It was certainly a relief when Rick Santorums quiet exit from the presidential campaign seemed to quiet the debate on contraception (one that very few of us were interested in having to begin with.) Now, I thought, we can turn our attention away from hopelessly divisive and ultimately pointless discussions like that one and concentrate on more practical, down-to-earth issues that affect every American on a daily basis. Issues like ... gay marriage? Oh boy, here we go again.
The president announced that his evolving opinion on gay marriage had finally evolved into something that could be put into the form of a declarative sentence: hes in favor of it. I dont think anyone was shocked to learn that an extremely left-leaning politician has that view on the issue. The speculation mainly centers on why he chose to announce it now.
Although Obama stated that this wasnt a political move, you can bet that his bean counters ran the electoral math through their calculators and decided this wouldnt cost him the election. Well have to see how good their math was come November.
In the meantime, we get to enjoy more blather on both sides of an issue about which most people have already made up their minds and probably dont care much about anyway. Heres my contribution to the blather.
The thing that makes this complicated is that even though marriage is a civil contract between two people that is recognized by the state, it is also an institution that has a great deal of religious significance for many of us. Many Americans believe that marriage was instituted by God as a covenant between one man and one woman, and to mess with that is to trifle with one of the basic pillars of civilization.
When pressed for proof of that belief you might be directed to check the Bible, where (surely) it plainly states that God only blesses a traditional one man/one woman sort of a marriage. But if you actually crack open the Bible, you find that its a bit more complicated than that.
Polygamy, for example, is very common throughout the Old Testament and is never condemned as a sin. Abraham, Jacob, Moses, David and Solomon are just a few of the biblical luminaries who had more than one wife and were never chastised for it (although Solomon was led astray from the true faith thanks to the influence of his 700 wives and 300 concubines, proving that there is always a hazard in getting too much of a good thing.) It seems like an argument could be made that a biblical view of marriage is that it should be between one man and as many women as that man can afford to keep up with.
Also, the Bible does not condone just any man and any woman getting married -- Jews are very strictly prohibited from marrying gentiles. That point is made very strongly in many places in scripture, yet Jewish people are legally allowed to marry non-Jews in every state of our union.
So Im not sure we can claim that our marriage laws are strictly based on the Bible. It might be accurate, though, to say that the law has been greatly influenced by modern Christian morality, and for a very long time most Christians have believed that God only blesses unions between one man and one woman.
I think it might also be fair to say that the influence that traditional Christian morality has on our secular laws has been waning for some time, and I think that trend is likely to continue. So I would not be at all surprised if I live to see gay marriage become legal throughout the land in my lifetime.
But for now, please enjoy the blather.
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Centerville. Readers can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his blog at nscsense.blogspot.com.