So many of us in the religious community watched the 2004 election with a sense of moral dread – for the first time the good people of the State of Michigan were being called upon to use the constitution of our state to exclude a whole group of people from their basic rights to equal protection under the law based solely upon a religious perception of what our Christian scriptures defined as marriage.
The Proposal 2 language stated an affirmation of a cultural norm: that marriage in Michigan would be defined as a union between a man and a woman and any relationship that did not conform to that union, blessed by the state, had no legal standing in our state.
As a Christian pastor, I certainly agreed with that statement. In my more than thirty five years as a pastor I have performed hundreds of weddings between persons that fit that definition and many of those relationships went on to flourish and become long term monogamous relationships between two people who developed into soul-mates. They discovered the deepest, richest, most other-fulfilling style of mutuality that God intends for marriage to be for all of us who choose the path of such relationships. However, many of those relationships never flourished; they never discovered the true depth and purpose which God intended for them. Indeed sociologists tell us that divorce is over 50 percent in our country, and for those who marry after first living together the divorce rate is 60 percent. The Bible teaches that if a man should marry a divorced woman, he commits adultery with her (Matthew 5.32).
I wonder when the religious right will develop a political proposal to deny marriage rights to those who have remarried? After all, “you shall not commit adultery” is the seventh commandment. If we are to be so passionate about preserving the sanctity of marriage, it seems to me that we need to preserve the whole institution of marriage, not just a certain portion of the scriptural mandate.
Or is it that we are using the issue of marriage as a thinly transparent veil to mask a more insidious agenda which is to deny equal rights to a segment of our population which we don’t happen to like but can’t openly challenge for fear of being called out for what we really are: homophobic bigots, afraid of people who are different than we are?
The good people of Michigan had one put over on them in this past election. They heard this alarmist language shouted from the roof tops: “We must protect the sacred estate of marriage.” I ask, from what? A 50 percent divorce rate? The terrible sin of adultery? The shattered homes that suffer from unmentioned verbal, and physical, spousal abuse? Unchecked pornography that destroys a man’s sense of God’s good gift of sexuality within the bounds of marriage? Instead of addressing the real issues that are threatening the sacredness of marriage, we have allowed ourselves to be duped into thinking that individuals who want to share their lives together in meaningful, monogamous relationships are somehow going to destroy a Christian concept of marriage!
I for one, am in favor of any model that teaches true love and faithfulness between two persons, and a genuineness of spiritual Presence which builds two persons into more than they could ever achieve on their own; in a country where marriage is already being destroyed by a national lifestyle that proclaims itself to be “Christian.”
Dr. Dennis Paulson
First United Methodist Church