G. K. Chesterton used to say that the idea of “original sin” was “a fact as practical as potatoes” and “the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved.”
As the nation-at-large wrestles with monumental problems, there are many who advocate strategies that rely on what is often referred to liberally as “the essential goodness of people.” The idea being that given a fair choice and level playing field people will generally do the right thing.
As Dr. Phil might ask: “How’s that working for you?”
I certainly believe people can rise up and do good things following what President Barack Obama, quoting Abraham Lincoln, is fond of calling our “better angels.” But the truth is that the default position of human behavior actually falls short of the ideal. Various forms of theology explain this propensity in terms of “original sin” or “total depravity” – that we are wired with a spiritual-genetic flaw.
In other words, the very suggestion of the existence of “better angels” in our nature implies other “less-than-better angels” – putting it mildly; or maybe “fallen angels.” The mention of better begs the question: “Better than what?”
Some people will dismiss this kind of thinking as puritanical. But it’s sort of like a paraphrase of that old Marxist line (Groucho, not Karl): Are you going to believe them or your own two eyes? Empirical evidence abounds that people tend to follow paths of least resistance and worse.
We are in this mess now because many people either made unwise choices (rejecting personal responsibility or deferred gratification), or they were manipulated and deceived by predators. Others on a certain street in lower Manhattan exploited everything. All of this while Barney Frank kept an eye on things. Clearly, any angels in attendance weren’t of the “better” variety.
People harm and take advantage of others because it is part of human nature. People pollute the planet because it is part of human nature. People lie, cheat, steal, and commit adultery, because humans (all of us) are sinners. And sometimes a toxic storm is at work in a life and monsters emerge to do despicable things. We are tempted to call them insane, and maybe they are by some psychological standard, but they are also very depraved.
All sins great and small flow from the same polluted human nature stream, whether they are grave and life destroying in our eyes or relatively excusable in today’s “I-did-it-because-I-am-a-victim” world. The lack of integrity that leads some to break a vital covenant and others to commit abhorrent crimes are connected to the same ugly ancestral disorder.
For example, we are witnessing a surge in bank foreclosures and people are losing homes. What is being little noticed though, is that while it is true some have lost jobs and can’t pay, there are cases where some who really could pay have stopped making payments and are deciding to walk away unless the government makes it easier for them. The home is now “less attractive” than it once was as an investment. Some are walking away only because they are upside down – not because they really can’t pay.
Stay tuned taxpayers. Keep your eyes on the funds and mechanisms as they become available to help people catch up on, or renegotiate, mortgages. I predict that some people will still simply choose to walk away, in spite of help available, because their homes just won’t be worth it in their eyes. In many cases, it may be more about the value of a home than the ability to pay.
Won’t it be interesting if money to help some people “stay in their homes” winds up going unused because, when it comes right down to it, they don’t really want to stay after all? Is being behind on payments the big problem (certainly it is for some), or is being upside down the big deal? There is a difference between catching up and getting out from under.
Upside down may be becoming an excuse to move from inside out.
In many places there is a scenario called “buy and bail.” This is where someone buys a new – cheaper – home, while still in the original dwelling. Then once the deal is done – they walk away from the first, more expensive home. Admittedly, this practice is not widespread now, largely because some states have cracked down on it.
What we do know is this, when homes go empty for whatever reason it hurts everyone who is trying to really play by the rules and keep their word. Upside down/walk away homes on an already depressed market contribute to the downward spiral of home values and prices – damaging those who believe that when they signed the mortgage they made not only a financial commitment, but a moral one as well.
If liberal-bail-out-advocates really believe in the “greater good” and “spreading the wealth,” they might want to consider that the wealth they want to redistribute is actually disappearing because of the “help” they are providing. People who made bad choices in the first place are being encouraged to continue doing things that hurt everyone. How is this about the greater good?
While we are trying to figure all this out, we meet a lady named Nadya Suleman. She recently gave birth to eight children. She’s been all over the news and now we hear she is looking at a new million-dollar-plus-pad for her growing family. I haven’t figured out whether she is a caricature or a metaphor. Maybe she’s both.
Of course, the Suleman story is objectionable and infuriating to us on so many levels because she clearly seems to be deranged. Or maybe she is just depraved. Maybe she is a manipulative, scheming, deceiver, who is thinking only of self. I am not trying to bash the lady – that line is really too long.
