Yesterday we looked at the bizarrely-limited-but-not-otherwise-bad coverage of the religion angles in recent debates over whether to change marriage law. I suggested in the comments to that post that some reporters were neither curious nor terribly thoughtful in how they approached the topic.
What follows is an example that so thoroughly validates my point that you may be forgiven for suspecting an elaborate hoax on my part. But I promise that this really appeared on WIBV-TV in Buffalo, New York:
New York’s new law allowing same-sex marriage is drawing mixed reaction from the State’s religious community.
The Bible teaches that marriage is the union of a man and a woman. But human and civil rights philosophies teach us that all people are equal, and should enjoy equal freedoms.
Those diametrically-opposed ways of thinking have ignited debate about same-sex marriage within some congregations.
While it would probably be best to respond to this excerpt by dropping the mike and walking away, let’s go ahead and parse it.
What in the world does it mean to say “the Bible” teaches that marriage is as described? Certainly Jesus was quite clear about this, and he’s the “author and perfecter” of the Christian faith, but it’s also true that “the Bible” details unions of “a” man and more than “a woman.” I’m not sure it would be accurate to say they’re “taught” but certainly these Scriptures aren’t so easily described as we see above.
So the description of the “religious” position is bizarre. But how about that sentence that follows? I mean, I have no idea what reporter Rachel Kingston was trying to say. Human philosophies? As opposed to non-human philosophies? Do tell me more. And it’s even more offensive to suggest that “civil rights philosophies” uniform ideas on marriage policy than that religious adherents do. Within the libertarian community alone, there are people who argue that marriage is an institution that predates government and, as such, should not be redefined by the government. There are people who support opening marriage up to same-sex couples or other family units such as polyamorous or polygamous families. And there are people who argue that the state should not provide benefits or penalties to any family unit, no matter its composition.
I hope that no one out of college would characterize any of these arguments as the same argument, much less as “all people are equal and should enjoy equal freedoms.” It may be an effective talking point or something, but it’s an amateur description of any philosophical argument surrounding marriage law.
Certainly some religious adherents care so much about marriage because of how strongly Jesus Christ talked about the importance of marriage as a one-man, one-woman arrangement (shhh — don’t tell Lisa Miller!). And certainly some religious adherents are worried about how they might be treated should their religious views come in conflict with regulations.
But it’s also true that many religious adherents base their arguments against same-sex marriage at the governmental level not on the words of Jesus but, rather, on secular arguments. You will not be surprised that this brilliant report failed to get that nuance.
And, then again, it’s also true that those religious adherents who favor changing marriage law aren’t claiming to do so without guidance from their religious texts.
So calling these two horribly-characterized positions above “diametrically opposed” is also ridiculous.
Anyway, we learn about the views of an Episcopal Church leader in New York and the Catholic Conference of Bishops in New York. If you recall our “liberals discuss, conservatives rail” discussion, you may appreciate how these two views were presented:
Some, including the Episcopal Church, are embracing that debate, and looking for ways to evolve their faith. …
Others are choosing to adhere to more traditional views.
Anyway, there’s no question that this is a particularly bad example of the genre “mainstream media looks at same-sex marriage debate” but only in terms of degree. I’m glad that you don’t need credentials to be a journalist. I sure don’t have them.
But we would be served by having reporters who have a tad more knowledge about the arguments for and against changing marriage law, including the arguments made by human philosophers.