Life and Living: The Commonalities Between Snakes, Knives, and Philip Seymour Hoffman

Flirting with death? From l. to r. - Jamie Coots, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Cody Coots.

Flirting with death? From l. to r. – Jamie Coots, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Cody Coots.

     Now, they say that Blondes have more fun, but personally, I don’t think that’s true. In fact, it appears that some rural Kentuckians are having far more fun than even Blondes do; (ready for it?) indeed, more fun than they can shake a snake at! (Cue sad trombone.) Why else would someone want to risk their life doing something, even after their own father has lost his life in the very same way?

     That’s what Cody Coots, the new pastor of the Middlesboro, Kentucky “Full Gospel Tabernacle in Jesus Name” church, says that he’s prepared to do. (1) For those of you, my fine young readers, that aren’t familiar with the story, we’ll climb into the proverbial Chronosphere, and like Jonathan LaPaglia on the late-nineties show, jump back seven days…

     Last Saturday, Middlesboro, Kentucky pastor Jamie Coots lost his life, having been bitten by one of the poisonous snakes that he and fellow attendees of the Full Gospel Tabernacle are so fond of messing with in the “name of Jesus.” (2) They believe that, according to bible passage Mark 16:18, if their faith is strong, that those pesky little snakebites won’t hurt them at all;

“They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
(Mark 16:18, KJV)

     Now, I’ve suggested in the days since that either the Bible is wrong, that Pastor Coots misinterpreted it, or that he wasn’t “anointed” in the first place. Indeed, during my initial flirtations with this topic on Facebook, one of my friends even suggested that the elder Coots had been “released from his calling,” to which I responded with a reference to Romans 11:29, which basically states that God doesn’t “issue recalls.” The debate, though, isn’t quite about that. The true crux of the issue here, in my own not-so-humble opinion, is once again, where faith meets religion, and religion’s never-ending propensity for the misapplication of faith…or does the “rabbit hole” go even deeper?

     Another friend once told me that the Bible is a “scary” thing. I don’t think so. The Bible, in and of itself, is just a book. This book cannot act of its own volition, can it? No. It requires a human element to use it, whether that be for good or ill. In that discussion, I likened the Bible to a kitchen knife. As everyone knows, a kitchen knife is a tool, designed and purposed to aid in the preparation of food for consumption. We don’t fear kitchen knives, do we? If I take a paring knife out and set it on the counter next to an apple, will that knife jump up, and cut my apple into several neat, little slices for me to eat? Likewise, will it jump up and stab someone? No, but it can be used to those ends! Once again, it requires the interaction of a person. In my opinion, some degree of accountability must be assigned to the person or people who are using the tool.

     Cody Coots has said that if he gets bitten by the snake, then he, like his father, will decline emergency treatment. He states that if he dies, then it must be “God’s will.” (Question: if there is a gun on the table that one knows is loaded and has a round in the chamber, and one picks up that gun, points it at their head and says, “If I die when I pull this trigger, then it’s God’s will,” and then pulls the trigger and dies, whose will was it actually that this person died?)

     Personal accountability. It’s something that, quite honestly, is fading fast in America. In 1968, then-Governor Ronald Reagan mused on this concept during a speech to the Republican National Convention when he stated;

“We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”

     So, at what point do we hold a person or group of people accountable for their actions? In the course of asking this question, I’m reminded of the recent, tragic death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. Now, before anyone starts accusing me of trying to “capitalise on the death of a good and decent man,” please read on a bit.

     As a lot of you know, Hoffman was found in his West Village, Manhattan apartment back on the 2nd of this month, dead of a Heroin overdose. Several small bags were found, and Hoffman died with a needle in his vein. (3) Since that day, those following and commenting on the sad story, have done what people often do; play the “blame game,” and attempt to find some kind of meaning in an otherwise meaningless death. They blame the drug. They blame the pusher. They blame the stresses of celebrity life…but does anyone ever place even a smidgen of the blame for Hoffman’s demise…on Hoffman?

     This needle, like any other needle I suspect, would not have been able to simply jump up and enter Hoffman’s arm. His supplier didn’t dose him, nor did any other Tinseltown actor or agent. No, Philip Seymour Hoffman did this to himself, knowing full well the dangers of what he was doing. The sooner we acknowledge this, the better we’ll be at viewing things like this objectively. Of course, there will still be those select few who, like Coots and progeny, will blame their own and others’ ill-fated actions on everyone else, including their God.