After all, if OctoMom, as she has been dubbed, is indeed trying to “work the system” with the mother of all scams (literally), is she really all that different from many others right now? I’m talking about those who are already slowing down on the personal responsibility side of things because we have a cool new government in place ready to stimulate all of us. Nadya Suleman may be more like the not-too-distant future of America than we might care or dare to admit.
Here’s where “original sin” comes in. Like it or not, we all bear a moral-DNA similarity to OctoMom, in the sense that we have this natural propensity to be selfish and deceitful. It is only as this part of us is restrained (by law, fear, inspiration, or love) or transformed (by grace – or, if you prefer, “a higher power”), that we can function in any effective social-contract sense.
Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky said, “If there is no God, everything is permissible.”
There is a lot of talk these days about America becoming socialist and more like Europe. What needs to be noticed is that these trends not only have to do with the size and role of government, but also speak about a culture moving toward dominant secularism and sterile religion.
I ate at a restaurant the other day in Manhattan. It was in a beautiful building that had once been a thriving church. It was a church; now it is an eatery. Then I thought about how so many of the churches in Europe function basically as museums, if at all. Is this where we are headed?
One of the basic differences between socialism and capitalism as they manifest themselves in social, cultural, political, and even religious senses, is that the former believes in the essential goodness of humanity. On the other hand, capitalism tends to be more realistic about basic human nature and works to channel that “self-interest” in ways that can lead to something better for everyone.
Of course, human nature is at fault in runaway capitalism and the excesses of a few can be detrimental to many. This is why very few conservatives these days advocate a radical form of laissez-faire capitalism. Human nature will take advantage and there have to be times of balance, judgment, adjustment, and reckoning.
Somebody does have to watch the store. But the store should be privately owned.
The thing Americans need to be thinking through these days is, however, what system has a better overall record? Is it really better in France, Sweden, or Denmark than America today? Do we really want to admire nations where people surrender significantly more than half of what they earn to a government in exchange for state-run services that are chronically insufficient, incompetent, and impersonal?
If so, then we need to be fair and concede that, as Pogo might have put it, we have met Nadya Suleman and she is our future.
OK — the Co-operative Group has a long, distinguished, and principled history since its founding in 1863. Sure — it’s green and enlightened. No doubt — it can see you sustainably through from cradle to grave.
But it is now complicit in an indignity of almost unimaginable proportions — in which it will be aided and abetted by the most unlikely co-conspirator.
The bad news is reported in today’s Daily Telegraph. Read it and weep:
In a commercial tie-up that might shock Dylan fans almost as much as his famous switch from acoustic to electric, he has agreed the use of the track in a new ad for the Co-operative Group.
The ad campaign is the culmination of a two-year rebranding exercise by the group, which runs funeral, travel and legal services as well as a chain of supermarkets.
It is the first time Dylan has allowed one of his recordings to be used for an advert in the UK.
The philosophical questions the 1960s protest anthem poses about war, peace and freedom and the fuzzy, vaguely optimistic refrain it gives in response – “the answer is blowin’ in the wind” – made it a favourite of civil rights and anti-Vietnam war protests in the 1960s and 70s.
Blowin’ In The Wind was originally released in 1963 on the album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, and Rolling Stone magazine put it 14th on its list of the 500 greatest songs of all time.
The Co-op runs its business according to ethical guidelines on environmental impact, fair trade and social responsibility, and a spokesman for Dylan’s record label, Columbia, said this influenced his decision to approve the use of the song.
As of today, 28 January 2009, we have the answer to the age old question: Is nothing sacred?
The answer is: No.
Now is the time for your tears.
Fox News’ Vatican correspondent Father Jonathan Morris sets the record straight on the Pope’ intent when lifting the excommunication on the Society of Pope Pius X:
By lifting the censure of ex-communication of their four bishops (ordained without Vatican approval in 1988), Pope Benedict is removing a legal–”canonical”–barrier for the bishops and their followers to return eventually to the fold, if they choose.
An essential condition for “rehabilitation” completely missed by the media.
But an invitation of this kind always comes with a condition: believe and obey what the Catholic Church authoritatively teaches on faith and morals, in conformity with the Gospel. This body of Church teaching would include the recognition of the Second Vatican Council (Vatican II) that officially and famously condemned all forms of anti-Semitism.
The media missed completely this essential condition for “rehabilitation”.
The result has been a firestorm of confused public opinion and righteous indignation over what was communicated by most news sources as a papal blessing on an unrepentant anti-Semite.
