imagine that picture of you protesting same-sex marriage 40 years from now: YOU ARE ‘THOSE PEOPLE’

Imagine that picture of you protesting same-sex marriage 40 years from now, with your Bibles and your flags and your signs:

Imagine how stupid you are going to look in 40 years: Mixed Marriage vs. Same-sex marriage.

Imagine how stupid you are going to look in 40 years: Mixed-race marriage vs. Same-sex marriage.

In 2008, I wrote:

“I ask Californians, especially Christians, to look within their hearts and ask themselves whether we want to treat homosexuals today as we treated women in the 1920’s, and blacks in the 1850’s. Will we look back in 40 years’ time in disgust and shake our heads and ask how we ever voted to deny civil rights to groups based upon a personal sexual choice?”

An artist sums up what I wrote in one picture.

If you are campaigning AGAINST same-sex marriage, that’s you. In the picture. That’s you. You ARE that person. You are the person in the picture that we look back on in disgust, shaking our heads, and asking, “How on earth were people EVER that mean? Why did they EVER believe that? How could those people discriminate against others that way? And use the BIBLE to do so?”

YOU ARE “those people.” And in an age of social media, where EVERYTHING is written down, captured, and remembered, it will be that much easier for us to show our children and grandchildren the faces and the names of those people who argued AGAINST the civil rights of others. And our children will look back in disgust at the images of people protesting same-sex marriage the SAME way we look back and shake our heads at the bigots protesting mixed-race marriage 40 years ago, or desegregation before that, or women’s right to vote before that, or slavery before that, and using the Bible to do so!

YOU ARE THOSE PEOPLE!

(HT: Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill via FB)

The Day After: Thoughts on the Response to the Overturn of Prop 8

It has begun. The response from those who supported California Proposition 8 is underway now that:

U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker said Proposition 8, passed by voters in November 2008, violated the federal constitutional rights of gays and lesbians to marry the partners of their choice.

What I find fascinating is how similar the comments being made by all of the various talking heads are to one another. They don’t mention that Prop 8 barely passed with 52.2% of the vote, which was down from the 61.4% that the very same measure (Prop 22) passed with only 8 years earlier, they speak about how “over seven million voters voted for the measure.” They don’t speak about how certain groups regularly seek to bypass around our elected representatives (as we are, in fact, a democratically elected representative democracy), and use direct ballot initiatives to place what are now, in fact, unconstitutional measures on California ballots. Rather, we hear speak of how “activist judges” “disregarded the will of the people,” “set aside a democratic vote,” and “legislated from the bench,” as if the popular views of a voting public always produce fair and equitable laws. (Seriously, ask yourself: were the issue of slavery or the equal rights of African-Americans placed on the ballot in a southern state in 1860 – or 1960 for that matter – would the voting public abolished slavery? The fact that a war was fought to, among other things, defend the practice – with guns in the 1860s and water canons in the 1960s – may help answer that question.)

We are also hearing the “slippery slope” argument invoked at every opportunity: if now this, what’s next? Similarly, we are hearing form many Christians appeals to the Bible that Prop 8 supporters dared not make during the campaign for fear of revealing their obviously unconstitutional desire to influence the state with church directives.

Regarding the “illicitness” of homosexuality in the Bible, allow me to make a few brief observations. It is interesting that the other forms of what many refer to as illicit sexual behavior are actually condoned in the bible. Polygamy was all the rage until Paul encouraged Christians in 1 Cor. 7 to stop getting married altogether (unless, of course, you lacked self control, in which case he asked Christians to limit themselves to merely one wife). Marrying a bride-child under the age of 18 was the norm as long as her father agreed to the price he was paid for her. Incest wasn’t frowned upon because staying in the tribe was considered more important than staying out of your half-sister’s pants.

The point is, there are many things sanctioned in the Bible that are today considered criminal (slavery, suppression of women’s rights, etc.). Today we have remedied many of these things, despite what the biblical text says.

Likewise, there are sexual restrictions in the Bible that modern society has maintained because they are exploitative towards marginalized persons. You can no longer marry or have sex with a child, despite the fact it was done legally all the time in the Bible. It is exploitative of children and therefore forbidden. It is argued that many women in polygamous relationships are suppressed and exploited, so after much debate, the U.S. banished it. I am open to having the debate once again, as it is never wrong to revisit issues that were once decided long ago. But I think we’ll find that on both popular and civil rights grounds, polygamy will not pass muster.

The difference with homosexuality is that it is a decision made by two consenting adults with no victim. Because married couples no longer feel the pressure to produce children, and because few Americans no longer feel that sex is only for the “reproduction of children,” a childless relationship is no longer considered inappropriate. And, because there are no data showing that the presumed negative effect on children being raised outside of a relationship consisting of “one mother and one father” is any greater than children raised in families that have experienced divorce (and there is certainly no constitutional amendment barring divorce or barring divorced individuals from remarrying!) the “it’s bad for the children” argument also falls flat.

