Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Gay marriage ... Sunday's New York Times Magazine more or less hits the nail on the head when anti-gay-marriage movement:
...the Christian activists aren't vague in their opposition. For them, the issue isn't one of civil rights, because the term implies something inherent in the individual -- being black, say, or a woman -- and they deny that homosexuality is inherent. It can't be, because that would mean God had created some people who are damned from birth, morally blackened. This really is the inescapable root of the whole issue, the key to understanding those working against gay marriage as well as the engine driving their vehicle in the larger culture war: the commitment, on the part of a growing number of people, to a variety of religious belief that is so thoroughgoing it permeates every facet of life and thought, that rejects the secular, pluralistic grounding of society and that answers all questions internally.
There's really only three things I have to add to this.

First is the lexical distinction that the Judeo-Christian scriptures never address homosexuality as such but only homosexual acts. As a result the scriptures are ill-equipped to address questions of homosexual identity, which did not emerge until a century ago during the Oscar Wilde trial and on which any constitutional defense of homosexual marriage rests.

Second, in theological terms this is at root a hermeneutical problem. You cannot ask someone who believes in the infallible authority of the Bible to approve of gay marriage without also asking them to displace the Bible's centrality to their faith. Homosexual acts are so explicitly and frequently forbidden throughout the Old and New Testaments that for an acolyte to disavow any passages pertaining to such activity is in one sense to disavow the legitimacy of the scriptures as a whole. Consequently overlooking the Bible's preaching on this issue alone requires an incredibly delicate exegetical foundation -- one which it would be unreasonable to assume all believers can or even ought to make.

Third, in sociological terms what we are talking about is a group of people who refute the separation not of church and state but state and society. In this sense -- in urging political representatives to act on their behalf for exclusively Biblical reasons -- the Arlington Group in particular is ultimately attempting to restore a pre-Revolutionary understanding of community in which the claim that state and society were somehow separate would have been met by a host of blank stares. Yet for any number of economic, cultural, and political reasons restoring that understanding simply is not possible. The end result is that states which enact Marriage Amendments end up with a political body of indeterminant nature, since for some it is defined a) by a monopoly on violence, b) as a provider of public goods, and c) as a third-party adjudicator, while for others it is defined not only by all of the above, but also by d) its (religiously informed) social function.

More on this later, I'm sure, but that's all for now.


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