A Discussion about Republicans, Evangelicals, and Same-Sex Marriage (Part 2 of 2)

OK, time to resume the discussion.

As explained in Part 1, I left a comment in my Facebook status, saying that I approved of the RNC’s reaffirming its support for traditional marriage and against same-sex “marriage”. A libertarian friend then challenged the wisdom of this stance by Republicans, the audacity of evangelical Christians for speaking up in the public square and trying to “force” others to live by Christian rules, and in particular the religious — and, I believe, secular — reasons for not redefining marriage in federal law. (Ever notice how much libertarians tend to get all up in arms when they smell “religious” motives and perceive threats of theocracy?) It was a spirited exchange, which continues… now:

Me: Sorry it took a while to respond. It’s been a busy week, plus I’ve rewritten various parts of this response several times. Without getting too sidetracked into the topic of religion, I’d like to begin by saying a couple things about that….

angry preacher cartoonI can appreciate your cynicism, John, even if I don’t totally agree with it. There are and always have been plenty of power-hungry jerks out there who like to lord it over people, and some of them use religion to do so. I won’t excuse that, even among my fellow evangelicals. (I have no interest or obligation to defend other religions and their followers’ moral failings.) When Christians do that, they are not being faithful to the teachings of Jesus and of historical Christianity. Of course, there are also many who claim to be followers of Christ, perhaps holding to some form of “Christianity”, but their beliefs and deeds say differently. Obviously, I can’t speak to your specific experiences with “religion” and “religious” people, Christian or otherwise. But,… I encourage you not to write-off evangelical Christianity or to paint all so-called “Christians” or evangelicals with the same, stained brush. (There I go using that expression again.)

You say, “Our personal religious beliefs have no place in legislation that effects all of us because we all don’t have the same religious beliefs.” If you substitute the more broad term “worldview” for “religious”, would you still hold to that statement? Some worldviews incorporate or are informed by religions, while others are not. You have certain beliefs about things (e.g., mankind, morality, justice, personal responsibility, role of government, etc.) that stem from your worldview, prompting you to support some ideas and oppose others. We all do. I’m not sure how *your* religious beliefs can have NO impact on your views related to politics & culture. (Or, maybe it’s just that you ignore your religious convictions when it comes to applying them in the real world? I’m really not clear on this.) The evangelical understanding of biblical teaching, however, is that a truly Christian world-and-life view, when thought through and lived out consistently, affects every area of one’s life. Since politics affects every area of our lives, to one degree or another, we have a responsibility to act accordingly.

Your concerns might have some validity if Christians in general, or even just those in power, wanted to get laws passed that would enforce ideas/beliefs very specific to Christianity. But, that isn’t what is happening, which is at least partially evident by the secular cases made against SSM, abortion, euthanasia, etc. On the contrary, we want to see laws passed & policies in place regarding these and other issues that are of concern to many and which would benefit all society (Christian or not), keeping us free, safe, and not dominated by or overly dependent on government. You can’t honestly compare such things as fighting for the unborn and in defense of traditional marriage with Islamic sharia law, which allows for or promotes terrorism; “honor killings”; rape and debasement of women; dismemberment, disfigurement, & other barbaric punishments; ignoring the basic rights of non-Muslims on a whim; etc. These things obviously violate the “unalienable rights”, given us by our Creator and recognized in our founding documents. The Christian mandate, if you will, is *nothing* like that of Islam — particularly the radical jihadist version.

Me: As you should know by now, I reject the assumptions made in the framing of your question. I have already addressed your misconceptions about evangelicals trying to legislate some sort of theocracy, forcing “Christianity as the official religion” and making America into a “Christian nation” (as per *your* definition, not the one generally meant in public discourse). There may be a few oddballs on the fringe who would like that — I’ve read some odd stuff in the comments following some articles — but it’s not really a threat. I have also linked to non-religious arguments against SSM. You may not personally find them convincing, but they exist; so, you cannot insist (with intellectual honesty) that the case against SSM is entirely based on religious dogma.

You STILL haven’t explained what it is that you think SSM opponents like myself are actually doing, or preventing gay couples from doing, if “marriage” is not redefined — besides not being able to obtain a marriage license to marry someone of the same sex, that is. How are we keeping them from “liv[ing] the life they want”? There is nothing that stops homosexuals from making lifelong commitments to each other. They’re already allowed to make the same commitment, have ceremonies, exchange vows, and they do it all the time. (Any concerns about insurance, inheritance, visitation rights, etc., can be resolved with other legislation and/or changes in corporate policy. No need to officially redefine “marriage”, either at state or national level.) They already have the liberty to do what they want with their own lives. Granting a marriage license, however, goes a step further than providing liberty. It doesn’t give liberty; it implicitly gives society’s approval of that union, which homosexuals don’t presently have. The issue isn’t about what homosexuals are being forced by others not to do, but what homosexuals are forcing society to do: approve. The pro-SSM crowd are attempting to use the machinery of government to beat into submission a populace that does not agree with them.