If there was any doubt what the Vatican thinks about the schismatic Bishop Williamson’s claim that only a few hundred thousand Jews were killed by Hitler and that there were no gas chambers in Auschwitz, the Vatican official in charge of inter-religious dialogue, Cardinal Walter Kasper, cleared it up (why was he so rarely quoted?):
“They are unacceptable words, stupid words. To deny the Holocaust is stupid and it is a position that has nothing to do with the Catholic Church”.
And since the story continues to be told either poorly or dishonestly, in bits and pieces, with fits of fury by one not-so-expert, expert after another, the Vatican published today an editorial in its official newspaper saying Pope Benedict XVI deplores all forms of anti-Semitism and that all Roman Catholics must do the same.
In my opinion, Pope Benedict XVI knew the public relations mess he was about to make, but believed the possibility of estranged members of the Catholic Church leaving the world of schism (and the conspiracy theories that often thrive in it) and coming back to the fold, would be more important for both Catholics and Jews long-term, than the unfortunate short-term affects of predictable media misinformation.
For the record, as things stand now, and until the leaders of the schismatic Society of St. Pius X accept the Pope’s invitation to come back home–with this invitation’s monstrous condition attached–this group remains illegitimate (not sanctioned by the Catholic Church), its bishops (including Bishop Williamson) remain suspended and the services carried out in its chapels are considered illicit.
Now that’s not exactly the story you heard most places, right?
Did Pastor Rick pray for you? Read more here.
To all of my friends and colleagues at TNN – I want to wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas with a thought or two about the sounds of the season.
What’s your favorite Christmas song? That’s a very subjective question. Some like to hear about “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” – others love to think about bells “jingling.” Yet, others tear up (with good reason) thinking about a “Holy Night” so long ago. They may even want to fall on their knees.
I think, though, that the greatest Christmas song ever written is one with no familiar music. The tune is no longer available to us. But, the lyrics – ah, those lyrics – well – they’re inspired!
When Paul was writing to Pastor Timothy about everything from order in the church to the dangers of greed, he gave us an easily overlooked Christmas nugget that endures. In his first letter to his young protégé, he slips in a profound Christmas song, sandwiched between practical admonitions.
It may be not be a toe tapper like “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” – but it completely captures the essence of Christmas. That essence is incarnation.
We are not told the “style” of music – nor are we told the instrument or instruments used to express it (if any). We are just given the WORDS. They are inspired words – and they have endured. They are ancient words – yet ever new.
So – this season let us reach back for one of the forgotten “oldies” – a first century worship favorite. They likely sang it in places like Ephesus, Thyatira, and Philippi. You can make up your own music – but don’t mess with the words. They are an enduring Christmas gift.
And – one…two…three…
“He appeared in a body,
Was vindicated by the Spirit,
Was seen by angels,
Was preached among the nations,
Was believed on in the world,
Was taken up in glory.”
– I Timothy 3:16 (NIV)
Have a Blessed day!
Evening star last night over St. John Chrysostom Episcopal Church in Rancho Santa Margarita, California
And in the same spirit but on a different note, here’s a video from the new album Songs in the Key of Hanukkah,created and produced by Erran Baron Cohen. (Yes, he is his brother.)
Mr. Baron Cohen says: ”Songs In The Key Of Hanukkah is a record that takes Hanukkah music to a place it’s never been before. It’s a musical voyage that bears repeated listening both for adults and kids who will love to hear the re-workings of the songs they already know as well as the new, original tracks. Hanukkah has always been a kid-focused holiday so the challenge was how to transform the music so that it was cool and interesting for adults and yet something that the whole family could enjoy.”
The record is indeed a collection of songs that brings the ancient music of Hanukkah kicking and screaming straight into the 21st Century. Recorded in London, Berlin and Tel Aviv, the songs combine klezmer, reggae, electronica, hip hop, tango, pop and other genres, all fluently woven into something uniquely Baron Cohen’s. The album contains five reinterpretations of classic favorites as well as five original tunes created exclusively for this project, all sung in English, Hebrew or Ladino (Judaeo-Spanish). They are performed by some world-class Jewish singers, including Israeli superstar Idan Raichel, world-music diva Yasmin Levy and New York City-based rapper Y-Love (who actually rhymes in Yiddish!) to name but a few.
Britain’s Prime Minister goes toe to toe with Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, over the economy – particularly Brown’s stimulus package. The archbishop likens it to “an addict returning to the drug.” Read all about it in the Times Online.
