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April 3, 2012

Republican Congressional Leaders Get Cold Feet on Marriage

Leaders are more focused on the economy ahead of the election.

Republican leaders in the House are avoiding legislation dealing with traditional marriage, Congressional Quarterly (CQ) and Politico report. The economy—not social issues—will be the focus of the congressional agenda.

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At the beginning of March, House conservatives introduced the Marriage Protection Act, which would kick all marriage cases from federal courts to states. A second bill would amend the Constitution to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman. Both pieces of legislation are now off the table.

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) cosponsored the federal marriage amendment, but he acknowledged that the issue is not front-and-center on the agenda. “That’s not something we’re focused on now,” Gohmert told Politico.

For conservatives who want to see a debate on the question of marriage, the decision to focus on economic policy is a hiatus, not a retreat from social issues.

“I don’t know that people’s opinions have changed that much, but what I think has happened is that people realize the dire straits this country has been in and they think we better deal with that before we get back to the social issues,” said Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), sponsor of the Marriage Protection Act.

According to the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, Republican voters remain against same-sex marriage by three to one, with most of the opposition from evangelicals. The problem electorally for Republicans is the growing acceptance of same-sex marriage among independent voters, now that a majority of them favor allowing same-sex marriage.

The decision by the GOP leaders to put marriage legislation on the back burner disappointed social conservative groups. The Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission vice president Barrett Duke told CQ that the Republican leadership in the House should allow a vote on a marriage amendment to the constitution.

“The leadership feels that they don’t have the votes. We would like to see more discussion in Congress so that the country could understand the issue and hold members accountable,” Duke said. “We will continue to work at the grass roots.”

Tom McClusky, senior vice president of the Family Research Council, wants Congress to be more active in pushing back against the Obama administration on marriage. McClusky told CQ that social conservatives in Congress need to do more than to defend the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the courts.

“I wish that our allies would do more. They are being intimidated into silence by Republican leaders,” McClusky said.

Supporters of same-sex marriage introduced their own legislation that would repeal DOMA. The Respect for Marriage Act (RMA), cosponsored by 140 Members of Congress, would require the federal government to recognize any marriage approved by a state.

Last week, the act’s chief sponsors gave a letter to House Speaker John Boehner asking him to halt defense of DOMA in the federal courts.

“[W]e have long believed that DOMA is unconstitutional. There simply is no legitimate federal interest served by denying married same-sex couples the federal responsibilities and rights that other married couples receive, and the harm caused to these families is unjustifiable,” the sponsors wrote.

The House of Representatives will continue its support of DOMA in the courts, even as it avoids marriage debates.

Comments

Having already alienated Hispanics, Muslims and women, they figured out that alienating the overwhelming majority of voters under 35 was probably not a good idea.

You know folks, the main reason we have problems in the economy is because we have abandoned moral issue to pursue wealth. There is no such thing as a true marriage between homosexuals. It defies the Biblical construct of what contitutes a true marriage which is a relationship between a male and a female. As long as we play these games our country will continue its decline. No country that has legalized infanticide and has fallen into the depravity and perversion of human sexuality can expect to be great and survive. Deal with the social and moral issues in a Godly manner and we will be blessed in the other areas. Our priorities have really become warped.

Since 80 percent of Amermicans profess to be believers, we should be able to stop 80 percent of the same-sex marriages by dealing with it in church.
The same is true about the other sins against which we hope to pass laws. Are the laws intended for believers or the other 20 percent?

Jeff Fairchild: There is no such thing as a true marriage between homosexuals.

A couple of points:

+ Back in the 1950s and even into the 60s, arguments were made that there could be no "true marriage" between people of different races. I heard these arguments myself with my own ears. They were made by conservative Christians.

+ Your theological / religious convictions may hold that there can be no "true marriage" between people of the same sex. If that is your religious conviction, you have a perfect right to adhere to it. The "free exercise" clause of the 1st Amendment guarantees your right to believe and to teach that.

However, the "establishment" clause of the same Amendment guarantees to an equal extent that no religious / denominational / theological definition of marriage can be written into the civil law. Also, the "equal protection" clause of the 14th Amendment guarantees that same-sex couples can enter into the civil / legal agreement known as "marriage" just as gay / lesbian people can enter into the legal contract kinown as "mortgage" or "car loan".

The 14th Amendment guarantees gay people the right to marry civilly, just as the 1st Amendment guarantees your right to hold to your religious definition of marriage.

The same-sex marriage controversy is one of the biggesrt non-problems to arise in the history of this country. But the controversy is useful as a measure of how seriously we take the Constitution -- the 1st and 14th Amendments, in particular.

Lloyd Omdahl: Since 80 percent of Amermicans profess to be believers, we should be able to stop 80 percent of the same-sex marriages by dealing with it in church.

That would depend on what the "believers" believe in. If they are left-of-center Anglicans / Episcopalians, they might very well believe that same-sex unions deserve religious, as well as civil / legal, sanction. Ditto if the "believers" are Reform or Reconstructionist Jews.

In any case, yes, the issue of same-sex marriage could be dealt with theologically and religiously within religious institutions.

But no religious institution gets to dictate what the civil law should be -- there's that pesky "establishment" clause again! -- so your proposal would leave untouched the issue of same-sex civil marriages.

JC

Jon Altman: Having already alienated Hispanics, Muslims and women, they figured out that alienating the overwhelming majority of voters under 35 was probably not a good idea.

Yes, exactly ... which is why I am optimistic in the long run about the acceptance of same-sex marriage in this country, at least in a civil sense ... and ultimately, I think, in a religious sense.

Demographics will solve the problem for us.

The generation before mine -- I am 63 -- for the most part considers homosexuality, both male and female, as being about as important as being right- or left-handed.

Good for the youngsters.

JC

If the establishment clause is the standard for what is right or wrong, we are in a lot of trouble. Can you imagine what most of us would do today if we were alongisde Jesus as he cleansed the temple of the moneychangers? We might advise Jesus to not only leave them alone(tolerance), but maybe find some way to leverage the situation for the cause of Christ(capitalization for Christ)...that is, "can't we see if the moneychangers would like to sponsor us, Jesus, and we could really put that money to work for us, investing in money market accounts that actualize out in real numbers to the tune of 12-15 percent". Gay marriage is not recognized by God as being good anywhere in the Bible, neither is for profit churchianity, violence as evangelism, or worhsipping God in my own way(we're claiming to worship Him, maybe He gets to tell us how to do it).

Mr. Cowles there is a higher authority than the US Constitution. Homosexual relationships are always wrong no matter what court or legislator says. The Bible is very clear on this issue and God never changes His mind on right and wrong. You have muddled the issue. The Bible does not say races cannot mix but it is very clear that men marry women and not each other. Man's rules may change but God's do not. This is a Christian web site it is not a political one.
My whole point is that our economic issues will not be solved until we deal with the moral issues. God will not bless us when we continue as a country to shake our fist at Him and His law. Just the facts man.

Jeff,

This is a Christian web site, but America is not a Christian nation. You're right -- God is a higher authority than the U.S. Constitution. But God also instructs us to submit to our governing authorities. And our governing authorities have made it very clear that the U.S. is not and was never intended to be a theocracy. If you want to argue that the Constitution should be amended to allow for the government to align itself with the Christian church, you're welcome to take that position. But we also need to acknowledge that as it stands now, the law does not allow for that.

Also, you say that our priorities have become warped and that God will not bless us until we deal with moral issues. When in our country's history do you think we've deserved God's blessings? When gay marriage was frowned upon but slavery was socially acceptable? Or when women were denied the right to vote? Our country has ALWAYS been plagued by serious moral issues, and will always continue to be. To act like gay marriage is the last straw when it comes to God's blessing is laughable. The U.S. economy will have its ups and downs, but we will always be a nation of sinful people. Which means that trying to blame our collective problems on gay rights is downright hypocritical.

Sam, first of all I do not think I am being hypocritical to state the facts. And, no we are not a theocracy and I really do not want to be in one because I am fearful of what kind of theocracy we could become. (the track record is not very good) And I do believe in being submissive to the governing authoirites as long as I do not have to choose between them and God. Yes we have a lot of sin issues but that does not mean we do not speak up and try to change the direction of our society through the preaching of the Gospel of Christ. By the way, if you study the scriptures you will see that homosexual relationships come about because people have been turned over to a reprobate mind because of rebellion and the idea of calling bad good and good bad. (read Romans 1)
I want God's blessing for me and my country. the only way for that to happen is if we as the Church start living as if Jesus truly is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

The US Constitution doesn't address this issue b/c no one at that time in his wildest imagination would have ever thought gay marriage was even the remotest possibility. Slavery, however, was different. Many whites were against slavery even from the inception of the US. Not only that, but blacks were not thought a moral perversion, and blacks were not thought in and of themselves to be a public health hazard. How was that problem solved? Amending the constitution, that's how.
The problem with gay marriage is that it affirms and validates at the public policy level a lifestyle that has been proven - with actual facts and figures - to be dangerous. (Just check the CDC facts.) But that is not the end of the fallout. The gay agenda is even now promoted in public places (like public schools) and the very real possiblity exists that any true discourse about the dangers of homosexual sex will in the end be seen as hate speech and will not be tolerated.

I wonder - if gay marriage becomes constitutionally allowed - what other perversions will be next on the horizon?

Jeff,

For me, the hypocrisy lies in your and others' overemphasis on homosexuality as the source of problems. Homosexual behavior is sinful, but it's certainly not the only socially acceptable sin in our country. Nor is it necessarily the most harmful. So what I don't understand, in a time when all sorts of other sinful patterns (greed and deception in business and politics, for example) are causing massive problems for our society, is why gay marriage is so high on the Church's priority list of issues.

I agree that the Church needs to start living as if Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that there are times when we must choose between obeying human authorities and obeying God. But I think there are two important things to remember. 1) Legalizing gay marriage will not in any way force us to choose between obeying the government and obeying God. Nobody will be forcing you or any other Christians to agree with homosexual lifestyles or to facilitate gay marriages. The same laws that protect gay couples protect the Church's right to hold its own beliefs. 2) The fact that we are called to live according to Scriptural standards doesn't mean that we're called to force them on non-Christians. What good is it to regulate the behavior of unbelievers when they don't understand sin or grace in the first place? How does that point them to Christ?

Personally, I think it's the Church that has its priorities mixed up. Are we really fighting tooth and nail to prevent gay marriage (and wasting millions of dollars doing so) out of a desire to preach the Gospel to homosexuals? Or are we just trying to make things more comfortable for ourselves? Are our political crusades enabling us to better love those with different beliefs? Or are we just hoping to shove them out of view so that we don't have to deal with them at all?

Sam,
I wish you would not judge me as a hypocrite for stating the obvious. I am sure that I have my own hypocrisies as you do but I think it is unfair to use the term in this context.
You say that gay marriage will not affect me or the church. Well, how come 5 major denominations have given in to the gay activists in accepting gay maariage and committed homosexual lifestyles? Also, how come if a public official calls homosexuality a sin they are publically chastised and many times fired? what about Kirk Cameron's statement a couple o fweeks ago?
What about in a state like California that the schools have to present a positive picture of gay lifestyles and even include how certain gays made significant contributions to history?
Sam, there is a concerted effort in this country by radical homosexual rights groups to force acceptance of their lifestyle upon us. I am a clergy person. So far I do not have to conduct gay marriages but the day is coming and since I work in a public hospital I can see some couple suing me or calling for my job because I will not participate in their sin.
Yes, we have lots of sin in our country. But, we do not need to sanction and reward something so obvious as sexual perversion.
Greed, pride and other sins are rampant but harder to see. This one stands out and is going to destroy our very social fabric.

Jeff> you said "Greed, pride and other sins are rampart but harder to see". I was tempted to say this statement was laughable unless someone was born after the last recession. But if you think so that explains why it is harder to see. What do you think is the reason we had the financial meltdown and needed TARP to prevent a total financial debacle? Only if you were so wealthy that it did not affect you, so you really could see it. Those are the sins that created the slavery economy and the great depression and the other things attending it. Of course some people were insulated from all this by their status and wealth, but they could not miss it if they were truly followers of Jesus Christ who always looked out for the needy in society.

When we are so intent on controlling what others do rather than learn what it is to learn to walk with God, we spend so much time trying to make rules for other people. The rules that many want congress to pass about marriage are not for those who are promoting the idea, but to control the behavior of others they consider are not behaving well. No wonder when Jesus was asked by Peter concerning John, His answer was "What is that to you? Follow thou me". I can imagine Him saying the same thing to us today if we ask him what should be done about those who are abusing the marriage concept or are following the homosexual way. He will still say "Follow thou me". It is only when the church exhibits real love for one another that it will demonstrate to the world that it is following Jesus Christ, not when it is spending millions on lobbyists to get legislation passed to control the sinners. We should no strain out a gnat and swallow a camel, as Jesus enjoined.

