Saturday, June 07, 2008

Why Not a Marriage of Four in California?

In San Jose, the very city where General Assembly will be held in a couple of weeks, Tony, Kevin, Sandi, and Kaye have set themselves up as a group marriage. They believe in polyamory, and they practice it. Boy, do they ever practice it--Sandi with Kaye, Tony with Sandi, Tony with Kaye, Sandi with Kevin, Kaye with Kevin! So what's holding back Kevin and Tony as a duo--the prudes!

Given the miserable ruling of the California Supreme Court about same-sex marriage, one wonders why not groups of whatever size being recognized as marriages. Logically, what's to hinder it? The majority of the Supreme Court ruled that due to "the substance and significance of the fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, the California Constitution properly must be interpreted to guarantee this basic civil right to all Californians...." [emphasis added].

Tony, Sandi, Kaye, and Kevin are Californians. Presumably they, too, have a fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship, which presumably is guaranteed as their basic civil right as Californians by the California Constitution.

But why just gay couples?

If straight people and presumably now gay people have such a right to marry whomever they choose, wouldn't bisexual and polyamorous people also have such a right? What's so sacrosanct about the number two, that marriage should be limited to such a small number, anyway, if we're making this up as we go along?

There is really no excuse for limiting marriage only to straight and gay people in pairs--if people have some constitutional right to form the family relationship of their choosing. These four chose four for their marriage. Who's to quibble? What's to hinder them from adding in Nathan, their foster son, if at least one of the four should happen to "fall in love" with him, too?

California appears to be the perfect place for the foursome to declare their "marriage," because civil order, morality, and common sense about marriage have already been sacrificed to the gods of gay activism.

Choices at General Assembly

In the very same San Jose of Kaye, Kevin, Tony, and Sandi, Presbyterians also will be asked to sacrifice to these same gods of gay activism. We're being asked to change the Christian definition of marriage from "between a woman and a man" to "between two people."

How passé! Logically, shouldn't the constitutional amendment ask for the definition of marriage to be "between any number of parties"?

As long as folks are seeking to change the definition of marriage--God's sacred provision--as a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman, why not make it such that anything goes? If one intends to ignore Scripture, several millennia of Judeo-Christian practice, and our Confessions, why not at least be logically consistent and go whole hog?

Why is approval sought only for gay marriage? The answer is clear: Because right now polyamory, incest, pedophilia, bestiality, and who knows what else don't have big, noisy, insistent, and politically powerful lobbies pushing for similar recognition. None of these other arrangements is any more or less sinful than homosexual practice. Homosexual practice and these other practices all equally transgress Christian morality and any biblical warrant.

Marrage is not four--ever! Or two whatever.

In San Jose, Presbyterians can do something truly countercultural and uncharacteristically brave. Presbyterians can make a clear decision to choose this day whom they will serve--not the gods of a licentious society falling further into immorality, but rather our Holy God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! Commissioners can affirm that as for us and our denomination, we will serve the Lord!

Presbyterians can choose not to conform to the pattern of this world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds to believe and act according to the mind and will of God. Quite simply, by disapproving the proposed Directory for Worship amendments, Presbyterian commissioners can steadfastly refuse to defile marriage by redefinition.

"Marriage should be honored by all," God commands us through the writer of Hebrews, "and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral" (Hebrews 13:4). In San Jose, General Assembly commissioners can keep that command, even when Sandi, Tony, Kaye, and Kevin have chosen to trash it.

34 Comments:

Blogger Adam Copeland said...

I appreciate your perspective, Jim, though I think it's a bit fearmongerish, especially as the PC(USA) change says specifically "two people."

I think placing the conversation in a context of hope--what the gospel is all about--would be a bit more helpful than appealing to fears, people's negative reactions to change, and apprehension of "the other."

4:10 AM, June 09, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...

Adam,

Thank you for your comments.

But I must say, I question the reflexive postulation of fear or "fearmongering." I'm not talking fear here.

I'm not dealing from emotion in that post. I had hoped you would understand that I am dealing from logic, specifically logical consistency.

In philosophical discourse, the late Francis Schaeffer would often push ideas to the point of inevitable logical absurdity: "If you say you believe X, then do you realize that it leads inevitably to believing that Y must also be true, for the same reasons? Now, are you ready to just as readily embrace Y?"

That was all I was doing.

There is no more logical reason (and there is certainly no biblical reason) to accept, condone, or bless the sin of homosexual practice than there is to do so for the practice of polyamory--or bestiality, pedophilia, or incest, for that matter. Each is forbidden. To do any of them is to sin.

There is no reason to make homosexual sin privileged--no reason other than an insistent popular culture intent on being hip rather than being holy. But then, when was it ever in vogue to be faithful to God against the grain of secular society and wanton will?

I'm not talking fear here, so please don't dismiss my reasoning as such. Nor am I talking power, either--another way to cheaply dismiss a sincere viewpoint--other than the power of God, which ought to reign over our lives within the Kingdom of God.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

11:35 AM, June 09, 2008  
Blogger Kattie W. Coon said...