…wasn’t about God, at least in ‘08.
Chuck Colson deemed unforgivable.
Jonathan Movroydis includes a bailout piece by P. J. O’Rourke in today’s list of “Featured Articles.”
There’s another recent article by the irrepressible P.J., that appeared in the September/October issue of Search magazine, about his reactions and feelings after experiencing that dreaded moment when the diagnosis is: Cancer.
He leads with the good news that his is of a very treatable kind:
I’m told I have a 95 percent chance of survival. Come to think of it—as a drinking, smoking, saturated-fat-hound of a reporter—my chance of survival has been improved by cancer.
In characteristic mode, he finds some humor in the notion that the site of a disease can add insult to injury:
I have, of all the inglorious things, a malignant hemorrhoid. What color bracelet does one wear for that? And where does one wear it? And what slogan is apropos? Perhaps that slogan can be sewn in needlepoint around the ruffle on a cover for my embarrassing little doughnut buttocks pillow.
Furthermore, I am a logical, sensible, pragmatic Republican, and my diagnosis came just weeks after Teddy Kennedy’s. That he should have cancer of the brain, and I should have cancer of the ass … Well, I’ll say a rosary for him and hope he has a laugh at me. After all, what would I do, ask God for a more dignified cancer? Pancreas? Liver? Lung?
It is, of course, no laughing matter, and he quickly moves on to some profound and moving reflections that end up, typically, being both informative and humorous.
Then there’s the matter of our debt to death for life as we know it. I believe in God. I also believe in evolution. If death weren’t around to “finalize” the Darwinian process, we’d all still be amoebas. We’d eat by surrounding pizzas with our belly flab, and have sex by lying on railroad tracks waiting for a train to split us into significant others.
I consider evolution to be more than a scientific theory. I think it’s a call to God. God created a free universe. He could have created any kind of universe He wanted. But a universe without freedom would have been static and meaningless—the taxpayer-funded-art-in-public-places universe.
Rather, God created a universe full of cosmic whatchmajiggers and sub-atomic whosits free to interact. And interact they did, becoming matter and organic matter and organic matter that replicated itself and life. And that life was completely free, as amoral as my cancer cells.
Life forms could exercise freedom to an idiotic extent, growing uncontrolled, thoughtless and greedy to the point that they killed the source of their own fool existence. But, with the help of death, matter began to learn right from wrong—how to save itself and its ilk, how to nurture, how to love (or, anyway, how to build a Facebook page), and how to know God and His rules.
Death is so important that God visited death on His own Son, thereby helping us learn right from wrong well enough that we may escape death forever and live eternally in God’s grace. (Although this option is not usually open to reporters.)
I’m not promising that the Pope will back me up about all of the above. But it’s the best I can do by my poor lights about the subject of mortality and free will. Thus, the next time I glimpse death … Well, I’m not going over and introducing myself. I’m not giving the grim reaper fist daps. But I’ll remind myself to try, at least, to thank God for death. And then I’ll thank God, with all my heart, for whiskey.
Reflections on the issue of women in the Church, which seems to lurk behind the far-more-widely-discussed issue of gays and lesbians in the church.
Washington, D.C.’s pastors are wondering who will get the bailout.
A brief note on the latest split in Christ’s weeping church.
News comes this morning of the deaths in a house of God of Rabbi Gavriel Noach Holtzberg and his wife, Rivka, and three other innocents at the hands of the Mumbai terrorists. Gavriel and Rivka ran Mumbai’s Chabad House, part of the worldwide Chabad-Lubavitch movement. Their two-year-old son Moshe and his nanny had escaped earlier in the siege.
TNN’s deepest condolences to our Yorba Linda neighbors the North County Chabad Center.
Ever hear of Gershom Mendes Seixas? Well, he might just be the forgotten hero of Thanksgiving.
Our national Thanksgiving narrative is rich with stories about proclamations, gatherings, meals, traditions, football, and of course, the obligatory pardoning of a turkey by the president of these United States. School children rehearse that day long ago when the Plymouth pilgrims broke bread. We note things Lincoln said (he’s all the rage these days). And doubtless you have heard about what our first president, George Washington, declared while proclaiming the first “official” national day of Thanksgiving in 1789:
I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
We hear much these days about our “Judeo-Christian” heritage and its early and enduring influence on our culture. A look back at the founding era of our nation reminds us, however, that only about 2,500 Jews actually lived in the colonies in 1776. Usually those of us who speak of that early dual influence are referring to the Christian Bible with its Jewish roots.
