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Gay Marriage Editorial, Washington Post, quotes CS Lewis

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Gay Marriage Editorial, Washington Post, quotes CS Lewis

Postby Mary C. Barnett » 15 Dec 2004, 02:20

Does anyone care to comment on this editorial, written by columnist William Raspberry for the Washington Post, and published on December 12, 2004? Thank you.



Sunday, December 12, 2004



C.S. Lewis, the British essayist, author and cleric, died 41 years ago, so he wasn't writing about same-sex marriage in America. No, his subject in his book "Mere Christianity" was divorce. Still, his observations might shed some light on our own "values" controversy today.
"I should like to distinguish two things which are very often confused," he wrote. "The Christian conception of marriage is one: the other is the quite different question - how far Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by embodying them in the divorce laws.


"There ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a Christian sense and which are not."

Religious marriage, he was saying, is a sacrament, and the state has no more business involving itself in the rules that govern it than it has in such questions as the efficacy of infant baptism, the validity of kosher certification or the number of virgins a (male) martyr might reasonably anticipate as his reward.

But marriage isn't only sacrament. It is also the basis on which we decide who may inherit in the absence of a will, who may make life-and-death decisions for loved ones, or who is eligible for the advantages of joint tax returns. And because it has these secular implications, the state has a legitimate role in determining who is married and who isn't.

The church has no interest in joint filings, and the state no interest in declarations of love or religious affiliation. To the one, marriage is a sacred rite; to the other, it is the sanctioning of a contractual relationship. The church may care whether he is a philanderer or she a gold-digger, or whether there's too great a gap in their ages. The state's interests run to the validity of the contract.

And what has any of this to do with same-sex marriage? Maybe if we can get past such churchly considerations as God's will as expressed in the book of Leviticus, we can make peace with the bifurcation Lewis urged in his 1952 book: let the church handle the sacrament, the state the contract.

If we could get there, we might even calm down long enough to ask ourselves what would really be the risk in same-sex marriages. I mean, if our sexuality is pretty much hard-wired, how likely is it that legitimating gay or lesbian marriages would tempt straight people into homosexuality? On the other hand, keeping the status quo seems unlikely to turn gays or lesbians into straights. Maybe what we are principally talking about is the effect of marriage on couples who are already involved in sexual relationships. We believe it's a good thing for heterosexual couples to commit to fidelity. Do we think it's a bad thing for homosexual couples to do so?

Ah, but many of the advocates of gay marriage want more than the sanction of the state. They also want the blessing of their religions. And that makes opponents understandably nervous. The "full faith and credit" clause of the Constitution is generally taken to mean that a marriage held valid by any state is valid in all states. One state, that is, could change everything. You see why some traditionalists wanted a constitutional amendment to keep the old definitions in place.

I don't know where Lewis might have stood on gay marriage. For all I know, the cleric might have opposed any marriage except between one man and one woman. He might have urged such a view on his church.

But he wouldn't have urged it on the state. His fear of government intrusion into matters of faith would have kept him from doing so; his proposal for "two distinct kinds of marriage" would have made it unnecessary. In his two-tier scheme, all couples would take the contractual steps necessary for state sanction of their domestic partnership. Those who chose to - and who could persuade their religious organizations to go along - could also obtain sacramental sanction of their religious marriages.

And we all could live happily ever after.

Sure.

William Raspberry is a columnist with the Washington Post. His e-mail address is willrasp@washpost.com.
Mary C. Barnett
 

Re: Gay Marriage Editorial, Washington Post, quotes CS Lewis

Postby Leslie » 15 Dec 2004, 02:42

The author calls Lewis a cleric, which would make me suspect all of his research, if he quoted anything else.

