5
Mar 15

That's not Religion

A couple of items in the news have come up over the last week that some people would like to make about religion but aren't. They are soaked in faith. Polarizing. At times the issues even devolve into violence. But whatever you think, they are not about religion.

Alabama Halts Gay Marriage

Marriage is not a religious issue. It is a civil rights issue. Some of you are doing what my five year old does to express surprise "WHAAAAAT!" But it is not. Every culture and faith on the planet has ceremonies and rituals for marriage. If marriage was a religious issue then some or all of those would be, in the eyes of the law, invalid. Even in this country you cannot be legally married unless you have a license issued by the State. The State. Not a religious institution. There are not prerequisites of faith to marry. There are no prohibitions on people of different or no faith at all from marrying. The traditional protestant wedding ceremony ends: "by the power invested in me by God and the STATE OF______ ."

Marriage, in a Western Christian context, was not even a power the church had originally. The Roman Empire recognized legally binding marriage arrangements between people of the rank of citizen or higher. Leaving the vast majority of the population in what we would consider today as "common law" marriages. It was not until Constantine adopted Christianity as the official religion of the Empire in the early 300s that the church had any legal status at all.

Now, if you want to have religious objections to gay marriage - fine. If you want to prevent gays from being married in your church - fine. If you want to peacefully protest such marriages - you are a jerk for sticking your nose into other people's business but legally you are fine. But do not attempt to restrict the rights of others based on your own religious convictions. If for no other reason than an understanding of how president works in our legal system. If you declare something "immoral" and make it illegal there could easily come a day when something you value will be judged by the larger society to be immoral and thus made illegal. Take religious education of children, for example. It is illegal in Belarus, because it is considered immoral to inflict religious indoctrination onto some one not old enough to make moral choices unless that is your own child. That would mean no VBS, among other things.

Another thing that is not religious (now that I have gone on longer than I planned about that one)? Support of Israel. There is no religious or moral imperative to say everything that ISrael wants or does is good. It is not anti-Semitic to say that Israel has to be a good neighbor and respect human rights. In fact, based on polls, the American Jewish population is often at odds with the more hawkish leadership of Israel on lots of issues of international policy. I could go on about how the political support of Israel is tied to a certain kind of evangelical apocalyptism, but I think that is for another blog.

Believe what you want, but unless you want the state telling you what to do don't use it as a stick to get other people to accept your morality.

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