I mailed in my absentee ballot today, and, as I hinted I would a few weeks ago, I bubbled in “no” for Proposition 8.
Yes or no I could find a Christian minister to support my vote. But on an issue like same-sex marriage, I don’t think it matters whether I believe God is bothered by homosexuality. Proposition 8 has to do with fundamental rights—limiting them, that is. Marriage, despite what we always hear, is not a religious convention. It is a cultural convention. And the words “sanctity of marriage,” to my mind, have more to do with tax breaks and hospital visitation than ordaining a relationship before God.
As an evangelical Christian—as someone who, uncomfortable as it is to sometimes say this, reads in the Bible that homosexuality is a “perversion”—I don’t believe it is the job of government to legislate based on religion. We’ve seen how that works out.
On this I strongly differ with an evangelical leader who I have much respect for: Rick Warren. In an e-mail last week to his congregation, Warren wrote:
“For 5,000 years, EVERY culture and EVERY religion—not just Christianity—has defined marriage as a contract between men and women,” Warren wrote. “There is no reason to change the universal, historical definition of marriage to appease 2% of our population. This is one issue that both Democrats and Republicans can agree on. Both Barack Obama and John McCain have publicly opposed the redefinition of marriage to include so-called ‘gay marriage.’ Even some gay leaders, like Al Rantel of KABC oppose watering down the definition of marriage.
“Of course, my longtime opposition is well known. This is not a political issue, it is a moral issue that God has spoken clearly about. There is no doubt where we should stand on this issue.”
Warren concluded: “This will be a close contest, maybe even decided by a few thousand votes. I urge you to VOTE YES on Proposition 8—to preserve the biblical definition of marriage. Don’t forget to vote!”
I’m always skeptical when people emphasize their argument by saying “there is no doubt.” Clearly, on this issue there is doubt, even among like-minded believers. Indeed, among Christians there’s debate regarding whether homosexuality is even, in fact, sin. (See: Episcopal Church.) My understanding of the Bible, courtesy of my evangelical tradition, says it is. But I wouldn’t call this an open-and-shut case. How then should we treat our brothers and sisters?
P.S. I discussed this yesterday with a friend and she had a very different take. Though nto sure how she would vote on Prop. 8, she thought I was foolish to think that allowing same-sex marriage would have no impact on practicing my own beliefs. She pointed to a number of cases in the United States where people refused services to gays or lesbians, citing religious beliefs, and lost (i.e. Doctors in California who referred a lesbian patient to another physician for in vitro fertilization).
“In fact, the court ruled that there can be no religious exemption for refusing services to any homosexual ever. So freedom of conscience/religion is out in California,” she said. “You may say that’s no skin off your evangelical back . . .but I think it’s naive.”
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