“Inconceivable!” or Why I Agree with Joseph Bottum

I don’t think I’m going to say what you think I’m going to say.

I’ll admit up front that I liked Joseph Bottum’s recent essay in Commonweal, “The Things We Share.” It was long, but it was deliciously long, a four-course meal instead of a thick steak on a plate. It was meandering, but I admired the craftsmanship behind the apparent aimlessness. It didn’t get to the point right away, which I understood to be kind of the point. What I didn’t like was the subtitle, “A Catholic’s Case for Same-Sex Marriage.” As others have rightly pointed out, this essay didn’t make a case for anything. What it did was create a climate, an environment, an emotional, intellectual, and spiritual state of being.

Having been forewarned about the length, I prepared to slog through 60,000 words of dreadful logic about same-sex marriage and Catholic teaching as a kind of Dickensian castor oil. You have to read this, self, because if you don’t get a handle on your own doubts, fears and concerns about gay marriage, this essay could be your ghost of Blogging Future.

By the end of it, though, I knew that this was my ghost of Blogging Present. I recognized myself at every turn. (Except, obviously, the part where he starts talking about Foucault and political philosophy.) I recognized the pain of friendship lost, the frustration at the apparent flimsiness of the “natural law” over which these rifts are growing, the wariness of anti-Catholicism, the disenchantment with the world at large and with marriage and sex in particular, the knowledge of my own cowardice, the weariness of fighting a battle that was lost ages ago, and the deep desire for peace among us. The longing that we might find a way to live as brothers and sisters.

In a way, reading his essay felt a bit like reading Annie Dillard. None of the individual pieces meant anything on their own. There was not (in spite of Bottum’s own insistence that he was getting there, or even that he got there) a coherent argument made for gay marriage. But everything worked together to form an image of the political, spiritual, emotional, and intellectual ether in which we are struggling with gay marriage.

I happened to agree with much of what he said, most particularly this bit:

But same-sex marriage is already here; it’s not as though we can halt it. And other profound statements of conservatism remind us that we must take people as we find them—must instruct the nation where the nation is.

It reminded me of something Hallie Lord wrote once. It also reminded me that this entrenched legal battle to stop civil gay marriage is doing nothing but sowing bitterness on both sides. Whoever wins or loses, the existence of gay people, gay partnerships, and gay family units isn’t just going to disappear…and to tell you the truth, I think it would be pretty awful of us to hope it will. At some point, we’ll either have to learn to get along with each other, however inconvenient our beliefs in morality are to them, however inconvenient their beliefs in morality are to us.

One of the great problems with this is that not all Christians believe that this is where the nation is. It’s still an abstraction for too many of us, something to be debated on the internet and after church and over dinner with friends. Gay marriage isn’t real, not really, unless you have the misfortune to live in New York City or godforsaken California. Certainly it’s not in our neighborhood, on our streets, or in our churches.

There’s the same thing from the other side, too: a profound condescension for hillbillies who cling to their guns and religion, who react with bigotry because they’re too stupid to realize that the world is bigger than their Sunday potluck.

I think it’s a little different for my generation, and certainly very different for the generation after me. We do have gay friends, and our gay friends have kids, and those kids play with our kids. It’s not an abstract idea that legalization will allow to become a concrete reality; it’s a concrete reality that legalization will just nod at, basically, to make things equal in the courtroom.

That reality makes battling against it harder…maybe in part because we’re cowards, yeah. But also in part because we love our gay friends, and “hate the sin, love the sinner” is a platitude stitched on a pillow, not something that is even remotely that easy in real life. Especially because, when it comes to gay marriage, rejecting the sin is usually interpreted to mean rejecting two people and the entire life they’ve built. There is a real, human, divinely-inspired desire to show love to our fellow man, and rejecting gay marriage doesn’t feel a lot like love.

Especially when all we have to go on is “natural law.” Here’s what I think every time I hear most people use the term “natural law”:

Mostly when people today toss out a reference to “natural law”, they really mean “biology.” To be crass, they mean “those parts don’t fit together.” If they’re Catholic or Mormon, they might toss in “and they can’t make a baby“. Let me tell you who is convinced by this argument: exactly no one, including, usually, the person making it.

Appeals to “biology” don’t stop us from shoving our feet into unnatural heels, sucking down cigarettes, and even using tampons. They don’t stop us from pulling a baby out of a slice in a woman’s abdomen, no matter how much the baby isn’t supposed to come out that way. They didn’t stop us from binding little girls’ feet. They didn’t stop tons of men in the ancient world and in the modern one from having at least a few wives. (Those parts also wouldn’t fit, by the way, because of simple arithmetic.) In short, we humans have a long and storied history of short-circuiting the way our bodies are “supposed” to work to achieve something else. A higher good, if you will. Nowhere is this more apparent than in our extensive embrace of the Pill, meant to stop our bodies from working like they’re supposed to and prevent all those babies. So let’s be honest…there’s no way gay people are going to be able to keep a straight face as we explain that they can’t get married because their parts can’t make babies while we toss back our Yaz. I can’t even keep a straight face at that argument. It’s absurd. Furthermore, that’s not really what “natural law” means. Anymore than “literature” means “stories people made up and wrote down”.

