Saturday, November 01, 2008

Prop. 8: Thoughts from Joe and Response from Holly

Thoughts from my friend Joe:

Dear Holly,

I admire the honesty of your post; I agree that the only real argument against gay marriage is faith-based. No phony data about the unsustainability of families anchored by gay couples or such makes this a refreshingly honest view.

However, your musings generally undermine the strength of your argument... you say you must vote to make your state better recognize the authority of God, but point out cases where just such a position would be not only a cause of "sadness" but in fact, extensive state-sponsored bloodshed. Yes the Bible does actually proscribe death for adultery. Are you in favor of a proposition banning all promiscuity? Wouldn't that be superior? It would be the proposition to end 'em all... and most people, too.

And no, we don't have to wonder how many people would go missing from the pews if that sentence were enforced... good social science data puts the rate of pre-marital sex (between to-be-marrieds) at about 96%- this has been normative behavior for over 40 years. So, if we conservatively estimate the 4% of abstainers to ALL be churchgoers, and about 30% of folks visit church regularly, then about 85% of those pews would still go empty- more, if you more-reasonably assume churchgoers behave about like everybody else.

If you're going to enforce God's law selectively, then the only reason to target gays (~4% of the population, ironically the same # of folks who abstain til the wedding day) is because they are a convenient target, or because it doesn't affect you. You may feel "sad" about your vote, but I bet you feel better that you did what God said. But that was too easy. How about making the 10 Commandments law? Close all stores on the Sabbath, fine people who are attracted to people other than their own spouse (remember- it's not just the activity- even 'coveting' is banned)... I could go on forever. Strict interpretation of the Bible is no way to run a democracy, especially one that establishes no State religion and is in fact, highly pluralistic.

I just hope you'll think about why you want to enforce this 'one' of God's many banned activities, and not others.

-J. Spagna


And my response:

Hi Joe,

Thanks for the thought-out response. Makes me think they actually taught us a thing or two about being thinking people at CMC.

First, I need to call you out on your correlation of random statistics, i.e. the one between gays as approximately 4 percent of the population and those who abstain until marriage being about 4 percent. I'm curious: Why'd you pair these up? Why even mention them together?

I’m not disputing your estimates, just the way you used them. If about 4 percent of the population eats tofu cheese, you can’t necessarily cross-reference or correlate that 4 percent with the 4 percent who are gay.

I can only guess why you mentioned this ironic (as you called it) correlation, but I’m sure there are some folks who say to themselves, “Hmm, about 4 percent of truly ‘moral’ folks are judging the 4 percent who make up the gay community as ‘immoral’” … and the wacky, irrelevant comparisons go from there. But my point here is that the gay marriage discussion isn’t—or at least, shouldn’t be—about the church weighing its own “morality” against that of others.

From a biblical perspective, churchgoers themselves don’t have a moral leg to stand on. To use some well-known church language, Christians commit sins just like those who aren’t Christians do. So church folk aren’t the standard; a completely holy God should be the standard. My mention of the death penalty, as prescribed in the Torah, was to further emphasize and illustrate that Christians cannot use their own personal authority in discussing morality.

On legislating biblical morality: This would never be something I’d seek because the United States isn’t a theocracy. The Old Testament shows the history of how the Israelites made a covenant (binding contract) with God: They agreed to obey God’s laws in exchange for God’s blessings. Christians commit to follow the biblical morality of the New Covenant (essentially, the teachings of Jesus Christ)—they enter into an agreement. (This is not to say that Christians hold up their end of the deal, but, as I’ve said, the morality of Christians isn’t the point.) So all of biblical “law” applies only to those who enter into these contracts.

Now, you might ask, if biblical law applies only to those who enter into these contracts, why does the Christian care about voting to eliminate same-sex marriage? For starters, I’ll go back to the idea that every law is the imposition of someone’s value. At present in America, the majority seems to value defining marriage as between a man and a woman. (We’ll see if that’s true in California in a few days.) The minority, in my estimation, is holding up the value of the rights of the individual. That’s a good value, but I don’t think it’s the best one.

