Saturday, November 15, 2008

Rick Warren gets it wrong on Prop 8

I suppose this shouldn't be news. But since the writing of the unbearable "Purpose Driven Life", Warren has wiggled his way back into Benjamin's good books with his advocacy over some of the same social justice issues about which I am concerned.

However, he got it badly wrong on this one. And not just because he is promoting the patently unChristian agenda of further oppressing the already oppressed. Also because he is just ... plain old incorrect. He claims that every culture and every religion for five thousand years has supported the "definition of marriage" as being between one man and one woman.

This is seriously problematic on three fronts. First of all because it's too narrow. Christianity of course springs from Judaism, and all its roots are in Judaism, including many, if not most, of its heroes--guys like Abraham, Moses, David. Too many of Christianity's story's heroes were into one man, *many* women marriages.

Second of all because it's too broad. It was totally against the rules for Jews, back in the day, to marry non-Jews. And much more recently, some *very* large segment of Warren's recentish American Christian forefathers argued very strongly against the marriage of one "white" man and one "black" woman. Or even worse (gasp!) one "black" man and one "white" woman (as in, for instance, Barack Obama's parents, whose marriage would have been illegal in 16 U.S. states when Obama was born).

The worst problem of all, of course, with Warren's argument is: So what? What if it was true, and every culture and religion for all time had cherished and promoted a "definition" of marriage which involved one man and one women. Is this a strong argument for that definition? Hardly. Nearly every culture and religion of any consequence in recorded history has promoted warfare as the ... normal, or at least best-we-can-do -- way of life between humans. Kill rather than be killed, for sure. So is Warren advocating such a stance? Is Warren willing to adopt any and every stance that has been promoted or lived out by the vast majority of cultures and religions in recorded history? I seriously doubt it.

I mean it's just a silly argument on it's face. If all those cultures and religions are just wrong, then who cares if they all agreed? Warren is arguing "tradition" (culture) and "morality" (religion), which is exactly the same sort of argument used against "blacks" marrying "whites", and not that long ago in this nation.

Just as all those anti-miscegenation people turned out to be wrong, so will Warren, Dobson, and company. And just as interracial marriage didn't destroy the fabric of society, neither will gay and lesbian marriage. Warren will turn out to have been just as wrong as another big-time Christian leader, Martin Luther, was about Jews. At one level one wants to give him some leeway, and acknowledge that Warren, like the rest of us, can't escape his own time and culture beyond a certain extent. But on another level, I feel like howling with rage and sadness. Warren and his friends have contributed to a horrible wrenching of 18,000 couples in California--couples, many with families, who have only recently been married, who are still in that amazing first year of marriage where anything is possible and the joy and the beauty and the glory are all still so fresh. There is enough in our culture and in human nature warring against love and life and beauty and glory--to see those who should be promoting and engendering these things doing exactly the opposite is untenable. It reminds one of this passage from the Hebrew Scriptures:

Doom to you who call evil good
and good evil,
Who put darkness in place of light
and light in place of darkness,
Who substitute bitter for sweet
and sweet for bitter!

Doom to you who think you're so smart,
who hold such a high opinion of yourselves!
All you're good at is drinking—champion boozers
who collect trophies from drinking bouts
And then line your pockets with bribes from the guilty
while you violate the rights of the innocent.

Warren and company have become the very religious leaders Jesus spoke so devastatingly against--the "pharisees" whom they pretend to so look down on.

Jesus had something to say to such.
You're hopeless, you religion scholars and Pharisees! Frauds! You keep meticulous account books, tithing on every nickel and dime you get, but on the meat of God's Law, things like fairness and compassion and commitment—the absolute basics!—you carelessly take it or leave it. Careful bookkeeping is commendable, but the basics are required. Do you have any idea how silly you look, writing a life story that's wrong from start to finish, nitpicking over commas and semicolons?


Benjamin Ady said...

how does one know anything - y'all are so convinced you're right, but there are so many ways to look at any one thing, and I wonder... how much of our well thought out opinions are actually just conformity?
love megs

Eliza said...

Great post, Benj!

Isn't Jesus's only comment on marriage in the Bible (actual earthly marriages, not parable of bridesgroom etc) that remarriage after divorce is adultery & thus a sin? (Unless the first wife is unfaithful or leaves, I think.) Seems like quite an oversight that this warning hasn't ended up in the constitution of any state, as those documents are amended to define marriage.

IMO questions to ask are: what's your definition of marriage, & what's the purpose of marriage? Saying "marriage is between one man and one woman" doesn't define it, it describes the current legal status & the way some people want to keep it. Saying "marriage is for procreation, to build families" doesn't work either, because not every opposite-sex marriage results in children (for a variety of reasons, some of which would have been apparent before the marriage license was issued) and because "building families" can be done by same-sex couples (with a little help, from adoption or sperm donors or surrogate mothers). I haven't heard a reasonable definition yet that couldn't readily apply to same-sex couples...

stephy said...

I love the last bit especially. I'm inspired to use it in my latest Christian culture post - may I repost?

Mike Edwards said...

It simply isn't true that God wholesale forbade the marrying of someone not Jewish.

Benjamin Ady said...


I guess my whole argument just falls apart, then.


Mike Edwards said...


I didn't say that your whole argument fell apart..did I?

Benjamin Ady said...


No you didn't. I'm sorry!

Anonymous said...

I would say that beyond trying to dissect scripture you examine history. NO culture that has normalized and accepted same sex relationships has survived very long. Most established religions (as opposed to home grown indivudualistic mishmashes) have sanctions against certain kinds of sexual behavior. You have to ask yourself why this might be so.

stephy said...

Which cultures that normalized and accepted same-sex relationships haven't lasted very long?