As Joseph Bottum points out, Thomas Aquinas, building on Aristotle, assembled “a grand, beautiful, and extremely delicate structure of rationality.” There is a natural law that informs everything. However, “natural law” involves the use of reason. Aquinas divides reason into the “speculative” and the “practical”. We’re talking about practical issues here, right? Sex, marriage, human relationships? Practical reason, as Aquinas points out, moves “from the common to the proper”. Basically, our practical reason in informed by looking around us:

Hence this is the first precept of law, that good is to be done and pursued, and evil is to be avoided. All other precepts of the natural law are based upon this: so that whatever the practical reason naturally apprehends as man’s good (or evil) belongs to the precepts of the natural law as something to be done or avoided. (Summa Theo., I-II: Q.94, A.2)

Our society is obviously not properly ordered. It’s so far from being properly ordered, in fact, that I doubt Aquinas or Aristotle would even believe such a society could exist. Nearly half of us were raised in broken homes. More than half of us, if we get married, will get divorced. A single parent home is as common as a dual-parent home. Sex is everywhere, on magazine covers at the grocery store, on the internet, on TV. Nothing is sacred. Furthermore, nature, insofar as it exists in modern city and suburban life, is manicured and transplanted and sprayed with pesticides. Most of us don’t even know what the created Earth looks like. How can we honestly expect anyone, even Christians raised in Christian homes, to really understand natural law and the way it is ordered toward the good when the only “common” that we’ve ever known is such a warped and manipulated image of creation? I’d argue that our understanding of natural law is primarily through the use of speculative reason now. Nature has become unrecognizable, and so it has been relegated to the realm of theory.

All this is not to say that I think we should all immediately go gay and get married. All this is not to say that I actively support the legalization of gay civil marriage. All this is not to say that I reject the teachings of the Church in any way. There is truth in the Church, and wisdom beyond measure. She has been entrusted to safeguard the teachings of God himself. Even the teachings I don’t understand (of which there are plenty), I still submit to. That’s what it means to be a Catholic.

I just also happen to agree with Joseph Bottum, that the fight over gay civil marriage is not the good fight we should be fighting. If it ever comes down to the state pressing the Church to perform such marriages as sacraments, that will be the good fight, the fight we must have, the fight we must not back down from. As it is, the Church doesn’t even recognize civil marriage as valid anyway*. A civilly married Catholic couple has to have their marriage convalidated. I know, because that’s what we did. Attempting to stop legalized gay civil marriage because of the “grave threat” it poses seems disingenuous, not just to gay people but to everyone. Even to me. Where was the united effort to stop legalized no-fault divorce? Or contraception? We didn’t fight those civil battles. Why are we fighting this one?

A good fight to fight is the one where our goal is to bring Christ into the world by emulating him. Bottum called it “the re-enchantment of reality”. That’s one way to put it, I guess. Maybe the better place to start, though, is the place where we got it all wrong to begin with. Maybe we ought to figure out the right way to love our spouses and our children and do that first. If the ripple effect began in the breakdown of the family, building it back up again can’t fail to produce another one.

 

*An important clarification that my friend Leila brought to my attention: “Actually, the Church does recognize the civil marriages of Protestants, Buddhists, etc. For non-Christians, those marriages are considered natural and valid. For two baptized Protestants, those civil marriages are considered sacramental (even if the Protestants themselves don’t realize they have a sacramental marriage). Anyone who is free to marry is considered by the Church to have a valid marriage even if the marriage was performed in Vegas, or in front of a JP. It is only Catholics who are required (as one of the precepts of the Church) to be married in the Church (witnessed by a priest or deacon) or else get a dispensation from the bishop.” My apologies for misstating the Church’s position on civil marriage.

 

  • alwr

    I find it ironic that in a society that increasingly does not value marriage at all, we are hung up on opposing one group who still sees its importance. We are almost working from the wrong end of all of this. We can’t make a culture that sees marriage as a “meaningless piece of paper” or advocates that marriage licenses be temporary and renewable instead of lifelong contracts or attempts to shame people who celebrate marriage with a nice wedding understand anything about its sacredness.

    • Sven2547

      we are hung up on opposing one group who still sees its importance.

      This. This exactly.

      You can’t call yourself “pro-marriage” when you’re the side trying to ban millions of Americans from marrying.

    • RelapsedCatholic

      Funny I have long considered this debate as a chance to start talking about the importance of marriage especially when it comes to parenting. Much of society consider Marriage disposable, while one small segment reminds us how vital it really is. I consider this a source of hope.

  • Becky

    I really struggle with this issue too. I accept the church’s teaching, but before I converted, I had many gay and lesbian friends, including some who were raising children. I think there is a difference between the militant activists who are going around suing people and the “average” couple who are really just trying to live normal lives. I guess the argument against gay marriage that I find most powerful is the life argument — I really do think the movement will auger a tremendous increase in the use of ART, including donor sperm and eggs and surrogacy. These things are not healthy for women and result in people being used and treated as means to an end. I’m especially concerned about third-world surrogacy. Heterosexual couples certainly pioneered the use of ART, but statistically speaking, relatively few require the use of a surrogate to have children … which is not true for any gay male couple.