Jim,

Of course Adam's point makes perfectly good sense to someone who believes that the Bible condemns polyamory, bestiality, pedophilia, and incest, and doesn't condemn (in the most general sense) homosexual practice. There appears to be no cultural push toward acceptance of the former nor is there significant controversy concerning Biblical interpretation with regard to them. The same cannot be said of homosexual practice.

The inevitability of the logical absurdity you spoke of only makes sense if you can tie homosexual practice in with the others. I've never seen you succeed in doing that.

2:00 PM, June 09, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...

Kattie,

We have a situation in which a very vocal and insistent set of voices is out to overturn Christian sexual morality, which has been generally fixed and broadly agreed upon as long as there has been a Christian church.

So just who is the party upon whom it is incumbent to establish conclusively that (1) its viewpoint is correct, (2)Christians have always been wrong previously, and (3) all Christianity needs now to hew to a totally reversed morality, casting off the beliefs and practices of two thousand years of faithfulness?

I just don't think that yours truly is the one with that overwhelming burden. I feel no further need to prove what I relate about these matters. I believe that the onus is on you to make the case for why you think the Bible actually says what it quite obviously does not say.

There is no one yet on your side who can do that well. You have Jack Rogers making piteous attempts at it--attempts that, should I have been so careless as to have ventured them, would have flunked me right out of beginning theology when he was my professor.

You have all kinds of folks arguing from their emotional experience--"I just feel that God wants me to do this!"--in the face of clear scriptural admonitions to the contrary.

You have allies busily ignoring the scathing theological rebuttal by Robert Gagnon, but never even beginning to refute his rigorous scholarship that makes your argument little more than dust.

But what you don't have is a compelling reason for Christians to drop God's good and perfect will for our lives in order to chase after the Molech of our day, joining many in a broken and rebellious society.

I could turn the tables and ask you to prove from the Scriptures that what you promote is God's command to us. But I won't ask of you the impossible. You could never do it. You don't have that advantage and never will.

Thus, I ask for you to at least be honest and say that you are promoting homosexual license from a social, cultural, and sentimental basis only. You have such a right, but let me ask you to exercise the right someplace other than the Church. You have no inherent right to try to change everything and expect Christians to buy it. We don't plan to transform the Church into a cult of the erotic.

Oh, and by the way, there are people promoting each of the currently not-quite-so-trendy other sexual abominations. I mean, take Kaye, Kevin, Tony, and Sandi, for instance.

Or the North American Man/Boy Love Association (caution about going to its site: www.nambla.org), which is working to "end the oppression of men and boys who have mutually consensual relationships."

Or the recent film "Zoo," about a guy not far from here who died in a compromising relationship with a horse.

"No cultural push," huh? That's patently untrue. None of these movements has quite had its "Cornwall Riots" yet, but each is learning from the gay movement's playbook.

And besides, it is not a cultural push that makes something right or wrong. A cultural push will try to convince us that something is right or wrong, but it is ultimately God who clearly reveals to us his righteous will through his Word.

Kattie, it seems to me that you are incorrect every which way in these matters.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

4:19 PM, June 09, 2008  
Blogger ZZMike said...

The "slippery slope" claim may well be made for the "menage-a-quatre", but not at all for the "sibling marriage". After all, "two people" means exactly that.

And Mormons (who are Christian in many aspects) believe that the Bible condones polygamy. It certainly did, in the Old Testament.

4:37 PM, June 09, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...

Mike,

Full name and city, please.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

6:25 PM, June 09, 2008  
Blogger Kattie W. Coon said...

Jim,

You certainly have a knack for over-reaching interpretation:

"I could turn the tables and ask you to prove from the Scriptures that what you promote is God's command to us."

Just what was the position I was promoting?

Oh yes, it was that you have never succeeded in proving your point of view. How am I to prove that from Scripture?

For the record: My personal point of view concerning the homosexual issue has not been stated, and will not be stated until I have completed a sufficient study of the issue. In other words, you’re over-reaching big time. This doesn’t give me much confidence that you can properly interpret anything you read, let alone the Bible.

I haven't seen any argument, not yours, not Gagnon's, not Wink's, not Rodger's, not Boswell’s, nobody's comes even close to being conclusive. Your notion that those who would allow some leeway concerning homosexual activity would be "casting off the beliefs and practices of two thousand years of faithfulness" is simply a lie. There is evidence to support this, just not entirely, sufficiently, conclusive. I challenge you to produce a single document or a collection of documents from the first two centuries A.D., or before that condemn ALL homosexual practice in all circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt. Such documents don't exist.