 

Faith and Religion: A Flood That Doesn’t Hold Water

Comparison between the Ark and the HMS Titanic. Graphic courtesy of Patheos.com / PZ Myers.

Comparison between the Ark and the RMS Titanic. Graphic courtesy of Patheos.com / PZ Myers.

     TLDR ADVISORY: This article exceeds 1,000 words, and may be lengthy for some readers, including Mr. Ray Comfort and our friends at Answers in Genesis.

     It seems like the older I get, the more skeptical I become regarding things that, for the longest time, I held to be unquestionably true. A young Earth, the Genesis story, the story of Jesus, and the Noah’s Ark story. I grew up with things like the flood story, being told by my Sunday School teachers how Noah built this gigundous boat, and brought all of the animals in the world onto the Ark by twos, male and female, because God was going to flood the Earth. God made it rain for forty days and forty nights, they said. God made the rainbow, they said.

     I guess I started questioning things the minute I discovered that I could make rainbows, (a la the prism or a sprinkler!) and the questions only multiplied from there. I learned about dinosaurs in school. When I asked about them in church, I was told that they died in the flood. I took that answer, and ran with it for quite some time…but no longer. You see, the accumulation of knowledge and a greater understanding of things like cause and effect does something funny to a person’s perception of reality. It shatters illusions, and places certainty solidly within the realm of testable theory, evidence, and proofs.

     Look around for evidence of a global flood. There is none, despite the fact that something on that massive of a scale would leave indubitable evidence behind, in the form of sedimentary layers. The 2004 Boxing Day tsunami left sedimentary evidence everywhere in its impact area. (1) Evidence of earlier tsunamis has been unearthed in places such as Japan, the Cascadia subduction zone, and elsewhere. No uniform layer of ocean sediments, however, has been unearthed that would support a global flood having happened.

     Dinosaurs. According to young-Earth creationists such as the Hovinds, Ray Comfort, Ken Ham and the nice folks at Answers in Genesis, they lived alongside early man, from Adam to Noah. Where did they go? Wasn’t Noah supposed to have taken them aboard the ship as well? Let’s look and see what the ol’ King James says about that in Genesis 6, verses 19-21:

19 And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.

20 Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.

21 And take thou unto thee of all food that is eaten, and thou shalt gather it to thee; and it shall be for food for thee, and for them.

Elephantitis is a pain! Graphic courtesy of Desktop Nexus / LivePencil.

Elephantitis is a pain! Graphic courtesy of Desktop Nexus / LivePencil.

     So God said every living thing. Of all flesh. (Sounds pretty definitive to me!) This begs the question; was Noah an obedient man? According to the Bible, he was. That’s why God hand-picked him to preserve life on that overblown raft of his. So if that’s true, then again, where are the dinosaurs? I’ve gotten a few different answers from the “answer” folks on this. Either they died in the flood, or they went extinct after. If they went “glug glug,” then that would have to mean that Noah was disobedient to some degree. If they went extinct afterwards, then why didn’t other reptiles, such as crocodiles, snakes, turtles and lizards go extinct? T-rex and Velociraptor were apex predators, for Christ’s sakes! So, I guess we wait for the creationists to come up with a better excuse.

     Where did all of the water go? There’s only a finite amount of the “wet stuff” on this planet, and it’s not nearly enough to have covered the Earth deeper than Mount Everest is high:

19 And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered.

20 Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered.
(Genesis 7: 19-20, King James Version.)

     “Ah! But what about all of the frozen water, locked up in polar ice?” you may ask. Here it is; if we melted every glacier, every iceberg and every ice sheet, global ocean levels would only rise about 220 feet. (2) The tippy-top of Everest sits at a whopping 29,029 feet above sea level. Maybe if we added all of the ice cubes out of everyone’s freezers, we’d add a few more inches to that previous 220 feet number.

     I’d like to know something. At what point did Noah stop off in Australia, and drop off the Marsupials? Kangaroos. They’re endemic to just one continent on this, God’s green Earth; the Land Down Under. How did they get there, especially when there’s no land bridge between New Guinea and Queensland? The interesting thing about this one, is that the YEC’ers have pulled a new explanation out of their posteriors; a post-flood ice age. Intriguing…proof, si vous plait? Conversely, why are they only endemic to Australia? If the ark landed in Turkey somewhere, then why don’t we see them in Africa? In South America? In India at least?

