I Now Pronounce You — Addendum

As a nice addition and confirmation to what I wrote yesterday about the same-sex marriage ruling from the Supreme Court, here is a well-crafted open letter to Franklin Graham at Huffington Post from Paula K. Garrett.

“The Supreme Court did not say churches must change their definition of marriage. It said that states must. You have every right to insist that you will never accept same-sex marriage, God forbid a grandchild comes out in the family. You have every right to say you will never conduct a same-sex marriage. Nothing that the Court said this week implies otherwise.”

See the entire letter here.

I Now Pronounce You

It is now legal in the United States to marry anyone who also wants to marry you.  I’m not exactly sure why we needed a Supreme Court decision to bring us to this place, especially in the 21st century, but here we are.  In spite of the apocalyptic forecasts I have seen on Facebook over the last few days predicting that God’s wrath is now at the explosive point and ready to cover the country in steaming magma, we seem to have turned a corner where human relationships are concerned.  Of course, there have been the occasional displays of defiance we would expect from certain pockets of the country, namely the Deep South Bible Belt communities where homosexual activity is hidden, along with the whiskey bottle, K-Y Lubricant, the porn websites, and the patch of marijuana tucked neatly between the rows of tall corn stalks or mixed in with the soybean plants.

By far the most often-cited reason I have seen for those objecting to gay marriage is the idea that such an arrangement is in direct opposition to God’s intention for humanity, where marriage is the union of one man and one woman in holy matrimony . . .  period.  Not a woman with a woman, not a man with a man, not a man with a goat, not a woman and her cat, not a man and his voice-activated computer operating system.  The Supreme Court decision merely affirms what a majority of states had already decided on their own, which thankfully at this point only deals with marriage between two human beings — probably about as far as we need to push it and still have a reasonable assurance of consent from both parties.

God apparently has fairly strict and narrow rules for marriage, not to mention sexual positions, contraception, and Sunday alcohol sales.  If the one-woman-one-man plan is what the Bible or any other religious text teaches you about God and marriage, then you have every right to live your life according to those guidelines as long as you can do so without infringing on the rights of others.  You can encourage your family and friends to do the same.  If you are influential enough to have a whole congregation of people who voluntarily abide by your religious convictions, that’s just peachy.  However, what you should not be able to do in this country is use those convictions to create, sustain, and enforce public policies that are no longer upheld by a good portion of the population.

Marriage ceremonies are no doubt an important part of religious practice all around the world, which is perfectly fine.  But here’s a news flash: marriage does not BELONG to religion.  Atheist couples should be able to publicly proclaim their love, devotion, and commitment to one another, free of the interference of a church, synagogue, temple, or mosque.  Their union should be recognized by local, state, and federal governments as a legally-binding contract, even if the marriage is performed by a secular, government official instead of a priest, minister, rabbi, qazi or madhun.  Oh wait, that is EXACTLY what happens with many atheists couples, and it has been happening legally for a long time in this country.  Wonder what God’s view of an atheist marriage is?  Hmmmmm.

There is no place for legislation in the United States based solely on religious teachings, which is obviously the source of objection to same-sex marriage.  If you are in such a position of authority, either through election or appointment by elected officials, you have an obligation to put your personal wishes and desires aside to serve your constituents, and this includes your religious views.  If doing so is too difficult for you, then I suggest you either find some other job where your religious beliefs won’t be compromised (and keep in mind that not all private-sector jobs will accommodate your faith either), OR you should find a country where your religious beliefs are enforced.  Good luck with that second option.

I hope same-sex marriage is here to stay.  The benefits to loving gay and lesbian couples is only now being fully understood by the heterosexual community.  One of the main objectives of our Constitution is to protect the dignity of our citizens and to secure their right to pursue happiness.  While it seems a bit embarrassing that we needed a Supreme Court decision to make it official, I am relieved that ALL people who want to be married in this country can now do so, complete with the accompanying privileges, obligations, and benefits.  You may kiss the . . . spouse!

The Undeniable Evidence for Evolution

When I am asked if I “believe” in evolution, as I have been many times in my life, I am somewhat at a loss with how to respond.  To believe in evolution implies that there is some level of faith required to accept that life on earth changes in order to adapt to the environment and to increase the chances of surviving and reproducing.  The evidence for such adaptation is so abundant that, to my way of thinking, denying it would require an extraordinary suspension of observation and reasoning.

Of course, I am keenly aware that when I am asked this question, the real query is “Do you believe that human beings evolved from lower life forms?” or the less- intelligent and poorly-informed version, “Do you believe we came from monkeys?”  The answer to the former would be an unequivocal YES, and the answer to the latter would be an equally emphatic NO.  Anyone who has taken an elementary course in biology knows the difference between those two premises, so I won’t bother with the distinctions.

I suspect the people who have the most difficult time accepting evolution as a scientific theory that explains so much about life on this planet are those who cling to religious beliefs that somehow run contrary to the evidence.  This conflict is especially true for people of faith who maintain a literal interpretation of ancient, sacred texts such as the Bible or the Koran.  Evangelicals in America are so bound to their worldview of creationism by the hand of God that they will not allow themselves to be swayed by rationalism or overwhelming evidence.  I have even met scientists, teaching in universities, who cannot fully embrace human evolution as a fact because of their religious convictions.  The pressure to conform to supernatural explanations of natural phenomenon must be enormous.

Is it fear that prompts such denial?  Pride?  Does science pose such a threat to faith that adherents impose barriers to the most obvious truths rather than accept and embrace them?  I am absolutely baffled by people who can choose to believe the supernatural over the natural.

Defending Jesus

My wife and I visited a church away from home this morning, primarily because we wanted to attend Episcopal service on Easter even though we were away from our own little parish.  Unfortunately, it was apparent by the homily that the rector is arrogant enough to believe that his role is to defend Jesus against those who do not interpret the Bible the way he does, in a very literal sense.  He was critical of two 20th-century Biblical scholars because they do not share his belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus.  We later learned that this is only one of two churches in Georgia that belong to an association that focuses on literal interpretation of scripture and is defending “traditional” belief and practice.  How sad to think yet another denomination of the Church has based its establishment as a reaction against other Christians.