This generation has witnessed homosexuality depart the category of “illicit activity” (bestiality, polygamy, incest, etc.) and join the category of previously prohibited biblical activities that modern people (Christians and non-Christians alike) now find acceptable (like eating pork, mixing milk and meat in the same meal, planting different crops side by side, allowing divorced people to remarry, mowing the lawn on Saturday, allowing women authority over men, and, you know… not owning slaves!

“It’s icky” is no longer a good argument against gay marriage. Slippery slope arguments (like, “If we allow gay marriage, then what’s next? Polygamy? Marrying a goat?” etc.) also fall flat on a case-by-case basis because they exploit the civil rights of others (not to mention the goats). Appealing to biblical precedent is hypocritical (see slavery, genocide, etc.), and arguing that it’s “unnatural” casts aside hundreds of other human behaviors that are obviously unnatural and self-destructive like overeating, eating processed foods (what other animal does that?), smoking, drinking, and wearing makeup.

In the end, all that’s left is a simple appeal to the way it’s always been: “preserving traditional marriage.” And just like this same appeal to the status quo has time and again been defeated (slavery, women’s rights, etc.), so too has the restrictions on gay marriage. And this is a good thing. Of course, some will object and deny gay marriage, while others will speak out on the side of equal rights for all. But I believe in the end, many Americans will do as Jesus did and not mention the subject at all. Because most Christians and most Americans simply don’t care about what other people do in their bedrooms… unless a video of it can be accessed anonymously via the internet.

california court rightfully strikes down the bad law that was prop 8

No on Prop 8he struck it down. may it rest in peace (although we know there’s no chance of that).

the la times is reporting:

A federal judge in San Francisco decided today that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry, striking down Proposition 8, the voter approved ballot measure that banned same-sex unions.

U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker said Proposition 8, passed by voters in November 2008, violated the federal constitutional rights of gays and lesbians to marry the partners of their choice. His ruling is expected to be appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and then up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

cnn has the story here. yahoo is here.

kudos to chief u.s. district judge vaughn walker for doing the right thing. of course, this will be appealed to the u.s. 9th circuit court of appeals (good luck there ;-) and then on to the u.s. supreme court. at that point, the supreme court may take up the case and rule (which is what everyone wants, but will spell certain disaster for one political group – hint: believe it or not, it’s the group that wins), or the court may choose not to rule on a state’s matter.

of course, we will not stop hearing the mantra of how an ‘activist court’ ‘disregarded the will of the people’ and ‘legislated from the bench.’ we’re going to hear that until we’re sick of it. of course, we didn’t hear that from conservatives when the supreme court overturned gun bans in dc and chicago, but i digress. (remember: when we read ‘legislating from the bench,’ we should actually read ‘legislating form the bench against my point of view.’) i wonder how long it will take for prop 8 supporters to cry foul and complain about the fact that the judge was himself gay?

sometimes, or very rare occasions, certain groups (mostly religious groups) rally within a state (and sometimes from outside a state’s borders) to bypass the elected representative legislature (via direct ballot initiative) and fund, support, rally behind, and pass a bad, discriminatory law. that’s what some people in california (and utah) did with prop 8, the initiative to ban gay marriage in california.

the court reached the correct decision today. the pro-prop 8’ers intentionally bypassed the legislature to pass a bad law. the court rightfully overturned it.

page 135 of the judge’s ruling concludes:

“Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite- sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.”

the comment from the remedies on p. 136 is also worthy of note:

“California officials have chosen not to defend Proposition 8 in these proceedings.”

that is to say, they knew it was unconstitutional, and any lawmaker that supports prop 8 outside of an über-conservative district is finished. prop 8 supporters knew that playing on the fears and/or beliefs of the populace via direct ballot initiative was the only possible way to ram this initiative through into law. and now, that law is gone. (now, if we can only get rid of the ballot initiative process…)

now for the appeals.

i am wondering: the first time a gay marriage ban was placed on the california ballot (prop 22 of 2000), it passed with 61.4% of the vote. the second time (prop 8 of 2008) it passed with only 52.2% of the vote – a loss of over 9% in 8 years. i wonder when they put another gay marriage ban on the california ballot (and they most certainly will) if it will even pass? 2.2% more and it fails. given the current trends state-wide and nationally, the group that wants to discriminate against homosexuals is running out of bullets.

A Note to Christians Opposing Gay Marriage: Get Over It

Get Over ItRemember how the Bible used to say, “Slaves, obey your masters” (Col. 3:22; 1 Pet. 2:18; Eph. 6:5)? Remember that? Remember how it used to say, “I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man” (1 Tim. 2:12; cf. 1 Cor. 14:34; Col. 3:18; Eph. 5:22)? Remember when the Bible used to say that? Remember how the Bible used to instruct people not to divorce, and those who divorced not to remarry (1 Cor. 7:10-11)? Remember when the Bible used to say all of that?