I agree with you concerning Rodger’s work. On the other hand, as far as your illustrious Dr. Gagnon is concerned: His work most likely would never pass rigorous peer review prior to publication, which is likely the reason he doesn’t even try. So as far as his “rigorous scholarship” is concerned, it’s no better than anyone else’s. The sheer volume of his writing makes it almost impossible for anyone to check out his reliable use of source material (which itself is largely not peer reviewed…). Gagnon has been roundly criticized for misuse of source material and the use of discredited material. Who would want to take the time scrutinize every piece of everything he has written? I’ll bet you wouldn’t.

6:33 PM, June 09, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...

Kattie,

Scripture comes from the first two centuries. Look at Scripture.

Porneia. That one word covered a lot of ground. You cannot tell me that the Old Testament moral commandment against homosexual sex, whose breaking was punishable by death, was not considered by Jesus in his day, Jesus who had the highest regard for the moral law and pushed standards even higher, Jesus who could have abrogated such a law but never did, Jesus who taught us about God's purposes for male-female marriage.

Tell me why it would be that God, who made it SO clear in the Old Testament, would suddenly clam up and equivocate about homosexual practice in the New Testament.

Why would God capriciously hide the "true" meaning of "sodomy" and both active and passive roles in homosexual acts? Why would the Holy Spirit include Romans 1 in the canon, knowing everyone would think one thing when actually it meant something far more obscure and benigh?

Why would God let the "true" meaning of such apparently straight-forward texts only be "discovered" by folks these days searching for some warrant, no matter how slim and far-fetched, for a practice they desperately want to excuse, despite all the counter indications of health, reproduction, Christian practice, and so on?

Why would everybody reading the Scriptures for nearly two millennia be tricked by God into thinking that, according to the very plain sense of the passages, God considers homosexual practice an abomination, when really it is a beautiful gift to be admired? So odd of God to do that!

What has triggered all this gay-sex acceptance? It is not biblical scholarship. It's not that some scholar independently found a key passage, such as Luther finding salvation by grace in Romans.

It's that a group furiously wants to find something different than what the Scriptures obviously teach, so that that desire drives and even determines the result. For them, the Bible doesn't teach behavior; behavior seeks to reinterpret the Bible--and it does a dreadfully poor job of it.

The Bible becomes the servant of a viewpoint. The viewpoint, I would argue, needs to be subject to the Word. Even when such subjection to the authority of Scripture is difficult, as it is now in a society that begs and entices us to just go along to get along, the primacy of the Word is essential.

First the Word, and then our understanding of it and submission to it. Not first our desire, and then our twisting of the Word to try to justify it.

Forgive me for having placed you among those who argue for homosexual license. Apparently I was mistaken. For the life of me, you sure read like that is where you stand. I didn't realize you were so unsure of yourself, despite being so adamant.

Now, since you must be far the better scholar than Robert Gagnon in your own mind, care to take him on directly? Or will his 23 ways that nail why you are dead wrong and prove it conclusively just seem dreadfully tiresome, when he could have had you crying "Uncle!" with only three?

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

7:21 PM, June 09, 2008  
Blogger Dennis said...

Jim,

Very interesting subject! We had a break-out session on Jack Rogers' book on homosexuality at our last Presbytery meeting. It was enlightening for me. Persons who were apparently arguing for ordination of practicing, non-repentant homosexuals didn't try to argue from scripture. At least I didn't hear them do so. They generally argued that such persons really love Christ, have gifts, are in deep pain over the rejection of who they are, et. As Christ-followers, we need to minister to all hurting members. At the same time, I am still hung up on scripture. Rogers essentially dismissed the scripture on the subject of homosexuality. This really disappointed me; I had expected more from a Biblical scholar.

By the way, he said in the book, several times, that Gagnon is wrong. I bought the book by Gagnon but haven't read it yet. It is big!

I agree with Rogers' arguments that we used to justify from scripture not ordaining women and divorced/remarried persons. It keeps me from getting too smug about my opposition to ordaining non-repentant homosexuals.

I have also had thoughts similar to yours about the slippery slope. There is plural marriage in the United States now, as we have been reminded by recent news from Texas. It is not legal, but is not vigorously prosecuted. I can see that as the next step after the legalisation of same sex marriages.

Dennis Veith
Ferndale, WA

8:38 PM, June 09, 2008  
Blogger Kattie W. Coon said...

"Forgive me for having placed you among those who argue for homosexual license. Apparently I was mistaken."

You are forgiven, I think...

"Or will his 23 ways that nail why you are dead wrong and prove it conclusively"...

Oh, I guess you really didn’t mean it after all, did you?

Jim,

You seem to be very confused.

"For the life of me, you sure read like that is where you stand."

I stand up to and against propaganda mongers wherever I come across them. On the Left or on the Right, it doesn't matter. It's people like you who confuse the issue with your arm waving rhetoric.

