The President’s Decision and You

The question the pollsters most want to know the answer to is this: Will President Obama’s public announcement that he has now decided to support same-sex marriage impact your vote? Will his decision impact your vote? why or why not?

From NYTimes:

WASHINGTON — About two hours after declaring his support forsame-sex marriage last week, President Obama gathered eight or so African-American ministers on a conference call to explain himself. He had struggled with the decision, he said, but had come to believe it was the right one.

The ministers, though, were not all as enthusiastic. A vocal few made it clear that the president’s stand on gay marriage might make it difficult for them to support his re-election.

“They were wrestling with their ability to get over his theological position,” said the Rev. Delman Coates, the pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, Md., who was on the call….

The damage-control effort underscored the anxiety among Mr. Obama’s advisers about the consequences of the president’s revised position just months before what is expected to be a tight re-election vote. While hailed by liberals and gay-rights leaders for making a historic breakthrough, Mr. Obama recognized that much of the country is uncomfortable with or opposed to same-sex marriage, including many in his own political coalition.

The issue of religious freedom has become a delicate one for Mr. Obama, especially after the recent furor over an administration mandate that religiously affiliated organizations offer health insurance covering contraceptives. After complaints from Catholic leaders that the mandate undercut their faith, Mr. Obama offered a compromise that would maintain coverage for contraception while not requiring religious organizations to pay for it, but critics remained dissatisfied.

 

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Robin

    His recent announcement only changed things for people who haven’t been paying attention.

  • http://jmsmith.org JM Smith

    Personally, I have a nagging suspicion that this announcement was encouraged by his administration to soften the blowback among those on the Left when he takes us to war with Iran soon. Lord, I hope I’m wrong on this.

  • http://azspot.net Naum

    The literal approach to scripture was used to enslave black people. I’ve said many times in black churches that the black church is on the wrong side of history on this. It’s so sad because they were on the right side of history in their own struggle. ~James Cone

  • Joe Canner

    This will not affect my vote. I do find it interesting, however, that the author links this issue to religious freedom. Most same-sex marriage bills (the one here in Maryland, anyway) go to some pains to make sure that churches are not required to perform same-sex ceremonies. I don’t see any reason to believe that future such legislation, at the state or national level, would be any different. Only those who insist on seeing religious persecution where it does not exist will include this issue as an example.

    In any case, the way around all this is the European model: the government presides over civil unions and grants rights and privileges accordingly, and churches preside over marriage and define it however they see fit. Roger Olson has some discussion of this proposal on his blog.

  • Jim

    won’t affect my vote. Joe Canner– I like the idea of the European model you mention.

  • TJJ

    It has been clear for some time that Obama’s “real” position was in support of gay marriage, and his “evolution” away from that and now back to it was his “political” position. Which is nothing shocking or significant in that all politicians do that and have to play that game with voters.

    The election will be a referendum on last 4 years under Obama and Dems and on the economy and ObamaCare and not gay marriage. This social issue stuff is interesting and plays big among activists on both sides and the mainstream media but it will not be what determines the outcome of the election.

    If the economy had significantly turned around in the past two years as Dens had expected and hoped, Obama would be heading for re-election despite ObamaCare and the rest.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    It does not change my view of Obama, but it does of Romney.

    This squarely puts Romney in a difficult situation. Obama would have been subjected declaring his support or face suspicion. The suspicion is gone, he has come out of the closet (give me a break!).

    This now highlights Romney’s view quite clearly. Please listen to this 4 minute NPR audio program that says it better than I ever could. Romney supports everything except the actual name marriage being used as a descriptor.

    http://www.npr.org/2012/05/10/152431577/romneys-views-on-gay-marriage-also-evolving

  • http://learningtomove.blogspot.com Erin

    It doesn’t change anything for me.

    My perspective of marriage as a man and woman is based on my understanding of Scripture. It is part of my practice of religion.

    I do wish we would adopt a European model and get government out of marriage altogether.

  • MWK

    As an African-American woman it won’t change my vote, I didn’t vote for him the last election. As for many of my African-American brothers and sisters in Christ, I’ve already heard lots of talk about simply staying home this election. Agree with it or not, my belief is that Obama will lose votes from African-Americans over this issue, but that does not necessarily mean Romney will gain them.

  • MattR

    It doesn’t change my vote. I supported the Pres last time and still do. I do think in the big scheme of things it will basically be a wash… he will pick up some votes (and campaign support $) over this decision, and maybe lose some as well. But most who are against it weren’t going to vote for him anyway.

