Friday, March 29, 2013

Why Supporting Equal Marriage Is Right, No Matter Your View Of Sin

Right now the Supreme Court of the United States is considering two different cases on marriage equality. The topic of marriage equality brings out a lot of anger and arguments. When debating marriage equality with those who think we shouldn't allow it I always start by conceding a single point. That point, is sin. I do this because if I didn't the debate would remain completely on two different interpretations of scripture and never move off of that. The conversation would end before we even got to marriage. Both sides of the sin argument have valid points. There are parts of the Bible that talk about homosexuality while on the other side you have the arguments of context for what the word homosexual means; it's very different today from what it meant 2000 years ago and 4000 years ago in two different languages. So I'd like to start by conceding homosexuality as a sin. I do this because it really doesn't matter what your view on sin is when it comes to marriage equality.

For gay marriage to become legal there is one thing that would need to happen. That is the government (be it state or federal) would have to recognize it as such. Note, the church does not need to recognize it. Right there the conversation should realistically be done. The church can say it's a sin? Great, we're done here now churches can continue figuring out whether they'll marry gay couples or not. As a nation we should move on. Of course the debate isn't that simple.

There is a perception among some people is that the United States of America is a Christian nation formed on Christian principles for a Christian people; give or take one or two of those depending on the person. This is simply untrue. The only mention or religion, God, or anything relating to God in the original constitution is, of course, the date ("the year of our Lord..."). The Declaration of Independence has some religious sounding language in it. However, the Declaration of Independence was: 1) a document written for foreigners, not Americans; 2) written before the government was established with the constitution; and 3) includes the most famous phrase "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness". Or to put in another way, we believe that everybody has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness and it is the job of the government to make sure we can all pursue these rights. To deny marriage equality is to deny somebody these rights which our government is not supposed to do. Therefore it is the right of the people to alter our government, to pass new laws that protect these rights.

But we're getting away from the religion side of things. People will still think we're a Christian nation. I've heard many arguments declaring it. One of these is that our laws are based on the 10 commandments. Now there are a few different ways to count the 10 commandments but let's look at federal law compared to them. If you can be guilty of breaking a federal for going against a commandment it counts. (I'm going to use the Philonic numbering system starting with the intro)

Intro- "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery." Not a felony to disagree

1- "You shall have no other gods before Me." Not a crime to have other gods

2-  "You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God,visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments." Not a crime to create idols

3- "You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain." Not a crime

4- "Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy." Not a crime

5- "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you." Not a crime (oh boy we're through have of them with no felonies).

6- "You shall not murder." Can be a federal crime! We found one

7- "You shall not commit adultery." Not a crime on the federal level (is a crime in 22 states)

8- "You shall not steal." Can be a federal crime!

9- "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." A federal crime for sure

10- "You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor's." Not only is this not a crime. This behavior is encouraged in America.

There you go. Out of 10 commandments, you can only break federal law by breaking 3 of them. Out of the remaining 7 only one of them is a crime on any state level. At best you're looking at following 40% of the commandments in any given state. The nation only holds 30% of them to be true. And not murdering, stealing, or committing perjury aren't really things that are purely Christian or Jewish ideals. The 10 commandments, realistically, had zero sway on our nations laws.

"BUT!" (you might say) "Marriage is an institution that comes from God right? And God says "That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh." - Genesis 2:24. It doesn't say two men or two women. It says one man and one woman!"

Well actually it doesn't say one man and one woman. It says a man is united to his wife and they become one flesh. Marriage in the Bible doesn't actually look like the "traditional" marriage we like to talk about. If we look at the founder of the monotheistic faiths what do we see? Well Abraham had a wife Sarah. Sarah gave her slave, Hagar (which are illegal now), to Abraham so he could have sex with her. Hagar became his concubine, or his "lesser-wife". Jacob, also known as Israel the founder of the Jewish nation, had 2 wives given to him by his uncle and 2 wives given to him by his first two wives, so 4 in total. The great King David, a man after God's own heart, had 8 wives (one of whom he slept with while she was married to another man). King David's son, King Solomon, the wisest man, is listed in the Bible as having 700 wives and 300 concubines (again, lesser-wives) totally 1,000. A thousand wives. See, the traditional marriage found in the Bible is one man and multiple wives, with no limit on how many he may have. Any idea that God has ordained marriage to be one man and one woman is wrong.