Now, I know what you’re saying, and you’re right: it still does say that. And yet, we got over it! The Bible never stopped saying, “Slaves, obey your masters,” and yet, we got over it and rightfully abolished slavery. We got over it just like we rightfully conceded the equal rights of women. We got over it just like we rightfully allow people to divorce and allow divorced people to remarry. Simply put, we got over it.

In the same way, we will soon get over the way we treat homosexuals – Christians and non-Christians alike. Despite the Bible’s explicit moral injunctions to slaves, women, and divorcées, we have learned that these social injunctions were the product of the social environment in which the Bible was written. In the same manner, so too will we get over what we are doing to gay individuals today.

Just like the army got over the integration of black soldiers into white battalions, the army will get over the integration of openly gay soldiers into its combat forces. We got over the integration of women into traditionally “male” positions in the workplace. We got over the integration of African-American children into segregated schools. We got over insisting that abused women remain in their abusive relationships because “no unchastity had been committed” (Matt. 19:9), and we got over the stigmatization of divorced people trying to put their lives back together.

We got over it. And, we’ll get over using the Bible and ambiguous notions of “traditional marriage” to deny gay Americans the privilege of a state-recognized marriage. We’ll get over it and will one day look back and shake our heads at how we’ve treated gay Americans, just like we look back and shake our heads in disgust at how “those people” treated slaves, African-Americans, women, and divorcées.

We are “those people,” and we need to get over it.


For more by Dr. Cargill on this subject, see: “It’s OK for Christians to Vote No on Prop 8
and “Full Text of Dr. Cargill’s Remarks at the Pepperdine GSEP Panel Discussion on Racism and Homophobia.”
See also the classic West Wing segment on YouTube.


UPDATE: See also the news today that a U.S. Judge has ruled the Federal Gay Marriage Ban Unconstitutional.

question for the ‘yes on prop 8’ supporters: who can caster semenya marry?

South African gold-medallist Caster Semenya

South African gold-medallist Caster Semenya

i have a question for all of the california ‘yes on proposition 8’ supporters and others who support bans on gay marriage:

who can caster semenya marry?

it was revealed that south african olympic runner caster semenya is an intersexual individual (traditionally called hermaphrodites).

South African gold-medallist Semenya, 18, has both male and female organs, it was claimed…Semenya is claimed to have NO womb or ovaries — and has internal testes, the male sexual organs which produce testosterone.

first, i want to say that i can’t possibly comprehend what it must be like growing up as an intersexual individual in a society that sees issues of gender in such a markedly binary manner. gender issues are confusing enough if you are merely male or female, but to grow up in a sex-obsessed world arguing about issues of same-sex marriage as a hermaphrodite? this seems incredibly difficult.

i want to lend my support and sympathy to caster semenya, not for her physical makeup – she should be proud of who she is. but, i want to encourage her to stay strong in her life as an olympian and a woman (the gender she has chosen).

however, i cannot help but ask a few questions to those that oppose same sex marriage and to those that oppose women’s full inclusion, participation, and leadership in the church.

who can caster semenya marry? can she marry a man? would you let her marry a woman?

can she preach in a church? can she lead singing? can she serve as an elder? a pastor?

while these questions are answered quite simply by those of us that support gender equity and same-sex marriage, the answers are a little more difficult for those wishing to impose traditional (and quite physiologically ignorant) opinions on the matter. the bible speaks of male and female, but does not consider asexual, hermaphroditic, or other intersexual individuals. quite frankly, hermaphrodites do not fit the ‘biblical’ paradigm that many wish to enforce.

hermaphrodite_symbolhow can we continue to impose male/female gender regulations from a book that fails to address intersexual individuals upon a modern society. studies show that about 1% of all children born express some degree of sexual ambiguity, and 1 in every 2,000 newborns is born in a pronounced intersexual state. sure, these individuals are in the extreme minority, but if christians truly believe that every individual person is loved – and most say uniquely created (some might say intelligently designed) – by god, how can we impose gender restrictions upon individuals that possess both genders? it is no longer acceptable for fundamentalists simply to argue that the only acceptable christian lifestyle for intersexual individuals is lifelong abstinence. it is no sin, and they (nor their parents) did nothing wrong.

it is time for christians (and jews, and muslims, and peoples of all faiths) to recognize that some social institutions mentioned in the bible are no longer valid in modern society. the bible allows for slavery, but modern society has condemned this practice. the bible not only allows for, but at times commands genocide, but modern society has condemned this practice. likewise, the bible promotes the continued subjugation of women and homosexuals based upon antiquated and scientifically ignorant understandings of what it means to be a human with gender. it is time we once and for all did away with calls by christians to continue to ban same-sex marriage and women’s participation in church worship and leadership. it is time to accept that not all people in christ are ‘male and female’ (gal. 3:28) and realize that like its endorsement of slavery, the subjugation of women, homosexuals, and intersexual individuals is no longer acceptable.