    I think you understand the natural law argument, but it’s not expressed terribly well in this piece; if I weren’t Catholic, I would think it amounts to saying that “unnatural things are bad.” Before I was Catholic, that was more or less my impression of the natural law argument, and it just seemed obviously silly to me. However, as others have noted, the argument is not “what’s unnatural is bad,” but rather, “it’s wrong to thwart the purpose of things that have clear, good ends.” Food binding, in this paradigm, is wrong, since it obviously makes it harder to walk. I don’t see how tampons violate natural law, however, since the purpose of menstruation is to prepare the body for another fertile cycle rather than to have women walking around with blood running down their legs. Things like glasses and prosthetic limbs that help the body function better are not just okay but are actively good since they further the achievement of particular beneficial ends.

    I still wouldn’t expect non-Catholics to necessarily buy the natural law argument — I struggle with aspects of it — but the distinction seems pretty important to me.

  • Ian Rutherford

    Believing that if we just accept homosexual marriage we can all get along is a pipe dream sprinkled with pixy dust. The homosexual activists – those actively pushing for the change and not the “normal” couple down the street aren’t going to settle for acceptance. They are in this for the kill. They are laughing their heads off at those who believe that marriage “equality” is their actual goal.

    The failure of past generations of Catholics led by bishops and priests who hopefully repented for leading others to Hell, does not justify our giving up the fight now.

  • mithril1971

    I almost don’t want to comment here b/c of the nature of com boxes. Just want to say, for what it’s worth, that this seems like a thoughtful and intelligent take on a complex issue, and while you perhaps didn’t have me at “hello” you Definitely had me at “the fight over gay civil marriage is not the good fight we should be fighting. If it ever comes down to the state pressing the Church to perform such marriages as sacraments, that will be the good fight, the fight we must have, the fight we must not back down from” and “emulating Christ”…. thanks for entering the conversation.

  • Jess Cathofeminism

    I am going to just go ahead and skip the combox here, but thank you for your thoughts, Calah. It is an emotionally charged topic and I’m sure you would take some heat no matter what you wrote. Thank you for making me think tonight.

    • Calah Alexander

      Good call, Jess. Thanks, good to see you!

  • RobW

    Yada yada. Pseudo intellectuals wimping out.

  • RobW

    Bottum is joining the ranks of the American Church. Is there such thing? Well, we do have this quote from St. Leopold Mandic…”Be careful to preserve your faith, because in the future the Church in the U.S.A. will be separated from Rome.” I think St. Leo was on to something.

  • Pay

    It is hard to read so much shallow thinking. Do you have friends who cheat on their taxes? Cheat on their spouses? Watch porn? I guess we should embrace all those sins because we have friends who engage in them?

    • CS

      You know, it is your response that seems pretty shallow. Nobody talked about embracing sins–not Bottum’s piece and not Calah’s. I think they are talking about embracing people: How do we do it with the most love? How do we balance the demands of truth and love? What does speaking the truth in charity look like when dealing with people who have absolutely *no* frame of reference for the theology of marriage that Catholics believe? Or whose ideas on sexual identity have become so far disparate from traditional teachings as to be using a different moral language entirely? Good, decent people see being gay as nothing more strange than having brown skin tones or blonde hair, and the entire complicated theology of natural law seems like nothing more than scared, ignorant people with their superstitious ideas. And that is a nice, if condescending way they think about us.
      I don’t think there is an easy answer. This is a conversation that has to happen, though. But acting like stereotypes of freaked-out religionists who can’t stand ideas is pretty much not helping.

  • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

    So here is the question: If it is really so very prudent to set aside the fight against gay “marriage,” because we are more or less surrounded by gay couples and gay parents (and their children), who appear to find our opposition hurtful or hateful, then why don’t we simply apply the same approach to the *abortion* issue too?

    Statistically speaking, we can be assured that we are *much* more likely to have relationships with post-abortive mothers (and fathers) from all sorts of backgrounds, who likely will find our opposition to abortion similarly unsettling to them.

    After all, abortion “is already here; it’s not as though we can halt it. And other profound statements of conservatism remind us that we must take people as we find them—must instruct the nation where the nation is.”
    If this should be the approach to same-sex marriage, why shouldn’t it be our approach to abortion?

    • CS

      I can’t speak for anyone holding the position of “setting aside the fight” because I am not exactly in that corner, but I can tell you that there is a huge difference with abortion: Every single time it happens, a life is deliberately ended. So, it is demanding our attention right now, immediately, and thus out of justice cannot be set aside.
      I think this is obvious, though. What am I missing in your question?

      • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

        If the mortal life of an innocent unborn can demand our attention “right now,” why should the jeopardized *eternal* life of those choosing not to “enter through the narrow gate” [those supporting or embracing same-sex marriage] be of any *less* importance “right now”? Why would we even *dream* of opting out of the fight against state-imposed same-sex marriage?

        • CS

          For the same reason that if I had the chance to 1) save your life or 2) evangelize you about Jesus, I would choose number 1 first. Seriously, I can’t even believe this is a conversation.
          The constraints of our flattened experience of linear time are a tremendous burden, to be sure. I am fairly convinced they are a direct consequence of The Fall… but we can’t pretend they don’t exist, hey?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            CS, it definitely is a conversation to have because I would wager that, even with thousands of abortions occurring today, you and I are *not* out there intervening on site attempting to “save lives” directly, despite the daily death count.
            Rather, the “pro-life” effort is itself an effort of prayer and evangelization and an effort to affect public policy by vocally *opposing* abortion (despite our not taking *direct* action to stop it as it occurs).
            This seems to me to be a fairly exact parallel to the effort against same-sex marriage.
            So, why should we maintain one effort and abandon the other?

