Sex and The United States of America

As a follow-up to my last post I’m not sure I was clear enough in distinguishing matters of Christian faith and practice from matters of law in a pluralistic society with massively politicized media.
If I want the freedom to worship and practice my faith I need to extend that right to others. Within my faith community, I should be able to conduct and express myself fully according to conscience, banding together with others of similar belief. I don’t believe the government should tell me what I have to believe or who has to be able to work for that faith community. For any community I would belong to, the Bible as interpreted by my tradition would be the guide to faith and practice. That should be okay, no matter how much someone else disagrees with the validity of that conviction.
If I’m to enjoy this right, I should extend it to others. So I can’t get excited about laws which have as their goal limiting others’ ability to practice their convictions.
But there are, of course, boundaries to this. If my conviction is that all people should have blue hair or that all people with blue hair must be imprisoned by the government, I won’t get my way. Likewise, if I support murder or theft as legitimate acts, my conscience will find me in handcuffs. Everybody isn’t free to do whatever, even in a free land.
But the same-sex marriage issue pushes us to the outer boundaries of conscience and law. People at my end are concerned about liberal moral views becoming so controlling that a preacher can’t call anything sin anymore without being censored or arrested. People at the other end are concerned about states banning whole ways of life, thus criminalizing segments of society full of well-meaning people. The concerns may be more similar than we realize.
Then there’s the issue of the foundations of relations between the sexes in a society. Some of us worry that if all definitions of family and gender become blurred society will eventually crumble. Others imagine a values-free utopia emerging once certain laws are passed.
And then there are candidates and incumbents. Ugh.
I think the president did a bad thing for all of us. Who cares what his personal views are on this issue, especially if they’re “evolving”? Now we’re polarizing around what our personal convictions are. And we’re confusing that with our stance on public laws for the land. Each end sprinting to their corner and appealing to their base. And I’m left thinking we have a pair of flip-flippers to choose from. It’s tacky to share your “personal views” in calculated political statements as you sit in office. Then you can test the wind and follow up with “aw, shucks too bad I can’t support a law…”, or “and that’s why I’m strongly supporting this legislation…” after the polls come in. Weak.
I think the U.S. people want a real choice. I’m not sure we’ve got one.
For me, faith convictions are guided by Scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. Public life convictions are guided by the democratic republic’s laws, hopefully still valuing the Bible. I’m concerned about eroding gender boundaries. Kids are very confused. I see marriage as instituted by God and handed down from the most ancient of times as between a man and woman. The preservation and continuation of the human race are somehow connected to it. I don’t know what the result will be if same-sex marriage is seen as equal to heterosexual marriage.
On the other hand, banning people on the basis of adult lifestyle seems equally scary. What if my group is next?
So I’m more in favor of laws which affirm marriage as between a man and a woman, etc…, than I am of laws which seek to ban non-victimizing sexual behavior. There is a mood in our country that is annoyed with claims that anything important is at stake with same-sex marriage as the civil law of the land. I challenge that mood. To me, civil unions seem to provide for this desire for freedom while preserving marriage as heterosexual.
But I’m not a political expert. I don’t play one on TV. I do know the Bible, and I’m aware of the nuanced translation and interpretations of passages which claim to overturn my views. But I don’t buy them in the end. I think it’s important to be specific and careful, but reducing Lev 18:22 to only pagan worship scenarios misses the point. Any behavior which mimics such ceremonies would be wrong. Otherwise it would simply say pagan rituals, not be so descriptive of the act. So for believers my convictions are clear. For U.S. society, by all that I can see, we need to keep important boundaries in place. I submit we must find a way to preserve freedom and avoid persecution while protecting the ancient foundations of society. So there is my view, imperfect as it may be.

Posted on May 11, 2012, in Activism and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Tim, I read both articles and like your thoughts. The central message I’m taking away from you is to be loving and respectful, and in a free society be just to all people equally. Specifically, you are saying give the same legal considerations to civil unions and reserve marriage as a faith designation for a man and woman. Have I got the core of your message?

    I wanted to comment on something I thought about regarding your statement, “Within my faith community, I should be able to conduct and express myself fully according to conscience, banding together with others of similar belief.” Since joining The Mennonite Church USA, I have been amazed at the wide breadth of convictions held by those part of the same tradition. Even within our same congregation do I see this scope among those in the same community, and dare I say family. There is deep respect and love between those that might not choose to be friends outside the church. There is also a shared mission and vision that seems to bind all, regardless of personal politics. There are problems of polarization like there are everywhere, but I find it amazing that both ends are represented in the same place.

    • Lon, It’s great to hear how your faith community is energizing your journey! The ability to make faith an ongoing conversation is rare these days.
      I’m trying to say something slightly different, that I actually think there should be a difference between marriage and civil unions. Exactly where the line of difference comes in would potentially go outside the realm of my comments. I think our society needs to keep marriage between a man and a woman and in a special place of honor. But I’m hoping we can do that in a way that doesn’t oppress others because that could come back to bite all of us. Civil Unions provide an acknowledgement of a committed relationship without eroding the very ancient and longstanding position of marriage. And the church should be free to support only marriages which follow the Scriptures and hire people who follow the core values of the community.

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