It Is OK for Christians to Vote No on Prop 8

below is a piece i wrote on facebook prior to the november 2008 election. i’m posting it here now so that i can refer to it in a forthcoming post. enjoy! (and forgive the caps – i don’t usually do that ; – ) – bc

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Introduction

Christians are regularly asked to vote upon political measures that have tremendous secular significance but often possess few ethical or religious implications. These include tax increases and school bond measures. As a result, Christians are routinely divided along typical political lines, such as party, gender, or age on civil issues, with their faith playing no observable role in many of these decisions. But on certain occasions, Christians are faced with issues and ballot propositions that force them to vote along a different demographic line: that of faith. These measures have included issues of abortion, euthanasia, and capital punishment, among others. This year is no exception.

California’s Proposition 8 has emerged as a high profile issue on the November 2008 ballot because of its simple, yet highly consequential implications for the definition of marriage in the eyes of the state. In fourteen short words, Proposition 8 states: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” While the proposition is intentionally terse and simply stated, its repercussions are far-reaching and unambiguous.

Proposition 8 would amend California’s constitution so that only heterosexual marriages are recognized by the state. This would overturn California’s existing marriage laws, which presently allow for same-sex marriage and its accompanying benefits. The benefits of state-recognized marriage include visitation rights in a hospital, authority to make decisions on the partner’s behalf in the case of incapacitation, social security, disability, Medicaid, military, veterans’, and other financial benefits, Native American eligibility status, first time homebuyer assistance, joint income tax filing status, child support enforcement, and estate and gift inheritance, among others. A complete list of the 1,049 federal laws in which marital status is a factor can be found in the US General Accounting Office’s letter to House Judiciary Chairman Henry Hyde on Jan. 31, 1997. Thus, there is a great deal of civil benefit to being recognized as a married couple in California.

Prop 8 is Not a Judgment Against Homosexuals or Homosexuality

Proposition 8 is not a judgment against homosexuality or homosexuals. It is a referendum on the civil benefits of same-sex marriages, with no affect upon the doctrines of any religious group. Yet many Christians will be voting for Prop 8 because of their moral opposition to the practice of homosexuality, which is forbidden in numerous biblical texts. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 states, “Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (NIV)

Homosexuality is clearly listed as a vice in 1 Corinthians 6. Yet, many Christians have singled out homosexuality as a greater threat than the other acts listed, and same-sex marriage has been elevated by the proponents of Prop 8 as the symbolic example of the immorality of the state’s civil law code. Never mind that the 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 passage lists several other sins such as drunkenness and adultery that are said to preclude individuals from inheriting the kingdom of God. And yet, there are no ballot initiatives that call for the elimination of civil rights and the nullification of state recognition of marriage for those who have ever been drunk or participated in extra-marital affairs. For some reason, homosexuality is singled out in this list as a sin that requires a constitutional amendment to protect the faith from the danger of homosexual couples enjoying the same civil rights as heterosexual couples.

Singling out homosexuality as an act that warrants a revocation of civil rights for married couples is a clear double standard of Biblical interpretation. For instance, Luke 16:18 states, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” According to this line of reasoning used by advocates of Prop 8, those who are divorced are adulterers, and thereby ineligible to inherit the kingdom. And yet, we see no ballot proposition limiting marriage to those who have never been divorced, even though the Bible clearly defines the act of remarriage of divorced individuals as adultery.

It is also important to draw a distinction between Biblical reasons for exclusion from the kingdom of heaven (which is the context of 1 Corinthians 6) and state civil law. The prohibition against homosexuality might be a prohibition against entering the kingdom of God, but it is not said to be a reason for not having a marriage recognized by the state.

The Myth of a “Traditional” (i.e., Biblical, Christian) Marriage

Proponents of Prop 8 argue that the measure will defend “traditional” marriage. However, proponents of Prop 8 are very careful not to use the words “Biblical” or “Christian” for fear of betraying the real reasoning behind their cause. Rather, they allow voters to supply their own reasoning for not wanting the state to recognize same-sex marriage. Many Christians argue in favor of Prop 8 because of their belief that the sanctity of marriage is rooted in the Bible and its teachings. However, an examination of the Biblical text reveals that Christian marriage is not as “traditional” as one might assume.

The Apostle Paul has a very low view of marriage. In fact, Paul encourages Christians not to marry at all. In 1 Corinthians 7:27, Paul states, “Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife.” (NIV) Paul then continues to counsel Christians that while marriage is “not a sin,” Christians should ideally not marry at all. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 7:28, “If you do marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.” (NIV) Again, Paul discourages Christians from marrying at all, including heterosexual marriage.