          • CS

            I am not convinced we should “abandon the effort”; as I said elsewhere I am in a thought-process about this. I lean more toward ending the politically loud fight against gay marriage, though, partly out of charity and partly because I do think it is an issue of what American law can uphold. Am I being a wimp not to commit to one side yet? Maybe, but consider the fact that I am recently, temporarily backing off of my former complete conviction that civil marriage is something completely separate and we have little reason to oppose it. Just for renewed consideration, anyway.

            Anyhow, that is not what you are asking. I think maybe a better comparison is whether pro-lifers would uphold fighting for strict anti-abortion laws that defined it as murder and required prosecution of women who procured it.

            Reducing or outlawing a single *act* like abortion is a more direct and logical goal with fewer moral and social pitfalls than, say, making laws about what a big segment of the population does with their personal lives and how they plan out their entire futures as relational, sexual human beings.

    • Sven2547

      Personally, I think abortion is much different than same-sex marriage in this regard. There are many aspects of abortion that can be disagreed upon by logical people, both secular and religious. It forces us to ask profound questions about the nature of the “rights” of the unborn. In the case of abortion, there is a strong case to be made that banning the practice would defend the lives of many (at least in principle). Banning same-sex marriage, in stark contrast, doesn’t defend the rights of anyone.

      • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

        “Banning same-sex marriage, in stark contrast, doesn’t defend the rights of anyone.”
        Well, sure it does. it defends the rights of children, particularly…

        • Sven2547

          How so? What child’s rights are jeopardized when my friend marries her girlfriend?

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            The right to be raised by a father and a mother…

          • Sven2547

            You’re not making any sense. That’s not a reason to ban same-sex marriage, that’s a (bad) reason to ban ADOPTION by same-sex parents, which is a completely different issue.

            You do know marriage doesn’t magically produce children, right? It’s not like two lesbians marry and a stork drops off a baby who is now doomed to live a fatherless life.

          • CS

            Can you explain how gay marriage can be legal but not adoption? This has not even been considered a possibility in discussion. I was called a bigot once for saying we should discuss it as an idea.

          • Sven2547

            I personally think they should both be legal, but they are two separate issues. Saying ‘think of the children’ when the subject matter is marriage is completely invalid.

            If single parenthood is lawful, why should having two parents of the same sex be unlawful? That doesn’t make sense. But oh, I guess asking logical questions is offensive, ignorant stereotyping?

          • CS

            Can you please explain how marriage and children are unrelated as a topic, and thereby invalidate the argument? You can’t keep using assertion– not even in bold – and calling it a “refutation.”

            If you care why people hold the opinions they do, then you should act like it. Listen first. Try asking a question and then ANOTHER to clarify instead of bolding your way back. If you are not a troll, then don’t act like one. I say this in response to the numerous comments you are posting to others (on this and other posts on the topic) and not just what you are saying to me.

          • Sven2547

            Can you please explain how marriage and children are unrelated as a topic, and thereby invalidate the argument? You can’t keep using assertion– not even in bold – and calling it a “refutation.”

            Because marriage is not babymaking and babymaking isn’t marriage. As I already said:

            You do know marriage doesn’t magically produce children, right? It’s not like two lesbians marry and a stork drops off a baby who is now doomed to live a fatherless life.

            Do you or do you not understand this?

            If you care why people hold the opinions they do, then you should act like it. Listen first.

            I did.

            Try asking a question

            “If single parenthood is lawful, why should having two parents of the same sex be unlawful?”

            and then ANOTHER to clarify

            How would asking another question clarify? I did add a clarifying statement. I said “It doesn’t make sense”, because it doesn’t.

            Now would you kindly explain to me why, given that single parenthood is lawful, that dual parenthood with two members of the same sex should be unlawful. This is not a troll question. This is a question meant to expose the inherent hypocrisy of the position that I have already listened to a hundred times: that it should be unlawful for a same-sex couple to raise a child because that child would not have a mother / father.

            Now would you be so kind as to address the extremely, agonizingly simple point I have put forth?

          • CS

            No.
            Because I would never in real life sit around and continue to talk with someone who insists on being aggressive and using emphatic, loud talk in every single exchange.

            Because coming in aggressive can be understood and excused at times– Lord knows I need that understanding for myself– BUT persisting in demanding, using bold phrases and an obsessive need for people to answer the exact questions you pose, on your terms and no others shows you want to control the conversation to make it do what you want, to accomplish your own personal goals.

            Because you keep insisting that you are proceeding with respect, questions and logic, but you are just being dishonest. It’s obvious to anyone who actually does conduct dialogue that aims at understanding.

            Your dishonesty is admitted above repeatedly, but just look at your last post to see that you admit you already think the position is hypocrisy and you are trying to expose it.

            If you want to continue to think people don’t answer your questions because they are too afraid or don’t know how, go ahead and continue the dishonesty to yourself. You are currently behaving as a well-spoken troll, nothing more. Cheer up, it happens to the best of us. It’s not too late to think things over and change.

            …….And that’s all from me! I am declaring a belated moratorium on exercises of crabby combox corrections, in honor of this Awesome Day, the anniversary of the March for Jobs and Freedom!!!

          • Sven2547

            No.

