behind the first African-American to be elected to the Presidency was a good thing. I’m not sure that rallying behind the 2% of the population who want to change an ancient institution in order to reaffirm their normalcy, while putting at risk the further deterioration of that institution in the eyes of the majority, is such a good thing.

    Oh, well. I shouldn’t have responded. I told myself I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t even look at this blog again until now. I shouldn’t even have come here…
    * Most. The majority. Gay marriage legislation has been defeated, outvoted by the majority, in every state, even in liberal California.

  4. Dear Bob,
    The Roman Catholic church is a man made Religion that in no way follows the Gospel teachings of Jesus Christ! That said, I agree with Jerry 100% on this issue and find it hard to believe the the Gay movement is after equality when all they really want is our acceptance and approval of them living in SIN.
    Our children do not need any more confusing messages concerning sexual relations. The “Do what feels good”
    messages have destroyed our generations marital health! Jesus says, “Do what is right and you will be blessed”. Too many forget that for every action there is a REACTION (consequence). Search your heart and you will confess that for every sin there was a action that brought it about! Think about it! Our designer will never be convinced no matter what earthly laws are passed, that two men or two women should have any sexual relationship let alone BE MARRIED!!!! I pray for all of them still!

  5. Ken, I would agree with you that the Roman Catholic church is man-made as are every church on this planet. However, I categorically deny that homosexuality is in itself a sin, nor is the loving relationship of two persons regardless of their gender. I don’t think gay persons “do what feels good” simply for that sake and I would argue in fact that persons who are gay have been created that way. Like you, I continue to be in prayer over this divisive issue and seek God’s guidance in how I might continue to speak for justice.

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