But pointing this out is not to say that Jews were not active and represented during the colonial and founding periods, quite the contrary – there are some fascinating and often overlooked stories.
Gershom Mendes Seixas is a case in point. He was “American Judaism’s first public figure.” In 1768, he was appointed hazzan of Congregation Shearith Israel in New York – the only synagogue serving the city’s approximately 300 residents. He was only 23 years old at the time and largely self-taught in the Talmud with much help from his devout father, though never actually an “official” rabbi. In fact, it would be several decades before a rabbi was ordained in America.
Seixas was the first Jewish preacher to use the English language in his homilies. He was a gifted teacher and tireless worker. And when it came to the American Revolution, he was a patriot – as demonstrated by his actions while the colonies were struggling to actually realize the independence that had been recently proclaimed.
His synagogue, like the much of the greater public, was somewhat divided on the issue of independence. But Seixas used all of his persuasive skills to convince his congregation that they should cease operations in advance of the approaching British occupation of the city, during the early days of the conflict.
He fled to his wife’s family home in Connecticut, carrying various books and scrolls precious to the synagogue for safekeeping. In 1780, he accepted the leadership role at a synagogue in Philadelphia, where he became an outspoken cultural voice regularly calling on God to watch over General Washington and the great cause.
When the war ended, he was invited back to resume his work with Congregation Shearith Israel in New York. He returned with the books and scrolls to serve from 1784 until his death 32 years later.
When George Washington was inaugurated as the first president of the United States on April 30, 1789, Seixas was asked to participate as one of the presiding clergyman. This was certainly an act of gratitude by Washington for the preacher’s stalwart support during the war. It was also, though, an expression of Washington’s thinking about the importance of religious freedom and diversity in the new nation.
Later that year, as the nation set aside Thursday, the 26th of November, the date so designated by the president for Thanksgiving, Seixas preached a sermon to his New York congregation.
His Thanksgiving Day message was based on a text from the Psalms where it talked about how King David had “made a joyful noise unto the Lord.” Seixas told his listeners that they had much to rejoice about – the new nation, its president, and above all, the new constitution.”
Warming to his theme, he reminded them that they were “equal partakers of every benefit that results from this good government,” and therefore should be good citizens in full support of the government. Beyond that, they were encouraged to conduct themselves as “living evidences of his divine power and unity.” He further admonished them “to live as Jews ought to do in brotherhood and amity, to seek peace and pursue it.”
In my opinion, Gershom Mendes Seixas’ sermon is every bit as relevant to all of us 219 years later.
Reflections on church schisms and the Resurrection.
Marcia Segelstein, writing at OneNewsNow in Tupelo, Mississippi:
No wonder the Episcopal Church is in trouble. Dioceses continue to make the difficult but principled decision to leave the US Episcopal Church, setting themselves up for protracted and expensive legal battles. Meanwhile, Episcopal leaders just don’t get it.
The Bishop of Los Angeles, Jon Bruno, called Proposition 8 “a lamentable expression of fear-based discrimination that attempts to deny the constitutional rights of some Californians on the basis of sexual orientation.”
Other California bishops said the vote to uphold traditional marriage demonstrated a “fear of human sexuality,” and that Californians were driven by “fear, prejudice and injustice.”
As David Virtue writes on his website… “These bishops don’t give enough credit to the distinctions Americans can and are able to make. Americans can reject racism and vote for a black president and at the same time uphold Christian standards for marriage…What Californians said was ‘no’ to gay marriage which they said is not marriage at all, either in God’s eyes or the state’s.”
Self-styled Christian traditionalists are prone to criticize the mainline denominations for toadying to people’s cultural and political whims. They proclaim that the gospel should stand as a rock against fickle fashion. Yet here Virtue invests the electorate with powers of keen discernment, rejecting racism while hewing thoughtfully to traditional marriage.
But how stood those wise voters with racism in 1860? And in Mississippi, for instance, in 1954? In each era, some in the church were opposing slavery and Jim Crow — some, but not all. A question for today’s witnesses is how our views, statements, and actions vis a vis our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters will be viewed in 50 years.
Protesters may be hoping to influence the courts that will rule on lawsuits claiming that Prop. 8, which amends the constitution to ban gay marriage, is invalid. President Nixon used to say that judges read the papers and feel the political heat just like ordinary people, so we shall see. (He also predicted we’d have gay marriage by 2000.)