    I agree that the European model is where we should head. Bob Hyatt says it well: http://bobhyatt.me/2012/05/last-chance-for-a-win-win-on-same-sex-marriage/. Opposing SSM on a civil (not religious/moral) level is a losing proposition… ten, twenty years from now it’ll be the norm, and evangelicals will have lost much of what’s left of their credibility in the process.

  • Patrick

    Erin,

    No kidding, what role does the state have in marriage? Just to interfere and make revenue, IMO.

    Concerning the President’s commentary and opinion, I don’t care . I don’t get my theology from American political hacks on either side . What does God consider a valid marriage is my concern.

    BTW, Cone’s views expressed above are flawed on this issue, IMO.

    Any decent OT study should show that most times God allows certain conduct that is not His highest and best idea( divorce and polygamy both fall far short of His ideal as expressed with 1 guy, 1 girl and Jesus made this point obvious when the Pharisees challenged Him on divorce). “it was not that way in the beginning, it was allowed due to the hardness of your hearts”.

    Should we interpret then these sections of the OT as “what God wants” OR “what He allows due to the extreme hardness of the heart of the folks He was dealing with + the over riding issue of bring forth The Christ”??

    Human reason with a Christian SHOULD dictate to us that the slavery allowed( or 500 other screwball ideas) in the text is either NOT slavery as we understand the term( in fact there is no evidence any of it was, but, some of it may have been) and that the slavery that may have been real slavery in our paradigm wasn’t what God wanted, it’s what He allowed those people because of the hardness of their hearts and He had a cause that was more important than anything, Messiah.

    Standing over all the OT is an over riding piece of logic in Leviticus, “Love Yahweh with all your heart, soul and mind and love your neighbor as yourself”. THAT is Yahweh’s desire and what He wants flows from that. He allows lower crap. He still does, doesn’t He? Aren’t we all sinners?

    I love James Cone, I understand his path and why he became the unique black theology thinker he did even though I don’t share his view, I love the guy.

    He is missing out on some great theology though when he simply makes the parts of the OT text he cannot fathom myths when they are not. God never has endorsed any conduct that was immoral or even lower than His highest and best, He simply puts up with sinful people cause He loves us.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Patrick, there is something poetic about your statement “He allows lower crap”. ;)

  • Merv Olsen

    Here’s a quote from today’s Breakpoint blog that sums up my position ….
    Too many Christians repeat the argument, how will homosexual “marriage” impact my life? What that argument completely misses is the recognition of alternative relationships as marriage in law, forces the recognition of those relationships as marriage by businesses, clergy, neighbors, school teachers, and everyone else. We might hear promises that freedom of conscience will be protected, but the thoughtful Christian will realize those promises are empty – just like the promises that assured contraception laws wouldn’t violate our conscience proved empty in the HHS mandate.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Merv Olsen, I don’t understand the point of your post. Same sex marriage typically does not impact non homosexuals, that is obvious. It has a big impact on same sex couples, but what impact does it have on non same sex couples? Is it that you will have to say they are married?

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    I’m not sure how to look at this. But in my case, probably not. I don’t expect the state to adhere to Christian standards. My main concern is simply freedom of conscience, as mentioned here.

  • James

    Yes, either take the government out of marriage, or only provide benefits to families who are raising children. In other words, let marriage be defined between one man and one woman but let there be no additional benefits for them. Benefits to anyone whether single or married should be provided to those raising children.

    That’s why we the government registers marriages right? to encourage population growth? So, let the benefits exist only if you’re raising kids.

  • http://www.mindfuljustice.com Jim

    No, his decision will not influence my vote. For me Obama is a huge disappointment. Folks from Ralph Nader to Cornelius West have demonstrated over and over again how he has sold out to Wall Street and the corporate giants. For those of us of faith, it has been so painful to watch how he has cowed to Israel and their lobby – it makes one ill.

    However, this is not Iran and the US President (as well as the whole government) should have exactly his position on marriage. If the state is going to control marriage – as it does in the US – than a non-religious state can’t treat some differently than others simply based on cultural or religious definitions.

  • Will

    He’s lost my vote. I was on the fence. But he’s lost my vote. I really don’t like how everything with him is about politics. I mean, I don’t think he operates from conviction, but from whatever will benefit him politically.

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    Will #18, While I think his hand was forced in this one, it’s all up in the air as to whether it helps him. You would be a case in point of Independents or people more open who he’s now lost. And it is said that one swing state may be harder for him to win now, in fact that seems a given.

