Tuesday, November 4, 2008

To My Consevative Christian Friends

Yesterday, I saw someone holding a sign that read, "Keep marriage sacred! Vote Yes on Prop 8". At first, I couldn't identify why this sign bugged me so much. But then today I saw on the Travel Channel, a show called, "10 Most Extreme Halloween Destinations". It was destination number 9 that triggered my anger on the whole "yes on 8" thing. Apparently in Vegas, you can get married by a guy dressed like the grim reaper. So on this show, we had the honor of witnessing a couple taking part in this "one man, one woman" ceremony - only the woman had fangs and blood painted on the side of her mouth and the man was wearing this ridiculous demon, pagan goat mask. We had the privilege of hearing them both say, "I do." Her, through her fangs and him, through his muffled foam rubber mask. That's when it really hit me: why are conservative Christians saying, "Marriage is sacred, and only for a man and a woman" when we have the aforementioned absurdities taking place. If conservatives want to preserve marriage, why not focus attention on the idiots that are literally mocking the word “marriage”? If everything I saw on the Travel Channel is true, don't you think the sanctity of the word marriage was lost a long time ago?

Here's another angle. Conservative Christians don't own the word, "marriage". Before you get too mad at me, just think about it for a second. It's a word - you have your definition and other people have theirs. If you're still angry, then think about these words. Prayer. Meditation. Fasting. These words have a very particular meaning in Christian circles but can take on substantially different definitions in non-Christian circles. Most people who use these words accept the fact that their shared meaning of the word is just that-their shared meaning. We can all acknowledge that other circles use these same words but don’t share the specifics of the meaning. Most conservative Christians would agree that “prayer” is communicating with the One God that created the universe. If someone from another religion uses the word, “prayer”, no one would say, “Hey! Don’t use that word! It’s ours!” It’s just accepted that lots of people use the word differently. Also, with the word “meditation” in common use in Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, New Age, Sikhism, Taoism, and the Baha i Faith we find a wide scope of meaning. When Christians use this word, it describes a state of intense focus things spiritual. But for many other religions, it’s a state of almost removing one’s mind from the body to an elevated consciousness. Again, with this word, we accept that it has multiple definitions from circle to circle. “Fasting” is a word used in religious and secular circles alike. In fact, it’s a word that has become so watered-down that it’s almost synonymous with dieting. When the word, fasting is used in the Bible, it’s an action for the specific reason of drawing nearer to God – either with a request or repentance. Is anyone angry that the word fasting has lost this definition?

This post is much longer than I originally intended and for that I am sorry. I’m also sorry that today is Election Day so most Californians reading this have already voted (or not voted). My intent in writing this is not to sway voters but to express some of my thoughts on the issue. Hopefully as a conservative Christian, you consider the Christian part of that title more important than the conservative part (if you don’t, than I’m not talking to you). What made Jesus happy? What made Jesus angry? What did Jesus say was most important?

I would love to hear what you think about all this.


Haley said...

Thank you Phil. Even though I don't live in CA and can't vote on Prop 8 though I'm guessing I'll get to vote on something similar at some point here in WA), it has been rattling around in my brain as well.

My main issue has been with this idea of the co-opted language of 'marriage.' I really liked your treatment of this Phil, comparing it to other words that have been adopted for secular use. I understand that we can't force people to agree that a word only means what WE say it means. However... I would still vote YES on Prop 8 if I could vote on it today.

Here's why: Yes, the secular world (including the US government) has adopted Christian language into their lives and laws, thereby watering down the Christian meaning. But instead of just accepting that as fact, I would rather us move toward changing the language to protect the Christian meaning of marriage and take it out of the government's hands completely. Why not allow the government to sanction and license 'civil unions' but not have any language that deals with 'marriage,' leaving that to the Church's discretion? Then any couple who wishes to be joined in the eyes of the state may do so, with whatever ceremony they want, in any way they want, with whomever they want. They obtain a civil union license and enjoy all the rights that married couples currently have. If however, a Christian couple desired to enter into Marriage, they could do so under the umbrella of the church, also obtaining a civil union license from the state, just as they currently do a marriage license. This is the only thing that makes sense to me, given the separation of church and state. Maybe it is idealistic... but it is the only solution I can think of that satisfies both my strong desire to preserve the Christian meaning of marriage and my belief that all people should have access to the same civil rights, regardless of sexual preference.

