Friday, June 28, 2013

A victory or a bump in the road. . . and for whom?

The SCOTUS decision to void part of the Defense of Marriage Act and to derail California's Prop 8 on technical grounds is hardly ground breaking.  In fact, it was largely expected and represents the difficulty facing the Supreme Court.

Leery of legislating from the bench on this issue after their foray into legislation provided a permanent rift in America (abortion), they basically said, "Well, if you are going to do it (gay marriage in states), the federal government cannot have another definition of marriage at work for federal employees who follow the state's rules..."  While there were strange things in the opinion (that the Congress was motivated by animus against gay and lesbians), I expected this.  What I cannot predict is how such a concept may impact all kinds of legislative review by the courts.  That is kind of scary.  As much as I dislike gay marriage (and I am not too fond of the way straight marriage is going either - temporary legal cohabitation for as long as it is fun, children optional and probably not beneficial), I understand the reasoning behind the decision with respect to DOMA.  That said, it still puts the court at loggerheads with legislation, but, to be fair, that legislation would not pass today anyhow (in Congress or in California).  The gay and lesbian debate was not won by the SCOTUS decision but the wind is definitely behind their sails.

My point is that if we were waiting for SCOTUS to bail us out of this mess, we were waiting for the wrong bus.  That bus has come and gone and it ain't coming back.  The only way we can hope to make an impact on the state of marriage and the increase in states approving gay marriage is to make a case -- cogently, concisely, convincingly, without simply saying "no" and without appealing to a Biblical authority no longer relevant except to those already convinced.  We have to review and renew the whole idea of family as the key structure to the health of any society, review and renew what marriage is and is not, and review and renew the importance of children to family and marriage and to a nation.  We can certainly cite and use Scripture to support this but the real reason why we have failed is that we have counted on an authority which is not universally recognized anymore (the Bible) and a moral compass which is not universally acknowledged and accepted anymore (Judea Christian tradition).

Once we begin speaking positively of what marriage is and less negatively about what it is not, we might make some inroads into the independent minds of the nominally spiritual but not very religious crowd that is the big middle -- still not sure what to think.  On the one hand they do not want to be intolerant but neither do they want to discard everything that has been passed down to them.  These folks need to be convinced that to fence marriage is not to exclude some but to benefit all.  Ours is a time in which children are more at risk than every before -- at risk of living mostly without parents, without clear guidance, with great temptation of sex, drugs, social media, and a valueless culture, and with great opportunity to harm themselves before any realizes what is going on.  They go to school more as babysitting than to learn, they graduate with skewed perspectives on work and pleasure, they remain adolescents far too long for their own good, and they have come to believe that consumption is the goal of capitalism rather than production.  They did not do this -- we have done it to them.  Only by seeing our children at risk can we begin to pull back the reins of a world in which everyone doing whatever seems right in their own eyes seems to be the glorious pinnacle of democracy, liberty, and happiness.

The Prop 8 decision has, in my mind, less impact on gay and lesbian marriage than it does legal precedent.  The Court did not rule on the merits of the case.  Instead, it established an odd and potentially terrible precedent.  The court effectively said that citizens who pass an initiative have no the legal right or judicial standing to defend what is the law of the state when their elected state officials refuse to do their job and defend what is the duly enacted law in court and then enforce it.  Well, members of the court, if the people who passed it have no standing, who does?  At what point can democracy continue to function if elected, appointed, and employed officials of the government can choose to ignore the law of the land legally enacted.  While this has Prop 8 as its trigger, the bullet in the gun may turn into a deadly weapon for a whole host of issues.


Norman Teigen said...

I want to commend you for a very well written piece. I would hope that your approach would be emulated. Hoping that the secular government might uphold Christian principles has long been an illusory dream. We live in the world but we are not of the world.

Rev. Mathew Andersen said...

Well written.

i would, however, have to disagree with this statement:

"The only way we can hope to make an impact on the state of marriage and the increase in states approving gay marriage is to make a case -- cogently, concisely, convincingly, without simply saying "no" and without appealing to a Biblical authority no longer relevant except to those already convinced."

The primary two reasons I believe this will not work are:

1) non-biblical cases against gay marriage are too easy to counter and really sway no one who is not already convinced. Using non-biblical arguments and means to sway people has been the mainstay of the evangelical culture war for over 40 years now - and they lost anyway.

2) the argument from the gay community is that we are repulsed by homosexuality and, therefore, choose to interpret the Bible according to our own prejudices. Relying on non-biblical arguments only feeds this fire.

However, as we rely on the Bible, you are correct that many simply do not acknowledge its authority. Therefore, the answer is simply to do the task to which God called us - to publicly live in witness to Christ. And that means the Gospel as well as the Law.

One of the primary things we are not doing and simply must do if we are to win the debate in the end is to show both respect and mercy to those who are attracted to their own gender yet choose to live either celibately or to marry a person of the opposite sex. Either is a challenge. But when the world sees us neglecting such people and leaving them to live out their life lonely, this becomes the greatest argument for such things as same sex marriage.

What really lost this whole battle for us was the lack of Gospel, forgiveness and compassion demonstrated to those who rejected their desires and chose to live for God instead. If we do not reverse course on this then the end game is already written.