    Any good president will try to bring people along, and at least appeal to people as a reasonable person and good leader, even on matters in which people may disagree with him, or her. I see Obama as trying to speak his convictions or opinion, while also trying to appeal to Americans. Any good president must do both.

  • Ron Tilley

    I think he will lose some votes of AfAm and Hispanic conservatives who voted for him last time but may not vote this time, and/or won’t be as energized to help w/ his campaign this time. That’s just a guess based on comments I’ve heard and my take on those communities. I disagree with POTUS when he says it’s for every State to set their own law on the issue of SSM. I think the US Supreme Court (given the chance) should allow SSM thruout the US because States shouldn’t be able to institute cultic religious beliefs…albeit (what some interpret as being) Christian ones that limit marriage to 1F1M. Likewise I’m not a fan of denying people their (from a general moral sense) life, liberty and pursuit of happiness when they seek out of their free will other relationship contracts which have 3 or more persons involved.
    In PA where I live marriage licenses are only granted by the State and various people can sign them (one of which is clergy…or even a Ship captain). I’d prefer that no signature be required and the application and it’s granting stand on its own as a legal relationship contract (currently called marriage) and the church marriage ceremony be treated seperately for what it is.
    US and State tax credits for all married people are not in our country’s long term best interest (as was the marriage penalty). If you’re raising a few kids you caused to come into this world there should be some type of tax credit (with a limit to how many kids you get credit for or else I’m paying taxes to raise the Dugar’s 19 bio kids) and tax credits for an unlimited number of children you raise who you didn’t cause to come into this world (can’t really just say “bio kids” anymore w/ surrogates carrying a planned pregnancy made via a sperm donor for a married couple). This is getting complicated! But there’s no turning back the clock to simplify things (…BTW the past was at times a cruel unjust society as well in many respects so I wouldn’t want to romanticize the “good old” 1F1M marriage law days).

  • Ron Tilley

    Meant to say I don’t think the marriage tax penalty was in our country’s best long term interest…and neither are tax credits just for entering personal relationship contracts (currently called marriage by our society).

  • Juniper

    It doesn’t change anything. I see it in the same light as his determination to close a certain infamous prison — powered by a lot of hot air.

  • rccrosby

    It appears that Obama’s rushed decision may backfire on him. Here is an interview that Chris Matthews did yesterday with two African-American pastors on the subject, including Bishop Harry Jackson – http://bit.ly/KZHw8r

  • Paul W

    I had for some time been inclined toward Romney but am now re-thinking an Obama vote.

    I understand that the Bible periodically addresses marriage and marriage related issues and can/does provide a perspective(s) on them. I also understand that there are many who seek to have their perspective(s) on marriage and marriage related items to be shaped and informed by the Bible. What I have not– as of yet– been able to discover is a theologically developed or Biblically informed rationale for why churches perform weddings.

    I’m somewhat surprised– but not really– at the histrionics that some types of church folks used to suggest that government should get out of marriage altogether. So I really do wonder if there is any fundamentally Biblical or theological reason or reasons serving to account for an ecclesial role in marriage. Why are churches involved in weddings and establishing marriages?

  • Richard

    I think I’m most saddened that this is the issue that is raising an ethical dilemma for pastor’s in supporting President Obama. Why don’t pastors get this twisted up over the illegal wars of the past 60 years or poverty or injustice in the criminal system? But God forbid the state should let individuals choose their own course. He shared a personal opinion, not a policy stance.

    Do those opposed to gay marriage honestly think that is somehow more honoring to God? I think to be logically consistent those opponents of gay marriage (aka civil union rights) need to actually be regressive in the laws they advocate – bring back the anti-sodomy laws, etc. Make it a crime again. Then maybe we can all bear witness to the injustice of it. But don’t act like you’ve done God some big favor by preventing people from visiting their loved ones, adopting orphaned children, or getting a tax break.

  • Andy W.

    I’m for what the bible clearly teaches about marriage, oh ah…
    - Man & Women (Gen 2:24)
    - Man + wife + brothers widow (Gen 38:6-10)
    - Man + wives + concubines (Abraham, Gideon, Nahor, Jacob, Eliphaz, Gideon, Caleb, Manassah, Solomon, Belshazzar)
    - Rapist and his victim (Deut 22:28-29)
    - Man + women + women’s property (Gen 16)
    - Male soldier + virgin women prisoner of war (Numbers 31:1-18, Deut 21:11-14)
    - Man + women + women + women (Polygamy- See Esau, Jacob, Gideon, David, Solomon, etc)
    - Male slave + female slave (Exodus 21:4 Slave owner could assign female slaves to his male slaves)

  • phil_style

    @Joe and Jim (early comments).