There is a phrase in the Bible that reads "wilfully ignorant" and I was reminded of it as I read a reference to Romans Chapter 1, but the notion that greed and pride is hard to see reminded me of a short article posted 4/3/2012 in Forbes Magazine online by Robert Lenzner, a member of the staff. The title is "Willful Blindness Explains The March Of Folly In Finance". Remember what Alan Greenspan said on the meltdown, he never believed that bankers would make the kind of decisions so harmful to their long term interests. Romans 1 again. Is this blindness now afflicting some of the church that they cannot see the great problems facing our country. Even comedian Stephen Colbert understood the problem of ascertaining the truth of a statement, Colbert called it "Truthiness" for effect. The biggest problems are not marriage or gays but truth, love and spirituality for us, not for the world. Check out "The Church Before The Watching World" by Francis Schaeffer.

Welby,
Thanks for your comments. However, you miss my point. I am not stting myself up as a judge or jury o fpeople of the world. But we also are to be salt and light and the filth that we have become tolerant of int he name o ftoleance and love has infiltrated the church. Prime examples that I gave concerns five historic denominations that have made allowances for gay marriage and practicing homosexuals even filling the pulpit. I also beleie that as a Christian we have a responsibility to stand up against the social rot of our day because it does affect my kids and grand kids and I do not want to see them end up in hell because we had to be tolerant of the perverts and allow them to spread their poison.
Greed and pride are harder to see because they are sins of the heart. However, we need to be careful not to be judging the bankers and the former president for the economic collapse because we do not know their hearts. They amy have made some honest mistakes. I believe that we are going to collapse as a society because of the basic rebellion agains God that we are seeing in our country. The economy is not the issue as much as the sins of rebellion. I believe Christians are going to bear a lot of responsibility for what is going on because we do not proclaim the Gospel of Christ and we do not make holiness a priority and becasue we worry about being relevant and havign a full pocketbook.

Jeff,

We all have our hypocrisies. I certainly have mine. And sometimes I need them pointed out to me. And I think Christians who have made gay marriage one of the defining issues of the Church, while conveniently making excuses for a whole host of other sins, need their hypocrisy pointed out to them. Since this blog is talking about politics, why, for example, have many of the evangelical Christians who are staunchly opposed to gay marriage rallied behind a presidential candidate who has had multiple affairs and been married three times? Why are they willing to launch a self-righteous social crusade against one brand of sin while casually ignoring another? That's hypocrisy. And the fact that you're willing to blame so many of our problems (even when it comes to the economy) on homosexuality, while downplaying the role of such basic, universal sins as greed and pride -- I'm sorry, but that's hypocrisy too.

As far as I can tell, the fight against gay marriage isn't actually about pursuing holiness. It's about appearances. Passing a federal law against gay marriage won't prevent homosexuals from sinning. Gay people will still exist, and they'll still enter into relationships with or without government-recognized marriages. But by voting for things like Prop 8, we can maintain the image of a society that operates on Christian principles. Anybody who looks at us can see that we stood up for God's word and did our part to eradicate sin from our culture. But we didn't. All we did was drive the sin a little deeper underground, where it won't bother us.

Bill: If the establishment clause is the standard for what is right or wrong, we are in a lot of trouble. Can you imagine what most of us would do today if we were alongisde Jesus as he cleansed the temple of the moneychangers? We might advise Jesus to not only leave them alone(tolerance), but maybe find some way to leverage the situation for the cause of Christ(capitalization for Christ)...

All of which is true ... and also an excellent argument against turning the US into a theocracy ... any version of the theocracy.

The only disagreement between radical Islamists and conservative-evangelical Christians is the kind of theocracy they espouse. The former want a Muslim theocracy; the latter, a Christian. Otherwise, they are hatched from the same egg.

JC

Jeff Fairchild: Mr. Cowles there is a higher authority than the US Constitution.

Actually, no, in terms of the civil law there is no "higher authority".

You say homosexual relationships are always wrong.
There are Christians who disagree with you, e.g., many Episcopalians, some Methodists. I know some personally.

What is it that makes your version of Christianity and your idiosyncratic interpretation of the Bible uniquely worthy of being enacted into the civil law?

Your post is one more data point substantiating my claim that most conservative evangelical Christians do not understand the nature of constitutional government in a latitudinarian polity.

JC

Welby Warner: The rules that many want congress to pass about marriage are not for those who are promoting the idea, but to control the behavior of others they consider are not behaving well.

Yes indeed, and the people advocating this control are usually the same people who extol the virtues of "small government" ... by which they mean "government small enough to fit into one's bedroom".

JC

"What is it that makes your version of Christianity and your idiosyncratic interpretation of the Bible uniquely worthy of being enacted into the civil law?"

His version is the historical and traditional version of Christianity. And even the cultural Christian founders (and those founders who were Christians by profession and conviction)agree with JF. Today's liberal Christians who favor same sex marriage are the ones who maintain an idiosyncratic view of the Bible - not the traditional ones. In fact homosexual behavior is repudiated by the Bible as it is a sinful sexual behavior practiced by pagans in the worship of their gods. And in Lev. 18:30 God says, "Keep my requirements and do not follow any of the detestable customs that were practiced before you came and do not defile yourselves with them. I am the LORD your God.’” Homosexual sex was one of those detestable customs.

Now, Christians have as much right as non-Christians to inscribe into law their moral values. And the rejection of gay marriage can be made on a non-religious basis.
"Homosexual relationships do nothing to serve the state interest of propagating society, so there is no reason for the state to grant them the costly benefits of marriage, unless they serve some other state interest. The burden of proof, therefore, is on the advocates of gay marriage to show what state interest these marriages serve. Thus far, this burden has not been met." http://tech.mit.edu/V124/N5/kolasinski.5c.html

"...most conservative evangelical Christians do not understand the nature of constitutional government in a latitudinarian polity." I would say evangelicals do not have a corner on the market of ignorance when it comes to the Constitution.

Dan,

You're right -- Christians and non-Christians both have the right to push for their values to be represented by the government. Which means that neither group has the right to demand special consideration. So it doesn't matter how traditional or historical your version of Christianity is. If you want your values enforced by secular government, you can't just say "The Bible says so" and leave it at that. You're right that there are plenty of non-religious arguments against gay marriage, but I think they fall flat. That article you posted doesn't prove anything. You can make the case that procreation should be the determining factor when it comes to marriage, but if you want to be consistent, you need to rule out marriages between infertile couples as well. Are you willing to do that? And you can argue that gay adoption doesn't serve the state interest because children ought to be raised by a mother and a father -- but again, if you want to be consistent, you need to rule out adoption by single parents.

Sam, Dan did a good job of pointing out that there are reasons for our government supporting marriage between a man and a woman. There is good data that a traditional marriage is a best practice for raising healthy, well-balanced adults who will benefit society. That is not a Biblical argument. As for infertile couples, that is a red herring, as is the idea of same sex couples adopting. Children being adopted by same-sex couples, or single people for that matter, is an entirely different issue.

R.C.,

Infertile couples and gay adoption aren't red herrings as long as opponents of gay marriage are using them as arguments. The article Dan linked to tries to argue that gay couples are not serving the interests of the state because they can't procreate. If you truly believe that, then it logically follows that the state has no reason to extend marriage benefits to infertile couples, since they are no more likely to procreate than a gay couple. And you just argued that we should uphold traditional marriage because studies show that it's the best environment in which to raise children. But the fact that something is less than ideal is hardly a reason to make it illegal. Obviously, many Christians (myself included) believe that the ideal would be for all children to grow up with a Christian mother and father. But we don't live in an ideal world, and the reality is that orphaned children far outnumber Christian families who are willing to take them in. Which is why I think it would be insane to try and argue that only Christian couples should be allowed to adopt children. To argue against gay marriage on the basis of child-rearing, you need to prove that being raised by a gay couple is not just less than ideal, but unusually and consistently harmful to children. And I don't see any evidence of that.

Another fallacy that I see in these posts is the idea that because one type of discrimination is wrong (racial discrimination), that all types of discrimination are wrong. Is it not right, for instance to discriminate against a person with narcolepsy who applies for a job as an Air Traffic controller? This is not because we disapprove of people with narcolepsy, but rather because we see the need for Air Traffic Controllers to stay alert. We have no evidence to show that it is in the State's best interests to prevent the raising of children by a mixed-race couple. We may, however, be able to show that it is in a child's best interest and in the state's best interest for a child to be raised in a home with a father and a mother who remain committed to each other for life. We can then reward that behavior since it is in the best interest of the child and the best interest of society.

Just because the world is not ideal does not mean that our laws don't deal with ideals. "What is best" is an ideal. "Best Practices" is an ideal. The law is idealic by its very nature. Do not kill. Do not steal. Do not lie. The particulars are worked out after a law is inacted. For instance - Is there ever a time when it is necessary to kill, even though killing still remains a violation of the law?

Theocracies are run by immediate divine guidance, or by a man claiming to have the same. They are administered by one sect, or religion. These should not be confused with other secular forms of governments that are merely influenced by theological, moral, or ethical concepts. The Bible has been recognized for eons as a book containing divine wisdom which has successfully guided individuals, communities, and governments. Therefore, I contend that it is a valid document on which to base our laws. Some religious ideas destroy society and others build society. Educated people can discern between the two. Further, Christians can use the values they derive from the Bible to guide their decision making, their voting, and their influencing of the government and others.

RC: The Bible has been recognized for eons as a book containing divine wisdom which has successfully guided individuals, communities, and governments. Therefore, I contend that it is a valid document on which to base our laws.

Whose interpretation of the Bible?

There are people who argue in favor of abortion based on biblical texts. Others argue against abortion based on (different) biblical texts. Ditto capital punishment. Ditto public policy about poverty. In the run-up to the Civil War, people were quoting the Bible for and against slavery. Almost any public policy debate in our Nation's history has had people justifying their respective -- and conflicting -- positions based on the Bible.

So ... you choose -- perhaps at random! -- one person's, or more likely one sect's, interpretation of the Bible over all the others.

Surprise! Surprise! By privileging one group or sect or denomination over all others, you have violated the "establishment" clause of the First Amendment, and probably also the "equal protection" clause of the 14th.

JC

RC: We have no evidence to show that it is in the State's best interests to prevent the raising of children by a mixed-race couple. We may, however, be able to show that it is in a child's best interest and in the state's best interest for a child to be raised in a home with a father and a mother ...

Actually, there were studies that purported to show that children of mixed-race couples did indeed live at a disadvantage in later life ... but this was because a child raised in a mixed-race home encountered societal prejudice against mixed-race marriages in the first place. IOW, society created the problem and sociologists -- this was in the 20s, 30s, 40s -- documented the "evidence". It's a little like the kid who kills his parents and then pleads with the court for mercy because he is an orphan.

You do have a point that it is is possible to argue in favor of discrimination, and to base this discrimination on "compelling interest" arguments.

But that argument has to be based on real data, not data documenting the consequences of a situation created, in the first place, by social prejudice and mere bigotry.

JC

Dan: His version is the historical and traditional version of Christianity.

A couple of issues:

+ "Historical and traditional" by whose criteria, the criteria of conservative evangelical Christians? If so, that's hardly an impartial criterion.

+ The "historical and traditional version of Christianity" also taught, up until around the time of the Civil War that slavery was OK, and for an even longer time that women should not be allowed to vote. Should we turn the clock back in those areas, also? How consistent are you prepared to be with your "historical and traditional" criterion?

JC

Dan (quoting someone else): "Homosexual relationships do nothing to serve the state interest of propagating society, so there is no reason for the state to grant them the costly benefits of marriage, unless they serve some other state interest.

This sounds uncomfortably -- at least, it makes me uncomfortable -- close to the rationalization the Nazis used to rid the state of people it considered undesirable, e.g., the old, the physically handicapped, and in general those who, being dependent on others and on state assistance, were a "drag" on the state. Helping those folks entailed giving "costly benefits" also.

If you go very far down this road, you end up being loyal to the state and its interests instead of to God.

JC

Sam: You're right -- Christians and non-Christians both have the right to push for their values to be represented by the government. Which means that neither group has the right to demand special consideration. So it doesn't matter how traditional or historical your version of Christianity is. If you want your values enforced by secular government, you can't just say "The Bible says so" and leave it at that.

Congratulations! You understand the "establishment" clause of the First Amendment! I say that sincerely, too, not in the least sarcastically.

I have no objection, constitutional or otherwise, to people advocating for certain public policies from a religious motivation. But their argument has to involve some consideration of secular, religion-neutral justification.

Most of the time, arguments against gay marriage do not.

You're right that there are plenty of non-religious arguments against gay marriage, but I think they fall flat.

Yes, because they all end up being religious arguments in the end. Either that, or the anti-gay-marriage arguments take a sinister detour into the La-La-Land of state-centric fascism ("no utility to the state").

No argument against gay marriage that I am aware of gives full credence to the dual nature of marriage in our culture: civil and religious. Insofar as marriage is a civil / legal contract, there is no justification for denying gay people civil marriage any more than there is justification for prohibiting gay people from entering into any other form of legal contract, e.g., mortgages and new-car loans.

If that were to happen tomorrow, religious institutions would still have a "free exercise" right to grant or deny religious approval to gay unions. But some religious people want to have the whole pie and not just half, and convert marriage into an exclusively religious act.

JC

Welby Warner: Check out "The Church Before The Watching World" by Francis Schaeffer.

Welllllllllll ... I would advise caution in quoting Francis Schaeffer.