But I basically agree with his premise. Most of my thinking about church and state starts with that same passage from Mere Christianity.
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Re: Gay Marriage Editorial, Washington Post, quotes CS Lewis

Postby Chris Ballance » 15 Dec 2004, 07:46

I am a young member of a Presbyterian Church with a sizable group of Christian Progressives, so I have heard Lewis quotes used in such a manner to support various agendas. I’ve even had one of my Sunday school teachers insinuate to the class that it was ok to experiment with sexuality and drugs while teaching a lesson based on a chapter from “Mere Christianity.” The experience was so bizarre that I wondered at the time if the teacher was just seeing if the class was still awake.
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Re: Gay Marriage Editorial, Washington Post, quotes CS Lewis

Postby Colleen » 16 Dec 2004, 21:11

Hi Mary,

What did you think of the article? Thanks for posting it.

My first reaction was that the author made a leap between these two paragraphs:

I don't know where Lewis might have stood on gay marriage. For all I know, the cleric might have opposed any marriage except between one man and one woman. He might have urged such a view on his church.

But he wouldn't have urged it on the state. His fear of government intrusion into matters of faith would have kept him from doing so; his proposal for "two distinct kinds of marriage" would have made it unnecessary.


I don't know that we can assume that Lewis wouldn't have urged his views on this issue on the state, based on that one quote from Mere Christianity. Others who have read his works more widely may be able to shed more light on this than I.

The author also states, "Ah, but many of the advocates of gay marriage want more than the sanction of the state. They also want the blessing of their religions. " I think he is missing another component of the current issue. Don't they also want everyone to sanction their lifestyle? At least, the opponents of gay marriage seem to think that is their goal. Isn't this more about, "What is going to be seen as acceptable in our society?" than "What kind of benefits can gay couples receive?"

Isn't it possible that Lewis, if faced with the kind of "culture war" we see today, might have stood up for marriage between a man and a woman as the foundation of western civilization?

Another quote from the article: "...if our sexuality is pretty much hard-wired..." That's a pretty big IF.

Personally, I'm not sure where to stand on the issue of civil unions between homosexual couples. I'm willing to discuss, to think.

In grace,
Colleen
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Moved from 'Ask an Amateur'

Postby Sven » 16 Dec 2004, 21:34

I've moved this thread to the 'C. S. Lewis' forum to

a) invite more comment and debate than it probably would have gotten in the Homework Forum.

b)seemed more on-topic here than there.

c) to avoid non-registrants participating in a debate.

Selah,
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Re: Gay Marriage Editorial, Washington Post, quotes CS Lewis

Postby Guest » 19 Dec 2004, 00:33

I would like to make a comment on the "sexuality is hardwired" bit of the article. Because of 'the fall' of man, every human being is now born into sin and when they accept Christ, they are 'reborn' in to the nature of Christ. Therefore, what is popularly called 'human nature' might more appropriatly be called 'sin nature.' Saying that living a homosexual lifestyle is okay because they are 'born' with it is like saying murder is okay, or lying is okay, because certain individuals were just 'born' with that trait. The truth is we are all born sinners and people living a homosexual lifestyle need Jesus as much as everyone else. Can homosexuals get saved? YES!! But if they grow in Christ, they will not continue their homosexual lifestyle. Because Christ changes people.

Now on this separation of church and state issue, personally I think it's Bull. If there is a God, which I know to be true, than you can't separate Him from anything.
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Re: Gay Marriage Editorial, Washington Post, quotes CS Lewis

Postby Leslie » 20 Dec 2004, 00:20

Countess wrote:Now on this separation of church and state issue, personally I think it's Bull. If there is a God, which I know to be true, than you can't separate Him from anything.


It is true that God cannot be separated from anything. But there are those who do not acknowledge God, and in a democracy, their voices must also be heard. Christ does not force himself on us; neither can we force him on others.

Thus, the only way to treat believers and non-believers equally under the law is to make government secular. Governments must still make decisions on moral matters, and people of faith should be ready and able to inform those decisions. But in a democracy, it cannot be assumed that the voices of Christians, or of a particular denomination, or of any other faith, will prevail.
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Re: Gay Marriage Editorial, Washington Post, quotes CS Lewis

Postby Alan » 20 Dec 2004, 12:09

I'm sorry for me this is very clear cut.

As a Christian I have certain standards and values.

Do I have the right to impose these standards and values on my brothers and sisters who have different beliefs and lifestyles ? Absolutely not.