Still, if Prop. 8 fails, I’ll be bound to accept the outcome because I’ve also entered into a contract, so to speak, as an American citizen. I get to express my opinion and vote, and in exchange, I agree to abide by America’s laws that are created by the opinion of the majority. In this democracy, my Bible-influenced opinion is equally valid and equally weighted with the opinions of others who’ve been influenced by other things.

You wrote, “I just hope you'll think about why you want to enforce this 'one' of God's many banned activities, and not others.” Yes, of course, I have. There are reasons the Christians church is so vocal about homosexuality and abortion in particular. One major reason: Biblical history shows that God destroys nations when they become too disgusting for him to stand anymore. There’s a reason God offered the Israelites the land of Canaan as their “Promised Land.” Sources outside of the Bible show that the Canaanites were highly promiscuous, incorporating orgies as part of the worship of their gods. There were male and female temple prostitutes—everybody was having sex with everybody. Rape was common, as was sex with children and animals. Children—babies and toddlers up to age 4—were sacrificed as part of idol worship. You could say that Canaan was a very pluralistic society.

You’ve probably heard the argument about the “domino effect” of legalizing gay marriage. I’d note that after Canada made gay marriage legal, they began researching another issue: Should polygamy be legalized?

And then what’s next?

America isn’t Canaan yet. My vote is about trying to not infuriate God for as long as possible because I love my country, too.

I’ve presented an essentially biblical/spiritual argument here, which I recognize will sound absolutely foolish to folks who don’t believe in God. (If one doesn’t believe in God, it’s extremely difficult to accept the idea of a higher morality that goes beyond human morality. Thus, their argument becomes, “Christians think they are morally superior.”) It also won’t resonate with some who do believe in God; they will come to other conclusions. I'd love to hear how folks have reached their own position.

Joe, I do hope you can see I’ve taken considerable time to think this through, as any responsible CMCer should when it comes to their vote.



Krishna said...

Dear Holly,
I'm a Hindu believer.
We all are confused with the God.Even you I may say.I have some Christian friends.They have questioned me how your Gods did the magical things as told in your legends or holly books?I answered in this way " if a virgin could be pregnant without a male,If manna had been fallen from the air,if mosses could take water with his stick,if Jesus could feed 5000 with 5 breads,whatever told in our books are true,if they are not we all are wrong.Actually all religions are aiming to a single direction but the followers make things upside down.But in our normal concept a group of people represent a belief,shows the character of the system being represented by them.When you make a detailed study of the ways passed by Semitic religions,you could never escape from the guiltiness of common man's blood.

Holly said...


There are many things I know about God's nature because he's revealed some things in the Bible: God is just, loving, merciful, and eternal, for example. I also have personal experiences that reinforce that information about God.

There also are many things I don't yet know about God because he hasn't revealed everything about himself yet. I don't think the human mind could handle the enormity of such knowledge, and I know from the Bible that the human body isn't equipped to view the most holy God with our eyes.

Then again, I don't know everything about my husband. Or my closest friends. Or my parents and siblings. I get to know each of them better by spending time with them, talking together, and observing how they relate to me and others. We can get to know God better in this same manner.

As for your assertion that all religions are the same, or that they have the same goal, that's untrue. Compare Hindu and Christian beliefs on such things as the nature of God and the afterlife. Our beliefs are not only different--they're contradictory. We can't both be correct.

I agree with your statement, "... you could never escape from the guiltiness of common man's blood." It's true there's nothing I can personally do to make myself right and good before the most holy God. This points to the uniqueness of Christianity: We are guilty and we can't pay the fine, so Jesus steps in and pays it for us.

If you have specific questions about the difference between Hindu and Christian beliefs, please contact me.