So, now enters the fray - religious freedom - a deeply American privilege insured by the constitution and generally accepted as the rule within the walls of the United States - as a right whose arguments should be considered in light of the current legal conversations about same gender marriages.
Here is a well position article, to consider: Sexuality More Like Religion Than Race.
I wanted to weigh in on a couple of thoughts.
1. This is a legal not a moral decision. The laws of this land are designed, by in large, to protect the space needed for individuals and groups to freely practice their own morals and ideals. Even if I disagree with your morality, the law should generally protect your right to it. Perhaps the question is, how can the right to gay marriage be legalized in such a way as to not limited the rights of people who object to it? Is that an issue, after all?
2. Religious groups will not agree on the morality of same-sex marriage. They can't. The arguments - pro and con - appeal to their own sources of authority and unique interpretations of those sources.
It is this second point that strikes my world most often. My beliefs are informed by a minimum of 4 sources of authority. With all due credit to my United Methodist background, these sources are scripture, tradition, reason and experience. I believe each of these deserves consideration when making weighty decisions about matters of faith. However, in this debate, scripture gets quoted, flung, proof-texted until the congruence of it is lost.
Scripture - I come from a protestant Christian tradition. As such, 'scripture' refers primarily to the bible known as the Old and New Testaments. Interestingly enough, even the names of these collections reveals something about my prejudice. What I call the 'old' testament is in fact what another group would call the Hebrew scriptures or a portion of it the Torah. Yet another Christian group would say my 'scripture' is incomplete - missing certain apocryphal books. Yet, because of the prejudice of my particular faith tradition, I place importance on the bible as I understand it's contents. It is the written record of the events and beliefs that inform my faith. It is worthy of study and understanding. However, I cannot usually discuss the role and message of scripture with people - even of the same faith tradition - with any success, if we don't agree on our understanding of the role of that material in the formation of belief. I am not a biblical literal-ist (I'm not even sure what that exactly means), and if someone else is, if they read the scripture as a flawless life map of instruction - then we had best find something else to talk about, because we are going to disagree on many things.
The legal issue of same-sex marriage isn't going to be decided by religious and theological agreement, nor should it be. It is an issue of providing a safe and non-punitive space for individuals to follow their own beliefs. American society will change to allow for adult people of the same gender to enter into a marriage contract. It will happen sooner or it will happen later, but it will happen. The proverbial cat is out of the bag, now and as our society evolves, it will grow in it's acceptance of same-gender marriage. Too many people have accumulated reasons - life experience, rational arguments and traditions (newly formed, but traditions nonetheless) - and these life experiences are paving the way for the fall of previously accepted prohibitions and judgments.
Since we are to make this journey, we must find a path to allow for both religious freedom (for differing parties) and legally protected space for a variance of life style. This is a difficult space, likely to be fraught with fear, uncertainty and limitations. What can we do to be loving and caring as we move through?
A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His mouth can hold more than his belly can,
He can hold in his beak,
Enough food for a week!
I'm damned if I know how the hell he can!
-Dixon Lanier Merritt, a Southern newspaper editor and President of the American Press Humorists Association, penned this famous limerick in 1910. It is carved in stone and displayed prominently at Brook Green gardens in SC.
Watching several Pelicans feed in the tributaries of Murrells Inlet, SC, I was taken by how often they fail to catch fish. It is fairly easy to mark a successful dive, as the stately bird will raise its beak skyward to send the fish wiggling down its gullet. I began keeping score. I counted a total of twenty five dives between four birds and could only verify a catch seven times. With a slightly better than 25% success rate, these gobbling fowl still are known as great fishers.
I guess nature confirms the old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”
1. Hunger for something will keep you trying.
2. The pain of failure is quickly forgotten once the benefits of success arrive.
3. Never give up.