It's interesting that you should bring up Luther. As I understand it, Luther's argument against homosexual acts concentrated on the account of Sodom, not the passages in Leviticus, or Romans, or 1 Corinthians, or 1 Timothy, but the story of Sodom only. Who today really believes that the story of Sodom is truly about homosexuality? Luther, being such a great scholar in his day, didn't even translate the Leviticus, Romans, 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy passages as condemnations of homosexual practice, so I don't know how you think you can get away with your claims that homosexual practice has been so universally and historically condemned. Interestingly enough, Luther’s Bible translation survived for hundreds of years, largely unchanged in that regard, until the mid 1900’s, and was widely used by German speaking Christians, both Conservative and Progressive.

8:56 PM, June 09, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Byrne said...

Kattie,

You wrote: "Who today really believes that the story of Sodom is truly about homosexuality?"

I went looking through my New Witherspoon Translation Bible, but couldn't find the story to which you refer. Could you possibly be referring to the Genesis account of Inhospital and Gomorrah?
: )

Sincerely,

Bruce Byrne
Concord, California

9:48 PM, June 09, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...

Kattie,

Had your fun now? Is evangelical baiting kind of a hobby for you in Huntsville? Have you dodged the meat and picked at scraps enough for this go-around?

Dialoging with you is like trying to pack a billowy sleeping bag into a tiny stuff sack. You attentively and carefully poke one part in, and out billows another few cubic yards of sleeping bag from another side. You round that up and stuff it in, and out blossoms yet more annoying fluff.

What a hoot, that I, relating orthodox Christian theology and morality that is straight from Scripture; I, expounding the faith and practice of centuries and centuries of devout Christians--I am the one accused of being a propaganda monger with arm-waving rhetoric.

Well, huh. I think the pot is calling the kettle black.

Talk about marginalizing the masses of Christian believers not only of all ages but also of this very day, and apparently trying to grab the center from your position on the fringe! You take the cake!

It doesn't work. You remain the rebel arguing the part (whether you've arrived there or not) of the folks who have petty much dropped biblical authority off the table. Enjoy the company in that crowd--if you can keep up with the relentless pursuit of whatever is avant garde enough to be in at the moment.

I, however, am most content to remain in the theological company of the believers of all centuries and the vast, vast majority of the faithful today, thank you.

Now, please pop on to some other orthodox blogger to torment, okay? My time and patience have run dry.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

10:36 PM, June 09, 2008  
Blogger Al Sandalow said...

BTW, Gagnon did write a response to Roger's book and I think it's available on his web site. I have a copy if you can't find it.

Jack Rogers has been a friend since my seminary days. Still, this last book was a great disappointment, not just because I disagree with his conclusions, but because it is so poorly done.

The level of scholarship, balance, and fairness that once was a hallmark of Jack's writing has simply vanished. It is mere polemic.

I still like Jack and I hate to see him ending his scholastic career writing this kind of tripe.

Al Sandalow

11:05 AM, June 10, 2008  
Blogger Stephen Ley said...

My wife and I are newcomers to the Reformed faith in general and the PC(USA) in particular. In fact, I had the high privilege of being ordained as one of the new elders of our church on Sunday. Our church is orthodox and remaining true to Scripture and our Confessions (part of the faithful remnant I tell people), but when I look at the denomination as a whole I say, "what were we thinking!"

Excellent post and keep up the good work. Grace and peace.

7:58 AM, June 11, 2008  
Blogger David said...

What hinders it?

Umm, perhaps our entire civil code regarding community property, child custody, and alimony. The slippery slope argument is particularly weak. You'll notice that not even conservative law professors argue for it.

I suggest you read Eugene Volokh's article on this topic: http://www.law.ucla.edu/volokh/marriage.pdf

11:56 AM, June 13, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...

David,

I need your full name, city, and state, please. No anonymous postings here.

A name with a profile that tells full name and all is fine. But your profile is blank, too.

Consistency. Without it, I'll need to delete you comment.

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

5:39 PM, June 13, 2008  
Blogger Doug Hagler said...

"There is no more logical reason (and there is certainly no biblical reason) to accept, condone, or bless the sin of homosexual practice than there is to do so for the practice of polyamory--or bestiality, pedophilia, or incest, for that matter. Each is forbidden. To do any of them is to sin."

I'm sorry, I can't let this stand unchallenged from a logical standpoint.

Here are some basic reasons the things you mention are different from homosexual monogamy in extremely important ways:

Polyamory involves breaking the fidelity of a human pair-bond; homosexual monogamy does not. This is, I suppose, the least feeble of the comparisons you list, but it is still a category error. (Just because you don't like either of 2 things doesn't make them the same kind of thing.)

Bestiality involves intercourse between different species; homosexuality is between people of the same species. That's...a pretty important distinction.

Side note: would it matter if the human and the animal were the same sex?

Pedophilia is rape, and legally cannot be considered consensual no matter what. One can also argue that it cannot morally be considered consensual either. Homosexual monogamy is, in the cases we're discussing, between consenting adults.

Incest is sex between people who are closely genetically related, which drastically increases the chances of all kinds of problems with any children who might come of the union. Homosexual monogamy cannot possibly produce children, so again, these are incredibly different from a logical standpoint. It also lacks the potential for damaging power dynamics that you would be likely to find in a situation of incest.

