Tuesday, March 26, 2013
On this day, when the U.S. Supreme Court is considering whether to uphold a California ban against same-sex marriage--which would have a good chance of losing if it were to come up for a vote today, given shifting views on this issue--I propose an interesting thought experiment. As the opponents of gay marriage descend ever deeper into more illogical and convoluted justifications of their bigotry (is marriage really only valid if it produces children that are the naturally born genetic offspring of both parents due to heterosexual sex? really? really?) it has occurred to me that there is actually a better argument to be made for banning marriage between (most) Christians. Yes, I am serious about this--banning routine marriage between Christians, and possibly also taking away their children if they convert to Christianity later on. Now of course I am mainly bringing this up as a "shoe on the other foot" rhetorical tactic, in order to see how they feel if suddenly other people in society are talking about taking away their right to marry whom they love, on what appears to be a wholly discriminatory and unjustifiable basis. Really, the unfairness of disallowing marriage of one Christian to another may sound harsh, but it is no more unfair than disallowing gay and lesbian people to marry. Try this thought experiment, and I think you will immediately and perhaps more viscerally feel how unjust it is to single out one group for bigotry and intolerance. But beyond this, even though I don't ultimately support a ban against marriage of one Christian to another, the strange thing is that it is probably more justifiable, even if those justification do not ultimately outweigh the simple fact of equal justice under the law. Let me explain. For one thing, while gay and lesbian people do not have a sacred text of their own that would discourage marriage (as far as I know? maybe there is a secret text I have not seen because I'm not gay myself? just kidding...), the Christian sacred text--i.e. the Bible--does contain a prominent statement against marriage--presumably heterosexual marriage mainly, though the passage, like the rest of the Bible does not mention same-sex marriage one way or the other. In the Paul's first letter to the Corinthians in the New Testament (7:8-9) we find a fairly emphatic statement on this point. Here is that good ol' King James Version, for the traditionalists out there: "I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, it is good for them if they abide even as I [i.e. remain unmarried like Paul]. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn." Here is the New International Version (one of the favorite translations of present-day evangelicals): "Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion." Now of course many Christians, self-proclaimed marriage advocates that they are, have explained this away, through various contextual readings, some of which can be persuasive. But a literal reading of the Bible in this instance would seem to suggest that Christianity's own sacred text is against marriage, except in cases of imminent "burning" or burning with passion. So perhaps we need to take those Christians at their word and refuse to grant them marriage licenses--for their own and society's good--unless they can demonstrate conclusively that they will go to hell otherwise. (A notarized statement from Satan himself would be decisive proof, I would think.) In the interim, we can do no less than to protect society's interests by banning Christians from marrying, to prevent them from harming themselves in the eyes of God. And we have other societal reasons to ban Christian marriage: the harm it causes to some children who are raised in Christian households that are excessively intolerant. Maybe we would be justified in taking away such children if their parents convert to Christianity and there is any danger that they might have such intolerant views forced on them. Societal interests would seem to suggest that the sacredness of marriage as a bond of love and commitment not be sullied by the potential for procreation in a household where harmful treatment of children might result. Are Christians really fit to be good parents? I'd say on the average, no more than gays and lesbians, and possibly less in some cases. (Of course there are many Christian households, including my own when I was growing up, where love and tolerance are taught, but we can't legislate based on the exceptions to the rule, now can we?) We would also need to consider the risk of exposing the children to close proximity to people who on the verge of burning in hell (otherwise they shouldn't be getting married, as the Bible says). I think if we were really serious about protecting children and society's interests--not to mention the adherence to the Bible itself for people who hold it sacred--we would be discussing whether to ban marriage between Christians. When that debate comes, I will argue against the ban on the grounds of tolerance and equal justice under the law, just as I do with gays and lesbians, but at least that debate would make a little more sense. Any thoughts? Are others ready to start a movement banning Christian marriage, if only to prove a point?