Wednesday, September 12, 2012

More on Marriage and Rights

Attentive reader and friend Brian (see his comment on my post of September 8) rightly points out that the Supreme Court of the US has indeed declared marriage to be a basic civil right. That is true, and probably will provide the basis for the eventual approval of same-sex marriage throughout the United States.

But my question is this: For we people of faith—Christian faith in particular—does the Supreme Court (or any judicial or legislative body of the state) have the ability to declare how we view reality within the contrast society we call the church? In other words, if the Supreme Court says that marriage is a civil right, does that provide us the only basis for talking about marriage?

I found the following at a University of Missouri website:

“Delegates to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 hotly debated the issue of slavery. George Mason of Virginia argued eloquently against slavery, warning his fellow delegates:

‘Every master of slaves is born a petty tyrant. They bring the judgment of heaven on a country. As nations cannot be rewarded or punished in the next world, they must be in this. By an inevitable chain of causes and effects, providence punishes national sins by national calamities.’

Southern delegates, on the other hand, argued strenuously that the new government should not be allowed to interfere with the institution of slavery. Delegate John Rutledge of South Carolina, for example, told delegates that ‘religion and humanity have nothing to do with the questions’ of whether the Constitution should protect slavery—it was simply a question of property rights.

“The Supreme Court, in its infamous decision in Dred Scott v Sandford (1857), ruled that Congress lacked the power to prohibit slavery in its territories. In so doing, Scott v Sandford invited slave owners to pour into the territories and pass pro-slavery constitutions.”

At one time in US history, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of slavery, making the forced labor of human beings an act that was considered legal and the right of slaveholders. Others declared that what the Court had ruled, while a social and economic reality, was a fundamental violation of human dignity.

Just because the Court says its so doesn’t make it so. It might be the law of the land, but it doesn’t necessarily create the only boundaries within which followers of Jesus form their thinking and practice.

I’m not advocating lawlessness, nor am I, in this posting, advocating one way or the other regarding same-sex marriage. What I am saying is that we people of faith have to process these kinds of issues from a standpoint that assumes something bigger than the Court can rule upon.

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