     For that matter, how did Aboriginal Australians and Native Americans get across the Torres and Bering Straits? Once again, post-flood ice age. Right, sure. Ya bet’cha.

     Supposedly, the flood happened around 2350 BC, according to the folks at AiG. (3) At Creation Ministries, Dr. John Osgood fixes it at 2304 BC. (4) In 1650, Irish Archbishop James Ussher fixed the date of the flood at 2348 BC. What’s a few (or 40) years, right?

     Centuries of research by the best and brightest scholars, have narrowed the date of the building of Khufu’s pyramid on the Giza plateau to sometime between 2560 BC and 2470 BC. (5) So, what gives? Were the pyramids built pre-flood then? (AiG makes an attempt to answer this question, albeit rather poorly. They fail to offer a date of their own for Khufu’s pyramid being built.) Young-Earth creationists have come up with a theory of their own with regards to the movement of land masses, which they’ve termed, “Catastrophic Plate Tectonics.” (6) If that theory was true, and the pyramids were built before the flood, then they surely would have been destroyed, don’t ya think? Again, YEC’ers can’t answer with a firmer date for the building of the pyramids, so…?

     Come on. We know that the Earth’s plates are drifting at about 2cm/year average speed. If we push “stop” on the global VCR, and then press “rewind,” it would take far longer than a mere 6k years for the landmasses to rejoin. We know about how long it takes for rocks to form. We can measure plate movement via GPS, and can prove subduction via Seismology. Science has yet again jumped in where religion has fumbled the ball, and taken it down the field and toward the end zone of understanding the physical processes that have shaped the planet. (A gratuitous football reference there, in anticipation of Sunday’s big game!)

     To sum all of this up, the global flood story has more holes in it than the colander in my kitchen cabinet. So, what are we disillusioned believers now supposed to believe?

Faith and Religion: Freedom of Choice of Religion?

     Yet again, Facebook has provided me some fodder for an article. (These people sure don’t disappoint!) Earlier this evening, one of my Facebook friends shared the following picture, with accompanying quote from “Focus On The Family” founder Dr. James Dobson:

Freedom by Dobson?

Freedom by Dobson?

“The right of parents to select their child’s religious orientation must be protected and no teacher or administrator should be allowed to contradict what the child has been taught at home.”

     Now, I have yet to verify the veracity of this quote, whether Dr. Dobson actually uttered or penned these words, however my thoughts on this would, either way, remain as follows; Oh, I don’t think so. Since when has the term, “Freedom of Religion,” meant a parent’s right to impose a particular belief set on a child?

     Before anyone attempts to say that I’m either taking Dobson’s statement out of context, or that this was not what Dobson meant, please allow me to say this about that; the statement above is what is known as a “face value” statement, and was presented as such by the nice folks at the “Family Talk with Dr. James Dobson” Facebook page. No accompanying source citation or contextual reference was provided, so we must therefore accept the statement as it reads, and proceed from that point.

     That being said, I’d like to clear up a few other things. First off, I’m not about to sit here and advocate for parental or spiritual anarchy. Should we, as the Bible suggests, “raise our children in the way that they should go”? Certainly, by giving them all of the information that we can. We should, with all due honesty and sincerity, tell them what we are compelled to believe, and why we are compelled to believe it. We should be doing our best to instill the virtues and values in our offspring that we hold dear. We should be providing evidence and examples, and doing our level best to teach. Then, as they grow older, we should allow them to make their own choice of what to believe. We shouldn’t be telling them what to believe…doing so is pure folly.

     If parents would take this approach in the home, while at the same time acknowledging what their children may be taught while at school, and how it relates to what’s being taught in the home, then perhaps this apparent dichotomy between religion and education would be lessened. Regardless, I’m of the opinion that Dobson et. al. are engaging in some selective hypocrisy here, by using the idea of religious freedom to in fact deprive their own progeny of this very same freedom!

     When I last read my Bible, (which wasn’t too terribly long ago, in fact!) I was given the impression that when we were created, we were created in God’s image. Now, what does that mean? On the face of it, one might suppose that God somehow looks like us, and we like God, because we were “created in his image.” Oh, but indeed, my fine young readers, this simple statement has far deeper implications! I personally believe in the Trinity; God the Father, God personified in his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, and his indwelling presence, the Holy Spirit. Likewise, we have been created with not only a physical body, but also a thinking mind and a spirit. In other words, since God is a triune being, he also created us as triune beings! Within that framework of how we were made, he also gave us a unique gift; freedom of choice.