            If you can’t handle direct, simple questions, then don’t involve yourself in debate. You clearly are incapable of justifying or defending a position without feeling personally insulted.

            blah blah tone blah blah dishonest

            You persist in utterly disregarding every point I make, every question I raise, when I am directly addressing the claims being raised by you. And you you have the gall to say I’m the one not listening? That I’m the one being “dishonest”?

            I note that, throughout our correspondence, I was the one asking questions. You asked none. That’s because unlike me, you never had any interest in examining my position from the beginning.

            I hold it to be blatantly self-evident that:
            Whereas the Religious Right wishes to ban dual-parenthood by members of the same sex, on the grounds that all children have the “right” to a mother and a father,
            and Whereas the Religious Right has no intention of making single-parenthood unlawful, despite the absence of a mother or father,
            I must Conclude that the position of the Religious Right on this matter is hypocritical, since they are inventing a “right” on one hand, and not recognizing it on the other.

            QED

          • CS

            Glad to see you have posted your theses. Should have done that from the beginning instead of all that wasteful lying.

          • Sven2547

            Still refusing to actually ADDRESS my point, I see. I doubt you ever shall. That would take integrity.

          • SteveP

            “What child’s rights are jeopardized when my friend marries
            her girlfriend?”

            The child’s right to the proceeds of her own labor – she will bear the tax burden of the two “married” women’s survivor “benefits.”

          • Sven2547

            The child’s right to the proceeds of her own labor – she will bear the tax burden of the two “married” women’s survivor “benefits.”

            I’m not quite sure what you mean by this. Are you saying that the tax benefits of marriage, if applied to same-sex marriages, are an attack on people’s rights? That would be an argument against all marital tax benefits, not just same-sex marriages.

            If my friend married a member of the opposite sex, those benefits would still exist and the same so-called “right” you have invented would still be “violated”. It’s utterly hypocritical.

          • SteveP

            Hypocritical? Hmmm . . . what do you call a multi-millionaire suing the State over a few hundred thousand dollars and calling it a “right.” Did she have the “right” to conserve her wealth?

  • Sven2547

    Bottum says:

    (There) is no coherent jurisprudential against it — no principled legal view that can resist it.

    This is it, the most important statement in his piece. That is what the anti-equality crowd needs to understand, you can disagree with something, be against it, but that doesn’t give you the right to use the rule of law to stop others from doing it. The argument that it’s sinful and against Catholic “natural law” is a strong reason to ban same-sex marriage within the Catholic Church. It is not a valid reason to ban it for all Americans, disregarding their individual religious faiths. I guess their religions don’t count?

    Do you see Jews and Muslims trying to ban the consumption of pork for all Americans? I sure don’t.

    (hat-tip to “The Captain”)

    • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

      But you’re not describing the real heart of the debate, and the real reason why the Church simply cannot walk away from a moment like this. What is the “moment” at hand? It’s a “moment” that is even *bigger* than the mere claims of so-called same-sex “marriage.” The debate is about the very meaning and *origin* of marriage–The Catholic view is that marriage is from *God*, not from man, not from state. Thus the state pretends to have the authority to *re-define* marriage when it really doesn’t. There really are *not* two separate entities–”civil” and “Church” marriages. There is only *one* reality that is marriage.
      And this is why the debate is here and now, and this is why we *can’t* walk away from fighting the state on this. The meaning of marriage is not in *any* way dictated by the state. The meaning of marriage came to be “in the beginning,” and Catholics ought to defend this truth against any and all pretenses to it….now, just as it always has for the last 2000 years, and always will…

      • Sven2547

        So the Roman Catholic Church has the power to define marriage for ALL Americans, including non-Catholics? Do you think that is remotely fair (or constitutional)?

        Fairly-elected governments have the just power to define legal terms. In this context, that what marriage is: a legal term. You evidently also have a personal, spiritual definition of “marriage” and that’s fine: nobody is attempting, or even considering, taking that away from you.

        • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

          But that’s not what I said. I said *God* gets to define marriage, not us. Tell me–what *did* the Deist founding fathers and framers of the Constitution believe about the origin of marriage?

          • Sven2547

            They didn’t say. They didn’t put it down in the Constitution or the Federalist Papers.

            You know what they did say? That Congress could not establish a state religion, nor could they infringe on the free exercise of religion.

            I said *God* gets to define marriage, not us.

            Then you propose theocracy, sir. That’s not the basis of American law, not by a long shot.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            Well, no, I don’t propose theocracy. I merely acknowledge that, like our Deist founding fathers who chose to permit *God* to be in government while carefully separating *church* and state, God’s definition of marriage as originally expressed in government should not be altered *by* that government…

          • Sven2547

            Well, no, I don’t propose theocracy.

            By proposing that “God” defines law, that is the definition of theocracy, yes.

            I merely acknowledge that, like our Deist founding fathers who chose to permit *God* to be in government while carefully separating *church* and state…

            By imposing church doctrine onto the greater population by force of law, you are explicitly and utterly disregarding all separation of church & state.

          • http://thebodyguardtob.wordpress.com/ Jim Russell

            So the authors of the Declaration of Independence had “theocracy” in mind when mentioning the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness? Let’s take a look:

            “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,”
            Do you notice that they say that government exists to *secure* the inalienable rights given to us by our Creator? And that life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness are *among* these inalienable rights, but not, obviously the *only* such rights?
            Thus I assert, with the evidence of history as support, that the God-given right for a man and a woman to be married, would be among these inalienable rights mentioned by the founding fathers in the Declaration–a right the government should *secure*, not manipulate….

