June 14th, 2006

Religion’s influence on the Marriage Protection Amendment

How do you argue gay marriage should be against the law when you take religion out of the argument?

So a colleague recently emailed me asking the following:

How do you argue gay marriage should be against the law when you take religion out of the argument?

My reply to his question:

Short answer:

You don’t.

Long answer:

As I alluded to last week, I think people on both side of the political line can attempt to claim that God is on their side, and that they are right. Hence the divisiveness of partisan politics today. Church-going people in the same congregation can have varying political ideals and beliefs. Why is this so?

I believe that politics and religion have more in common than most people like to believe. Both are systems created to govern men. Both prescribe a set of rules and regulations to follow in order to be in harmony with that established organization. If you break the law, you get put in jail. If you commit a grievous sin, you are excommunicated. So, if both politics and religion exist to govern men, where do we draw the line between the two? Where does secular law stop and religious law begin, or vice versa? Is there a dividing line that naturally separates the two?

Secularists often love to quote Thomas Jefferson, claiming that there must be a “separation between church and state”. This term, coined by Jefferson, found its origins in Jefferson’s personal correspondence, and did not become a widespread notion for almost a century later. Nevertheless, what does this phrase mean? It is my firm opinion that the separation between church and state is just that — between church and state, not religion and politics. Politics is naturally influenced by the religion and beliefs of those who are involved in its processes. The separation is prescribed only for power and policy; a church cannot sentence one of its members to death, nor can a city mayor excommunicate somebody from the local congregation. This proverbial wall between church and state was meant to put an end to the corruption that ran rampant in the motherlands of many of the nation’s founders, where churches commanded supreme political power. It is not my belief that Jefferson, nor any of his contemporaries, ever meant to imply that religion should never play a role in politics. Numerous are the instances of invoking God, Providence, and Nature’s Creator in political writ and dialogue. Many government meetings were (and are) opened with prayer. The country, after all, was founded by a majority group of Christians.

The Founding Fathers were a diverse group of men, all believing in a different God. Some were Deists, some were Christians, others were Secularists. All, I believe, understood the divine role of religion in society. However, these men were no doubt influenced by their beliefs. Their personal correspondence and journals bleed through with examples of their desires, thoughts, and attitudes towards certain political decisions. Ultimately, their decisions were made after pondering on reason, religion, and examples from past societies and civilizations.

So, before I digress further, let me pull in the reigns and address the specific issue — the Marriage Protection Amendment.

I am amused by some Democrats, who, resorting to partisan political banter, claim that the sole existence (revival, rather) of the MPA is to sway election-year voters, revive the republican party, and satisfy the religious conservative demographic. Such a claim can be made for any single piece of legislation proposed by one or the other parties. The fact is, the MPA is alive and kicking because there are a slew of voters who support it and want to see it passed. Whether or not it passes (from recent reports, it isn’t likely) is another issue altogether.

So how do you argue gay marriage should be against the law when you take religion out of the argument? You don’t, for it is God-fearing, scripture-believing Christians who see gay marriage as something against God’s commandments, and want to influence the political forum to assure it is not made legal. There are plenty of social behavioral studies showing the damage caused by not having a mother or a father in the home, the benefit that it does provide, etc. However, same-sex marriage advocates will simply chalk this up as biased fallacy, saying that there is a lack of evidence on same-sex couples. The strongest argument by proponents of the MPA against gay marriage, then, is that God opposes it. The Bible denounces it. If you take religion out of the argument, you might as well condone a man and his mountain goat marrying. It sounds absurd to us now, but think of what gay marriage would have sounded like 1000, 100, or even 20 years ago. Society may be loosening its propriety, it may be changing its standards, but those who believe gay marriage to be in opposition to God’s commandments feel it necessary to take whatever steps necessary to insure that it does not happen, no matter what society has come to accept and embrace. One of those avenues is the political arena.

I’m sure I’ve made almost no sense as I have tried to compile my thoughts on the matter into a single email. However, I hope that I have conveyed that it is my opinion that religion and politics are inherently intertwined, given their similar purpose. Those who have conservative views will always vote for conservative leaders. Those with liberal views will vote for people who believe similarly to them. These leaders will in turn vote on legislation based on their faith, beliefs, background, and preference. This debate boils down not to Republican and Democrat, but to those who believe same-sex marriage to be against God’s will, and those who do not. So on a fundamentally religion-centered topic, you can’t remove the religious aspect without nullifying the entire debate. Religion IS the reason the MPA is being put before the Senate in the first place.

I suppose Confucius summed it up best when he said “To put the world in order we must first put the nation in order. To put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order.” Those who favor the MPA feel that to put the family in order, federal legislation has become necessary in order to protect the sanctity of marriage, a fundamental and important institution in our society.

My 2¢.


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