In his book -- his last or one of his last -- A Christian Manifesto, Schaeffer said: (1) only conservative Christians in the Reform tradition should ever be elected to public office (note that this means, e.g., Episcopalians and Catholics are out of luck), and (2) if the Supreme Court did not overturn Roe v. Wade and / or if the Congress did not take measures to severely restrict, preferably prohibit abortion, (e.g., constitutional amendment), then the conservative-evangelical community and other abortion opponents would be free to take up arms and press their anti-abortion case through violence ... as actually happened in Wichita, KS, not that long ago.

I'm not saying that Schaeffer's writings played a direct part in the assassination of abortion providers, but Schaeffer's writings do make the abortion controversy in general more volatile and violence prone.

In a Muslim theocracy, Schaeffer might well have been an ayatollah a la Iran.

JC

RC: Theocracies are run by immediate divine guidance, or by a man claiming to have the same.

How, as a practical matter, do you distinguish between the 2? Just take someone word when he says God spoke to him? Someone else says "God spoke to me" and gave me the opposite advice? Will the real prophet please stand up?

This was also a perennial problem for Israel, distinguishing true prophets from bad ones. And sometime they made the wrong choice. Ask Isaiah. Oops! Sorry! Too late ... they sawed him in half. So ask Jeremiah ... once you get him out of that deep well.

JC

@Sam: "If you want your values enforced by secular government, you can't just say "The Bible says so" and leave it at that." Straw man.

@JC: "There are people who argue in favor of abortion based on biblical texts." Enlighten us here, JC: what biblical arguments support abortion?

"...there were studies that purported to show that children of mixed-race couples did indeed live at a disadvantage in later life ... but this was because a child raised in a mixed-race home encountered societal prejudice against mixed-race marriages in the first place." Ahem, speaking of data...

"So ... you choose -- perhaps at random! -- one person's, or more likely one sect's, interpretation of the Bible over all the others."
One could make the same argument regarding your belief system, atheistic, philosophical naturalism. Obviously, if the entire court system were based upon the tenets of atheistic, philosophical naturalim gay marriage might be the law of the land today. (As a test case, lets look at some nation states who have actually based their governments on atheism: the former Soviet Union, Bulgaria, Albania, etc. Yeah, we want to be just like those countries: committed atheistic, philosophical naturalists. But you know, homosexuals were/are treated horribly in those countries who base their laws upon the tenets of atheism.)
But, thankfully, there are enough justices in the US who are informed by their Judeo-Christian beliefs (incidently, the same cultural religious beliefs that informed our Founders!) to stem the tide of barbarism trying to force its way into our country.


R.C.,

Our laws deal with ideals, but they also acknowledge that we live in a less-than-ideal world. It is in a child's best interest to have a good education, and ideally, all teenagers would be able to attend top-rate high schools. That doesn't mean that we should close down all but the best schools in the country. Because then we would just have an enormous group of kids with nowhere to go to school at all. Likewise, even if we can prove that it's ideal for a child to be raised in a home with a mother and father, preventing gay couples from marrying and adopting children won't actually help us move any closer to the ideal. It's not as though every child who is prevented from being raised by a gay couple will wind up living with a mother and father instead. Because we live in a world where there are far more children without homes than there are families who are willing to adopt them. So do you really think it's in a child's (and the state's) best interest to let a huge number of kids grow up without any consistent home or family, just as long as it means they're not adopted by gay parents? That makes absolutely no sense to me.

Dan: Enlighten us here, JC: what biblical arguments support abortion?

What biblical arguments support the theory of gravity? But I suppose I could cite the texts in the book of Zechariah or Ezekiel where God predicts that the Assyrians will invade Israel, cut open the bellies of pregnant women, and rip the fetuses out ... whereupon God will laugh.

Dan: One could make the same argument regarding your belief system, atheistic, philosophical naturalism. Obviously, if the entire court system were based upon the tenets of atheistic, philosophical naturalim gay marriage might be the law of the land today.

Not at all. Secular critics of the religious right are very assiduous in arguing that everyone, not just someone's favorite denomination, should have rights under the "free exercise" clause, even people whose moral and religious convictions differ from others'.

Dan: The US Constitution doesn't address this issue b/c no one at that time in his wildest imagination would have ever thought gay marriage was even the remotest possibility.

"No one at that time in his wildest imagination would have ever thought" of the possibility of electronic communication / information media.

Does that mean that the 1st Amendment's "abridgement" clause does not apply to TV, radio, and the internet?

JC

@Michelle ... I don't have the chapter-and-verse reference on the tip of my keyboard. I'll have to look it up and let you know.

JC

Dan: @Sam: "If you want your values enforced by secular government, you can't just say "The Bible says so" and leave it at that." Straw man.

It isn't a "straw man" argument at all, Dan. It's a meticulously fair description of the way conservative-evangelical Christians argue when it comes to social and "cultural" issues. Abortion is just one example.

Conservative-evangelical Christians' argument amounts to saying "The Bible says X, therefore the civil law should also say X".

Never mind that, even within the Christian community, there are people who don't interpret the Bible as saying X.

JC

Sam: Since this blog is talking about politics, why, for example, have many of the evangelical Christians who are staunchly opposed to gay marriage rallied behind a presidential candidate who has had multiple affairs and been married three times? Why are they willing to launch a self-righteous social crusade against one brand of sin while casually ignoring another? That's hypocrisy.

Right on all counts.

I think evangelicals' emphasis on gay issues is deeply rooted in evangelicals' (perhaps unconscious and certainly unacknowledged) anxiety and insecurity about their own sexuality. Nor is this anxiety / insecurity something unique to evangelical Christians, as witness the Catholics' similar issues on the same set of subjects.

The tendency is to confuse suppression with discipline, to equate the 2 and to believe that when people's sexuality is suppressed, that therefore people's sexual practices and impulses are disciplined. I strongly suspect that most conservative evangelicals have never heard of the Freudian term "the return of the repressed".

So I think you are also right about the emphasis on appearances. As long as homosexuality is driven underground, even at the expense of shredding the Constitution (the 14th Amendment in particular), it is invisible, and therefore it becomes that much easier for conservative evangelical Christians to convince themselves that all is well, because the alleged pathologies are out of sight, like the mad wife confined to the remote wing of the manor house in Jane Eyre.

Speaking of "the return of the repressed", though, the repressed does indeed return ... and it often returns to haunt its conservative-evangelical advocates, as witness the multiple sexual scandals in both Catholic and Protestant churches.

Conservative Christians, regardless of denomination, are white-knuckle terrified by the prospect of dealing honestly and straightforwardly with issues of sexuality.

JC

In order to restore a broken nation one MUST know the history as to why a blessed nation is declining into the pits of hell! First and utmost, America was founded on the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Constitution was constructed on Biblical principles. Therefore, God's Word is the final word as to what will happen to America whether it ends up destroyed or restored. Sam, you are on the right track. It is written that we, the Christians, have a mandate to step up to the plate and fight to keep America a Christian Nation! This fell by the wayside in 1963 when prayer, the Bible and God were taken out of the public schools. Please visit my web-site at
www.restorationmovements.com to find out why the church is deadly silent since this took place. Find out why there aren't very many God fearing, Jesus Christ believing Christians. America has been taken over with seemly more heathen Gentiles, and most Christians are comfortable being satan's footstool! TRUTH: Homosexuality is satan's ultimate destructive tool in destroying and decaying a nation. When godly people stopped doing nothing is when evil started to thrive!

Sam: When in our country's history do you think we've deserved God's blessings? When gay marriage was frowned upon but slavery was socially acceptable? Or when women were denied the right to vote?

Excellent points ... I can only add that, unlike slavery and the franchise, gay marriage raises the specter that has haunted all of Christianity, Catholic and Protestant, for over 2000 years: sexuality. So sexual matters are considered especially fertile ... so to speak ... ground for sin and unique occasions for moral turpitude, according to Christian sensibilities.

Besides, the franchise issue also impinged on the issue of the subordination of women and misogyny, the whole "barefoot and pregnant" paradigm that churches have visited on women since "Saint" Paul. So it's not surprising that extending the vote to women was problematical to much of the Christian community. It was tantamount to allowing the "hired help" to come up from the basement.

Also, I suspect that denying women the vote was a way of keeping the feminine suppressed, and therefore one way, also, of controlling sexuality ... so perhaps I should reconsider my exemption of the franchise for women as having nothing to do with issues of sexuality.

JC

@JC: "Evidently you haven't." Add clever repartee to your bag of skills.

But really, as a retired academic, you should be well past taking childish cheap shots. That is unless you are entering your second childhood.

"Dan: @Sam: "If you want your values enforced by secular government, you can't just say "The Bible says so" and leave it at that." Straw man." Yeah, I wasn't making that argument. I said this: "And the rejection of gay marriage can be made on a non-religious basis." So his response to me was a straw man as I wasn't making a religious case for it.

And really, JC, your constitutional opinions have not held up very well in court in so far as you agree with the 9th CCA, that is. (And you indicated previously you hold them in high opinion.) "U.S. Supreme Court Again Rejects Most Decisions by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals" http://visiontoamerica.org/2488/u-s-supreme-court-again-rejects-most-decisions-by-the-u-s-9th-circuit-court-of-appeals/ "The Supreme Court reversed or vacated 19 of the 26 decisions it looked at from the 9th Circuit this judicial term... the 9th Circuit was often out of step even with the high court’s liberal justices, who joined with the conservatives in 12 unanimous rulings." SCOTUS said their action had something to do with the 9th's legal reasoning.

Sam: You're right -- God is a higher authority than the U.S. Constitution.

The problem with saying that "God is a higher authority than the US Constitution" is that the statement begs the question of who, or what group, gets to speak authoritatively for God, and who, or what group, gets to interpret what God says.

Some people say God prohibits abortion with no exceptions. Other people say God prohibits most abortions, but not (quite) all. Still other people say God leaves human beings free to choose what to do about abortion. Furthermore -- and this is the real kicker -- all the above people are Christians.

If God is to be our authority, then someone somewhere or some group somewhere has to be charged with the responsibility of telling the rest of us what God wants.

How is that person, how is that group, to be determined?

This is a significant question, because 500 years after the Protestant Reformation, there are ... I forget the exact number ... either high-hundreds or low-thousands of Christian denominations, each with its own interpretation of the Bible, each with its own idea about what God wants ... and these interpretations and ideas are often diametrically opposed to each other.

That is not a very good foundation on which to build some kind of system for interpreting God's desires to the rest of us.

The only alternative, it seems to me, would be to somehow, perhaps just at random, appoint a group to say what God wants. Or maybe the various groups could take turns having this authority.

Either method runs afoul of the "establishment" clause of the First Amendment, because designating the "official interpreter" would amount to establishment of a religion, i.e., the privileging of one religious sect over another.

JC

Dan: But really, as a retired academic, you should be well past taking childish cheap shots. That is unless you are entering your second childhood.

I was not taking a cheap shot. I was simply making an objective observation. Your characterization of what I said as a "cheap shot" is itself a cheap shot. Since we started exchanging posts about the Constitution, I have noticed no discernible improvement in your ability to engage in reasoned dialogue about same. You haven't been doing your homework ... which, at one point, you yourself acknowledged needing to do.

Your point about disagreeing with the 9th circuit and the 9th circuit's decisions being overturned only underlines this.

I will say one more time what I have said numerous times before: the fact that there is disagreement among various levels of the appellate courts proves nothing. Not a thing.

In 1890-something, the Supreme Court issued a ruling in a case called Plessy v. Ferguson in which SCOTUS said the principle of "separate but equal" was OK. About 55+ years later, SCOTUS, this time with Earl Warren as Chief Justice, issued a ruling in a case called Brown v. Topeka Board of Education in which it said the principle of "separate but equal" was not OK. SCOTUS, on occasion, even disagreed with itself and overturns the ruling of previous courts.

This is not, as you evidently think, a case like a problem in a arithmetic like "What is 2 plus 2?" where there is only one correct answer. It is, rather, a case of "dueling interpretations". That is the give-and-take nature of constitutional interpretations by appellate judges.

If the Court rules against the 9th circuit, I will abide by that decision, because it is the decision "du jour". But I will not consider it right, nor am I under any obligation to do so.

"I was not taking a cheap shot. I was simply making an objective observation. Your characterization of what I said as a "cheap shot" is itself a cheap shot." No it wasn't; I was just making...an objective observation.

"I have noticed no discernible improvement in your ability to engage in reasoned dialogue about same." That's your opinion. And JC you continue to make broad generalizations masquerading as facts about Christianity without providing evidence.

"...disagreement among various levels of the appellate courts proves nothing." Sure it does.

" SCOTUS, on occasion, even disagreed with itself and overturns the ruling of previous courts." That specific example was about race; this is about marriage between same sex couples. Apparently in SCOTUS' eyes there is a difference.

"But I will not consider it right..." How do you define what is right? What is your standard for determining what is right? Philosophical naturalism? Your own gut feeling? The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals?

"...the specter that has haunted all of Christianity, Catholic and Protestant, for over 2000 years: sexuality." Where do you get this stuff, JC?

"...the franchise issue also impinged on the issue of the subordination of women and misogyny, the whole "barefoot and pregnant" paradigm that churches have visited on women since "Saint" Paul." Seriously, JC, you need to cut back on your metamucil intake.
Paul said in Galatians 3:26ff "So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." So Paul actually planted the seeds of emancipation for all people, because all people are created in the image of God, and because all people are created in the image of God all people have intrinsic worth. But maybe you have a Biblical text in which Saint Paul says differently? Care to share that text with us?