          • Sven2547

            Do you notice that they say that government exists to *secure* the inalienable rights given to us by our Creator?

            I notice that government exists to secure the rights given to people by their Creator, whoever that creator might be. Not everyone keeps the same religions or god(s), and that idea was written into the Declaration of Independence, which you so wonderfully quoted.

            Thus I assert, with the evidence of history as support, that the God-given right for a man and a woman to be married, would be among these inalienable rights mentioned by the founding fathers in the Declaration

            I support that too. Nobody’s trying to take away the right for a man and woman to get married. If someone tried, I would oppose that attempt. But that’s not the issue here: the issue is whether two members of the same sex may also marry. Given that it’s a basic expression of liberty and the pursuit of happiness, I expect you would sympathize with my defense of that.

        • CS

          Sven, lemme just say that YES Catholics believe they know what marriage is, and should be, for all people. That probably seems bizarre and offensive to lots of people, especially those who think all definitions are subjective, but there you have it. Your assessment that all things are relative (if you do so assess) has no internal consistency anyway.
          What marriage-as-sacrament…. and the moral status of men and women in relation….and the fundamental unit of the family…all mean to what it is to be human is NOT some petty thing that can be boiled down to “foes of equality”. It’s something so fundamental that it can’t be a “preferential” matter.
          That you are putting it in the terms you are shows that you don’t know enough about the issues to really engage people. Editing to add: If you actually care to engage people, you should respect them enough to try to see things on their terms. And if you don’t care enough to show that respect, then you are just a well-spoke troll.

          • Sven2547

            Sven, lemme just say that YES Catholics believe they know what marriage is, and should be, for all people.

            But just having that opinion is not a justification for using the rule of law to impose it on everyone else.

            Your assessment that all things are relative (if you do so assess) has no internal consistency anyway.

            I’ve made no such claims.

            What marriage-as-sacrament…. and the moral status of men and women in relation….and the fundamental unit of the family…all mean to what it is to be human is NOT some petty thing that can be boiled down to “foes of equality”. It’s something so fundamental that it can’t be a “preferential” matter. That you are putting it in the terms you are shows that you don’t know enough about the issues to really engage people.

            By denying that this has anything to do with equality, I dare suggest it is you who doesn’t know enough about the issues. As a non-Catholic, why should I care what your religion thinks marriage is? What gives your specific religion the special privilege of telling my friends they can’t marry? They’re not Catholics. They didn’t sign up to be subjects of the Pope.

            Nobody’s trying to take your marriage away. Nobody’s trying to take your personal definition of marriage away, either. I again refer to my earlier example: this is like Jews and Muslims rallying to ban pork. By all means, live by your religious law, but you have no business forcing it on the rest.

          • CS

            Your last two paragraphs must have slipped in by accident from the boilerplate document that you copy and paste from. Because they have nothing to do with my comments. The first clue on that one is where use the words “deny this has anything to do with equality.”

            Now *I* will again refer to my earlier statement.

            Since at least one of us is too lazy to do anything else.

          • Sven2547

            So you disregard my refutations of your arguments, you disregard my arguments, and you have the nerve to call ME lazy?

            I ask again: What gives your specific religion the special privilege of telling my friends they can’t marry?

            I ask again: How is this unlike a hypothetical example of Jews banning pork?

          • CS

            Reiteration of earlier statements without engaging the actual response to those statements does not count as refutation.

            AS to your question, if I felt that you were actually asking, I might care to answer.

          • Sven2547

            It’s not rhetorical. I am actually asking you what gives your specific religion the special privilege of telling my friends they can’t marry.

            EDIT: your earlier answer was “YES Catholics believe they know what marriage is, and should be, for all people.” in more words. It’s a lousy answer with no basis in American jurisprudence. Try again. Use logic this time.

          • CS

            I didn’t mean it was rhetorical, as in, a question that doesn’t need answering. I meant that I am in no way convinced that actually care about the answer.

          • Sven2547

            I’ve asked the same question of many people.
            Most refuse to answer.
            Those who do, answer to the effect of “because (my) God says so”.

            I am genuinely interested to know whether you can answer this question, and what that answer will be. It might be a dumb answer, and it might be an answer I disagree with, but that doesn’t mean I am not interested in the answer.

          • CS

            I have an idea of why you don’t get answers. There are just so many assumptions are your part that are misplaced or ignorant that it is hard to engage. (Thus my comment that you should learn more before attacking.) And it is especially difficult to muster the enthusiasm when you are obviously so hostile and not willing to respect the other person.

            But, there is also this: “My God says so” might be the best way people have for explaining that they are convinced of a binding moral imperative with grave implications for our conception of ourselves as human beings, and for the rights of vulnerable people. That goes beyond preferences, and even beyond differences in acts of religious observation.

            Another mistake you make is to insist that people don’t have a right to vote into reality the kind of society they believe is right and true. That is ridiculous. And you only say it with a straight face because the values other people have are ones you don’t like. Dangerous.

            BTW, If there was an opt-in community where people agreed to abide by certain community framework like a religious system, there would be nothing wrong with that community banning pork within its boundaries, as long as people had other options.