Provided someone lives their live within the laws of the land that are democratically decided then they should be treated with total equality by the state.

That means full state equality for everyone no matter what theur colour, religion, gender or sexual orientation. or any other blasted thing you can think of.
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Re: Gay Marriage Editorial, Washington Post, quotes CS Lewis

Postby Colleen » 20 Dec 2004, 18:48

Leslie wrote:Thus, the only way to treat believers and non-believers equally under the law is to make government secular. Governments must still make decisions on moral matters, and people of faith should be ready and able to inform those decisions. But in a democracy, it cannot be assumed that the voices of Christians, or of a particular denomination, or of any other faith, will prevail.


Hi Leslie,

A quick thought from me. What you have written above seems reasonable to me--that people of faith be ready to inform the decisions, knowing that their voice may or may not prevail. Doesn't it seem, though, in the quest to make gov't secular, some want to keep the opinions of people of faith from even being considered?

In grace,

Colleen
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Re: a related editorial

Postby Colleen » 20 Dec 2004, 18:56

From World Magazine, by Marvin Olasky, full editorial available here.

Charles J. Chaput, the archbishop of Denver, noted in a guest op-ed page column that lawmaking inevitably involves a battle of beliefs: "If we say that we 'ought' to do something, we are making a moral judgment. When our legislators turn that judgment into law, somebody's ought becomes a 'must' for the whole of society. This is not inherently dangerous; it's how pluralism works."

He continued, "Democracy depends on people of conviction expressing their views, confidently and without embarrassment. This give-and-take is an American tradition, and religious believers play a vital role in it. We don't serve our country—in fact we weaken it intellectually—if we downplay our principles or fail to speak forcefully out of some misguided sense of good manners."

That says it well. Christians, like others, should compete democratically. We're all best served when we put forth our views vigorously. As Mr. Chaput concluded, "Patriotism, which is a virtue for people of all faiths, requires that we fight, ethically and nonviolently, for what we believe."


Thoughts?

In grace,
Colleen
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Re: Gay Marriage Editorial, Washington Post, quotes CS Lewis

Postby Leslie » 21 Dec 2004, 03:32

Colleen wrote:
Leslie wrote:Thus, the only way to treat believers and non-believers equally under the law is to make government secular. Governments must still make decisions on moral matters, and people of faith should be ready and able to inform those decisions. But in a democracy, it cannot be assumed that the voices of Christians, or of a particular denomination, or of any other faith, will prevail.


Hi Leslie,

A quick thought from me. What you have written above seems reasonable to me--that people of faith be ready to inform the decisions, knowing that their voice may or may not prevail. Doesn't it seem, though, in the quest to make gov't secular, some want to keep the opinions of people of faith from even being considered?


Yes, just as some Christians will try to keep non-Christian opinions from being considered. History is full of examples of both.
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Re: Gay Marriage Editorial, Washington Post, quotes CS Lewis

Postby Guest » 21 Dec 2004, 03:35

Alan wrote:Do I have the right to impose these standards and values on my brothers and sisters who have different beliefs and lifestyles ? Absolutely not.

I must comment on this, and please, I hope you do not think I am attacking you in any way, but I do enjoy a good debate and I like to express my thoughts. I do not know exactly what you believe so I can only come from my point of reference. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that the only way one might be saved from eternal separation from God is to accept Jesus as their savior. I believe this is an absolute truth. In fact it is a truth that transcends time and space and therefore is more true than anything in this physical world. Having established that I must ask, because we know gravity to be true would we be wrong in trying to convince someone of the existance of gravity just because they believe differently? In answer to your question, No we should not "impose" our belief on someone if by "impose" you mean force them against their will. But we have a specific responsibility to make known the truth and to do our best to let truth reign. We should never put the same weight in falsehood as we do in truth.
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Re: Gay Marriage Editorial, Washington Post, quotes CS Lewis

Postby Alan » 21 Dec 2004, 09:46

Hi Countess

I rarely take offence and you are nowhere near a region where that would occur.

You said :
But we have a specific responsibility to make known the truth and to do our best to let truth reign.


