May 29, Marriage Equality

Recntly I read what I consider to be a very articulate blog over at Young Adult Catholics ( ): “I’ve made it no secret that I fully support marriage equality. And although I disagree with it, I also respect a church’s right not to bless a same-sex marriage. That’s where the separation of Church and State comes in. And that’s why it makes me so angry that people want to make secular laws based on their personal religious convictions, without any demonstrable benefit to the state or to the secular society the state is entrusted with regulating.” I agree. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

They way I see this whole thing, there are two separate issues: internal church doctrine, which a church demands its members believe in order to stay in good standing with the church; religious freedom, which says that every religious tradition has the right to live their beliefs without any other tradition’s beliefs being imposed on them by civil law. The former is a matter that has to be worked out among the members of a given church, while the later is a right granted to all religions by the values on which our country was founded. Simply put, religious traditions which favor marriage equality have the right to live those beliefs without coercion by laws enacted to reflect the contrary views of a tradition which, for the time being, has the numbers to enact laws reflecting their values. No religion has the right to impose their values on anyone else through civil laws.

The current civil law shows more charity and understanding than some churches. It recognizes the rights of churches both not to recognize same sex marriages, as well as their right not to perform or celebrate them. No one is being forced to sacrifice their own values, but all have to recognize that the values of disagreeing traditions have the right to exist.

An interesting spinoff is that fewer folks seem to be paying much attention to the hierarchy, as is shown by recents states allowing same sex marriage in spite of active campaigns against it on the part of the hierarchy. People who live outside big houses and palaces, work every day or are jobless, raise families, pay bills, etc, know a lot about life that we celibate males will never know. We can learn from them, unless, of course, we claim to have all the answers divinely revealed to us by God, in which case the folks have nothing to teach us. This is especially true of young folks, whose doubting and questioning I find to be both exciting and filled with hope. They are both the church now and the church of the future. I hope they will give their enthusiasm, which to me is a sign of the Holy Spirit stirring things up, to the church and fill it with their energetic zest for life.

Eventually the hierarchy may come to realize very few are listening to them, and then they might be able to get back to teaching the gospel by their own example, rather than their accustomed mode of threats and sanctions. Pope Francis seems to be moving in this direction. But, then, he has been a pastor, something most of the hierarchy cannot claim. Maybe they just don’t know any better.

A legitimate question might be why the church in the US, and some other countries, feels it has to be so involved in marriage, where it often functions as an agent of the state. It is not the same everywhere. In Germany persons wanting to marry must fulfill the civil requirements and be married first at the local “city hall” before there can be any religious ceremony. The religious ceremony has no civil implications. I don’t think this is a bad idea for us to look at in our own country. There is a significant difference between marriage as a civil matter, and matrimony as a religious matter. If a civilly married couple feel the need of a religious element in their married life, then they can approach their religious tradition. Nobody is forcing anyone to do anything.

Recently I had a terrific chat with a young man, a “military brat”* and budding young actor filled with hope and energy. He has serious doubts and questions which are on target, and he is working to figure out the implications, not the answers. He realizes the major disconnects between the gospel as he has learned it in his family, and as it is imposed by the church institution. He is well aware of the wrongs being done by the system and the folks the system has hurt and is hurting, and wants, I think, to be part of the growth in the Spirit that is going on.

It is possible to love the church and, at the same time, speak out about the things the church is doing that do not fit with one’s experience of Jesus and his gospel. We can love the church as it is, and at the same time speak out on what it can be. The chuch as an institution has hurt many folks in the name of Jesus by doing things that Jesus did not do, and even spoke against in criticism of the religious institution of his day. We know from the Scriptures that “perfect ove casts out fear”, but we also know and see that perfect fear casts out love. That perfect fear is alive and well today.

There is a latin saying, ecclesia reformata et reformanda: the church reformed and always in need of reform. Reforms traditionally have come from the bottom up, not from the top down.

*BTW, “military brat” is a badge of honor, as they themselves well know.

Just sayin . . .

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Lacey

    I don’t mind being quoted at all — in fact, I’m honored. Your reflections deepen and continue to enrich this conversation.

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