"...either high-hundreds or low-thousands of Christian denominations, each with its own interpretation of the Bible, each with its own idea about what God wants ... and these interpretations and ideas are often diametrically opposed to each other."
Survey the Christian denominations. You will find only a handful of different interpretations represented by 3 or 4 theological families - not hundreds or thousands of different interpretations: eg Catholic/Orthodox/Anglican; Lutheran/Reformed; Arminian; Anabaptist. Most evangelicals are either reformed or arminian (in most cases a mixture) in theology. But even so in the basics of Christian beliefs and ethics the similarities among all Christian churches/theologies and interpretations are far greater than the differences. For example, it is entirely possible that 99% of all Christians could easily agree with 99% of the Nicene Creed. ("The Nicene Creed has been normative for the Anglican Church, the Church of the East, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Oriental Orthodox churches, the Roman Catholic Church including the Eastern Catholic Churches, the Old Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church and many Protestant denominations...")
So really your snarky swipes against Christianity are without merit and in the end only hurt your credibility.

The government can try to "define" marriage as between one man and one woman, but it can do nothing to change the human heart. Only God can do that. On the flip side, should the government "define" marriage as being inclusive of same-sex couples, ultimately only God's definition will last. Governments come and go, but His truth endures forever.

"If God is to be our authority, then someone somewhere or some group somewhere has to be charged with the responsibility of telling the rest of us what God wants."
"How is that person, how is that group, to be determined?"
Are you not begging the question here? You are assuming somewhere, some group has to be in charge with telling the rest of us what God wants and then you are arguing from that point.

So here is a homework assignment for you, JC. Go to the Biblical text and perhaps you may find the answer - if there is one.

"...these interpretations and ideas are often diametrically opposed to each other."
Exactly which ones are you referring to?
You seem to ask a lot of vague questions regarding what the true interpretation of the Bible is? But you never get around to asking specifics. So which doctrines are you seeking clarification? I will be glad to help you all that I can.

Travis, I completely agree with you. Which is why I think the religious right is wasting its energy turning this into a political and legal battle.

"The government... can do nothing to change the human heart." I don't know that that was ever its purpose.

So, given your logic maybe we should tear down the speed limit signs because we can't change the human heart about speeding; maybe we should never have outlawed slavery nor passed laws against polygamy, etc.
So what, then, is the purpose of govt. anyway? Romans 13 is suggestive.

Dan,

The purpose of speed limits is to protect people from unsafe drivers. The purpose of laws against slavery is to protect people from being treated like property. So who is a law against gay marriage protecting? It's not going to prevent gay people from sinning, and it's not going to force Christians to participate in sin. So tell me, what exactly is the purpose of a law upholding traditional marriage? What will it accomplish?

@Sam: I'll tell you what prohibitions against gay marriage will accomplish: such prohibitions will succeed famously in the real, as distinct from the ostensible, purpose of making homophonic conservative Christians feel good about themselves. Keeping gay and lesbian folks from entering into civil / legal / non-religious marriages will enable conservative Christians to bash on their Bibles and thunder that they have "stood up for Jesus" and that they are "keeping America from going the way of Rome" ... and, perhaps above all, to slap one another on the back and congratulate one another on their exemplary and exceptional righteousness, which must be oh-so-pleasing to God.

Received wisdom says the American economy does not make anything, does not manufacture anything any more.

Blatantly untrue, risibly untrue.

By a multiple-light-year margin, the US, thanks to conservative Christians, leads the entire planet in the manufacture of moral vanity.

JC

Why should the govt. sanction behavior that is dangerous by recognizing it as normal? That's what gay marriage does. Now if you don't think gay sex is dangerous, you might check the CDC facts.

"... prohibitions against gay marriage..." States regulate marriages in many ways beside denying gays the right to marry.

In addition, "Homosexual relationships do nothing to serve the state interest of propagating society, so there is no reason for the state to grant them the costly benefits of marriage, unless they serve some other state interest. The burden of proof, therefore, is on the advocates of gay marriage to show what state interest these marriages serve. Thus far, this burden has not been met."

@JC: By the way, have you found any Biblical text where St. Paul promotes the subordination of women? You made all of those snarky comments yet failed to demonstrate evidence from the text.

"But I will not consider it right..." How do you define what is right? What is your standard for determining what is right? Philosophical naturalism? Your own gut feeling? The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals?

These are important questions all philosophical naturalists need to answer. Can you answer them?


.@Dan:  I have made a good-faith effort over several weeks to have a conversation with you about the constitutional aspects of gay marriage. But it is evident to me that the only text you care about is the Bible -- and only your interpretation of the Bible, at that -- and that you care little: and know nothing about the US Constitution. 

There is no shame in ignorance. What is shameful is ignorance which is not only content with ignorance, but positively proud and arrogant to remain so. 

You are content and proud in your ignorance, and view it as a prize to be cherished rather than a condition to be remedied. 

Further conversation with you is therefore pointless. 

JC

JC: What happened to that old liberal tolerance we hear so much about?

"...the only text you care about is the Bible..." Really, James? Really? You yourself bring the bible into the discussion so often, and always derisively. And then you complain when you are called to account for your mockery. (Should we not, then, accuse you of Christiphobia or Bibliophobia?)
I would say you give legs to Mark Twain's admission: "...the less I know about a subject the more confidence I have, and the more new light I throw on it." Your knowledge of the Bible and Christianity - and Christians, too - is...remarkable.

And those pesky questions you don't like to answer that are so crucial in understanding why you believe what you believe - you don't like to answer them either. But I know your answers anyway.

And even on Constitutional issues, you spin the argument from an atheistic point of view - surely, something the founders never intended. Maybe that's why SCOTUS - even its liberal members - strike down a large number of the 9th CCA's cases. Their legal reasoning, I think SCOTUS said, was flawed. Now you identify with the 9th CCA, don't you? So by extention you must feel somewhat irritated with SCOTUS' rebuke. Maybe you even take it personally.

Yes, James, I am not as knowledgeable of the Constitution as I should be. Guilty as charged. (I do not have the luxury of being a retired academic either!) But James, that's why we have judges, isn't it - to keep us all straight on what the Constitution means?

Now, let it be known to all who read this blog - James, you are the one cutting off the conversation, not I.

@Sam: Travis, I completely agree with you. Which is why I think the religious right is wasting its energy turning this into a political and legal battle.

We probably disagree about the morality of homosexuality and the legitimacy of gay marriage. But we do agree here. Even in a brutally totalitarian society, if enough people, enough people to form a "critical mass", decide they want a certain change, then that change will happen, no matter what. The change may be good, like the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. Or the change may be bad, like an Islamic-fascist state. But good or bad, the change will happen. And sometimes, the change is simply the result of demographics:  the young and rising generation may have a vision of society different from the society envisioned by the older and departing generation. 

That is why I am optimistic in the long term about the acceptance of homosexual people, homosexual relationships, and homosexual marriage in US society. 

The generation coming up "behind" mine -- I'm 63 -- and certainly even more so the generation coming up "behind" them see gayness v. heterosexuality as of no more moral consequence than being right- or left-handed, and denying marriage to gay people about as absurd as denying marriage to left-handed people or to people who part their hair in the middle. Sociological surveys bear this out:  intensity of opposition to gay rights and gay marriage in the US is inversely related to age:  the younger, the more tolerant. 

Consequently, the generation or 2 following mine will render the gay-marriage issue moot as members of my generation die off. (Even attitudes in my generation are changing, but that's another thread.) So conservative  Christians can continue to ignore the beam in their own eye, and indulge their taste for moral vanity by bashing their Bibles and slobbering their ugly homophobic rhetoric until their jowls quiver and turn purple. In the long run, the inexorability of sheer demographic pressure will steam-roller their efforts flat, and a couple of generations from now, people will look back on the current gay-marriage controversy as on a par with whether slaves should be considered 2/3 of a person or whether women should have the vote. The conservative-Christian opposition to gay rights and gay marriage will, a few generations in the future, seem about as absurd as King Canute the Dane running around on the beach beating the ocean with his sword to make high tide come in faster. 

The ultimate resolution of the gay-marriage controversy will prove to be a case in point of what Dr. King said in the great sermon he preached at the National Cathedral in 1968 a few days before he was assassinated:  "The arm of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice". 

JC

"...I think the religious right is wasting its energy turning this into a political and legal battle."

It's never a waste of energy to stand for righteousness in the public square.

II Tim. 3:1ff "...in the last days difficult times will come. 2 For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power..."

re: "...the religious right is wasting its energy turning this into a political and legal battle"

Tell that to William Wilberforce. "...his object in life - no less than the transformation of a corrupt society through serious religion... Wilberforce, although he rejected a party label, was deeply conservative..."
"In 1784 Wilberforce became converted to Evangelical Christianity." Horrors! An evangelical, as well! (Of course, history records he wasted his energy.)

"Thomas Clarkson (1760-1846) was the leading opponent of the slave trade and slavery in England in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. His opposition was based on religious (he was an evangelical Anglican), moral, political, and economic grounds and he had an enormous impact in Europe and the United States." Not another evangelical opposed to the slave trade.
(Of course, history records he wasted his energy, too.)

"ABHORENT PRACTICE OF SLAVE TRADING: The hunting of Human Beings for the purpose of making slaves of them is a practice to be much abhored. It is therefore of great comfort to Englishmen of Christian Ideals to note that the group of Evangelicals continues to be active in condemning the trading of slaves." from the London Gazette (Monday August 26, 1768, Number 118; Twopence-Farthing). It’s either a letter to the editor or an editorial comment... (You mean evangelicals weren't all slavers? Well, that's not what people like you-know-who says.)

So where were all of the philosophical naturalists/atheists when the slave trade was going on? Trading in human flesh, that's where.

Revealed: "How atheist Richard Dawkins' family fortune came from the slave trade" http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2103319/Campaigner-Richard-Dawkins-faces-awkward-truth-money-came-slave-trade.html

Let's see, who were some notable atheists that influenced the world for good: Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, Chinese communist leader Chou En-lai. (Atheists all, these men had good intentions, I'm sure. But their follow through, however, left something to be desired.)

Clearly, atheism is superior to Christianity.

@Sam:  The reason the religious right is agitating on behalf of "moral" and "cultural" issues like abortion, contraception, and gay marriage is because conservative Christians' theological pedigree goes back to St. Augustine. Augustine believed that the social and political orders should be subordinate and subservient to the Church -- IOW Augustine rejected the legitimacy of, and really had no conception of, a secular and religion-neutral political order. (Don't believe me? Do some homework, beginning with St. Augustine's City of God ... De Civitate Dei.) For Augustine, all questions without exception -- social, political, cultural, aesthetic ... you name it -- for Augustine all issues in a society were religious / theological / doctrinal issues. The religious order ate the secular order alive. In fact: for Augustine, there was and could be no secular order in society. 

Same with conservative Christians. Their (fairly explicit!) goal, on all issues, not just gay marriage, is for the religious order to totally consume the secular order of society a la Augustine. This accounts for secular Christians' utter inability to understand and appreciate, for example, constitutional government in a secular, religion-neutral, latitudinarian society. Simply expressed, for a conservative Christian in the Augustinian tradition, there can no more be a secular, religion-neutral socio-political order than there can be 2-sided triangles. 

This is why conservative, Augustinian Christianity is every whit as dangerous to a constitutional political order as radical-jihadist Islam ... and for the very same reasons. 

JC

"The reason the religious right is agitating on behalf of "moral" and "cultural" issues...is because conservative Christians' theological pedigree goes back to St. Augustine."

Actually, for evangelicals (for whom St. Augustine is only a city in FL) obedience to Jesus is the reason for holding up a standard of righteousness in the public square.

Here's my documentation:
Matt. 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16 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.

(I believe Jesus preceded Augustine by a few years.)

And also:
Proverbs 4:18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
That shines brighter and brighter until the full day.

I think it is ironic that atheists speak with such mockery and antipathy toward Christianity and Christians, and yet are themselves the benficiaries of Christian tolerence and in some cases benevolence. There is no question the US was established in part by those seeking religious freedom, and so it would be expected that our Judeo-Christian values, our moral and religious vision would mightily influence (even suffuse) our laws. Let us now compare that to the atheistic nations such as the former Soviet Union, the former communist nations of Albania and Bulgaria, and present day China and North Korea. Clearly, atheism's progeny have outperformed the USA in freedom, charitable works, and economic justice. Atheism vs. Christianity? The choice is so difficult!
But seriously, I think even if I were an atheist I would prefer to live in a country where Christians were agitating on behalf of moral and cultural issues than live in a country that has realized the atheistic vision.

Dan,

I don't think the verses you're quoting are actually making your argument for you. Letting our light shine before men is about offering OUR lives as a witness and letting God work through us to reach those who don't know Him. Why do you see those passages as a mandate for Christians to force OTHERS to act according to our beliefs? I don't think you'll find any such mandate anywhere in the Bible. In fact, I think this passage in 1 Corinthians makes the opposite point:

1 Corinthians 5: 9-13
"I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people - not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world. But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside."