Opponents of gay marriage, including the President-elect, often say that they support civil union and domestic partnership laws instead. This primer shows how these expedients aim for but don’t match the sturdiness of the marriage contract. One can understand the frustration of those who object to society making that contract not impossible for them to get — just considerably more complicated and expensive. What is the point of giving a couple 60%, or 75%, or whatever percentage of a thing but then withholding the last bit on the basis of some immutable principle, especially when we’ve already ceded the principle by establishing civil unions in some states, including California?
The explanation for a paradox is usually in the heart, wrapped in people’s ideals and fears as well their foundational experiences. The mom-dad paradigm, dominant since the beginning of time, is at the root of most people’s definition of family. Pin me to the wall, and I’ll say it’s best for a child to have a mom and dad. The irony is that my father was almost never around, and my mother had to go back to work when I was three weeks old. I might have done better with two attentive moms or two dads. As it was, I went searching for replacement dads, not extra moms (though some men do that when they choose their wives). I needed a father in my life — because of my conception of the godhead, because I was male, or for some other reason.
Everyone else has their own set of experiences, beliefs, and sometimes pathologies. On Nov. 4, it added up to 52% of Californians being against same-gender marriage. You can blame it on funding from the Mormons if you like, but my guess is that relatively few voters needed help making up their minds. These were votes that came from the gut.
As for mine, I tried to think about being deprived of the right to marry the person I loved because I’d been born gay. Besides, as ex-Nixon speechwriter William Safire wrote several years ago, the gays are bound to do better with marriage than the straights. We may yet get back to the ideal of the traditional family, but in the meantime — and it will be a long time — men and women who beget children, both mindfully and not, will need significant help from nontraditional families to raise them.
In the end, I voted against Prop. 8, especially for the sake of the gay and lesbian people I care about, including mentors and partners in Christian ministry. I did so without being eager for the ban to fail. “Marriage” is a culturally defined term, and the best way a free people has to define their terms is at the ballot box. If the Holy Spirit was moving across the surface of the deep on this issue, I didn’t want my vote to be the one standing in her way. But as I voted, my heart and head were still tugging at one another.
Now that the measure has passed, gay and lesbian people are heartbroken and angry. Comparing their cause to civil rights for African-Americans and Hispanics, they criticize blacks for voting in favor of Prop. 8. It’s a harsh political reality that people’s visceral feelings about homosexuality run deeper than culturally and economically conditioned biases against ethnic groups. Instead of blaming those who voted yes, marriage equity advocates might look for new political and social partners. Those who oppose abortion also feel marginalized and unheard, not only by the majority of voters but the MSM, which at least is giving the anti-Prop. 8 demonstrators a fair hearing. Gay people and the unborn and their advocates — the last second-class citizens — may have the makings of an effective coalition.
As for how marriage is ultimately defined by secular society, my guess is that gay and lesbian people will soon be granted that last 40% or 25% of a durable legal contract. At that point, the debate will shift back to where the really difficult work is being done — the church and other faith communities.
Reformation scholars will tell you that the early Protestants didn’t think the church had any business solemnizing legal contracts between men and women or anyone else. The deed was done on the church steps, after which the couple came inside for the main event — the church’s mediation of God’s blessing, which God had envisioned for the couple at the beginning of all things. The church understands that the two people were meant for each other in the mind of God. In the marriage rites contained in the Episcopal Church’s Book of Common Prayer, the emphasis is not on the marriage itself, which the priest or bishop does as an agent of the state, but on God’s preexisting blessing.
That’s why the divisive debate in the Episcopal Church is over whether same-sex unions should be blessed. That debate won’t be any easier for churches, dioceses, or provinces just because polities decide to give all people access to the same durable legal contract.
For unchurched Californians, overturning Prop. 8, should that happen, will be the end of the drama. For the faithful, more scenes have yet to be played out, and on their stage, legislation, demonstrations, and court cases aren’t as helpful. The church won’t be of one mind on the subject until the preponderance of those in the pews have the epiphany experience of looking across the aisle at Fred and Ed or Alice and Grace (or perhaps across the table at the family Thanksgiving feast) and saying to themselves, “You know, I’m not wild about this whole gay marriage thing, but those two were meant to be together.” For the faithful, meant-to-be is in the mind of God, the source of all blessing.