June 26, 2013

 In two dramatic decisions this week, the Supreme Court declared laws unconstitutional. By a 5-4 majority, the Court set aside section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. And by an identical margin, though with only one vote changing sides, it voided DOMA, the Defense of Marriage Act, which defined marriage as only a union between one man and one woman.

There is sadness and anger on the political left about the first, and sadness and anger on the political right about the second. 

Ironically, the two decisions together push “we the people” to the forefront. What are we going to do now? 

In matters of voting rights, we ordinary citizens cannot turn our attention away from questions of whether African-Americans are being denied equal voting rights. Since 1965, but no more, we have been able to leave worrying about that question to the federal Department of Justice and the courts. 

Is racial discrimination largely a problem we have put behind us, as five justices led by Chief Justice Roberts declared? Or is racial discrimination still a present, ugly reality as the other four, led by Justice Ginsberg, thundered back? We can’t look to them now to settle that question.  They have said all they can. It is up to us.  And it is worth our remembering that it has always been up to us, no matter how much or how little attention we give to matters of such gravity. 

If we believe that racial discrimination is a huge and continuing ugly reality, then we must feel called to see that it is combatted.

In matters of marriage, there remain questions to be answered about whether homosexuals can marry in many states. Thirteen now have approved gay marriage, and 37 have not. But what God wills with regard to marriage (a much larger question) was in no way illuminated by the Supreme Court—and could not be.

The legal and political question has been about whether gays and lesbians can be denied rights that are accorded to heterosexual couples.  For religiously minded people, however, the much more important question is what God wills with regard to marriage. Marriages through civil procedures may now be available to same-sex couples, but the DOMA decision says nothing about what churches will or should do. Which marriages should they celebrate? That, too, is up to us.

The question for those of us who are religiously minded is not at all about equal rights. Rather, the question is whether homosexuality is a sin. If it is a sin, then churches should not bless same sex unions. A few religious denominations have come to say it isn’t; a number of others say it certainly is. And by far the largest number are deeply divided on the question.  So again, it is up to us.

It is up to us to discern together what is God’s will in this matter. Shall we be led by Jesus’s call to love one another? Or shall we take the five snippets as telling us all that God has to say in the matter?

So Friends, what are we to do in these matters? What is the witness to which God calls us?

also posted on River View Friend

Views: 215

Comment by Doug Bennett on 6th mo. 26, 2013 at 4:55pm

In advance of the Supreme Court ruling on DOMA -- and anticipating the substance of the decision -- the Manhattan Declaration issued a press release vowing continuing efforts to uphold traditional marriage. "No matter this week's rulings, we will rededicate ourselves to renewing in American culture the profound beauty, mystery and holiness of faithful marriage. We will be patient in the light of any setbacks. And, in the end, we will succeed - if we do not give up."

So we know some Christians will continue to press the view that homosexuality is a form of sexual immorality, to be grouped with promiscuity, infidelity, polygamy and bestiality.

What do we have to say? 

Don't know the Manhattan Declaration? It is a statement of a group on evangelical, Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians against abortion, against homosexuality and for a certain view of religious liberty. It is worth reading. I wouldn't sign it. Would you?

Comment by Mackenzie on 6th mo. 26, 2013 at 5:27pm

I have some sadness about both. DOMA was not overturned. It was half-overturned. The federal government must now recognize same sex marriages, but for some reason, same sex marriages are still being exempted from the Constitution's full faith & credit clause. When my Meeting takes a marriage under its care, if that couple crosses the state line that is only 2 or maybe 3 miles to its west, they cease to be married.

Comment by William F Rushby on 6th mo. 26, 2013 at 6:11pm

Hello, Douglas Bennett!

You wrote: "Or shall we take the five snippets as telling us all that God has to say in the matter?"

As I stated elsewhere, your "five snippets" approach seems to me to be a form of proof texting.



Comment by Doug Bennett on 6th mo. 26, 2013 at 9:49pm

I've registered that you've said that, William, and puzzled over it. I don't see it.

Five snippets is hardly the only thing I've written about homosexuality. Between November 2011 and September 2012 I wrote about 40 blog posts on homosexuality and how we read the Bible. Many of those I posted on QQ. They are all collected in Collected Essays for Indiana Yearly Meeting on Homosexuality, the B....  That collection is available on River View Friend

"Five Snippets" is one of the forty blog posts and probably the most widely read, but there's a good deal more underlying my understanding that the Bible, well read, does not lead us to believe homosexuality is a sin.

Comment by Clem Gerdelmann on 6th mo. 27, 2013 at 7:45am

Quakerism, as testified by Douglas Gwyn in "The Covenant Crucified", proceeds not from a reasoned(rationalized?) approach to reality, but an apophatic("dark night" spirituality?) surrender to mystery. Thus, "It lies within the vocation of Friends and other covenantal traditions to clarify and give prophetic utterance to this fundamental conflict..." between contract-reality and covenant-mystery.


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