Monday, March 03, 2008

Barack Obama and gay rights

On Sunday Barack Obama said,

"I will tell you that I don't believe in gay marriage, but I do think that people who are gay and lesbian should be treated with dignity and respect and that the state should not discriminate against them…So, I believe in civil unions that allow a same-sex couple to visit each other in a hospital or transfer property to each other. I don't think it should be called marriage, but I think that it is a legal right that they should have that is recognized by the state. If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount, which I think is, in my mind, for my faith, more central than an obscure passage in Romans. That's my view."
I certainly agree with Obama that gay people should be treated with dignity and respect, but Obama’s concern about visiting the hospital or transferring property is a red herring. You shouldn’t have to be gay or married to designate who your hospital visitors can be, or to whom you want to transfer your property. Sexual orientation or marital status should have absolutely nothing to do with either.

But Obama’s appeal to the Bible is laughable. Read the Sermon on the Mount for yourself (Matthew 5-7). You will find absolutely nothing for or against same-sex marriages in the Sermon on the Mount! Later in the same book, however, Jesus is reported as condemning “sexual immorality” (Matthew 15:19) and there can be no serious doubt that in a first century AD Jewish context sexual immorality would have included homosexual sex.

St. Paul, another first century Jew, is very clear and explicit:
For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged
natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up
natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men
committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due
penalty for their error (Romans 1:26-27).

Notice that Paul's statement is not about what we now call "sexual orientation." It is about behavior.

Obama’s idea that the Sermon on the Mount is somehow “more central than an obscure passage in Romans” is problematic on at least three counts.

First, It removes Jesus from his first century Jewish context.

Second, Playing the Gospels off against Paul’s letters is simply not a “Christian” position and Obama claims to be Christian. Ever since the early second century and possibly even the first century, Christians have held Paul’s letters in esteem as scripture just as much as the Gospels.

Third, Implying that some passage in the Sermon on the Mount is in clear support of same-sex unions while Paul’s letter to the Romans is “obscure” is either be ignorance or an outright lie--and since Obama has been going to church for twenty years, it’s hard to understand how he could be that ignorant of the Bible.


Alcamadus said...

Very good analysis of the entire situation. I think you dead on. Obama's handling of gay marriage, gay rights in general is weak, not to mention his knowledge of the Bible.

His reasoning that "this passage is more important than this obscure passage" is laughable indeed. What a joke.

Robert said...

The trick is to figure out what Obama actually means. If he finds something to be politically unacceptable to his constituency, then he'll shift position like any good politician. One need only look at his wife’s lack of pride in America to see them quickly regain their footing by changing the context and the meaning of her statements to make something that was distasteful, palatable.

Obama’s history as a socialist implies that he’d be inclined to subjugate the freedom of religion to the state. This would include forcing churches, private employers, and organizations to recognize gay marriages – regardless what he calls them.

That all said, giving gays civil unions makes far more sense than conferring upon them special rights that simply allows them all the rights of married people with none of the commitments. We do have to accept the fact that the tax system is the way it is and that it is probably easier to allow civil unions to transfer properties than it is to reverse 50 years of tax law. It’s important to cut away at that piece by piece. Eventually we’ll reverse these bad laws, but it can’t be done overnight.

However, without knowing all the technical, legal, and long term ramifications of civil unions versus traditional marriage, it’s hard for me to personally know whether to agree with that course of action or not. I do know that conferring special rights isn’t a particularly solid idea.

Dennis said...

Robert wrote,

"Obama’s history as a socialist implies that he’d be inclined to subjugate the freedom of religion to the state. This would include forcing churches, private employers, and organizations to recognize gay marriages – regardless what he calls them."

Bingo! And once Obama stacks the Supreme Court with justices who believe in "interpreting" the Constitution in line with current politically correct theories, he'll get away with it regardless of what the Constitution actually says about Freedom of Speech or Freedom of Religion!