So, in short, there are strong logical reasons to approve of homosexuality and yet not approve of polyamory, beastiality, pedophilia and/or incest (for example, that is my position). I didn't want to get into them all here.

Having read (and responded to) the logical/secular arguments you present here and in the past against homosexuality, I recommend you stay exclusively with your interpretation of the Bible, because that's your best chance. People who share your hermeneutic will probably continue to see those arguments as strong, and even a committed scholar like Robert Gagnon (a Biblical scholar, but still) hasn't produced strong secular arguments against homosexuality (I'm sure you've read Aric's rebuttals - they're pretty solid).

Lastly, in reference to your back-and-forth with Kattie - your blog is an opportunity for you to show your Christian character by treating those who disagree with you politely and well, even when they aggravate you a little...or not. Obviously, the choice is yours.

Same goes to you, Kattie.

And to me - the log in my own eye and all that.

Doug Hagler
San Anselmo, CA

5:20 AM, June 25, 2008  
Blogger Jim said...

Doug,

Thank you for the reasoned and reasonable tone of your comment.

However...

You missed the premise: that there is a fundamental constitutional right to form a family relationship" without outside constraint. Some people want to exercise that supposed right with a same-sex partner. But some would want to exercise that supposed right with other forms of partner. If the fundamental right is what is opperative (and not moral and social imperatives), then why not?

What you do is deny me the right to posit a moral and biblical reason for that (sole) partner to be only of the opposite sex, but then you bring in (good) moral arguments of your own that you allow yourself to stand upon to try to make your distinctions about appropriate partnership.

I would agree with you on why each of the other partnerings would be immoral and should be illegal. But you have no logical reason, given the right-to-chose-your-partner ruling of the California Supreme Court, to draw the line where you do without also acknowledging my right to draw the line where I do.

Your line-drawing is not more logical and it is certainly not more biblically justified. It is simply more popular and accepted in your cultural millieu.

About the tone of some of my blog postings: Yes,you have a point. Peevishness and disgust do not justify unkindness. I admit having difficulty suffering fools gladly. As a work in progress, I'll try to grind my teeth silently and moderate my disgust in response to boorishness.

From General Assembly in San Jose,

Jim Berkley
Bellevue, WA

11:47 AM, June 25, 2008  
Blogger David said...

"But you have no logical reason, given the right-to-chose-your-partner ruling of the California Supreme Court, to draw the line where you do without also acknowledging my right to draw the line where I do."

Jim,

You are seriously misinterpreting the ruling made here in California. The decision was NOT a "right-to-choose-your-partner" but that marriage, as it exists in our civil code, is a fundamental right that cannot be deprived. This was the basis for the Perez v. Sharp decision in 1948 which overturned California's restrictions on inter-racial marriages. The court then found that marriage (as it exists in our code) is a fundamental right and that any restrictions upon this right must pass the strict-scrutiny standard. As you'll note in the Volokh article I posted, the slippery slope argument is particularly weak which explains why conservative law professors no longer use it. In California, marriage is a contract between two people recognized by the state for the purposes of community property and other contractual issues. Restrictions on polygamy and incest do survive the strict scrutiny standard because they pose significant risks to health. Polygamy also poses significant hurdles as our entire code dealing with community property would need to be re-written.

Again, I suggest you read Volokh's article I posted above if you honestly want to understand the court's reasoning here.

David Holt
Santa Cruz, CA

11:09 AM, June 27, 2008  
Blogger Paul Schmidt said...

David Holt has been encouraging readers to look at an article on "Slippery Slope" arguments.

I pulled up this article and found that it did not deal with the morality question:

What follows will not discuss ... whether recognizing same-sex marriage is good or bad on its own terms; whether recognizing same-sex marriage is so morally or pragmatically
imperative.


My decision making process is one based on good/bad moral judgements. So this article, in my view, is not even worth reading.

9:43 AM, July 01, 2008  
Blogger David said...

Paul,

Thank you for demonstrating the demarcation between politics and religion. What applies in our public sphere is not the same as what is applied to our religious communities. If only more people were like yourself and understood this difference we wouldn't even be having this debate. Our courts do not take up ecclesiastical issues (which is the basis for arguments against same-sex marriage), they are to determine the law and apply justice equally to all citizens.

The "morality" argument against same-sex marriage has already been tried and failed miserably in our courts. Even the Arkansas Supreme Court did not find any rational reason why children cannot be raised by a same-gender couple. The California Supreme Court likewise found the restrictions on marriage to be less than compelling.

The court must decide this issue using logic, reason, and the law -- not faith or religiously-based ideas of morality. When doing so, they find no reason why marriage should be restricted.

David Holt
Santa Cruz, CA

11:41 AM, July 01, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Byrne said...

David,

Society cannot survive without heterosexual sex as it is responsible for producing 100% of the next generation. The nature of the relationship within which such (heterosexual) sex occurs largely determines the degree of societal blessing or burden with which society will have to deal regarding the rearing of said next generation.