    For me, Christian marriage and state marriage are two different things. If the state wants to recognise the economic union of various pruductive units for tax pruposes (i.e. romantic couples) then the state is entirely within its jurisdictions to do so, and I will simply vote on whichever is best for th epublic purse.

    On the other hand, Christians have a separate understanding of marriage that is between the couple, the Church and their God. It’s a tripartite union that does not recognise not need the state’s involvement…

  • phil_style

    @ Paul W, #24 “Why are churches involved in weddings and establishing marriages”

    My comment above this one (whilst spelt badly) I think, addresses your question.
    I think christian and state marriage are two different things. In many historically “christian” countries, the two got conflated.

    State marriage (union) is about property rights, taxes, next-of-kin, and legal guardianship. State recognition of relationships serves to ensure that wealth/economic aspects of human relationships are managed in a predictable legal system that is essentially about private property rights, and all the stability that this brings to the economy. State marriage is more similar to the marriage you see in Genesis/OT in the Bible. It’s all about who get’s what, who owns what, and who pays taxes. It serves an economic function (note how little focus there is on children and “family” in the OT marriage laws)

    Christian marriage is hardly about that… and that’s why churches have their own ceremonies where the participants make vows and commitments to each other in front of their community that are not about taxes.

  • John Inglis

    RE Andy #26

    Nice trolling. However, most of the people who post here can tell the difference between narrative and declarative in the Bible.

  • Paul W

    @28 phil_style

    I appreciate and agree with your summary of ‘state marriage’ and the connection/similarity to the O.T. The bit about “Christian” marriage being different is a little unconvincing to me as it stands but I think you may be onto something. The ‘tripartite union’ thing seems just too ad hoc for my taste.

    But it sort of goes to the issue I question. Is there a fundamentally Biblical or theologically developed reason for churches to perform weddings or establish a marriage?

    I have read extensively regarding theology, a fair bit on ecclesiology, and some denominationally produced works of Church polity. I have been around churches of various stripes all of my life. I have yet to see anyone even attempt to make a biblical or theological case that churches should perform weddings. I’m not saying it can’t be done but I have yet to see it attempted.

    I can’t tell you how much ink I’ve seen spilled with regard to how the water should be applied in a baptism but not a drop concerning the rationale for the church to involve itself in a person’s wedding. With church weddings being such a pervasive practice (all of them do it seems) and felt to be so important (lots of people of faith feel the pressure to have a religious or church service) this is simply astounding to me.

    For the most part I’m pretty incredulous as I see eclessial figure-heads speak to the larger cultural issue of same-sex unions when they seem so ill prepared to speak to their own practices. [end of rant]

  • phil_style

    @Paul, #30.

    I might have pushed the tripartite thing a bit too far ;)

    “I have yet to see anyone even attempt to make a biblical or theological case that churches should perform wedding”

    I think we would best look to churches as the community of the believers. Christian marriages are ceremonies where couples make promises before each other and their community. In the community environment, we all hold each other to account. It’s a socially embedded phenomena in the christian world. I tihnk this is where the “church” comes in, at least as far as christian communities/ couple are concerned.
    By contrast a state marriage can be held in front of an official and a single witness. It’s merely legal.

    As you do, I wonder, then, why does the church do weddings for people who are not part of their community? In the UK, the answer is twofold; 1) income, and 2) because the government in the UK designates PLACES where one can marry (as opposed to other governments who designate persons who are licenses to marry). Because churches are licenses “places”, legal weddings coincide with christian ones. Like you, I’m not convinced this system has good biblical or theological support really….

  • phil_style

    spell check in my previous has incorrectly replaced “licensed” with “licenses”… grr

  • Rick in IL

    Since I believe that
    a) Marriage pre-dates governments as a human institution, and was not created by governments or Presidents; and thus cannot be redefined by governments & Presidents;
    b) Marriage is defined as a relationship between one man and one woman both in OT and NT,
    …I don’t accept the redefinition into which the President has bought.

    I am fairly libertarian on the issue, though. If two gay people wish to structure their lives in a marriage-like pattern, I can’t see how I would ever prevent them; and I’m OK with the government “packaging” the benefits which gay people seek in their relationships into a package and calling it civil unions or whatever they prefer. But words mean something, and marriage isn’t the word to use in reference to gay unions.