Jesus never talked about homosexuality. What he did talk about was divorce, which he said "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery." -Matthew 19:8-9. Despite Jesus calling remarrying after a divorce adultery (breaking a commandment remember), we allow divorce in this country for reasons other than sexual immorality. If we're such a Christian nation and we can't let our marriage laws go against God's word how can we stand by with divorce being ok?

My favorite part of that Matthew scripture happens to be the disciples reaction to it. They say "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry." -Matthew 19:10. Good old silly disciples. Jesus says you're not allowed to divorce and they get all nervous and say they'd rather just not marry so they don't risk it! Ha!

Turns out this is hugely important. Because while I've shown Old Testament beliefs on marriage it is arguable that by Jesus' time it was one man and one woman (which I think is true but I'm not sure). But let's assume it's true. That's still at least 2000 years of tradition. But Jesus says no divorce, the disciples say they'd rather not marry if they can't divorce and Jesus comes back with some more "Not everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born that way, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others—and there are those who choose to live like eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it." -Matthew 19:11-12. So what does that mean? Jesus says if you can live without ever getting married, you should do it. That's right, the Lord himself actively encourages you to not get married at all. He doesn't bar marriage but he doesn't really want you to do it if you don't have to.

These words from Jesus impacted Paul, the author of most of the New Testament. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7 that he wishes everybody could be like him and not get married. He concedes that some people can't help themselves so marriage is allowable and sex in marriage is allowable but you should only have sex as infrequently as possible so you can focus on your prayers instead. Seriously. Look "But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer." - 1 Corinthians 7:2-5.

But Paul doesn't stop there "Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion." - 1 Corinthians 7:8-9. There it is. The most recent words the Bible has on marriage is to stay unmarried. Pardon my vernacular but the only reason to get married according to Paul is if you can't keep it in your pants. And then once you're married you should pray a lot and only succumb to your desires as rarely as possible. 

That is the most recent word on marriage in the Bible. If you are a Christian and married, Paul is disappointed in you and Jesus wishes you would have been able to stay unwed. 

Not really the way we look at marriage in this country right? But I almost forgot the part about marriage being ordained by God and God alone. It's His institution not the governments.

Well that's just wrong. In fact if we want to say that only marriages that the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob has ordained are legitimate in this country than nobody that is a Hindu, or a Jain, or a Buddhist, or an Atheist, etc. may marry legally in this country. If that is the case then the fight for marriage equality isn't for gay people it's for all non-Christians. But of course that's not the case. All of those marriages are legally recognized. Atheists can get married without ever stepping foot in a church. So why can't gay people? Marriage in this country has two forms. The state level where a state recognizes a marriage and the church level where a priest or pastor or religious leader of some variety oversees a ceremony and two people are joined in the eyes of God (or gods) and people. The state recognizing a marriage doesn't mean the church has to.  

And that comes to the last point. The argument that religious leaders will be sued for refusing to marry gay people. If that were anywhere close to the case than an atheist couple could go to a Catholic church and sue them when they refused to marry them. The church is allowed certain discriminations concerning religion without fear of retaliation. A church that says being gay is a sin has no fear of being retaliated against for refusing to marry a couple, at least from the government. People might be upset about it.

And this is why it doesn't matter what your view on sin is. Because the government marrying two people together doesn't mean you have to accept it in your church. You can have your view and call it a sin but the government doesn't deal in sins. The government is supposed to treat all people equal. Justice is supposed to be blind in our country. And blind justice doesn't care if you're gay or straight.

Finally, there is one more argument that follows the slippery slope logical fallacy. It goes like this "if we let gay people marry then we have to let people marry objects and animals and children too because of equality". In a few words, no it doesn't. Objects, animals, and children do not have the cognitive functions required to make a commitment like marriage. Consenting adults are completely different from any of those things. This is one of the worst arguments out there and if I never hear it again it will have been too soon.