Society blesses the joining together of one man and one woman in a "til death do we part" union because 1) it wants its children produced within such an arrangement and 2) because it wants the couple who did the producing to do the rearing as a general rule. Children who are produced and reared within this arrangement, all other things being equal, will minimize the burden to society that the rearing of the next generation entails and maximize the blessing that the next generation brings.

Society, therefore (or at least a society which is still capable of discerning what is in its own best interest), should consider marriage the only relationship within which sexual behavior (of the kind that can produce the next generation) ought to be condoned, encouraged or expressed.

Why not homosexual marriage? Because homosexual sex produces 0% of the next generation. Society need not feel any compulsion to bless a sexual relationship of a nature which, by nature, has no capacity to bless society with continued existence (or in any other way for that matter).

Note that the above argument is not based on religious doctrine nor is it founded within a moral framework. It is, rather, based on the distinction between that which blesses socitey and that which cannot. It is based on that which provides society with its continued existence and that which does not. The fact that the courts, “using logic (and) reason”, “find no reason why marriage should be restricted” to couples of the opposite sex seems to me to 1) call into question the reasoning ability of the courts and 2) indicate that THEIR decisions are ideologically driven and morally based.

I do believe that we must be careful in how we argue in the public square so that we do not impose (or appear to impose) our religious beliefs on an unwilling minority. But “Thou shalt not kill” is both religiously derived morality and sound civic law. The fact that it is the former does not make it any less the later. Likewise, restricting marriage to opposite sex couples is both religiously derived morality and sound civic law. It is God’s world; it ought not surprise us that things work best the way he said they would.

Sincerely,

Bruce Byrne
Concord, California

2:14 PM, July 01, 2008  
Blogger David said...

Bruce,

You are making a HUGE HUGE assertion in that post. You are claiming that opening up marriage to same-sex couples will somehow impact the procreative abilities of heterosexuals. There is, of course, absolutely zero evidence for that. Gay marriage has no affect on birth rates.

Your argument would have merit if the courts were restricting the rights of heterosexual couples to copulate and reproduce. The reality is that heterosexual relationships are unchanged by these rulings.

I urge you to read the case on gay adoption that was decided by the Arkansas Supreme Court. They found that there is no risk to children by enabling same-gender marriage. Of course, the court was compelled to use scientific, rather than religious, evidence for their conclusions.

http://www.acluarkansas.org/content/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12&Itemid=4

David Holt
Santa Cruz, CA

5:16 PM, July 01, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Byrne said...

Dave,

My argument neither relies on nor makes the assertion that “opening up marriage to same-sex couples will somehow impact the procreative abilities of heterosexuals”.

My argument is as follows:

Part one:

Society may rightly bless and encourage that which blesses society and may rightly withhold its blessing from that which does not bless society.
Heterosexual sex blesses society with its very existence.
Homosexual sex does not bless society.
Therefore, society may rightly bless and encourage heterosexual sex and society may rightly withhold its blessing from homosexual sex.

Notice that: 1) This argument is neither religiously or morally based; 2) It does not imply that “opening up marriage to same-sex couples will somehow impact the procreative abilities of heterosexuals”. It simply states that society ought to feel no compulsion to treat things of differing natures as if they were the same.

Part two:

Society may rightly bless and encourage heterosexual sex. (Picking up from above.)
Society may rightly note that the degree to which society benefits from heterosexual sex is strongly related to the nature of the heterosexual relationship within which sex occurs.
Society may rightly determine to encourage and bless the heterosexual relationship which confers the maximum benefit to society and it may rightly determine to discourage the heterosexual relationship(s) which confer the least benefit to society.
(Society may rightly determine that certain heterosexual practices confer no net benefit to society and may rightly discourage such practices.)
Societal blessing of the heterosexual relationship which it has determined to confer the maximum benefit to society may rightly take many forms. These include (but are not limited to): special status, honor and tax benefits.
(Society is under no obligation to confer these same blessings/benefits to those sexual relationships which by nature do not and cannot confer the same blessings/benefits to society.)
Society may righty designate the relationship which confers maximum benefit to society “marriage” and may rightly withhold the designation from the relationships which do not confer the same benefit to society.

Conclusion: Heterosexual sex and homosexual sex are not of equal nature. Society has no obligation to treat them as if they were.

Sincerely,

Bruce Byrne

10:22 AM, July 02, 2008  
Blogger David said...

"Conclusion: Heterosexual sex and homosexual sex are not of equal nature. Society has no obligation to treat them as if they were."

Of course that argument falls flat on its face. We don't restrict marriage to infertile or post-menopausal couples, nor do we restrict marriage rights to those who have had vasectomies or hysterectomies. These heterosexual couples have the same procreative capacity as homosexual couples -- none.

Try as you might, arguments against gay marriage that do not rely upon religious reasoning have fallen flat. They have been rejected by every court from Arkansas to California.

