I tend to avoid discussing controversial topics on this blog. But lately, I haven't been blogging much at all, so I thought, why not go all out and talk about something really controversial? I've had this post bouncing around in my head for a really long time, and I think it will do me some good to get it out. And, maybe, just maybe, it will do someone some good to read it.
Let's start with marriage. Marriage is an ecclesiastical concept. In most Christian denominations, marriage is a sacrament, like baptism and communion. I believe in marriage. I believe that it is a sacred bond, not to be entered lightly. I believe in staying married for life, and I believe in saving sex for marriage. In this day and age, very few people share my definition of marriage.
My church does share my definition of marriage. That is part of why I attend my church. My church also shares my definition of communion and baptism. This matters to me, because I am part of this church body, and I care about how it administers the sacraments.
I believe in separation of church and state. I don't want the government to tell my church who we can baptize or how to serve communion. There are many different Christian denominations, as well as many different religions, all of whom have different ideas about things like baptism and communion. And marriage.
Here's where this leads me: I don't think the government should marry ANYONE. To me, this is just like the government trying to baptize people. It's not their place to baptize or marry people; it's the church's place to administer sacraments.
But the government does marry people. It started marrying people, because there were legal implications to being married, and they wanted atheists to have access to those rights and responsibilities. I wish they had used a different word. Called it a "civil union" from the get-go. Because that's what most marriages in this country are. A legal arrangement with certain rights and responsibilities, based on a love relationship. Not a contract with their god of choice, and definitely not a covenant with my God. Most "marriages" in this country are not "marriages" by my definition of marriage. We're using the same word to mean different things, just as Catholics and Baptists use the word "baptism" to mean two different things.
But I'm okay with that. My decision to be a Christian is my decision. My decision to embrace Christian morality is based on my relationship with Jesus Christ. I don't expect the rest of the world to choose that morality any more than I expect everyone else in the world to do my husband's laundry. I do it because I love him, not because I think I'm supposed to. The same goes for my morality. I choose it because I love Him, not because I think I'm supposed to.
I don't think the government should be marrying anyone, but since they are offering a civil union contract and calling it marriage, I don't think they have the right to deny that contract to anyone. It baffles me that the Christian right clings to the issue of gender, and wants to deny government-issued marriage to same-sex couples, when so few of the other "Christian" requirements for marriage are being met. How is a heterosexual celebrity marriage that lasts four days any more "Christian" than a homosexual marriage performed in an Episcopal church?
If I lived in California, I would have voted "No" on Prop 8. I believe in freedom of choice, equality, and the right to embrace whatever morality you choose, for whatever reasons you choose (barring, of course, choices that directly injure others). I believe that a homosexual couple has as much of a right to be married in this country as an atheist couple. My church's doctrine should not define the government's actions.
When I attend a Catholic church, I am not allowed to partake in Holy Communion, because I was not baptized Catholic and confirmed in the Catholic church. They have the right to exclude me, because that is their doctrine. I don't think the government should force them to include me. I don't think they ever will, because it's none of their business who the Catholic church serves communion to. Likewise, I hope that the government will stay out of churches' administration of the sacrament of marriage. Many churches require engaged couples to go through premarital counseling, won't marry couples who are living together, won't marry divorced couples, won't marry couples who don't regularly attend their church, etc. They have the right to do that. What they don't have the right to do is deprive those engaged couples of their rights, under law, to all of the legal ramifications of being married. When a church refuses to marry a couple, they can always go to another church, or to City Hall. If the government refuses to marry people, they can't go anywhere (except maybe Canada).
I am interested to hear your comments on this, because in all of the arguments I have heard on both sides of this issue, I have heard very little that fits what I believe. You may disagree with me, but please keep it civil. This is my blog, and I don't want any mudslinging here.