Thus, the entire argument that marriage is a God-ordained union between a man and a woman, and that this union is the preferred social institution for Christians is a myth that has been promoted by the church for millennia. The very issue of whether or not to have heterosexual Christian marriages was debated within the text of the Bible itself. For every passage like Genesis 2:18 that reads, “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’,” (which ironically does not deal with marriage at all, but with the creation of females), or Ephesians 5:21-31 (which instructs those Christians that did, in fact, choose to be married or that already were married), there are other verses like 1 Corinthians 7:8, which states, “Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: it is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am.”

Neither Jesus nor Paul ever married, and Paul continued to preach against Christians getting married, allowing for marriage only as a concession to those who could not “practice self-control” and wanted to have sex. Thus, Paul states in 1 Corinthians 7:9, “But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Paul only allowed marriage for those who lacked the self-control and discipline necessary for what he understood to be the more devout, single life as a Christian. Thus, while the proponents of Prop 8 argue that people of faith ought to fight to preserve “traditional marriage,” Christians who actually read their Bibles know that there is no consensus on a Biblical, Christian, “traditional marriage,” and that the very question of even whether or not to marry is debated in the Bible. Marriage in the Bible is far more complex than simple “traditional Christian marriage” that proponents of Prop 8 attempt to portray.

The Tactics of the Yes on 8 Campaign

The “Yes on 8” lobby is attempting to make this election into a vote on homosexuality. They are hoping that Christians and other people of faith will equate a yes vote on Prop 8 as a stance against the “sin of homosexuality” as defined in the Bible. However, this is not what Prop 8 does. Prop 8 seeks to overturn existing California law and deny civil rights to certain individuals based upon their sexual preference as defined by religious tradition.

Christians have been told that same-sex marriage is a threat to the sacred union of marriage, and that were Prop 8 to pass, the state would be able to dictate religious doctrine to religious groups. The Yes on 8 lobby routinely claims that if Prop 8 is not passed, a civil authority (i.e., the state) can impact their religious rites. This is simply not true. The state cannot affect the religious definition of anything, nor should it. A no vote on Prop 8 will do absolutely nothing to a religious organization’s understanding, sanctioning, or recognition of their own understanding of marriage. All a no vote on Prop 8 will do is continue to allow for secular, civil recognition of same sex marriages, and the civil rights, benefits, and privileges thereto appertaining.

California’s recognition of same-sex marriages will do nothing to alter any religious group’s definition of marriage. The Catholic Church will continue to view only marriages performed by a Catholic priest as religiously valid. Likewise, Mormons will continue to insist that only Mormon marriages (preferably in a Temple) will be acceptable as valid Mormon unions. Muslims and Jews will also continue to be allowed to define marriage as their traditional interpretations dictate.

Popular Vote Does Not Equal Constitutionality

State recognition of same-sex marriage is already the law in California. Prop 8 seeks to overturn this law by using a direct ballot initiative to amend the constitution and prohibit same-sex marriage. A direct ballot initiative was employed because our elected California state legislature is smart enough not to pass legislation that is deliberately unconstitutional. Likewise, California judiciary officials are wise enough to overturn any legislation that attempts to deny the civil rights of state citizens by implementing legislation that is based solely in tradition, religious or otherwise. The fact of the matter is that proponents of Prop 8 are seeking a popular vote via ballot initiative because they know the only way that the legislation can even be put before the public for consideration is to play on the fears of the population and call for a popular vote. However, a popular vote does not always equal constitutionality.

Some will certainly object and argue that the laws recognizing same-sex marriage in California are merely the product of “activist judges” legislating from the bench and imposing their will on the majority of California voters, who previously voted in March of 2000 to ban same-sex marriage under California Prop 22. Have no doubt that should Prop 8 pass, it too will be struck down as unconstitutional, despite being voted for by a majority of California citizens. This is due to the fact that just because a majority holds a particular opinion of belief does make that belief constitutional. Likewise, a popular vote does not keep particular religious belief systems from trampling on the civil rights of state citizens.

Take the issue of slavery in southern states in the 1850’s for example, or the desegregation of public schools during the civil rights movement. Were a ballot initiative proposed that amended a southern state’s constitution to guarantee the right of slavery or segregated schools, a majority of voters may have voted based upon their conscience or their religious beliefs to retain slavery and segregated schools. The results of these votes, however heartfelt, would have violated the civil rights of many citizens of the state, particularly African-Americans. Thus, it is possible, and sometimes necessary for courts to step in and strike down unconstitutional laws, even if a majority of voters support the measure. It is possible that on rare occasions, hatred, intolerance, or religious tradition can so pervade the populace that people vote to violate the civil rights of others. It has happened in the past and we rightly look back on our actions during these periods in disgust, asking how any civilized nation can openly and actively violate the civil rights of its own people. Yet here were are in 2008 dealing with a similar ballot initiative in Prop 8.