          • Sven2547

            “My God says so” might be the best way people have for explaining that they are convinced of a binding moral imperative with grave implications for our conception of ourselves as human beings, and for the rights of vulnerable people.

            Would you be so kind as to explain what these “grave consequences” would be? Which vulnerable peoples’ rights are threatened by this?

            Another mistake you make is to insist that people don’t have a right to vote into reality the kind of society they believe is right and true.

            No no no, you are mistaken. You say I do not understand you? It appears it’s mutual, because you do not understand me if you think that is my position.

            People DO have the perogative to vote for a society they believe is right and true. Here’s the thing: lots of people have different ideas on what is right and true. For many, slavery was “right and true” in the antebellum south, for example, yet this was clearly not a just society. How do we resolve this? Constitutional principle. Someone’s opinion of what’s “right and true” may not overrule someone’s rights. Here’s where we get to the second half of your paragraph, the part where you get it completely backwards.

            And you only say it with a straight face because the values other people have are ones you don’t like.

            The reason I am opposed to your position is not simply because “I don’t like it”, it’s because it violates the rights of millions of Americans. The inalienable rights of liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What’s “dangerous” is the position that a religious imperative is allowed to overrule people’s individual rights. That’s not what this country was founded upon. The rights of the individual is supreme, and government has a binding moral imperative to secure those rights.

            If there was an opt-in community where people agreed to abide by certain community framework like a religious system, there would be nothing wrong with that community banning pork within its boundaries, as long as people had other options.

            Then I propose an opt-in community where people agree to abide by a religious system where that community can feel free to ban same-sex marriage within. Oh wait, it already exists, it’s called the Roman Catholic Church. But for people who have opted OUT of the Roman Catholic Church how about we leave them alone?

          • CS

            “Another mistake you make is to insist that people don’t have
            a right to vote into reality the kind of society they believe is right
            and true.

            And you said: No no no, you are mistaken.

            Then you go on to say why people’s ideas about slavery were wrong, and they voted on it, and the comparison I guess is to this.

            I accuse you of that mistake because you started here with “How come (some) Catholics think that their ideas about gay marriage are so special they should be incumbent on other people.”

            I think that implies that Catholics shouldn’t be trying to legislatively enact a good and just society. Your going on to compare it to slavery seems to me to confirm that you see laws as being the recourse *only* for ones YOU believe are good and universally binding.

            I might not even disagree with you all that much about what we can expect to do with the law, actually. But we are not alike because I think you are a hypocrite in your smug superiority and unexamined assumptions about other people.

            Many Catholics think that the matter is a serious one that affects everybody, not just the private lives of the gay people who want to be married and raise children. I won’t bother to explain why; you should ask someone else who is less cranky and impatient with smugness. Your way of engaging with them does absolutely nothing but perpetuate stereotypes and rancor.

          • Sven2547

            Your going on to compare it to slavery seems to me to confirm that you see laws as being the recourse *only* for ones YOU believe are good and universally binding.

            So did you completely skip my paragraph on Constitutional principle, rights, liberty, and the binding moral imperative of government, or what? It’s not just that I think it’s right, I’m trying to justify WHY I think it’s right. You haven’t addressed rights, liberty, or Constitutionality at all. It is the core of my position and you completely refuse to acknowledge it, even after I patiently acknowledged, considered, compared, and refuted yours.

            But we are not alike because I think you are a hypocrite in your smug superiority and unexamined assumptions about other people.

            I’ve been examining my assumptions. That’s been part of the point of this dialogue. You, in contrast, refuse to acknowledge my position whatsoever. You’re just hurling personal attacks again.

            Many Catholics think that the matter is a serious one that affects everybody, not just the private lives of the gay people who want to be married and raise children. I won’t bother to explain why

            Yeah, nobody ever does (except in vague apocalyptic terms of the ‘downfall of society’). It raises a great deal of skepticism about the validity of those claims.

          • Sven2547

            If you actually care to engage people, you should respect them enough to try to see things on their terms. And if you don’t care enough to show that respect, then you are just a well-spoke troll.

            That’s a two-way street, you know. I note that you’ve made no effort to see it on mine.

          • CS

            Ugh, you have no idea what my opinion on the matter is.

            And you couldn’t possibly know how much of my human existence has been taken up in consideration of questions of gay identity and sexual morals.

            You just assume that because I criticize your troll-y manner of engagement I disagree with you entirely.

          • Sven2547

            Ugh, you have no idea what my opinion on the matter is.

            Well, when you said

            YES Catholics believe they know what marriage is, and should be, for all people. That probably seems bizarre and offensive to lots of people, especially those who think all definitions are subjective, but there you have it.

            that pretty much summed it up. Catholics believe they know what’s right, so they have every right to impose their belief on everyone using the rule of law.

            If I’m misrepresenting you, now’s your big chance to clear that up. You don’t disagree with me entirely? Go on? On what points do we agree?

            Or you can keep sitting there hurling insults. “Lazy”. “Troll”. “Copy-pasted boilerplate”. All of these things are nothing but attacks in place of making actual points.

          • CS

            I really am sorry you are having such trouble here.

            I didn’t engage with you to tell you *my* position. I tried to tell you that you were making huge mistakes because you don’t understand the position other people have. You leap onto these Patheos pages with guns blazing and taking shots at something that doesn’t even really exist.