I think Paul makes it clear that believers are to hold each other accountable and deal with unrepentant sin within the Church, but that we have no business expecting non-Christians to act like Christians or trying to force them to conform to our standards.

And you can't seriously be trying to compare the fight against gay marriage to the fight to end slavery. That's absurd. On what grounds are those two issues even REMOTELY similar to each other? Trying to draw an equivalency between abolitionists and Prop 8 supporters is offensive, arrogant and insulting. Fighting to prevent the centuries-old dehumanization and government-approved abuse of an entire group of human beings -- that's an example of standing for righteousness in the public square. Fighting to make sure that a gay man can't refer to his partner as his husband or visit him in the hospital -- that's an example of standing for SELF-righteousness.

@Sam: Do you not know the hermeneutical principle: there is only one interpretation of any given verse, but there may be many applications? So of course those verses work - the Gospel changes lives one at a time and so Gospel principles should permeate our culture as lives change and our laws, too - hence the salt and light metaphor from the Gospels.

Now people, like JC, hate it that Christians want laws to reflect their moral vision, yet he himself is the recipient of Christian tolerance and benevolence. And he certainly is not hesitant to demand his moral vision formed by his worldview be given voice.

So I ask you, Sam: Would you rather live in a society whose laws are informed by the Gospel or one whose laws are informed by atheism?

Did you not pay attention to what I quoted about William Wilberforce above? He was an evangelical Christian activist.

And as far as gay marriage goes, how could any Christian jurist subscribe to a law that is a clear and direct repudiation of God's moral will? An atheist jurist could, though, no doubt, since atheists essentially believe what is right in their own eyes.

And are you implying by the biblical text you quoted above that Christians should never contribute to the laws in our country? In the text you quoted Paul is talking about personally associating with sinners, anyway, not making laws. And so why is it okay for atheists (or any other worldview) to make laws forcing us to do what they see as legal/right/moral but Christians can't?

You remind me of Martin Niemoller's, "First they came..."

Now, Sam, you seem to think atheism is a benign worldview and their influence will be benign. (See above where I noted atheism's contribution to govt's.)

Also, why don't you compare the history of Christian charitable work with atheism's contribution to charitable work: when has any atheistic mission sought to minister to the underbelly of society? Only Christians (or other religions) have. Do you not understand that for Christians to say "no" to gay marriage is not a repudiation of homosexuals, but it is a repudiation of that destructive lifestyle.

"And you can't seriously be trying to compare the fight against gay marriage to the fight to end slavery. That's absurd."
Of course a comparison can be made - at least to this degree: 18th and 19th century evagelical Christians recognized and confronted a major moral issue of their time - slavery. They did this ultimately through legislation, and they were successful. Should we not also try to contribute to a moral society by crafting laws to minimize dangerous behavior?
But at this point I'll simply refer you to the CDC facts on homosexual behavior for the rest of my response. Homosexual sex is a public health issue and should not be condoned by govt. by conferring on it the legal status of marriage. Suffice to say our country should not legalize and thereby give consent to a lifestyle that is clearly aberrant and unhealthy.

And unintended consequences will ultimately follow if we do redefine marriage: Polygamy? Polyamorous marriage? Marriage between mother/son; father/daughter, brother/sister, etc? Upon what legal basis can you deny those relationships after you make allowance for gay marriage? Is that the kind of society you want to live in, Sam, where the state gives legal sanction to those kinds of relationships? Of course you and others like you cannot see past the end of your philosophical noses, and so you do not stop and consider the unintended consequences.

Now I am not so naive as to think those relationships are only a recent innovation. No, our era does not have the market on dysfunctional relationships. But one thing is different now from the past. In the past the laws of the state did not sanction those abberant forms of marriage (except maybe polygamists in Utah before it was a state); and now those parties are seeking legal recognition. The same with gays. So I say, if gays want to live together, let them, just like heterosexuals have alway shacked up, or polygamists have always done their thing without the official sanction of government. Just don't normalize a dangerous lifestyle by giving it legal recognition.

Now, if govt. can interfere in what our kids eat at lunch surely they can interfere on a public health issue such as gay marriage.

@Sam: I don't think the verses you're quoting are actually making your argument for you. Letting our light shine before men is about offering OUR lives as a witness and letting God work through us to reach those who don't know Him. Why do you see those passages as a mandate for Christians to force OTHERS to act according to our beliefs? I don't think you'll find any such mandate anywhere in the Bible. In fact, I think this passage in 1 Corinthians makes the opposite point:

I think you understand the issue, Sam. There is no conflict between Christianity and constitutional government, only between the Augustinian brand / type of Christianity, what might accurately be called "fascist Christianity" or "Christian fascism", and constitutional government. 

Christians who advocate for a government and political order exclusively Christian show great ignorance of, and even greater disrespect for, Jeaus' own words "My kingdom is not of this world" -- and they show this disrespect while self-righteously quoting the Bible they claim to love so well and reverence so deeply. They are hypocrites of the worst possible kind. 

I think the reason they advocate this type of religiously motivated coercion and goose-stepping regimentation is because, deep down and perhaps even unconsciously, they have profound religious doubts that they do all they can to suppress, rather as Jimmy Swaggart suppressed his rather florid sexual urges. So, like Swaggart, they overcompensate. 

It's always easy to suppress your doubts when you surround yourself with a group -- a mob, a herd -- of people who look and who think just like you do. So conservative evangelicals try to force the entire country, as a matter of coercive law, to act and to think just like good, conservative, evangelical, Augustinian Christians, not because they care about the country or morality, but because, if the entire country were just like them, conservative evangelical Christians could suppress their own religious doubts by immersing themselves in the herd mentality. They want to turn the entire country into a mob of clones within which they can hide, the better to escape their own unacknowledged doubts. 

This is the kind of arrant cowardice you always discover  in people who fear that encountering  others who are different might entice them into facing their own doubts. 

JC

Dan,

I don’t want to live in an exclusively Christian society or an exclusively atheist society. I want to live in a society in which both Christians and atheists are free to hold their own beliefs and live by them openly, so long as neither tramples on the other’s rights. I’m not in favor of EITHER group making laws “forcing us to do what they see as legal/right/moral.” The thing is, that’s not what gay marriage advocates are doing. They’re not forcing Christian churches to adopt their definition of marriage, and they’re not forcing Christians to participate in gay weddings. They’re just asking for the government to recognize their definition of marriage, the way it recognizes the definitions of the Christian church and other ideologies. Gay marriage opponents, on the other hand, ARE trying to force others to comply with what they see as right and moral. They’re trying to actively prevent others from acting on a belief that is inconsistent with Christianity, regardless of whether or not the people in question are Christians. I simply don’t understand what the point of that is. And nothing that you’ve said has convinced me that there is a point. You’ve mentioned examples of atheists who have incurred terrible harm on society. I could give you an equally long list of historical wrongs done in the name of God (ever hear of the Spanish Inquisition?). That’s not the point. This isn’t a battle of atheists vs. Christians. It’s a discussion on a very specific issue about which many Christians have a very legitimate disagreement. You keep talking to me as though I sympathize with atheism more than with Christianity. I don’t. I’m a Christian. I believe in the Bible.

Christians absolutely can contribute to our country’s laws. But they need to be consistent about it. If the Christian groups in favor of banning gay marriage want to amend the Constitution to allow the government to align itself with a particular religion (in this case, Christianity), they should be open about their intentions. If, on the other hand, they want to preserve the Constitution’s guarantee of religious freedom and its promise that the government will NOT align itself with any particular religion, then they can’t pass laws whose only purpose is to force non-Christians to comply with specifically Christian standards. You can’t have it both ways. You can’t celebrate religious freedom in one breath and then turn around and deny it to a group that holds different beliefs than yours. It seems like many of the conservative evangelicals campaigning against things like gay marriage are only fond of the idea of religious freedom when it works in their favor.

As for the health risks associated with homosexual sex, there are also health risks in having sex with someone who has had other sexual partners. Does that mean that we should forbid people who have had unprotected premarital sex from ever getting married? They would be putting their spouse at risk for STD’s and other sexual complications as a result of their past, and so using your own logic, they should therefore not have their relationship condoned by the government.

And then there’s the slippery slope argument of “If we allow gay marriage, then we’ll also have to allow polygamy, incest, bestiality, etc.” To be perfectly honest, I don’t know how to deal with the idea of polygamy. Because you’re right – if the government is not adhering to a specifically Christian definition of marriage, then there may be no legitimate reason to outlaw polygamy. That’s definitely a legitimate concern, and again, I admit that I don’t know the exact implications of it. But I do think that you’re oversimplifying. The legal definition of marriage in the U.S. has been revised and rewritten constantly. It was once legal for 12 year olds to be married. It was also once illegal for interracial couples to be married. And in both cases, changing the law to widen the definition of marriage didn’t open the door for any and all extreme behavior to creep in. There was simply a call for a specific change to be made to the law, just as there is now a call to amend the law specifically to accommodate same-sex marriages.

You ask how a Christian jurist could subscribe to a law that is in violation of God’s will. U.S. law allows people to practice religions other than Christianity. Do you think we should do away with those laws? I believe that Christianity is the one true religion, and that to practice any other faith is a violation of God’s will. But I don’t think that trying to legally force unbelievers into the Christian faith will accomplish anything. To me, fighting to pass a law denying gay people the right to marry would be like fighting to pass a law denying Muslims the right to worship. As a Christian, I believe that Islam is a false religion. I also believe that Muslims should be free to practice it. If I as a Christian want to witness to somebody who is Muslim, the best way to do that is to develop a relationship with that person and let my words, my life, and my love for them be a testimony to my faith. The absolute worst way to minister to them would be to do everything in my power to punish them for holding different beliefs than I do.

If you’re wondering why I am so adamant about this issue, it’s not because I personally believe that gay marriage is right and moral, and it’s not because I want to live in any kind of atheist society. It’s because I’ve seen how this issue is hurting the Church. The tenacity with which the Church has waged war on gay marriage has sent the gay community one message loud and clear: “We care more about your behavior than we care about your hearts. You are not first and foremost a person to be loved and respected, but a problem to be fixed.” Look at some of the things you’ve said. You’ve compared the issue of gay marriage to African-American slavery and, with your passive aggressive reference to Niemoller, Hitler’s extermination of Jews. Do you honestly not see how deeply offensive that kind of talk is to people who are gay? How hurt they might be by the idea that Christian activists see them first and foremost as a dangerous threat on par with 19th century slaveowners and Nazis? Do you really think that hearing that kind of rhetoric from people who identify as Christians is going to give them any incentive to open their hearts and minds to the teachings of Christianity? I know for a fact that that’s how many non-Christians (not just those who are gay) view the Church as a direct result of this issue. That should deeply sadden us, and we should be doing everything in our power to fight it.

OK, Sam, you can tell J.C. for me that...and then JC can tell you, Sam, to tell me...

[Good grief. James, it's like you are in middle school. But you are a 63 year old retired academic. Now stop with the raspberries, James. Didn't your mother teach you not to stick your tongue out at people? Now, James if you don't stop you'll just have to go to time out. All right, mister, you are in time out. ;-P]

Just remember, the Founders of our country crafted the Constitution from a particular worldview - and it wasn't atheism. For that story, see the history of communism.

Like the 9th CCA James is interpreting the Constitution from an atheistic perspective. SCOTUS, on the other hand, strikes down a large percentage of the 9ths rulings due to their flawed legal reasoning. Interesting isn't it, it's not just a different interpretation - it is FLAWED LEGAL REASONING. I speculate that the 9ths legal reasoning is considered flawed b/c of its atheistic worldview.

@Dan: The thing is, that’s not what gay marriage advocates are doing. They’re not forcing Christian churches to adopt their definition of marriage, and they’re not forcing Christians to participate in gay weddings. They’re just asking for the government to recognize their definition of marriage, the way it recognizes the definitions of the Christian church and other ideologies.

YES! EXACTLY! PRECISELY! . Right on the money. You understand a distinction -- between religious and legal / civil -- that 99% of anti-gay-marriage folks either are not aware of or, as I think, do not recognize as legitimate.

Most anti-gay-marriage people think that, if gay marriage were made legal tomorrow, the police would show up at their churches the following Sunday and force their ministers / priests to perform gay weddings at gunpoint. I have read posts in this forum that say such.

But the fact is that if gay marriage was legalized, churches would still have the option of granting or withholding religious recognition. in that regard, nothing would change.

After all, how many churches in CA have been forced to perform gay weddings since SCOTUS decided Perry v. Brown? Answer: zero, zip, zilch, nada, bupkiss.

If gay marriage were legalized tomorrow, the "free exercise" clause of the 1st Amend. would still stand. But I've long ago learned to not waste bandwidth getting homophobic Christians to see this.