The proponents of this simply crafted proposition are relying on voters to supply their own reasoning, and for many, fears, prejudices, traditions, and religious beliefs for supporting the measure. And because there have been few Christians that have stood up and opposed Prop 8, a good case for the religious rationale behind opposing Prop 8 has not been offered. Regardless of how convincing the public policy and civil rights reasons might be, many Christians will not feel comfortable voting no on Prop 8 until a broad, theological case is made for allowing same-sex marriage to be recognized by the state. Therefore, the remainder of this editorial will provide the theological reasoning for voting no on Prop 8.

The Argument from Slavery

The process of separating civil law from Biblical teaching on issues of social importance is nothing new. Christians have had to deal with similar social issues in the past. In fact, several other Christian social positions based in scripture, which were also once endorsed by the state, are no longer held by civil government. That is, the government has stricken down laws that were rooted in Biblical teaching, because even though they had the support of the Bible, they were deemed unconstitutional.

The most obvious example that comes to mind is the aforementioned issue of slavery. Up until the Civil War, and unfortunately far beyond the Brown vs. the Board of Education ruling that desegregated public schools in the south, the argument in favor of the practice of slavery was based upon religious tradition rooted in the Bible. And unfortunately, the Bible is very clear about its stance on slavery. Colossians 3:22 states, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly.” (NRSV) 1 Peter 2:18 says slaves should obey even harsh slave masters, stating, “Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh.” (NRSV) Ephesians 6:5 goes so far as to equate one’s service to one’s master with service to Jesus himself, stating, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ.” (NRSV) Obviously, as far as the Bible is concerned, the state practice of slavery in Rome was not a core civil rights issue that required addressing. Rather, it was simply accepted.

And while the Apostle Paul argues in Galatians 3:28 that there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female “in Christ,” as far as Roman state practice of slavery was concerned, the Bible makes no call for the abolition of slavery, and Jesus makes no grand “I have a dream” speech. In fact, the Apostle Paul argues quite the opposite. When a slave named Onesimus ran away from his master Philemon, the Apostle Paul instructs the runaway slave to return to his slave master, writing only to Philemon to ask that he not punish the defecting slave because he had become a Christian. Far from a call for the abolition of slavery, the Bible clearly accepts the practice, and defends it with stern admonitions to slaves to accept their fates and obey their masters.

Despite the fact that the Bible essentially endorsed slavery, the United States rightly abolished the practice. But this serves as an example that while the Bible may teach a certain way on a certain social matter, it is incumbent upon Christians to do what is righteous as freedoms are won over time. Slavery was abolished by abolitionist Christians even though many southern Christians used Biblical verses defending slavery to argue on its behalf. Today, the proponents of Prop 8 are employing the same tactics to argue for tradition, and when possible, are using Biblical teachings about homosexuality to defend their position. But it does not change the fact that what they are proposing via Prop 8 violates the fundamental state civil rights of some citizens, just as slavery did 150 years ago.

The Argument from Women’s Rights

Another example is the portrayal of the role of women in the Bible. On several occasions in the Bible, women are instructed to “remain silent” and to “submit to their husbands.” 1 Corinthians 14:34 states, “Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says,” demonstrating that the early church simply accepted the existing law of women remaining subject to men. 1 Timothy 2:12 states, “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent,” again reinforcing the notion that women are subject to men’s authority. Colossians 3:18 reminds women, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord,” arguing that submission to their husbands is ordained by God. Ephesians 5:22-23 makes the case for a hierarchy among men and women more clearly, stating, “Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church.” All of these Biblical examples have been used in the past as scriptural support for the subjugation of women, in marriage, in the church, and in the realm of civil government. When combined with the history of the subjugation of women that existed long before the Bible was composed, the Biblical injunctions against women, especially against women assuming leadership roles, were used in part to deny women the right to vote in many Christian nations, including the United States.

But many Christian women began to argue for equality, despite the Bible’s teachings. When the Women’s Suffrage movement began in France in the mid-eighteenth century, women began to argue for equal civil recognition under the law. In the United States, the movement culminated in the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, ratified in 1920, which prohibits states from denying any citizen the right to vote because of a citizen’s sex. Yet despite this progress on behalf of women, the Equal Rights Amendment, which was adopted by the US House of Representatives in 1971, and US Senate in 1972, still has not been ratified by the requisite three-fourths of the states needed to ratify the amendment. It may not be mere coincidence that despite the fact that 35 of the 50 states have ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, the area of the country that chiefly has not yet ratified the ERA is the southern Bible Belt. Additionally, the United Nations adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women in 1979. Interestingly, while the US has signed the treaty, it still has not ratified the CEDAW convention, making it the only developed nation still not to do so.