David Holt
Santa Cruz, CA

10:45 AM, July 02, 2008  
Blogger Kattie W. Coon said...

Here's my foolish, boorish comment for today.

David,

Don't forget that use of ANY kind of contraception or abortion is viewed as a grave sin by the RC church (not a small faction by anyone's estimate).

In the eyes of many, Heterosexual Reformed and Protestant Christians are spitting in the eye of God and saying - we want to enjoy our non-procreative sex and we don't want your babies. Of course we won't allow others to have the pleasure of non-procreative sex. Seems pretty hypocritical to me and also to a lot of the world Christian communities.

10:11 AM, July 03, 2008  
Blogger Presbyman said...

Don't forget that use of ANY kind of contraception or abortion is viewed as a grave sin by the RC church (not a small faction by anyone's estimate).

When they're right, they're right.

10:13 AM, July 03, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Byrne said...

David,

I’ll do my best to give a thoughtful reply to your latest response to my latest, but I’d first like to ask you a few questions:

What would happen to society if we could wave the proverbial magic wand and make heterosexual sex disappear overnight? And what would happen to society if, by the same means, homosexual sex were to disappear overnight?

Is there any significant difference between your answers to the two questions, and, if so, could this difference be legitimately reflected in social policy related to sexuality? Is it ever legitimate, in your opinion, for society to bless or withhold blessing based on the differential outcomes of various sexual practices?

And, in what way does homosexual sex bless society that society should bless/encourage it?

I’m not asking for a dissertation (some of the above can be adequately answered by a sentence fragment); I am looking to see if you will seriously engage my argument. My argument (really a set of assertions which build upon one another) may be in need of refinement, but I think it is at least worthy of a bit more engagement than you seem willing to give to it. In my last post, I wrote:

Society may rightly bless and encourage that which blesses society and may rightly withhold its blessing from that which does not bless society.
Heterosexual sex blesses society with its very existence.
Homosexual sex does not bless society.
Therefore, society may rightly bless and encourage heterosexual sex and society may rightly withhold its blessing from homosexual sex.

I would appreciate it if you would tell me which of the four lines you agree with and which you take exception to.

I write the above because you seem to be responding to my posts in the manner of a defense attorney seeking to create reasonable doubt whereas I’d like you to assume the role of the prosecution and make a positive case for the societal blessing of homosexual sex based on the degree to which homosexual sex benefits society. If you can make the case that homosexual sex benefits society to the same degree that heterosexual sex does, I will be happy to concede that homosexual sex and heterosexual sex ought to be treated equally by society.

As to your last post:

You ignore my entire argument and focus on what I misleadingly labeled “conclusion”. (I was referring to the conclusion of my post, not to the conclusion of my argument. Where I wrote “conclusion”, I should have written “summary”. Mea Culpa.)

Here’s what I wrote:

"Conclusion: Heterosexual sex and homosexual sex are not of equal nature. Society has no obligation to treat them as if they were."

Do you agree or disagree with the first sentence? If you agree, why would society then be obligated to treat heterosexual sex and homosexual sex equally?

You then correctly point out that “We don't restrict marriage to infertile or post-menopausal couples, nor do we restrict marriage rights to those who have had vasectomies or hysterectomies. These heterosexual couples have the same procreative capacity as homosexual couples -- none.”

Yes, and if you want to reserve society’s blessing for heterosexual couples who are able and intend to have children, that is a defensible position. But so is a position build upon the following:

Society has no interest in blessing/encouraging homosexual sex.
Society cannot survive without heterosexual sex.
Regarding the kind of sex without which society cannot survive (the only kind which warrants society’s blessing), society would be best served if were practiced within a relationship which is monogamous, committed, consensual, life long, etc.
Society has, therefore, every right to discourage (or remain neutral regarding) homosexual sex while encouraging and blessing heterosexual sex within a specific context.

Society, over the course of forty or so years, has talked itself into believing that the sexual orientations are essentially equal in terms of the blessing they confer on society. That the courts reflect this confusion neither surprises me, nor does it impress me.

David, if you’re serious about continuing this dialogue, please engage with what I wrote in the first part of this post.

Sincerely,

Bruce Byrne
Concord, California

1:26 PM, July 03, 2008  
Blogger Kattie W. Coon said...

John,

"When they're right, they're right."

I noticed that you wrote about this very thing on your blog last year.

I applaud your desire to remove the hypocrisy.

I wonder though, what percentage of self professed Evangelicals would be so bold.

Jim,

How about it? I noticed you have never written on the subject of contraception (at least not on this Blogger blog), but you sure do write against Homosexual sex. Will you stand up against this hypocrisy, or will you, like so many others, just ignore it?

I stand firmly against the hypocrisy. Unfortunately, I'm still struggling with which way to proceed (stay the course, or go back more than 50 years).

1:57 PM, July 03, 2008  
Blogger David said...

