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Not Prince Hamlet

"Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse."

It's Over

Monday, October 27, 2008

I've voted, cast my absentee ballot in the largest voting district in the country, done all the research and filled in all the circles, sealed it, signed it, and sent it in.

I've only posted one item about this state's Proposition 8. I've known for some time how I would probably vote on it, but I remained open to wisdom and direction until Saturday, when I'd heard enough. The argument about the need for legal, social, and biological protections engendered in traditional marriage to be preserved hovered at the back of my mind for days.

On Saturday the wife was phoned by a Yes on 8 volunteer who warned that failure of the proposition would result in lawsuits against churches refusing to marry same-gender couples and in a mandate for public schools to promote those marriages. Neither of those claims are true (are synagogues sued that refuse to marry non-Jews? Catholic churches that won't marry divorced people? And the California Teachers' Association is forcefully opposing the measure), and yet this well-intentioned volunteer was spending her morning stating that they were, motivated largely, she professed, by her religious convictions.

After weeks of editorials, calls from Focus on the Family, yard signs, and newspaper ads, this call cemented what had been my pervasive leaning all along. What it made clear was that advocates of the measure are passionately concerned to defend an institution, marriage, that they believe has been instituted by God. The subject of Proposition 8 is, after all, marriage: who can participate in it and who cannot.

I too believe that marriage is a God-given institution, and yet I lack the zeal for protecting or preserving or defending it evidenced by Proposition 8's supporters. I've made my peace with the competing claim in all of this, that who and who is not admitted into a people's institutions is a matter of civil rights and that to deny access to an institution's legal and social benefits and responsibilities to a group of people based on an inherent characteristic of those people is wrong. It's a moral problem. God doesn't like it. It's wrong when it pertains to race. It's wrong when it pertains to gender. It's wrong when it pertains to sexual orientation.

Ultimately, I'm not persuaded that an institution ordained by God needs such vehement human policing. For one, proponents of "traditional" marriage have a tendency to amplify the importance of family in the Biblical narratives, overlooking the ways in which the God of the Bible repeatedly sends people out, away from the family as a traditional institution (Jesus is a pretty good example). But more to the point, such frenzied patrolling of marriage as a tradition belies a lack of belief in that very tradition. To truly believe in something is to trust that it does not depend upon your effort for its survival.

Praising the no-frills naturalistic painting style employed by his father, Thomas Merton says, ". . . a religious man respects the power of God's creation to bear witness for itself." I read that sentence, tucked neatly into the opening paragraphs of Merton's memoir The Seven Storey Mountain, on Saturday afternoon.

Then I put down the book and voted.


posted by Not Prince Hamlet, 4:13 PM


Well, I have a feeling your vote will beat mine. I'm still hopeful, and I've still got my sign on my yard...
commented by Blogger Jamie, 10:38 PM  

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