Despite the progress women have made in the civil realm, there is still much to be accomplished before there is genuine gender equality in the United States. One cannot help but wonder if we are still faced with what can only be described as the unwillingness of many Christians to grant civil rights to women because of the enduring Biblical traditions against granting women authority over men. And while women have achieved the right to vote in the civil realm, and the opportunity to work many of the same jobs for nearly equal pay in the secular realm, women have yet to achieve equal progress in the religious realm, be it Christianity, Judaism, or Islam. This is due to the fact that despite the state’s persistent march towards equality among the sexes, the civil realm simply does not have the power to influence the teachings and beliefs of these religious organizations. This is a key point to remember when the proponents of Prop 8 argue that state recognition of same-sex marriage will influence a religious organization’s power to define marriage as they see fit. If many religious faiths and denominations are still opposed to allowing women equal authority in the church, synagogue, and mosque, how much influence does the state really have over these religious institutions? And why will the state suddenly have more power with regard to the definition of marriage than it does with the role of women in the church?

The Argument from Divorce

Another example of a Biblical teaching that is not expressed in civil law is the remarriage of divorced persons. If Biblical sin is the standard by which Christians are denying same-sex couples the civil rights that come with marriage, then why are other actions described as sins by the Bible, such as divorce, not also grounds for the denial of the right to marry. The Bible speaks plainly about divorce, stating in 1 Corinthians 7:11 that a divorced individual should be reconciled to his or her spouse, and should not remarry. And there is no doubt that in most cases, divorce negatively affects child rearing and gender roles (or lack thereof) in divorced, single parent homes—an argument made by proponents of Prop 8 as to why same-sex couples should not marry. Why is same-sex marriage treated differently than divorce, when both are stated as reasons not to marry?

To most Christians, divorce is just as much a sin as homosexuality. And yet, there is no proposition on the ballot arguing that the state should only recognize marriage as between a never-divorced male and female. Likewise, there is no proposed state proposition that would prohibit divorced individuals seeking to remarry from receiving state marriage benefits. This is because as far as divorce is concerned, Christians have learned to separate the scriptural teachings on divorce from the civil and state ramifications of it. Divorced individuals have the legal right to remarry in this state, even thought the Bible argues against it. Why should this be different for same-sex couples seeking to get married?

The Threat of Christian Sharia Law

Why is it important to discuss issues of slavery and women’s rights in the United States in a debate about Prop 8? Because the arguments that proponents of Prop 8 are making are the very same arguments that many Christians made during the abolitionist movement and the Civil War era, and about the Women’s Suffrage movement during the 1920’s and even up until today. We should not make the same mistakes again.

During slavery and Women’s Suffrage, Christians were faced with an ethical dilemma; Should Christians adhere to a fundamentalist, literal interpretation of the Bible, which endorsed and defended the practice of slavery and the subjugation of women, or should they part with these inhumane and civilly irresponsible practices, even though they are sanctioned in the Bible, and defend the civil rights of those who were being denied them? In the end, Christians made the right choice, but the decision was not an easy one. The division among Christians was so great, the nation fought a civil war, in part, because of the economic implications of this grave ethical decision. It was a time where many Christians decided to break with their simple, traditional interpretation of the Bible, and their previously held insistence that the Bible’s teachings be wholly integrated into civil law. Instead, many Christians adopted a new hermeneutic, or way of reading the Bible, distinguished its teachings from the civil laws of the state, and voted to abolish slavery and the subjugation of women in the civil realm on the grounds of unconstitutionality.

The same principal must guide the hearts and minds of Christians today. Regardless of one’s personal stance on homosexuality—sin or permissible, a life choice or something genetically inherited, biblically abhorrent or the by-product of ancient fears and traditions—Christians must today distinguish between their religious beliefs and state civil rights, just as our ancestors did when they made the difficult decision to abolish slavery despite the Bible’s sanctioning of it. It is the only way to guarantee the civil rights of our citizens. Likewise, it is the only way to protect against a far greater threat: the creation of the Christian equivalent of sharia law.

Sharia law” is the use of a particular interpretation of Islamic law contained within the Muslim holy book, the Qur’an, for civil administration. Simply stated, it is the use of a religious text and set of beliefs to govern all aspects of civil society. This is the kind of civil law that is used, for instance, by the Taliban to keep women veiled, in Saudi Arabia to keep women from driving, and in Iran to banish and punish homosexuality. We in the West rightly decry these abuses and criticize the use of religious traditions to suppress the rights of a state’s citizens. And yet, when religious fundamentalists in the United States insist that state law only define marriage according to their particular religious interpretation, they embark on that same pattern of religious lawmaking. This same brand of religious fundamentalism has been used to oppose the abolition of slavery in the South, women’s right to vote, and mixed-race marriages in the United States. And now, this same brand of using the Bible and “tradition” to dictate civil law now backs Prop 8.