            “Blah, blah, how come your god blah blah slavery. You can’t tell people what to do!”

            Boring and ignorant. Insulting.

    • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

      On the other hand, I don’t see the Jews and Muslims being persecuted in the public square for refusing to eat pork (unlike Christians being persecuted in the public square for refusing to condone and celebrate homosexual acts and/or same-sex “marriage”).

      • Sven2547

        Every example of so-called “persecution” you’re referring to is a case where a Christian wants to be in a position of privileged supremacy, and they’re being told ‘No, you have to play by the same rules as everyone else’. Equality is not “persecution”.

        When Jews keep Kosher, they don’t do it by putting other people down.

        • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

          How is declining to be the photographer at a same-sex wedding “wanting to be in a position of privileged supremacy”? Or declining to make a floral arrangement for same? Or declining to bake a cake for same?

          If you’re for equality, then it follows that a Jewish printing company (i.e., one owned by a practicing Jew) should be forced to make signs for a KKK rally, correct? And a gay hotel owner should be forced to offer rooms to the Westboro Baptist Church members when they come to stay?

          • Sven2547

            How is declining to be the photographer at a same-sex wedding “wanting to be in a position of privileged supremacy”? Or declining to make a floral arrangement for same? Or declining to bake a cake for same?

            Because we both know that if a business were to discriminate against Christians, that would be unlawful. But these Christians think it’s still okay to discriminate against homosexuals? That’s the privileged supremacy: protection from discrimination by others, while reserving the “right” to discriminate against others.

            If you’re for equality, then it follows that a Jewish printing company (i.e., one owned by a practicing Jew) should be forced to make signs for a KKK rally, correct? And a gay hotel owner should be forced to offer rooms to the Westboro Baptist Church members when they come to stay?

            The KKK is a private organization, not a religion or a classification of people, so that’s a pretty poor example. But yes: the WBC can’t be refused service because it’s a “church”.

            This is a two-way street. Do you support a return to separate “whites-only” and “colored” entrances to businesses? Or “No Irish served here” signs? Or “Now Jews need apply”? Of course you don’t. You oppose discrimination in those cases… you just think homosexuals are an exception.

            * There are a select few examples of businesses that have absolute authority to refuse service for any reason whatsoever. These include, but are not limited to, weapons dealers, “adult” clubs, and brothels.

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            Actually, the baker in question had happily made cakes for gay clients — even that specific client — before. It wasn’t the person he objected to, it was the wedding itself. Same with the photographer – she said she’d happily taken on gay clients before with no problems, but she couldn’t in good conscience participate in the wedding. So how can you say it’s the people being discriminated against when it’s actually the wedding they have the problem with?

            So, you do think that Jewish printers aren’t allowed to refuse to print signs for KKK members? Organization or not, are they allowed to refuse to produce merchandise for an EVENT they consider to be reprehensible? If they ARE allowed, why aren’t photographers and bakers allowed to do the same, as long as their problem is with the EVENT or activity and not the people?

            I think hotel owners should absolutely be able to refuse service to WBC members because of their objections to the activity (protesting at funerals and etc) that the WBC members are engaged in. I think any business should have the right to refuse service to anyone, period. If they turn out to be racist or whatever, word will get out and the business will shut down because no one will want to patronize it.

          • Sven2547

            Except the EVENT is the same: a marriage. Do these florists, photographers and bakers work other weddings? Happily. The only difference is the PEOPLE getting married.

            If they turn out to be racist or whatever, word will get out and the business will shut down because no one will want to patronize it.

            Because that worked SO well in the past. Even today, if businesses in Mississippi and Alabama started posting “no negroes allowed” signage, they would be happily patronized by a large chunk of the population. In some areas it may even attract added support. And if you posted “no fags allowed” in almost any red state, the business would hardly suffer at all. Indeed, many so-called “pro-family” people (maybe even yourself?) would promote it.

          • http://a-star-of-hope.blogspot.com/ JoAnna Wahlund

            So, your position is that businesses should be *forced* to participate in weddings. Would that include weddings in which a woman marries a building? Or one in which a woman marries herself? If the same baker/florist/photographer declined to participate in those weddings as well, you would support compulsory action on the part of the state to force them to do so?

            I would not patronize a restaurant that had a “no fags allowed” sign, no, unless I was in the UK and the sign was merely asking patrons not to smoke. And I would dearly love to test your theory that any restaurant with a “no negroes allowed” sign would flourish, because I bet it wouldn’t, even in the Deep South. With social media being what it is today (unlike in the 60s), the business in question would be hounded unceasingly until no one would dare to show their face there.

          • Sven2547

            Nobody’s *forcing* businesses to do weddings. If you don’t want to do weddings, don’t do weddings. If you do weddings, you need to be even-handed about it. Pick-and-choosing which weddings, discriminating based solely on what kind of people are involved, is despicable and unlawful. Your absurd comparisons are really only illustrating how unhinged your argument is becoming.

            I would not patronize a restaurant that had a “no fags allowed” sign, no

            And yet that is exactly the business practice you are defending here.

            46% of Mississippi Republicans want inter-racial marriage banned. Banned! In rural parts of the state, the percentage would be significantly higher – certainly the majority. Racism in much of the deep-south is not only common, it’s popular. Once you override parts of the Civil Rights Act by allowing wanton discrimination by business owners, this is the Pandora’s box you will be opening.


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