JC

Well, there is a slippery slope, and it exists, and if this president is elected again, we'll be at the bottom of the slope, going totally against God's commands. Right now, the International Planned Parenthood, which receives a lot of our tax money, is pushing for the right of 10 year olds to have access to sex education, contraceptives, abortions, etc. Even the Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki-Moon agrees. In a statement recently released he said, “Young people, as much as all people, share the human right to health, including sexual and reproductive health.” From this statement, it appears likely to change to even allow children younger than 10 these same "rights". Not surprisingly, they see the parents as an enemy to these changes, and they would like to take away the rights of the parents to decide for their own child when is the right time to be taught certain things about sex and other topics, once the domain of the parents, not the state. Although denied by some, there is a large percentage of homosexuals who would like to have sex with boys, and so of course, NAMBLA would like it very much to indoctrinate very young children about homosexuality and nobody will be allowed to exercise the right we once had, of free speech, to talk about the dangers of homosexuality that Dan has listed. Thanks to this president, that would now be considered "hate speech" with long prison terms used as a deterrent to telling the truth.
http://www.lifenews.com/2012/03/29/un-planned-parenthood-push-sex-rights-for-ten-year-old-kids/

I'm really glad that I already had my children and they are in their young 20's. But I feel very sorry for their generation, because if I were their age, I seriously don't know if I would want to bring children into this world where probably not too long in the future, there will be a one world government, and the UN will be dictating what children are taught, and the state will have the right to oversee that certain things are taught to children, regardless of the parent's religious beliefs.

Someone wrote how it's "good" that the state can inspect children's lunch boxes and how it "takes a village to raise a child". She and others have swallowed the garbage of the teachings of Oprah and other liberals, and they are deceived because it's really much more like life under Stalin or Hitler when the government is dictating everything from what must be in your child's lunch box to their sex education and when they can receive contraceptives, and how they must believe about homosexuality. Sorry, I don't want the growing government intrusion into our personal lives, fascism and marxism make Christianity their enemy, they cannot co-exist. It's sad that people are so glad to willingly give up their rights to raise their children as children of God, because the children of the state are not going to be children of the biblical God.

Your admission regarding polygamy proves my point, Sam. Do you think it's not time to draw a line in the sand?

Regarding your concerns about freedom of thought/religion - that's been part of the American tradition since before our nation's founding. Not only that, but nowhere in Scripture is it commanded to coerce people into believing something against their will. Likewise, we are never to participate in evil behavior. For example, Sam, could you with a clear conscience vote for a bill that sanctions partial birth abortion just because abortion was culturally accepted and/or legal? I couldn't. Nor can I support same sex marriage because I know what the Bible says about homosexuality. You accuse me of oversimplifing the issue, but the issue seems rather simple to me.

And you know that slippery slope you mentioned? It's real. Remember pre-WWII Nazi Germany? The Nazi's started cleansing their country starting with the weakest members of society: the mentally disordered, the retarded, the deranged, and then slid down the slope ending finally with the slaughter of the Jews, Slavs, Gypsys, etc. And what worldview informed Nazi Germany? It wasn't Christianity. What worldview does JC bring to Constitutional interpretation - atheisim.

It is a far cry to go from adjusting the age of marriage or allowing interracial marriage to allowing same sex marriage. Anyway interracial marriage and being able to marry at 12 is irrelevant to the issue of gay marriage.

"...pass a law denying gay people the right to marry would be like fighting to pass a law denying Muslims the right to worship..." Sam, I don't get your logic. Already, Muslims have a right to worship, and in most states gays don't have a right to marry. But once again, "the state regulates marriage in many ways besides denying men to marry other men and women the right to marry other women." Is the state discriminating unfairly against those other groups? Using your logic you will have to say "yes."

Regarding the offensive talk factor: can you see how deeply offensive JC's comments are to people of religious conviction? He has constantly mocked those of traditional conservative Christian convictions even to the point he alluded to Scripture. And I called him on it by asking him to provide evidence and documentation. He couldn't. And like a little girl, he took his dollies and went home.
Can you see how deeply offensive gay parades are, which include highly perverted sexual images, to traditional and conservative Christians? It's not a one way street. But the issue is this: will our courts capitulate to the gay agenda and force a view of human behavior on conservative and traditional religious people which has been morally repugnant to us for 5000 years? I hope not, but it is possible they will.
And if it happens, are you ready for the unintended consequences?

"But I've long ago learned to not waste bandwidth getting homophobic Christians to see this."

Namecalling - that always contributes to the discussion. Really mature for a 63 year old retired academic.

"They’re not forcing Christian churches to adopt their definition of marriage, and they’re not forcing Christians to participate in gay weddings."

Not yet. But read this and weep:

How To Ruin a Christian Business

Well. A Lexington, Ky., t-shirt company is under investigation by the city’s human rights commission. Why? It refused to print Gay Pride t-shirts for a local gay rights organization. More:

The owner of “Hands On Originals,” a well-known t-shirt company in the region, declined to print the shirts for the city’s Gay and Lesbian Services Organization (GLSO) because it would conflict with their Christian convictions.

The privately owned company is now accused of violating Lexington’s Fairness Act – which protects people and organizations from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

More:

“No business owner should be forced to violate his conscience simply because someone demands it,” he said. “The Constitution absolutely supports the rights of business owners to decline a request to support a message that conflicts with their deeply held convictions.”

Raymond Sexton, the executive director of the Human Rights Commission told Fox News that “Hands On Originals” will be “required by law to participate in the investigation.”

“We have subpoena power and have the backing of the law,” he said. “We are a law enforcement agency and people have to comply.”

Note well that Hands On Originals offered to find another company to print the t-shirts that would honor its price, but the gay group wanted to use the power of the state to make an example of the Christian business.

It seems that the GLSO picked them out to make an example of them, to test them. Who, then, is the aggressor in this skirmish of the culture war?

http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/2012/04/03/how-to-ruin-a-christian-businessman/

"Don't worry," we're told.
"You won't have to violate your conscience," we're told.

Don't believe it. The barbarians are already inside the city walls and are attempting to force businesses through legal channels to violate their conscience and do their bidding.

@Sam:  Regarding your point about polygamous and incestuous unions, which I apologize for forgetting to address ...

I think the key question to ask about both is this:

For both "poly" relationships of all types and for incestuous relationships, is their actual, objective, factual, publicly examinable, empirical evidence -- not religious dogma, not personal statements of belief / faith, but is there data -- demonstrating that such relationships do actual, measurable harm, either to society at large or to people who participate in those relationships?

If the answer is "no, there is no evidence of actual harm", then the government has no business prohibiting those relationships. In fact, absent actual harm, those entering into those relationships is an activity that should be protected under the "equal protection" and "due process" clauses of the 14th Amendment. And as always, churches would still have a "free exercise"-clause right under the 1st Amendment to grant or to withhold religious approval. As with gay marriage, churches' prerogatives would remain unchanged. 

So what should be the status of "poly" and incestuous unions?  Well, just ask the key question in italics above. What and where is the harm?

In the case of "poly" unions, I am aware of no data -- oh plenty of moral posturing, sure, plenty of dogma, sure ... but I am aware of no data -- supporting the assertion that "poly" relationships do actual, empirically measurable harm. If there were harm to be discovered, at least some of that harm would show up in sociological studies of similar situations like kids growing up in large extended families. But the data suggesting harm are simply not there. On the contrary, the data -- not necessarily the dogma, but the data -- suggest that kids who grow up in the midst of large extended families may well be healthier than their nuclear family counterparts. So the data strongly suggest that "poly" relationships are unconventional but harmless. 

Incestuous relationships are another matter. In the case of incestuous unions, there is ample evidence demonstrating that kids born to incestuous unions are significantly more likely to suffer birth defects, at the very least. But note the difference: in the case of incestuous relationships, we have data and therefore do not have to rely on dogma

This is important because refusing to extend constitutional rights to any group of people is a grave act, and anyone who proposes such a refusal -- like refusing 14th Amendment protection to gays -- had better have plenty of evidence to justify that refusal. And "plenty of evidence" means a lot more than just asserting their personal, idiosyncratic beliefs, faith, or interpretation of some sacred book -- an interpretation that others, equally qualified and credentialed, may well not share -- to justify depriving any group of constitutional rights. 

Occasionally, there are such justifications. We do not grant minor children or the mentally retarded the right to enter into legal contracts. There are compelling interests, based on data not dogma, to justify that prohibition. 

But that's just the point:  if you are going to deprive people of constitutional rights, or assert that they do not have those rights in the first place, justice demands that you base that position on data not dogma

JC

This last post is the one that should Christians should be standing for.

It seems to me that much of the argument from JC is about this brand or that brand. Unfortunately much of what it appears he believes is in fact anti-Christian so it is futile to argue from a Christian world-view against him. Although it would seem that you have a certain boldness, Dan and your biblical view seems to be mostly Biblical; I think your time would be better spent in face-to-face discussions at the local place where men drink coffee than on the internet.

Churches are week on marriage, sex, and parenting and especially the Episcopal and Methodist traditions in America. Evangelicals as a group are strongly against things that they personally tolerate. This is the problem that Christians should focus on in my mostly useless opinion. Grace abounds when society is run by the JC's out there, but the Churches of Christ become the churches of men when they are run by the JC's who aren't enlightened by the spirit.

And yet not all religious dogma should ignored, I think. Surely our retired 63 year old acadmenic would agree with Moses on at least five of the ten commandments inscribing at least three of them into law:

6 “You shall not murder.
7 “You shall not commit adultery.
8 “You shall not steal.
9 “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10 “You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbor's.”

But then, since he is an atheist, he would probably prefer to call them the Five Suggestions.

Let me get this straight: in our retired academic's mind, under the protection of the 14th amendment of the US Constitution a sterile father should in theory be able to marry his grown daughter - in addition to his current wife and his neighbor's wife (or wives if his neighbor is a polygamist - and he and his wives consent [don't want to forget that detail]) and he should also be able to marry his own mother provided she consent [who cares what dad thinks - altho he should join in: the more the merrier]. And since our retired academic supports gay marriage, it is entirely possible said sterile father (who has married his adult daughter and his consenting neighbor and his wives - with their consent, of course, and his mother and father, too) could also marry his gay son if gay son is of age and consents, and he should also be able to marry his transgendered sister - that is, if she consents. And this is all fine and dandy under the protection of the 14th amendment.


Yes, James, I must admit there is a certain logic in your interpretation of the Constitution. However, thorazine has been known to help and also electro convulsive therapy.

Dan,

“Your admission regarding polygamy proves my point, Sam.” All I admitted was that I don’t know exactly what the implications are when it comes to polygamy. It’s a legitimate concern and it’s worth talking about. But that doesn’t mean I proved or affirmed anything that you’ve said. I’m not omniscient, but neither are you.

We agree when it comes to partial birth abortion. I couldn’t vote to legalize it either. But that’s an entirely different issue that has absolutely nothing to do with this discussion. Abortion is the taking of another human being’s life. Gay marriage is the consensual union of two adults. Legally, there’s no comparison between the two. Just because those are the two hot button political issues in the Church right now doesn’t make them interchangeable in any way. Christians can be adamantly in favor of criminalizing abortion but completely okay with legalizing gay marriage. There’s no inconsistency there.

And I live in Massachusetts, where gay people currently do have the right to marry – a right that gay marriage opponents are trying to actively take away through a Constitutional amendment. So my comparison to Muslims’ freedom of worship fully applies. In both cases, Christian activists are trying to take away an existing right because it doesn’t align with their beliefs. And by the way, I’ve lived here as long as gay marriage has been legal (almost a decade), and I haven’t seen any of the horror stories that you and others have warned about. My church hasn’t been persecuted or protested for our teachings on homosexuality, nor have we been forced to participate in gay weddings. And apart from a small handful of comments, I haven’t faced much personal animosity over this issue either.

Lastly, I agree – it is a two way street, and there’s blame on both sides. I’ve heard the story about the gay pride T-shirts, and I don’t know all of the legal details, but you’re right; it sounds like a publicity stunt. And I agree that some of J.C.’s comments about Christians have been insulting and offensive. But I wasn’t talking to him, I was talking to you. And you didn’t actually respond to my question. So I’ll ask again: Do you honestly not see how deeply offensive your rhetoric could be to people who are gay?

Look at what you just wrote. You compared the slippery slope of legalizing gay marriage to the slippery slope that led to the Holocaust. Let me say that again. You casually suggested that allowing consenting gay couples to file for marriage benefits could have consequences on par with one of the worst genocides in human history.

THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE SAYING.

The notion that gay marriage even belongs in the same conversation as the Holocaust is disgusting and offensive not only to gay people, but to anyone who died or lost a family member in Nazi Germany. And this is now the second time you’ve mentioned it. You should be ashamed of yourself.

"Gay marriage is the consensual union of two adults."
Gays don't have to be married in order to live in a consensual union. So, that's not exactly gay marriage.

Sam: ask yourself this question: What is the purpose of Dan's comparison?
a. to show how the slippery slope of gay marriage will utimately lead to genocide
b. to show there are unintended consequences to sinful behavior
c. to offend Sam
d. to insult Holocaust survivors

Correct Answer: b

Sam, if I had said gay marriage is as bad as the holocaust or is on the same level as the holocaust, you might be justified in being piqued. But I did not. So cowboy up, Sam. Don't take everything so personally. Sure, I understand you are a sensitive person, but I can express my opinion without first clearing the wording of my comments with the PC police.

"Do you honestly not see how deeply offensive your rhetoric could be to people who are gay?" Sorry, I didn't answer you, Sam. I thought your question was rhetorical.
But the answer is: no. Here's why: I address the issue of gay marriage - not the inherent worth of gays themselves. They are as I've said elsewhere, created in the image of God. However, I can address/critique the political issue of gay marriage as I've done with honesty and candor. Those gays who support gay marriage can reply with equal honesty and candor. I do not call them names, nor do I demonize all gays.