It is clear to see that the use of a religious tradition to suppress the civil rights of citizens is not only unconstitutional, it is the Christian equivalent of sharia law. It is also vastly hypocritical and inconsistent. Christians in California cannot, on the one hand, argue against the abuses of sharia law in Iran, while at the same time argue that civil rights be limited and state law be determined by traditional religious interpretations of marriage. It is the epitome of hypocrisy, where we become the very thing we despise.

If California citizens begin down this slippery slope of allowing religious institutions and traditions to define marriage for the state, we run the risk of becoming like modern day Israel. In Israel today, only marriages performed by Orthodox Jewish, Muslim, or Catholic officials are considered valid under Israel’s state law, despite the fact that a high percentage of the population are Reformed Jews, Protestant Christians, or agnostic, with no religious affiliation whatsoever. There are no civil or even mixed religion marriages in Israel. This is due to the fact that some religious entities, in this case a minority of Israelis adhering to Orthodox Judaism, continue to define marriage based upon their own religious interpretations. Israel has allowed their civil marriage laws to remain hijacked by Orthodox religious councils, who continue to dictate what is and is not acceptable for the state. And while many legislators in Israel are moving towards ending this unfortunate tradition, some here in California are hoping to adopt this trend and allow religious tradition to define state marriage law.

We cannot allow any religious traditions, or a coalition of them, to dictate state law. The separation of church and state must be maintained, even in this very sensitive issue.

Conclusion

It is ok for Christians to vote no on California Proposition 8. Prop 8 is not a sanctioning of, or judgment upon, homosexuality. It is about equal treatment under the law for California citizens. Prop 8 does not redefine marriage for religious institutions. Prop 8 does insist that same-sex marriages have the same equal protection under the law as heterosexual marriages.

Prop 8 asks the question: should religious institutions define marriage for the state? If so, another question must be asked: should the state be in the business of deciding what forms of marriage are valid? If so, what religious institution or consortiums thereof get to decide? Catholics don’t accept protestant marriage, and only see Catholic weddings as valid. Mormons don’t accept non-Mormon marriages, and insist that only marriages performed in a Mormon temple allow the couple to remain married in the afterlife. Orthodox Jews only accept Orthodox weddings, and Muslims likewise only accept Islamic marriages as valid. Who gets to decide?

The solution is a simple one. All “marriages” in California should be understood by the state as “civil unions.” This would separate the church from the state, and distinguish between the religious aspects of the sacred union of marriage as defined by one’s particular religious tradition, and the secular aspect of the union as defined by the state. Religious traditions would be free from state influence to define marriage as they see fit, and the state would be free from religious influence to administer the benefits of civil unions. This solution also renders moot any judgment upon homosexuality. People of faith can continue to debate whether the practice is right or wrong, while the state is free from any and all religious debate on the matter. Religious institutions could continue to marry their adherents according to their views and sacred rites, while couples would continue to fill out civil union licenses to confirm the union in the eyes of the state. Religious institutions can continue to define marriage as they see fit, while the state can define civil unions in a non-discriminatory manner.

The one common denominator for all marriages in the state’s eyes is that each couple files a marriage license with their respective County Recorder’s office. The state should not distinguish between which religious organizations’ beliefs are valid and which are not. Fortunately for us, this is already the case in California. A couple can already choose to be married by a non-religiously affiliated Justice of the Peace at a local courthouse. Thus, as far as the state of California is concerned, there is no binding religious obligation imposed upon marriages performed in the State of California. We should not allow Prop 8 to change this. If all marriages are defined as civil unions under the law, California would progress a long way towards finding a solution for this divisive issue.

As a Christian, I believe it is important to bless and not curse, forgive and not judge, and to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God. And as an American and a California citizen, I also believe it important to abide by the law, and when given the opportunity, vote for laws that extend equal rights to all citizens, allowing all persons the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Proposition 8 stands in the way of both of these goals in that it allows a particular religious interpretation to influence and mandate state law. This is a clear violation of the constitution.

It is possible for Christians to vote no on Prop 8 on religious, civil, and public policy grounds. It is not the state’s place to discriminate against or impose limitations upon the civil recognition of marriages based upon race, class, religion, or sexual orientation. I ask Californians, especially Christians, to look within their hearts and ask themselves whether we want to treat homosexuals today as we treated women in the 1920’s, and blacks in the 1850’s. Will we look back in 40 years’ time in disgust and shake our heads and ask how we ever voted to deny civil rights to groups based upon a personal sexual choice? Or, will we as Christians choose to distinguish between our personal religious beliefs and civil law, and show the true power of Christianity: its mercy, humility, and self restraint?

I humbly, yet strongly urge everyone to vote no on Proposition 8 on November 4, 2008.

Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.
October 30, 2008

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