Bruce,

I think Katie made a good response but here's mine.

Yes, homosexual marriage DOES benefit society in a number of tangible ways. First, couples that have long-term stable relationships are much more likely to purchase property together and substantially contribute to their local communities. Stable families, regardless of sexual orientation, are a positive contribution to society regardless of their procreative abilities. It leads to higher incomes and a larger tax base which finances the social and educational services used to raise children. There are, of course, also psychological benefits to gays and lesbians themselves who live in stable relationships.

That you believe that the position of denying marriage to infertile heterosexual couples is defensible demonstrates how clearly your perspective is out of the mainstream. No sincere conservative would advocate that we restrict marriage to only heterosexual couples who are fertile and intend on having children.

David Holt
Santa Cruz, CA

12:57 PM, July 05, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Byrne said...

David,

If anyone is still paying attention to this thread, they will have noticed that 1) You have twice treated a side bar comment of mine (in response to something you wrote) as part of my main argument. (Reference your concluding paragraph above.) and 2) You have three times failed to respond to my direct question (In what way does homosexual sex bless society that society should bless/encourage it?), preferring to answer another question entirely. (Reference your second paragraph above.)

I can’t for the life of me understand why you won’t acknowledge what any fifth grader could readily tell you: that heterosexual sex provides a benefit to society (its very existence) that homosexual sex does not and cannot.

A solid secular argument against homosexual marriage exists based on the above, but you simply refuse to engage. And so what am I to do? We are not in a court of law where you might be compelled to answer.

Back when I was working as a director of youth ministry, I attempted to get a rather shy collection of high schoolers to open up by staging a series of mini debates. Right out of the box a brother/sister duo volunteered and chose to debate the statement “Drugs should be legalized”. The sister chose to argue for the legalization of drugs and made several points to that effect, but when it came time for her brother to respond, he slouched down in his chair, crossed his legs, put his hands behind his head and said, “Naw.”

Well, let me just say that failing to engage your opponent’s key arguments is a strategy of sorts, but it sure feels more like a technique to arrive at a conclusion you desire as opposed to an honest attempt to follow the reasoning where it leads. I’ve asked you twice to engage my arguments and twice you’ve responded, “Naw.”

Sincerely,

Bruce Byrne
Concord, California

12:14 PM, July 07, 2008  
Blogger Kattie W. Coon said...

Bruce,

Maybe you're asking the wrong questions. I think that you are trying to lead David into validating the position that Homosexual relationships can't bless society (in a purely secular sense), by restricting that blessing to only what happens in the bedroom. It seems to me that he rejects that logic (as do I), and points out that there are other secular blessings that those relationships can provide that are far more meaningful, and worthy of discussion than bedroom antics are.

You don't make the rules of the debate. He is under no obligation to justify your leading questions with direct responses.

1:15 PM, July 07, 2008  
Blogger David said...

Bruce,

Your "response" was rather humorous. I have in fact answered each of the questions you asked. I have done so using secular arguments and even offered scholarly resources when appropriate. Your argument apparently is that heterosexual relationships are valued in society insofar as they produce children. As I noted previously, this position is radically out of the mainstream. We don't deny marriage benefits to infertile couples, couples with vasectomies/hysterectomies, etc. And yet these couples contribute to society in many of the same ways as same-sex couples.

Stable same-sex relationships contribute positively to society by strengthening our communities, increasing property values, contributing to our tax base, lowering crime, and increasing economic development. The Williams Institute at UCLA has just published an economic impact study of same-sex marriage in California. They found that marriage equality is adding $63 million annually to the state budget in license fees, and another $600 million in increased economic activity.

http://www.law.ucla.edu/williamsinstitute/publications/EconImpactCAMarriage.pdf

David Holt
Santa Cruz, CA

2:17 PM, July 07, 2008  
Blogger Bruce Byrne said...

Kattie and David (in that order),

When the issue is whether to extend the societal blessing/benefits to homosexual couples that we extend to heterosexual couples I think it relevant to ask if homosexuality brings to society the blessing/benefits that heterosexuality brings. You don’t think it’s relevant, I do.


David,

You wrote: “I have in fact answered each of the questions you asked.” If I ask how arthritis benefits society and you reply that people with arthritis can and do benefit society, I agree with you, but you’ve avoided the question I asked. Of course homosexuals can make a positive contribution to society; homosexuality does not.

I’m okay leaving it to our (probably dwindling) audience as to whether you’ve “answered each of the questions” I’ve asked as you assert. I know at least one who would disagree with you. Kattie, in her response to me, assumes that you didn’t answer my questions and defends your right not to answer. Since it is impossible for you to have answered my every question (as you assert) and to have not answered for prudent and principled reasons (as Kattie asserts), well, I’ll let you two hash it out.

As for me, it seems to me that we’re past the point of productive dialogue, so I’ll concede to you the last word and see you on some other thread.

Best wishes,

Bruce Byrne
Concord, California

10:02 AM, July 08, 2008  

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