Absolutely - I 100% agree. The way we do that is through the way we live our lives. Put bluntly it is my actions that will convince others that the path of Christ is the best possible way. My words are as sounding brass.

As an Englishman, living in a democratic society, governed by a set of rules which have been arrived at democratically, I have no right to impose my views upon annother. My opinion and my vote is every bit as valid as the next persons, not one hairs-breath more and not one hairs-breath less. When we cast our votes all are equal, Duke or Dustman, Prince or Pauper.

If my vote is of the same equality as the next persons then so must my rights be, not one hairs-breath more and not one hairs-breath less. I have the right to state marriage ( not necessarily church marriage - a very different thing ). Those who have a different sexual orientation to me pay the same taxes I pay, uphold the same laws as me, are preparred to die for the same country as me. They contribute to the welfare of this country and in many cases give employment ( in all honesty I have to say I am employed by Britain's most prominant gay businessman ). If someone pays the same taxes as I and is covered by the same restrictions as I and is prepared to die for this country, and has the same vote that I have then it is clearly immoral for them not to have the same rights that I have. As a struggling Christian I cannot support anything that is immoral.
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Re: Gay Marriage Editorial, Washington Post, quotes CS Lewis

Postby Guest » 21 Dec 2004, 14:34

Thank you Alan,
I like hearing your views, but of course must disagree to some extent. First, it is not enough to just live our lives in a Christ like manner and expect that to send the message of the gospel. Of course it is an intregal part, but not enough by itself. Jesus did not come to earth as a mute. He boldly spoke the gospel and was not afraid to tell people to stop sinning (Matt 4:17, John 8:11). And in fact one of the very last things Jesus said before ascending into heaven was this, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature." The reality of our situation is too serious to live our lives quietly hoping some one will figure it out or ask us about it. In fact if we don't tell people about the hope found only in Jesus Christ, they may get a different message. There are a lot of people out there who havn't accepted Christ who seem to lead Christ-like lives. This may send the message that being "good" is enough. Furthermore our society today has taught us that we must be "tolerant" of all beliefs of all people. And by tolerant they mean, we as christians must accept and admit that what others believe as true may very well be true. "Tolerance" is one of the christain's many enemies in this world. It tells us we must take a passive stance when telling people the TRUTH. It is true that we are living in the time of grace... PRAISE GOD!! He is so good. But have you read the whole Bible? In the end there is no tolerance. It's God's way or the high way. All we have is NOW to tell people about Christ, we should not be apoligetic, we should not be passive. Instead we should be confidant in our God, and we should demonstrate God's love to others as well as tell them where our hope comes from. I agree that in a democratic society, it is important that everyone's views are heard, and I wouldn't want to stop that for anything, but just because everyone has a voice doesn't mean they should get to do whatever they want. We must stand up for what is true, we must stand up for God's principles! Marriage is not open to interpretation. It is a beautiful symbol of God's relationship to the church. Homosexuality distorts that image and distracts from the beautiful relationship God created marriage to be. God doesn't honor homosexual unions as marriage, the government shouldn't either. The fact is that that sounds like I'm being unfair, trying to force my beliefs on someone else, but the truth is, honoring homosexual unions as equal to marriage is a belief in itself and why is it okay for that belief to be forced on our government and not my belief?
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Re: Gay Marriage Editorial, Washington Post, quotes CS Lewis

Postby Alan » 21 Dec 2004, 16:01

Thanks Countess

You wrote:

The fact is that that sounds like I'm being unfair, trying to force my beliefs on someone else, but the truth is, honoring homosexual unions as equal to marriage is a belief in itself and why is it okay for that belief to be forced on our government and not my belief?


It doesn't sound like you are being unfair. It could, however, sound like you are denying equal rights to all. This is ( as Lewis made clear ) not about church marriage but about civil marriage.

The simple truth is that gays and lesbians should have the same state rights as any other person. That's not tollerance, that's justice. They pay the same amount in tax, they teach our children, they guard our land and enforce the law, they protect the weak and the vulnerable and heal our wounds. They deserve nothing less than full equality.
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