Sorry this is so long...

Sarai and Dani said...

You asked!

If gay people can not enter into what you say is a 'sacred' marriage by the church's definition, then essentially you are saying that gay people can't be Christian, and I am here to prove you wrong!

Haley Ballast said...

I am definitely not saying that a gay person cannot be a Christian. The kingdom of heaven (to the limited degree that I understand it) is open to all.** What I am saying is that CHURCHES should be able to decide who gets married, not the government. If there is a church out there who wants to marry two homosexuals, I think that is their prerogative.

**My caveat here is that although the kingdom is open to all, a true encounter with Christ will change who we are in fundamental ways. The kingdom is open to a sinner like me, but I pray God will change me to be more like Him each day. We can't meet Jesus face to face and stay who we are.

Kyle Ray Booterbaugh said...

To keep this short I would have voted yes on 8 had Bella decided that we should not vote. I would vote yes because I believe that the God I serve created marriage to be between a man and a woman. I could not in good conscience vote for something that is contrary to what I believe God would have us do. I think I could go on forever on this, but I won't.

Chelsea Lee said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sarai and Dani said...

Stranger at the Gate
by Mel White

This book totally changed my conservative 'Christian' views

Starchy Archie said...

Hey Phil,

You shoulda told me you had a blog post about this! Anyway here're my thoughts:

Regarding your first point: Why are conservative Christians up in arms about gay marriage when Elvira and Count Chocula can tie the knot in a ceremony presided over by Elvis? This argument, I believe, is a red herring.

First of all, it assumes that conservative Christians are OK with such a marriage - that such a mingling of the sacred and profane (as in commonplace, not "evil" per se) is OK. I can assure you that many don't.

Second, it assumes that these are equivalent. I don’t believe this is true. Prop 8 gets at the fundamental issue of who ought to enter into marriage. What are the *minimum* qualifications, so to speak. While the vampire scenario is just plain weird - in the minds of conservative Christians as well as many others - it still meets the minimum requirements. Think about all the other marriage ceremonies that take place around the world. Some weird stuff happens in those. Some crazy outfits. Some things I wouldn't want to be a part of. But 99.9999% of them are between a man and a woman.
There is also precedent for Christians opposing certain forms of marriage. Polygamy is a good example. I know you can go OT on me and start talking about all the Patriarchs, but there’s no normative example of polygamy from the NT forward, and when the two conflict the NT holds sway (You’re not giving up the dream of a bacon explosion, are you?).

Third, it’s fallacious to argue that because Group A is actively opposed to Movement X but isn’t actively opposing a similarly offensive movement, “Y”, that its opposition to Movement X is unwarranted or unjustified. Was the abolitionists’ opposition to slavery illegitimate because their wives didn’t have the right to vote, or because many of them supported segregation?
Regarding your point, that conservative Christians don’t own the word “marriage”, all I can say is “Amen brother!”. We don’t own that word or that institution. But God does. Shame on those of us who have acted as if the issue is our being offended rather than God. Still, if we’re given the choice (i.e. by living in a society that allows us to vote our conscience), to vote on how marriage should be defined we simply must go with God’s definition.

Moreover, it seems your point leads to the conclusion that we are obligated to accommodate the world’s definition of marriage in an attempt to be high-minded and/or fair. I don’t’ think we are. But if we were, would there be any sort of a line we shouldn’t cross? If, as in classic Persian, Greek and Roman societies, pedophilia became acceptable, would Christians be obligated to give this practice a stamp of approval by voting to allow men and boys to marry?
Looking forward to more discussion on this!



Starchy Archie said...

One last comment re: what Jesus said. He said to be perfect. To do the former while practicing the latter (so to speak) - i.e. keep all of God's commandments. Any dilema that is perceived to exist between his commandments (i.e. do I stand in opposition to sinful behavior or do I act loving) is a false dilema.

OK. I'll leave your blog alone now.

Starchy Archie said...

Dude, you promised me a response. Response or a latte: your choice.