  • phil_style

    @ Rick ” But words mean something, and marriage isn’t the word to use in reference to gay unions.”

    Unfortunately not. Words do not have meaning, they only have utility. Any linguist will tell you that. If everyone uses the word “marriage” to describe situation X, then situation X is the situation in which we use the word “marriage”.

    I still like to distinguish between “types” of marriage. Legal marriage, the variuos religious marriages, non religious, non-legal marriages, illegal marriages. Many countries have its own legal framework which identifies the term. Sometimes it’s explicit in legislation (US marriage act), sometimes it is established in common law.. Eiter way, the use of the term is subject to constant revision over time.

    Unions between 14 year old’s are not identified as marriage in my country, but in Jesus’ time they would have been.

  • EricW

    Re: whether the State has an interest in marriage, here is an argument for the “conjugal view” of marriage that argues for the State’s interest in marriage as well:

    “What is Marriage?” http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1722155

    The marriage equality proponents really do need to answer the questions this paper asks, i.e.:
    What is Marriage?
    Does or should the State/Federal government have an interest in a) marriage, b) defining marriage, and/or c) granting benefits (rights, tax breaks, etc.) for married persons?
    One what basis can those who argue for extending marriage to same-sex couples argue for limiting a marriage partnership to two persons?

  • Ron Tilley

    I think the word “marriage” in our public discourse has already been widened semantically to include SSM. 16% of States already use the word to include legal SSM. Why wage a losing war over the semantic range of a word and hamper our ability to have a loving/grace-filled dialogue through our relationships with the LGBTQ community? Fighting for the word to only be used how my subgroup in society wants to define it over how its defined by tens of millions of other people seems IMHO to be wasted energy I can use on loving people to Jesus. Why not just put the word “State” in front of it and hold on to your position against “Church marriage” that’s not 1W1M. I think that’s potentially the way for the Spirit to use us to further the KOG. I could be wrong though.

  • phil_style

    Let’s be clear that there are TWO very different questions here:

    1) What WAS marriage
    2) What is marriage

    These are not the same question. Appeals to the long legal/ cultural history of marriage being between “one man and one woman” are most appropriate (but not only for) question 1. This is a historical issue.

    Question 2 is a wider question that incorporate elements of the past with a reflection of current societal/legal pressures and trends, as well as an element of expectation about the “what might be” scenario.

  • Andy W.

    John @ 29…

    Wow, I was expecting laughs. I saw this somewhere and actually saved because I thought it was really funny. It was meant to be a joke my friend, sorry you didn’t appreciate that. I am a daily reader here, no troll. I agree with you about narrative vs declaration but It’s not quite so clear and neat at that.

  • Anderson

    I guess I’m not sure why the President Obama’s stance on same-sex marriage is even relevant. It’s not as though the president has the power to make states perform and recognize same-sex marriages. That power belongs to state legislatures, state ballot initiatives, and courts. The only thing the president can really do is instruct the Justice Department not to defend DOMA, but Obama did that back when he was still on record as being opposed to same-sex marriage. And, regardless of what he has his justice department do, he can’t stop Congress from participating in lawsuits challenging DOMA.

    I don’t see how the president’s comments will affect policy. Therefore, I don’t think they should have any more bearing on a person’s vote than what the president listens to on his iPod.

  • MikeW

    Regarding how SSM would affect non-homosexuals: I suspect that there will be lasting social implications for either legalizing SSM or taking the European route on this issue. And that either route will effectively consign a Christian view of marriage to matter of private, spiritual, preference, that is, something which is fine within the Church, but that should not be allowed to affect the public sector. Some signs of this are already taking place. E.g. California is moving to prohibit parents from seeking therapy for their homosexually attracted children. A Catholic convent in Massachusetts was forced to shut down their adoption agency because they would be obligated to place children with homosexual couples. There are several other examples along these lines. My point is, any attempt to live out a heterosexually-normative ethic in the public sector might very well be undermined.
    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not patriotic. This is not an attempt to preserve “Christian America.” I don’t think what I’ve mentioned is the end of the world. But I’m suspicious of the indifference of some Christians to American governance. Despite how many of us have grown weary of the rhetoric of the far Right, if Christians are indifferent to maintaining *some* degree of Christian ethic to American governance, then we should not be surprised when we slide further away from having any Christian ethic in our political system.
    Now, there is probably a legislative way around the dilemma of having to choose which vision of marriage will become legally normative, but from what I see happening, it is playing out as an either-or scenario.


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