Plus, altering the definition of marriage to include homosexuals implicitly says that marriage isn’t anything in particular but can be (re)defined as society likes. If marriage isn’t any particular thing, then family isn’t any particular thing, either. (In fact, this is an integral part of the pro-SSM argument). If we concede that family isn’t anything in particular — just a convention, a social construct we invented and can alter at will — then this has direct, negative ramifications for the future of the family as we know it. (h/t Greg Koukl) From what you’ve said about your attitude toward marriage, you may not think this is a big deal, but it is.

pro-traditional marriage posterI don’t want same-sex unions included in the definition of “marriage” for BOTH SECULAR AND RELIGIOUS REASONS. Setting the religious reasons aside, the secular reasons are enough — whether *you* are convinced by them or not — to make a rational case that “redefining” marriage is bad for children and bad for society at large in many ways. Roll your eyes and insult us, if you want, but that’s not ignorant bigotry. That’s realism based on both principle and fact. You ask about *my* rights? My right to speak up and advocate against something I believe is potentially very harmful is the same as any other citizen’s under the U.S. Constitution & the Bill of Rights. To silence my opinions or keep me from having my say in the public discussion about *any* issue, just because some of my reasons for my positions are based on religious beliefs (or even if they ALL were), would be an infringement of my constitutional rights.

Me: I asked for examples of what was “illogical” about the secular arguments given in the linked articles, and you replied, “I have already gone through each of the arguments in the comment that starts with ‘I can’t believe you posted the first one.'” Well, you didn’t go through *each* of them, as there were many more given (even in that first article), but you did address three premises that you thought were invalid, which *would* affect the logic of the argument. So,…

Regarding your dismissal of marriage as a fundamental building block of human civilization, you may not respect the institution, but the benefits have been recognized for millennia and any thoughts of messing with it s/b done with much fear & trepidation. The ease of getting a divorce these days is just such an example, so that works in favor of my argument, not yours. I’ve already touched on why the fact of rampant divorce is not a valid counterargument and further twisting the “definition” of marriage will not improve the damage already done.

Yes, people get married for many reasons other than to have children. (Your choice of the word “breed” is very telling about your attitude.) But, as a group, as a rule, and by nature, marriage relationships produce the next generation. (Homosexual unions cannot do this without a loooooot of help.) Parenting by a loving, committed, heterosexual couple is known to be the ideal for child-rearing. Historically, governments have promoted such families and given them certain benefits, because they have proven to be the best way for raising the next generation, thereby maintaining a (relatively) stable and self-propagating society. (Before you ask, I *don’t* automatically denigrate couples who don’t have kids for some reason, especially if they are sterile/infertile. Nor should we automatically look down on single parents, trying to do the best they can, often under very difficult circumstances, regardless of why they are single.)

The fact that some gay people are loaded is largely irrelevant. For one, they obviously don’t need to be married to be successful. But, of course, that’s not the point. The point about economic prosperity is a more general one but is related to the last point. Social science confirms the importance of marriage for children. Marriage helps to connect fathers to mothers and children, and government recognition of marriage protects children by incentivizing men and women to commit to each other and take responsibility for their children. A recent study by the University of Virginia concluded that “[T]he wealth of nations depends in no small part on the health of the family.” The same study suggests that marriage and fertility trends “play an underappreciated and important role in fostering long-term economic growth, the viability of the welfare state, the size and quality of the workforce, and the health of large sectors of the modern economy.” A recent Heritage Foundation report by Robert Rector points out: “Being raised in a married family reduced a child’s probability of living in poverty by about 82 percent.” Other studies have tracked the hundreds of billions of $ in taxpayer money spent on welfare expenditures due to divorce and unwed childbearing. Strong, heterosexual marriages means less intrusion by & dependence on government at the expense of others.

You should definitely be able to appreciate that!

Me: Didn’t mean for this to get so long. One last thing… WK’s article, while still not comprehensive, makes logical conclusions about the negative affects of same-sex unions & “marriage”, based on a lot of information from referenced scientific studies here and abroad. As a single parent who thinks the institution of marriage is “ridiculous”, you likely don’t appreciate some of the findings or care about some of the effects. I get that. But, please explain why/how this demonstrates “ignorant bigotry”.

John: Those were long so I will respond to the first 2 now.

I don’t have religious beliefs. There are thousands of different religious beliefs and they were all created by man. I have a deep spiritual faith in God. It comes from God tapping me on the shoulder and giving me a clear path in life. (One that at the time I was not on) Religious beliefs and spiritual beliefs are entirely different.

