Thursday, June 17, 2010

A Good Argument for Separation of Church & State

I have said before that K works for a Methodist church.  They are not crazy right wing, but they are not exactly open and affirming of the gay people and their families either.  I can't speak for the people in the congregation, I met with the pastor and he is accepting or me and my situation.

When I attend services, I look around and I try to guess what the people there would think about me if they knew who I really was.  I wonder if they would vote no on gay marriage based on their religious beliefs.  Based on their personal interpretation of the Bible.  I have this recurring fantasy about being asked to preach to group on religions people about why it is wrong, and in fact dangerous for the religious people to force their beliefs on others through legislation. 

I would to get them to think about what it would be like to for them if someone forced their morality on them.  I do not know why the pro- gay marriage groups do not use this argument but I think it is a powerful one.  If anyone want to use it, feel free to pass on to anyone who you think could make a difference.

I am not sure how I how kick off the sermon, but my core message would be this:


Church and the government should be separate entities.  The reason is simple.  The government has the power to force people to do certain things, under the threat of punishment.  There any many different religions in the United States and which religious beliefs should the government follow?  The Jewish faith is the basis for Christianity so maybe we should use that.  There are a large number of Baptists, so maybe that is the way to go.  But there are a lot of Catholics too and lets not even think about the fastest growing religion on the planet, Islam

While you are thinking about that, let me set up a scenario and I would you to think about how that makes you feel.  More than half the marriages in the United States end in divorce.  I think most people of faith think that it is better if a couple can stay married for life, after all that is what marriage is for, lifelong partnerships.  As much as we do not like it, we know it happens and we generally offer the people involved in divorce our love and support.

Many of these divorced people eventually find someone else and often get married.  We are usually glad that our friends and family have again found happiness.  We support these new unions so much, that we perform the ceremonies in many churches across the county.  We rent halls and throw parties for the newly re-married couple.

However, this is not the case in all churches.  The Catholic church, for example will not perform a second marriage.  If you are involved in a second marriage, you may not receive communion and may be denied other sacraments.  You might even be denied burial in a Catholic cemetery when you die.  While this may sound cold an unfeeling, this church policy did not come from nowhere.  There is Biblical scripture to back up the churches position.

This passage from the Gospel of Matthew, in the New International Version is pretty clear on second marriages.

31"It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.'[y] 32But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.

Jesus seems to give a little wiggle room if there have been affairs on the divorce side, but the re-marriage part is clear.  Don't do it.

Now let's move into hypothetical.  The Catholic church is very active in trying to enact laws that ban gay marriage. What would happen if they decided instead to ban second marriages.  After all second marriages are against their interpretation of the Bible.

There are millions of Catholics in the in Unites States.  They are a powerful voting block. What is they successfully got a law passed, based on Biblical principles that the Federal Government would only recognize one marriage for any one person.  If you are divorced person, you must remain single for the remainder of your life.  If you do fall in love again, no matter how you feel about each other, officially you and your new love are not related.  

How many people in this room are sitting next to someone who is not their first spouse.  If you are still in your first marriage, you probably know someone who is in their second.  Maybe a friend or a family member.  How would these people be effected.

They are not regarded as a family.  Perhaps they could be fired from their jobs.    They would have to pay higher taxes and if one of them dies, they would not be able to receive for their partners social security benefits.  

When they get old and one of them is sick they may or may not be able to visit them in the hospital.  Your partner faces the real possibility of of dying alone.  Because you are married, doctors may not be able to talk to you about your partners condition.  If he or she die, you may not be allowed to claim the body for burial, since are not really family.  

These are some of the stresses that gay and lesbian Americans face every day.


I don't know how I would wrap this all up either, but again this is core message.

I wish those fighting to marriage equality would use this argument sometimes.


TwoLives said...

In my experience you can't win a logical argument when challenging someone's personal beliefs. The beliefs are an emotional attachment that words alone cannot change.

The public's growing acceptance of homosexuality and gay marriage is a direct result of more positive role models, especially celebrities. To my knowledge, most large churches have not altered their official positions one bit. Therefore, role models are trumping church dogma.

Ultimately conservative churches will fail completely. Gay marriage will be an accepted right in less than 20 years.

I liked your sermon!

Anonymous said...

I grew up in the Methodist tradition and can tell you that one of its strengths -- and one of its weaknesses -- is that there is a broad range of congregations in the denomination. You might find one Methodist church you would think was Unitarian. And then three miles down the road would be one that would gladly welcome Fred Phelps ("God Hates Fags") into the pulpit. But both are part of the United Methodist denomination.

What disturbed me most about the churches I attended -- and I assume this is true of all denominations -- was that there were many individuals who personally believed one thing but accepted that it was okay for the denomination to state another. They tolerated the church being more closed-minded than they were. They wanted the church to be more close-minded than they were so they could go on believing what they wanted but by their association with the church (rather than their own convictions) be reassured that they were still moral people. And it never occurs to them that this is hypocrisy.

Cubby said...

I loved your post as well as the comments above. I think we just have to accept that the change will come more slowly than we'd like. It isn't going to be overnight, but it will happen within a generation.

LivingFiction said...

I'm a Christian pastor and believe this 100% and teach it as well. In fact, I taught it at a Christian retreat once. Many agreed ... a few resented it. But I believe it is biblical. God does not "force" himself on us and allows us to freely choose to follow him or not. Why should his people then "force" others to follow him? Makes no sense!

Good post!

JSL said...

hi, ive been recommended your blog as our situations are vaguley similar...ive only just started readng it, but am really liking it..need to sit down and read it all now.