Wednesday, November 16, 2005

COLUMN -- Same-sex marriage should be a conservative objective

Posted by Craig Westover | 7:14 AM |  

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

One man and one woman embraced. Another woman wept rapturous tears. A man bowed his head, his lips moving in silent prayer. Others, with arms uplifted, swayed to processional piano music as 250 clergy members — men and women, black and white, Protestant, Catholic and Jew — filed forward pledging to protect God's definition of marriage with man's constitutional amendment — one man, one woman.

The closing tableau of last week's day-long Pastors' Summit at Grace Church in Eden Prairie symbolized the unifying strength of faith in a higher power. In that time, in that place, a rare bond existed among people diverse in race and religion. At such moments, America is at its best — and its most terrifying.

"When thou goest out to battle against thine enemies... be not afraid of them: for the Lord thy God is with thee," was the afternoon session opening scripture.

Like a house built on sand, the pastors' combative view of same-sex marriage is built on a shifting foundation of fear and misconception. Fear begets abandonment of spirituality in favor of dogma. Absolute fear misconceives the nature of its enemies. Degrading marriage to legal formality destroys the very sacrament the summit pastors pledged to defend.

Governments do not ordain sacraments. In rejecting insertion of the name "Jesus Christ" into the Virginia Bill for Religious Liberty, James Madison argued not from disbelief, but that "better proof of reverence for the holy name would be not to profane it by making it a topic of legislative discussion." Ought marriage in His name be regarded less?

To their credit, speaker after speaker at the summit emphasized that the Marriage Amendment — defining marriage as between one man and one woman — is a defense of traditional marriage, not an anti-homosexual declaration. Indeed, if those attending the Pastors' Summit were the bigots and homophobes that their detractors paint them as, they could be easily dismissed. But they are on to something, these pastors; there is a "cultural war" in this country. Before touching off the cannons, however, one ought know allies from enemies.

The pastors may not see "homosexuals" as the enemy, but "gay activists" are in their sights. "The Battle for Marriage," a DVD produced by the Minnesota Family Institute, sounds a call that sets Christian soldiers marching.

"Once [same-sex marriage is] granted," gay activist Michelangelo Signorile is quoted, "we need to redefine the institution of marriage completely and debunk a myth and radically alter an archaic institution."

Is destruction of marriage a uniquely homosexual view? Is it the view of all same-sex couples? Making such assumptions, the pastors abandon a New Testament and politically conservative emphasis on the individual. Fear of "gay activists" promotes a monolithic view of the "homosexual lifestyle" that confuses enemies with allies.

In a breakout session at the Pastors' Summit, Minnesota Family Council President Tom Prichard spoke about the devaluation of marriage, lumping same-sex marriage with no-fault divorce and abortion on demand as symptomatic of the decline in the value of marriage.

But, he doesn't carry that thought far enough, failing to ask a significant question: Why in a society that makes no demands and imposes no sanctions on their behavior would a same-sex couple want to impose upon themselves the difficult obligations of a committed relationship? Perhaps for the same spiritual reasons Prichard does.

To attribute marriage-destroying motivation to all same-sex couples is as misleading as to paint all conservative pastors as bigots and homophobes. Same-sex couples living the essence of marriage — a committed, spiritual, family oriented relationship — affirm, not devalue, marriage.

Why would conservatives marginalize such couples? Why would conservatives not want children in same-sex relationships protected by the social and legal obligations imposed upon married couples? Why would conservatives not want as allies in the cultural war couples so committed that they already suffer the slings and arrows of public abuse for their affirmation of marriage?

Why were pastors who believe the spirituality of marriage is superior to its legal form marching outside Grace Church instead of inside, creating a bond not only unified but inclusive?

Regardless of one's moral view of homosexuality, same-sex marriage ought to be a conservative objective. It's an issue that matters. It is a cause that is right, embracing, in the best American tradition, all men and all women.

Category: Column, Same-Sex Marriage