happy father with daughter riding piggybackI’m glad you brought up family and changing the family structure as we know it. It needs to be changed! And I can’t come up with a better example than the story of my daughter, Cara, and me. Cara is not biologically mine. The sperm donor walked out on her Mom before Cara was born because of a birth defect and has not been heard from since. I met Cara when she was 7 months old. Met her on Friday July 4, 2008 and they moved in with me immediately. Her mom was uninterested and was little help.(she has since become much, much better) No grandma, no aunts, no uncles, no friends, no one. I’ve raised her almost exclusively for 5 years. Stayed with her mom for 2 years but it didn’t work out. She’s been on her own for 3 years. ( We may give it another shot soon) I have had Cara the overwhelming majority of the time since we broke up. Her mother will not let me adopt because she’s afraid of losing her. So according to the state, I have as much rights to her as I do the kid who lives around the corner whom I’ve never met. I’ve paid for everything her whole life, yet have never been allowed to take the federal tax credit like everyone else. She calls me Daddy. She doesn’t know anything about her ordeal and we’re keeping it that way as long as we can. Despite all the issues I have provided her a very happy and (relatively) normal childhood. I have raised her as my own and its not possible for a biological father to love his biological daughter more than I love Cara. She also has an older sister, who has a dad. (that’s another story, but its off topic) She has her sperm donor’s last name so at one point there were 4 people living here with 4 different last names…. A last name means nothing to her. She doesn’t associate it with family. She knows who her family is despite last names and she knows I’m her Dad. Are you going to tell her she’s wrong? The state will. That’s why the state needs to get out of our personal lives. I know all too well what its like to love someone, know in my heart they are my family, and have society (& blood family and friends) say “but not really.” I know I’m doing the right thing, God told me so. He (It) sent me this little angel to take care of. I know exactly what Noah felt like, a lot of people telling him he was nuts but still have the resolve to build an ark (raise a kid) because God told him to. So I guess my point is, when you know in your heart the love you have for someone is right, you lose respect for men when they legislate that its wrong and it won’t be recognized.

Me: Heh! I did sort of deluge you, didn’t I? 😉

While I like things that are short and to the point, sometimes some ideas just need more words to explain. I’ll sacrifice conciseness for clarity any day. (Maybe that’s why I’m not on Twitter? Well, one reason, anyway….)

Take your time…

I decided not to respond until he finished replying to my last comments. Alas, since the exchange occurred in April and I’m still waiting, I don’t really think John’s going to follow up. Sometimes, life gets in the way, I guess. Anyway, I did put some thought into how I would respond to his last comments above. On the religion issue, here’s what I planned to say:

“You seem to be using a narrower definition of “religion” & “religious” than I am. I’m not thrilled with the words and the ways they are often used, but I still think they fit. Here are a few definitions for “religion” given by Merriam-Webster:

1) the service and worship of God or the supernatural;
2) commitment or devotion to religious faith or observance;
3) a personal set or institutionalized system of religious attitudes, beliefs, and practices;
4) a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.

Your “deep spiritual faith in God” falls right in there, though I’m guessing there is a *lot* less structure & definition than in the organized religions and their institutions. It sounds like you had some sort of experience that made you realize you needed to make some positive changes in your life — straighten out, get some direction, etc. That’s great! Maybe sometime you can explain a little about why you think it was God tapping you on the shoulder. (For example, what is your definition/understanding of “God”, since you presumably don’t ascribe to any of the other man-made ideas from man-made religions?)”

I would have liked to ask more on this, but I was <trying> to stay on the main topic(s), so I probably would have stopped there. On the family issue, I realized I needed to tread very lightly, sensitive subject that it is. So, I would have begun with an honest acknowledgement of and praise for his & Cara’s special relationship, before pointing out the inadequacy (illegitimacy?) of his argument. Something like this:

“From what you have written here and from your FB posts over the past couple years, I can tell that you really love Cara as your own (and her you). That is fantastic! You two are really blessed to have “found” one another, and you’ve been very generous in your support in raising her. Thanks for sharing your story.

Of course, a story — even as emotional as that one — is not an argument. In this case, it is a great example of a) something good coming out of very difficult conditions and b) a frustrating circumstance in which the one adult who has stuck by, loved, & provided for the child has no legal right and, from what I can tell, is only allowed to continue as *de facto* father at the whim of her unreliable mother….”

I hadn’t figured out much beyond that, though I could have gone in several directions. I probably would have at least reiterated the proven-by-history merits of traditional marriage and the nuclear family as the ideal for raising children, etc. But, I felt like any further discussion on the rest of it really warranted a full examination of the arguments for traditional marriage, which John was admittedly strongly biased against.

I was really interested in if/how he would finally explain how SSM opponents like myself were preventing — or, trying to prevent — homosexuals from living their lives the way they wanted to. I would also like to have revisited why he (like many others) thinks that a nation whose founding principles were based in or inspired by a particular religion (or pair of related religious systems, if you prefer) must be so strongly divorced from that religion and anything that smacks of its approval or influence, lest the nation become an unconstitutional theocracy.

Well, that’s enough, I suppose. I hope you enjoyed reading this exchange. Don’t be afraid to let me know what you think about any of the topics we hit and the arguments made. But, please, give me something more substantial to work with than, “You suck, you bigoted jerk!” or “He totally pwnd you, dude!” Thanks.

Oh, and… “John”? I’ve left you alone on FB for awhile, and I don’t think you read my blog. But, if you do read this and want to resume the discussion, let me know!

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