The Sky Is Not Falling
Wow. I said it. I’ve seen the squabbling and the outrage and the friendships breaking… and it has me concerned. This week, the Supreme Court of the United States has officially reinterpreted the 14th Amendment to include preventing the states from “discriminating” against same sex couples in issuing marriage licenses. Unsurprisingly, social media exploded. Some rejoiced, others snarled and a whole host of others wondered what the hell was going on.
Honestly, I don’t care that much that Supreme Court did what it has done. It’s one of those things that, if you didn’t see it coming a mile away, I would be wondering how much political observing you had actually been doing. Admittedly, it’s a bit of a stretch that they are claiming that the states were discriminating against gay couples on the basis of gender by not issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples and it is a massive Federal overreach to have 9 people invalidate the will of 50 million American citizens and some 20 states… but that’s besides the point now. If anything, I place the blame for this on the American political right. By refusing to deal with this issue, the right has given opportunity to the activists to use the courts to push even more power into the lap of the Federal government and, by necessity, has done so with no nuance and no protections for opposing opinions. Had congress dealt with this before the court got involved, there could have been a law passed allowing the states to issues marriage licenses to same sex couples while protecting various people for the sake of their religious consciences. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court decision is going to have a domino effect. The next church to deny hosting a wedding to a couple on the basis of the orientation of the couple WILL be subject to lawsuit for violating the 14th Amendment rights of the couple involved… guaranteed. When that happens, the government will officially have to confront whether or not the 1st Amendment (specifically the freedom of speech and religion) is actually still applicable to modern American society. It doesn’t matter “so much” what the specific action of the Supreme Court was in this case, but as in so many things, the difficulty is what this decision will allow the Government to do in the future.
Am I worried about the US government permitting same sex marriages? Not in the slightest. Am I worried about how the fallout is going to affect religious liberty? Absolutely. As the government continues to mulitply agencies, regulatory bodies and interpreting or reinterpreting the Constitution, it should become obvious that the Federal government is creating more and more ways to create law apart from Congressional authority or Congressional initiative. As the interpretations of the Constitution become more and more convoluted and jigsawed, it creates a fluidity that the Constitution was never meant to have. Suddenly the same body that reinterprets the 14th Amendment to say things that it doesn’t actually specify can apply an ultra-strict interpretation to the 1st Amendment to allow any number of non-congressional bodies to apply any sort of non-democratic regulations to restrict the freedom of religion, speech, assembly, and the press. Oh, the many wonders of a “living document”.
Now, does this mean that I’ve forsaken my religion and think the issue is irrelevant? Absolutely not. I would like to point out that the arguments being made (on both sides) are atrocious and largely miss the point. Yes, the Bible is very clear that homosexual lifestyles are immoral — and that is a consistent message across the entirety of scripture. The Bible is also incredibly clear that gluttony, greed, and idolatry are immoral… as are premarital and extramarital sex. Not only are all legal in the United States, but even positively encouraged by pop-culture. As a very wise man once told me:
The holy writings of the United States are not religious texts, but the Constitution, The Federalist Papers, and precedents recorded through the courts. If you are going to argue political policy concerning the United States, the Bible holds infinitely less sway than the works of John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, James Madison, and other political philosophers and policy makers. — Jonathan Barclay
There are a multitude of arguments to be made, whether they be cultural, political or economic, as to the importance of the integrity of the family unit. There is much to be made of how demonstrating a healthy cross-gender relationship is important to the formative years of a child and how that can dramatically alter their path later in life. If there is a single method guaranteed to make you sound like little more than a booming cannon, it’s to pull out a couple scriptures and claim that people who don’t have a single ounce of faith need to give heed to that which they give no more authoritative respect than they do Lord of the Rings. I appreciate the theological arguments and with how many Christians seem to have walked away from that doctrine, I do see the importance of having those arguments and being able to make them competently. However, theological arguments made to the theologically un-inclined is more than poor tactics… it is inherently feeble-minded. The only analogy that seems even semi-appropriate is trying to break concrete with a crowbar.
I find myself faced with some amount of difficulty in diagnosing my feelings towards the specific decision the Supreme Court has made. On the one hand, I’m relieved that the issue has finally been dealt with. I have qualms with the minutiae of the mechanic, but the issue has been addressed. On the other hand, I really dislike the power that SCOTUS has seized for itself as it relates to both religious liberty and States’ Rights — particularly as it sets the stage for a showdown over the entirety of the 1st Amendment. So it appears that the issue hasn’t been “addressed” as much as it has been “punted”. Ultimately, the Supreme Court has reinterpreted the 14th Amendment at the behest of 3% of the population and may decide boundaries on the constitutional rights of the 50-65% of Americans who thinks that homosexual couples shouldn’t be viewed the same as married adults… and that is concerning to me.
The other side to this coin is the that of the economics. Number 1, I can guarantee you that the people who are the most happy about this are divorce lawyers… the window has just been thrown wide on a previously untapped market. Number 2, as marriage licenses roll out, there will be more couples filing taxes jointly as “married” individuals and this will have a fiscal consequence on the government — either those taxes need to be made up somewhere or the government needs to reduce spending. Given the current culture in Washington, take a wild guess which will happen. And again, the blame for this, in my opinion, lies with congress. But even more importantly, the blame lies with the “God ‘n Country Evangelicals”. With no clear understanding of politics, subtlety or strategy, Evangelicals have been attempting to fight the social wars in which their opinions are incredibly unpopular by declaring that they will only vote for people who publicly endorse those same opinions. How many people like Todd Akin (R-MO) have had campaigns felled because they put their foot in their mouth trying to defend a position they advocated merely to appeal to the voter base? And so the cycle continues: candidate advocates a position to appeal to the base, candidate gets pushed by the press, candidate implodes, opposition wins. At this point, I wish so many of my friends on the right would cut the outrage and realize that this current scenario is an opportunity to step back, lick some wounds, and figure out how to actually “politic”. There is so much that can be done that most people would be able to get behind, but playing to the “uptight, angry bigot” stereotype is simply not the way to get there.