"So my comparison to Muslims’ freedom of worship fully applies." Who is trying to take the right to worship away from Muslims?

It isn't just about marriage benefits, Sam. It's about normalizing, condoning, and legalizing sinful behavior. (For those atheists out there who don't believe in sin, replace "sinful" with "risky", "hazardous", "unsafe", or "unhealthy") It is about redefining marriage away from the traditional understanding which is at its core, (marriage as the committed union between a man and a woman), to something alien, foreign, and perverted. It is defining deviancy down, to quote Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

"THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE SAYING" Don't shout, Sam. Shouting is rude.

"You should be ashamed of yourself."
Gosh, Sam, if I should be ashamed of myself for what I just wrote, then think of how the prophets should feel for what they wrote, or what the Apostles should feel for what they wrote. I mean they were a lot harder on people in their denunciation of the cultural sins of their day than I've ever been. You don't thhink so? Here's an example:
Lev. 18:22 “‘You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination." 24 ‘Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. 25 For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants."

Now Sam, you've got to admit that tops anything I've said. And I bet you probably would object if I quoted verse 18 to a gay person, too, wouldn't you. Well, I have - I ain't gonna lie. But, Sam, the truth will set you free.

My advice to you, Sam: don't worry so much about what others say and how they say it. And don't shout - it's annoying.

I'm waiting for the day Christianity Today is sued b/c they don't have GLBT column or they refuse to run an ad for the local gay organizations.

Let's see, what could you call a column specifically for gay men? How about "Man to Man Time". [Now I'm here to tell you, that that would bring a whole new meaning to that old Navigator slogan.]

Dan,

Sorry for the "shouting." You're right, it's annoying. I got carried away.

But I actually know exactly what the purpose of your comparison was. As much as I disagree with you, you seem like a thoughtful, rational person (which is more than can be said for a lot of the people we run into on the internet). I don't for a moment think you actually believe that gay marriage will lead to another Holocaust. But I do think that you either don't know or just don't care just how insensitive and hurtful your words are. It's not a matter of being PC, and it's not a matter of your ideology. Believe it or not, we actually agree when it comes to the morality of homosexuality. I believe that homosexual behavior is a sin. What I take enormous issue with is the callous way you talk about the matter. Bringing up such a devastating and emotionally-charged event as the Holocaust just to lend weight to your fears about legalizing gay marriage is offensive and insulting no matter what your intentions are.

Obviously, gay marriage and homosexuality in general are extremely sensitive issues for both Christians and non-Christians. And plenty of people will simply be offended by what Christians believe, no matter how it's presented. Somebody mentioned the news firestorm over Kirk Cameron's comments about homosexuality. I agree -- it was ridiculous. I don't think his remarks were insensitive or inflammatory in any way. He simply explained his beliefs candidly and was unfairly targeted for it. Again, some people will be offended no matter what. But why should we make it easier for them? If you want to stand for righteousness in the public square, you're going to have to do more than petition for laws and vote for the right politicians. You're going to have to meet people and engage with them personally. And you can't do that if you refuse to consider their feelings. I guarantee you, if you try to have a conversation with a gay person about Christianity and homosexuality, the second you do something as extreme as comparing gay marriage to the rise of Hitler, the conversation is over. That person will want nothing more to do with you. Any opportunity you may have had to witness to them or challenge them will be lost. And you can play the martyr card and feel victimized all you want, but it will be your fault, not theirs.

And for the record, no, I wouldn't object if you quoted that verse in Leviticus to a gay person. I'm not offended by the Bible, and I'm not offended by your beliefs. I'm offended by the way you choose to present them. Our words matter. It's not enough to simply express our beliefs and throw discretion to the winds. We need to know our audience and make an effort to meet them where they are. Paul said as much in 1 Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 9: 19-23:
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings."

Maybe I'm wasting my time having this discussion. We don't actually know each other, and I doubt either of us is going to change the other's mind. I just genuinely hope that you'll take another look at some of the things you've said, and think carefully about how they might come off to the people you're hoping to reach. And I'll try to do the same. Again, I'm sorry for getting carried away and letting my anger get the better of me. It's something I need to work on.

I spoke at a church recently who requested I not even say the words homosexuality or sexual behavior. I was using them in a list of topics that Christians disagree on largely due to ignorance of scripture. While the churches position was made clear to me (which was beside the point since I wasn't saying anything about what scripture actually says about anything in my list), the authorities of the church didn't want questions to be asked. They didn't want to alienate homosexuals they were wooing into the church. Oh, and children might be here. This is an example of evangelicals "believing" something is sin while tolerating sin at the same time. many won't say something is a sin because they fear looking "ungracious"; as if grace means kindness and has the sole purpose of making someone feel good, instead of encouraging repentance of sin.

Sam it sounds as if you are saying we should be tolerant in order to get homosexuals to repent. I'm sorry, but it just doesn't work that way. As another example, Christians can't stop ungrounded divorce by tolerating the views most have of it. We can't promote the covenant family of scripture while tolerating the destruction of proper purposes for marriage and sex in our churches.

Sam, if the Bible doesn't offend you, I don't think you are reading the same book I am. The a bible is there to challenge, offend, and rebuke as a product of God's grace. I have had difficult conversations with gay friends that I really didn't want to have. I've lost a few of those people as friends after they heard my position and I've kept a few. Jesus didn't tolerate money changers in His temple, but this doesn't mean he never spoke of salvation to a money changer.

@Red: Unfortunately much of what it appears he believes is in fact anti-Christian so it is futile to argue from a Christian world-view against him.

In a certain sense, I guess what you say is true -- but only in a certain sense. 

I was a Christian for the first 50-plus years of my life, and even a conservative-evangelical Christian for a good part of that time. I guess whether I'm a Christian now would depend on which person you ask. I do not claim to be. I guess if I'm anything religiously, you could say that sometimes I am a secular humanist like Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins, and at other times I am a kind of part-time half-baked fringe Buddhist. 

I have gradually come to understand the wisdom of 2 people whom I greatly admire. One is Gandhi. When, during the Hindu-Muslim violence that accompanied the partition of India and Pakistan, one of Gandhi's Hindu followers scolded Mahatma Gandhi for reaching out to Muslims and trying to make peace, Gandhi scolded him back and said "Yes! I am a Hindu. But I am also Muslim. And a Buddhist. And a Christian. And a Jew". That didn't make much sense when I first read of that incident (which is also depicted in the movie Gandhi), but it made more sense years later when I heard the Dalai Lama give a brief account of his spiritual autobiography. He said all the world's religions are like a great Hand divided into several fingers, and that over the course of his life, he had gradually evolved from being a part of any individual, discrete "finger" religion and toward a religion of the "palm", where all the fingers join into a whole. 

So have I. 

I had help in evolving this way. Part of that help came from good gay and lesbian friends who helped me through a certain very dark time in my life -- and who were there to celebrate with me when I came out the other side, stronger than when I went in. (Because of that experience and because of the work I did on the way to my MDiv, I got to know personally many gay and lesbian people.  Many remain close friends of my wife and me.  We discovered that they are just that:  people.) Part of the evolution was helped along by my wife's family in Hawaii, all of whom are Japanese Buddhist. We return to visit and always attend services at the Buddhist temple in Hilo on the Big Island, where we have very close friends among the temple membership (the sangha, meaning "community"). Part of the evolution toward the "hand" was because of close Muslim friends I made during several years of business travel to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, and the Emirates. My wife and I also have very close Jewish friends from our time in Boston while I was working on my PhD and Diane was working as a librarian in Brookline, which has a very vibrant Jewish community. (We regularly attended Shabbat services in Brookline with the faculty person, a Hasidic Jew and the scion of a long line of Hasidic rabbis, who supervised my dissertation. Then we'd go to Catholic Mass on Sundays.) Though I no longer consider myself a Christian, at least in any sectarian sense, I have close friends who are Presbyterian, Catholic, Episcopalian, and Methodist who insist I'm a better Christian now than I was when I claimed the label. But it isn't something we argue, or even debate, about very much.  It just isn't an issue. 

So like I said, it all depends on which people you ask. Quite frankly, I couldn't care less about having the label stuck on me ... or not. Whatever. 

What all my friends and my Buddhist in-law family have taught me is ... well ... 3 things:

(1) the world is an awesomely rich and complex and mysterious place, far too rich and complex and mysterious for any scientific theory or system of religious dogma to even begin to comprehend, and any attempt to lay out the structure of the universe in a cut-and-dried fashion like a map of the Santa Monica Freeway is as foredoomed to failure as trying to nail Jell-O to the wall

(2) when you boil it all down, religion -- at least healthy religion -- is much more about people than God

(3) people are more important than God

I know very little, and am slam-dunk certain of even less. (See first point above.) But to me, (1), (2), and (3) are the foundations stones of any religion worth espousing. Everything else is just footnotes. 

JC

Red,

I never once said that we should be more tolerant of homosexual lifestyles in the Church. I said that we should be more tactful and loving in the way we talk. There's a big difference.

This is why this debate is so discouraging to me. If you honestly can't see any difference between me saying that we should tolerate gay lifestyles and me saying that we should avoid comparing gay rights advocates to Nazis...we have a huge problem.

And I know that Bible should and does offend all of us. I was just clarifying to Dan that it's his rhetoric that bothers me, not his actual beliefs.

@Sam: (regarding your last post) Bro., if this were facebook...I would push "like".

re: JC - There we have it, folks, we now know what (or who) is at the center of the universe.

GANDHI: WHAT HE BELIEVED ABOUT SEX, MARRIAGE AND BIRTH CONTROL

"[Gandhi]...understood sexual relations as appropriate only within the context of marriage between a man and a woman, which he believed should be a loving, holy and indeed sacramental relationship founded in mutual unselfishness. (The Hindu understanding of marriage as a sacrament differs from the Catholic understanding, but it does include the belief that it is not simply the physical union of two people—dharma, or religious duty, is a necessary element)."

re: JC (hereafter known as "da Buddah dude" - now say that five times real fast):

*An atheist defining the features of healthy religion? How do you spell "arrogant"?

*"people are more important than God"
Really? Boy, Buddah-dude, do you ever have a surprise coming!
Isaiah 40:5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

6The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field:

7The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass.

8The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

And Philippians 2:5-11
5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

9Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

10That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

11And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

(On a serious note: what would make someone who professed Christ for 50 years turn away from the lover of his soul? Paul's terse comment in II Tim. 4 is suggestive "10For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world..." And I John "19They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.")

@Sam:  I never once said that we should be more tolerant of homosexual lifestyles in the Church. I said that we should be more tactful and loving in the way we talk. There's a big difference.

Sam, I think I understand what you are trying to do here, and there is certainly more than a grain of truth in what you say. Words can hurt. So can attitudes. So I would certainly agree that both sides in the debate should dial back the rhetoric. I know many Christians of great integrity who are not gay / lesbian themselves but who are deeply committed to the cause of full rights for gay people, including marriage. They are not the fire-breathing bigots gays have learned -- with good reason -- to fear and revile. I also know many gay / lesbian people who are people of great good humor and compassion that any sane person would be proud to call "friend". So there are plenty of people who violate the stereotypes. 

But unless Christians exercise some care in how they tone down the rhetoric, and unless they exercise even more care in the rhetoric they put in its place, Christians run the risk of coming across as simply hypocritical and insincere. Many gay people -- I would even say "most" -- have developed a pretty good "radar" to detect insincerity and fakery in Christians' expressions of concern and friendship, and when they detect fakery masquerading as moderation, they become even more defensive than they would have if the Christian had approached them in a spirit of honest and straightforward homophobic bigotry. 

I think the way to approach the problem is on a very small scale, 1 or 2 people at a time, through friendship. Do you know any gay / lesbian people personally?  If you answer "no", then with all due respect, I say you are being very naive. If you are anything like the rest of society, you know several gay people. But you just are not aware that they are gay. What I am suggesting is that if you ever do become aware that someone you know is gay -- and for heaven's sake never ask -- make an effort to cultivate a friendship. That, in a nutshell, is how I recovered from my homophobia, except that in my case, the friendship came first, followed by trust on the other's part ... followed by his confiding to me that he was gay. I was astonished to find that it made no difference:  we were still friends, and I was humbled by his trust. We remain close friends to this day, despite his living on the East Coast and I on the West. An enormous amount of misunderstanding between gay people and heterosexuals originates in lack of personal contact and relationships among the 2 groups. It's always easier to hurt people of either sexual orientation who, in the absence of personal relationship, are just faceless, bloodless abstractions. 

I think the way to not tone down the rhetoric is to attempt to do so at the level of the institutional church (or temple or mosque or ... ). Institutions have a way of concealing people from one another, not disclosing them, of insulating people from one another, not facilitating relationship, of enabling us to blame the institution for its (real or perceived) failings instead of concentrating on the beam in our own eye as individuals. So we say "I am a Baptist who believes in substitutionary atonement and full immersion for baptism" instead of "I am a middle-aged accountant with a big mortgage and a trick knee". We say "The church is too involved in politics" instead of "I cheated on my taxes this year and have a crush on my secretary". The personal gets lost somewhere, and regardless of one's stand on gay rights, there is never an excuse for deliberately and calculatedly insulting and slandering gay people -- or for gay people to do the same with Christians. But if we both parties are to avoid that, they have to be willing to engage in some self-disclosure and allow themselves to be seen as people first -- and willing to see the other as the same. That means dropping the camouflage. It also always means taking a risk, especially for gay / lesbian folks. 

I think that on the Christian side, though, the camouflage is very attractive. Conservative Christians tend to see themselves as an embattled minority, surrounded on all sides by enemies intent on doing them harm. (BTW most gay / lesbian people see themselves the same way, and virtually all gay / lesbian people see themselves that way at some time or other in their lives. This is an important element of common ground for conservative Christians and gays.) And generally speaking, this sense of isolation in a hostile environment is more intense, the more conservative someone is religiously. Accompanying this sense of isolation in the midst of hostility is a sense of weakness and vulnerability. One way persecuted human communities throughout history have dealt with weakness is to find another group, even weaker than they, to persecute and make a scapegoat of. That increases the group's sense of power:  the group may be weak, but they are still powerful enough to persecute the even-weaker scapegoat-group. 

That is what I see going on between conservative Christians and the gay / lesbian community. The conservative-Christian community looks around and sees a world that is largely indifferent, even hostile, to their worldview, that they are in many ways powerless to influence. They are religious people in a secular world with the likes of Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens against them. So, feeling weak but wanting to be strong, conservative Christians pick out an even smaller, even weaker, even more marginalized group to persecute and whose rights they can agitate against ... like gays and lesbians. (Sometimes the target is also Muslims and the alleged threat of "shari'a law", even though most conservative Christians don't know any Muslims personally, and know nothing of the Qu'ran or Islamic history or shari'a). 

Does the conservative Christian community have the moral fortitude to drop the masquerade of being a weak persecuted minority, content itself with being a single voice in American society without attempting to silence and others, and begin relating to gays / lesbians (and Muslims and "secular humanists" and ... etc.) as human beings?  That is the question. But so far, the indications are not encouraging. 

JC

@Sam: This is why this debate is so discouraging to me. If you honestly can't see any difference between me saying that we should tolerate gay lifestyles and me saying that we should avoid comparing gay rights advocates to Nazis...we have a huge problem.

A couple of points ...

+ I would need someone to explain to me how and why someone practicing a "gay lifestyle" harms me or my family or my society. Where is the harm? And remember: I am asking for data not dogma. My wife and I have as close friends several gay / lesbian couples, a few of whom are legally married, since they live in places (e.g., Washington, DC) where gay marriage is legal. They work. They pay their taxes. They mow their lawns and go to baseball games on weekends. IOW they are just like my wife and me: stodgy thoroughly conventional middle-aged married couples. So again I ask: where's the harm?

As to the Nazi comparison ... it has been my experience that people who indulge in invidious comparisons like that are, in reality, very insecure, usually on an unconscious level, in their own convictions and supporting arguments. Also, on matters relating to gender and sex, that insecurity often extends to insecurity about their own sexuality and gender identity.

JC

@Sam (from a much earlier post):  The tenacity with which the Church has waged war on gay marriage has sent the gay community one message loud and clear: “We care more about your behavior than we care about your hearts. You are not first and foremost a person to be loved and respected, but a problem to be fixed.”O

Well stated, very well stated. 

The problem is that the stuff in quotes is not just an exaggeration or a caricature, but rather an accurate characterization of the attitude of conservative Christians toward gay people. And not only gay people, but, really, their attitude toward anyone with whom they disagree ... you know ... like atheists, and most especially atheists like me, who are ex-Christians. 

It's a tendency to value appearances more than substance. As long as gay people, atheists, Muslims, liberals, etc., remained "in the closet" and American society gave the external appearance of looking like it did when Ike was President, conservative Christians would be happy. But when gay people come "out of the closet" and start being up-front about their sexuality, when atheists start speaking freely and publicly and polemically about their unbelief, when American Muslims take their "free exercise" rights seriously, etc., etc., etc. -- IOW when the illusions shatters and reality breaks through appearances -- then conservative Christians get scared, in fact, terrified, because they no longer have the luxury of pretending. So what I celebrate as signs of the vigor, vibrancy, and exuberant good health of our great, messy, loud, obstreperous Nation conservative Christians see as a "war on Christianity". 

I've seen this before. I grew up in a hyper-hyper-fundamentalist Baptist church, and I learned how devoted -- even how idolatrously devoted -- conservative Christians are to the maintenance of illusions. Those illusions are to them what the golden calf was to the Jews in the Sinai Desert. One of the first ways I learned this was by being naive enough to ask questions in Sunday School about things like geology, e.g., if the earth is only around 6K yrs old, how come carbon-14 dating gives dates measured in hundreds of millions, often billions, of years? When the teacher answered that it was impossible to tell how "big" a rock was long ago -- as if the size of a rock had any relation to C-14 dating! -- I began to doubt the church's competence as a guide to science. The idea, I concluded, was not to know the truth but to simply "keep up appearances". Nothing in the half-century since my impolitic geology question has given me any reason to change that opinion. 

On the contrary, the latest "data point" in support of that conclusion is the gay-marriage debate, in which the conservative church -- which conservative Christians believe is all Christians ... idolatry of illusions again -- is determined to maintain the illusion of a uniformly heterosexual society, even though such a society has never existed in human history in any human culture. (There is even some evidence of homoeroticism in lower primates.) But the illusion must be served, even if doing so means choosing to remain immured in Plato's cave by consciously refusing to emerge into the daylight ... which conservative Christians insist is darkness. 

The sinister aspect to this is that, not content to remain inside the cave themselves -- which they have a perfect right to do -- conservative Christians want to attach chains and shackles to everyone else's feet and legs so that no one else can escape from the cave. they want to do this by subverting and perverting constitutional government so as to revoke some of the most common rights like the right to marriage from gay and lesbian people, the better to keep them in the closet by sacrificing gays' rights in order to maintain the conservative Christians' illusion of what constitutes "normalcy". 

This is a case in point of an issue where the non-conservative-Christian elements in American society must heed Thomas Jefferson's principle of "eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man". 

JC

Equal Protection under the Fourteenth Amendment

As a legal and constitutional question, do gays and lesbians have a right to marry under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

•Marriage is a civil (as well as religious) institution; married couples benefit from more than 1000 benefits under federal law
•Supporters of gay marriage argue that equal protection requires equal access to civil benefits of marriage
•Opponents of gay marriage argue that there is a legitimate rational basis for limiting marriage to heterosexual couples
•Currently legal classifications based on sexual orientation are subjected only to the rational basis test, not to strict scrutiny

...the Supreme Court has made it clear that the guarantee of equal treatment within the equal protection clause does not mean that governments cannot ever treat different people differently.

...the Court has said that it is reasonable for states to build categories or classifications into the laws that they pass, and in fact, the "rational basis test" is one of the standards used by the courts to determine whether these classifications are fair. Also known as the Lindsley test, this standard says that if the reasons for treating people differently are reasonable and logically related to the law's purpose, then they are constitutional. Opponents of gay marriage insist that there is a rational basis (usually, they argue, rooted in cultural or religious tradition) for restricting marriage to a relationship between a man and a woman.

In terms of gay marriage, the critical issue thus becomes the level of scrutiny that laws affecting gays and lesbians should receive. Are gays, like racial minorities, considered a "suspect" class in terms of constitutional law? Does the court rigorously scrutinize laws impacting them? Or do laws that create classifications based on sexual orientation receive a lesser degree of vigilance, like those based on age? Should the courts then apply the lowest level of scrutiny, the rational basis test? Or do they impose an intermediate standard like the one used to examine laws incorporating gender classifications?

...thus far, gays and lesbians have not been considered a suspect class by the Supreme Court; laws impacting them are today subject only to the lowest level of scrutiny."

Here's the legal reasoning why same-sex marriage is NOT a violation of the 14th amendment. The side gay advocates don't want us to know.

The 14th Amendment and Same-Sex Marriage
Do laws and constitutions that prohibit same-sex marriage violate the 14th Amendment?

Constitutional Issues to Deliberate
1. Do laws prohibiting same-sex marriage infringe on a fundamental right?
2. Do classifications on the basis of sexual orientation violate the principle of equal protection?

NO: Laws and constitutions that prohibit same-sex marriage
DO NOT violate the 14th Amendment.
1. One of the tests for whether an asserted right should receive constitutional protection is whether
it is “deeply rooted in the Nation’s history and tradition” (Moore v. East Cleveland (1977). This
statement is certainly true of opposite-sex marriage; it is manifestly not true of same sex-marriage.
Because same-sex marriage is not “rooted in the Nation’s history and tradition,” the Courts should
not expand substantive due process rights to include same-sex marriage.
2. Historically, the very concept of marriage has meant a union between a man and a woman. This
definition of the concept continues to be widely accepted today in the United States and in the vast
majority of other nations.
3. Classifications based on race trigger heightened scrutiny under the Equal Protection clause, but
the Supreme Court has never ruled on the issue of classifications based on sexuality (see Loving).
Because sexuality is not a classification for which the Supreme Court has demanded such
heightened scrutiny, the decision to let opposite-sex couples marry and to deny the same
opportunity to same-sex couples falls under the traditional powers of government to enact
economic and social regulation—the so-called “police powers.” These powers go beyond
economic and social regulation. States are traditionally understood to have the authority to make laws to protect the health, safety, welfare, and morals of their communities. This means that states can justify their actions by stating that they decline to endorse or provide encouragement to forms of behavior—in this case homosexual intimacy—which the community considers immoral. As long
as rational basis scrutiny is being applied, states can justify their actions perfectly well by stating
that they decline to endorse and provide encouragement to forms of behavior—in this case,
homosexual intimacy—which the community considers immoral.
4. If same-sex marriage is a fundamental right, then it will be extremely difficult to forbid other
types of marriage that are clearly detrimental to society—such as polygamy (where one man has
more than one wife).
5. Equal protection can be secured without granting a “right to marry.” This argument states that
even if we concede all the equal protection-related points made by supporters of same-sex
marriage, those arguments do not actually imply a constitutional requirement to allow same-sex
couples to marry; they only imply a constitutional requirement that same-sex couples and their
children receive the same legal prerogatives and benefits as opposite-sex couples. That is, if the
children of same-sex couples have the benefits of stability and support that result from their parents
having certain legal prerogatives, then by all means let’s give those parents those prerogatives, but
nothing in the Constitution requires that we call it “marriage.” This is the argument used by states
that grant same-sex couples domestic partner benefits, or that legally recognize civil unions. In
these cases same-sex couples are legally recognized as partners with particular rights but are not
considered married.
6. This is a political rather than a constitutional question—and belongs to the political branches
(that is, in the legislative and executive branches) not in the courts.

Re: Reading JC's analysis of conservative/traditional evangelical Christianity, one must keep in mind the following:
1. he is an atheist
2. he does not believe in moral absolutes; therefore, he cannot believe in right or wrong because that implies a moral standard by which he makes moral judgments. So his moral denunciations of Christians are irrational.
3. he believes not only in gay marriage, but also in poly marriages without limit.
4. he doesn't think incestuous marriages are a good thing, tho, b/c the resulting offspring are likely to suffer many physical problems, but not all incestuous relationships are opposite sex relationships: for example, a father/son marriage will not result in children; nor would mother/sister; nor would a man/(close relative female) if either or both were sterile. So it appears he picks and chooses what he thinks is okay.
5. he believes these strange marriages are protected by the 14th amendment
Furthermore, note his comments:
1.So, feeling weak but wanting to be strong, conservative Christians pick out an even smaller, even weaker, even more marginalized group to persecute and whose rights they can agitate against ... like gays and lesbians.
[Of course it couldn't be as simple as the Bible prohibits homosexual sex:
Lev. 18:22 You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.
Rom. 1:26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.]
2."...conservative Christians want to attach chains and shackles to everyone else's feet and legs so that no one else can escape from the cave. they want to do this by subverting and perverting constitutional government so as to revoke some of the most common rights like the right to marriage from gay and lesbian people, the better to keep them in the closet by sacrificing gays' rights in order to maintain the conservative Christians' illusion of what constitutes "normalcy"."
[Whoa! Paranoia alert. Don’t make any sudden moves. Back out of the room slowly.]
[As far as who is subverting and perverting - I think he has it backwards.]

"I am asking for data not dogma" (Of course he doesn't like to actually provide data - but that's another issue ;-)
You want data; you'll get data. Here's how gay sex hurts our country:
http://www.ncfamily.org/FNC/0707S3.html

CDC Report: AIDS rate is 50X Higher in Homosexual Men
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2330465/posts

The Negative Health Effects of Homosexuality
http://www.frc.org/get.cfm?i=Is01B1

[now watch him say it isn't data.]

He also said: "people are more important than God"
JC is a professed atheist, so of course he would say people are more important than God.
But what does God say about atheists?

Psalm 14:1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.

This moral confusion experienced by atheists and progressive liberals alike reminds me of the passage in Judges 17:6 "In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes."

The US Senate would never pass either of these bills this year, so why wait time on them. Hopfully they could be passed in 2013