     People, God does not desire automatons. He does not compel us to blindly and automatically serve him, but gives us the freedom to either choose him, or choose otherwise. We believe something because we choose to believe it…or choose not to. Now, what was that verse we learned as kids, early on in Sunday School?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son; that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16, KJV)

     Whosoever believeth. Doesn’t say anything about having that belief chosen for you, or you choosing that belief for someone else. The Bible does say that we should raise our children in the ways that they should go, and that’s all well and good. Parents cannot however, choose what their kids will believe or not believe, any more than they can choose their hair color, their eye color, their skin tone or their blood type. Guide? Absolutely. Foist? No.

Faith and Religion: De Bibliis et Arbores (Bibliolatry, Part Two)

bible in forest_300px

TLDR Advisory: The following article exceeds 1,000 words, and may be lengthy for some readers.

“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.
Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”
(Albus Dumbledore, “Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows, Part II”)

     That’s quite a profound thought, isn’t it, that words can have so much of an impact on the human condition? It’s true, though. Words, whether spoken or written, can convey a myriad of thoughts, ideas and feelings. How we digest, process and integrate these thoughts and ideas however, is a slightly different, yet definitely related matter. In the previous article, I attempted to touch upon the “what, who and how” of a very contentious theological issue; bibliolatry. Now, I’ll be getting into the remaining three questions of a “six essential questions” approach to the subject. So…allons-y!

When, if ever,  does faith in scripture become Bibliolatry?

     In my conversations with various laypeople and theologians, the thought was entertained of a believer actually praying to their bible, and whether this actually occurs. Now, I know that there are people out on the edges of Christendom, who insist on holding their bibles every single time they pray, one could even say “religiously”…but praying to their bibles? I just don’t know.

     In my own experiences interacting with fundamentalists and evangelicals, I have come across several who have attempted to sell me on things like young-Earth creationism, that there’s no tangible evidence for evolution, that carbon dating is a lie, or at the very least “unreliable”, and that creation science has debunked actual scientific observations. In my own humble opinion, I would posit that those who willfully ignore or discard established scientific facts in favor of an absolute, literal interpretation of the bible, are indeed engaging in bibliolatry. In simpler terms, if the grass is green, but the bible says that it’s purple with polka dots metaphorically, and the believer says that they believe the grass is purple with polka dots because their bible says it is, what would you call that?

     I was once told by an Assemblies of God pastor that the bible is a book, like any other book. As with any other book, there are rules to how it’s supposed to be read. For instance, I wouldn’t read a cookbook like I would read a romance novel, I wouldn’t read an encyclopaedia like I would a science fiction novel. The bible is actually a collection of several styles and modes of writing. Its contents include parables, poetry, allegory, genealogy, history, opinions and advice. Each of these is meant to be read in its own way, and taken for the type of information that it is. Those within Christendom who take each and every word, jot and tittle as being a factual account, may also be engaging in a kind of bibliolatry.

Why is Bibliolatry an issue?

     Why indeed! Again, I can only opine here, and I would opine that it could very well be an issue for those trying to find common ground from which to discuss things like belief. In addition, bibliolatry could very well set the believer up for a possible “crisis of faith”, especially if and when they are confronted by existential facts and evidence that are undeniable. At that point, where do they go? To whom or to what do they turn?

Where do we go from here?

     For the believer, I would suggest taking the advice of that AG pastor to heart. This same pastor also brought up the concept of “Hermaneutics”, and taking a hermaneutical approach to the reading and interpretation of scriptures. What do I think? I think it’s a good idea.

     In a 1993 treatise entitled, “The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church”, the Pontifical Biblical Commission to Pope John Paul II included the following statement on biblical hermaneutics:

     “Addressing men and women, from the beginnings of the Old Testament onward, God made use of all the possibilities of human language, while at the same time accepting that his word be subject to the constraints caused by the limitations of this language. Proper respect for inspired Scripture requires undertaking all the labors necessary to gain a thorough grasp of its meaning. (source)

     In other words, one cannot simply pick up the bible and read everything in one single way, talking it all one way. Taking this approach, in my opinion, is tantamount to intellectual sloth. (And, since sloth is one of the “Seven Deadly Sins”…well, you get the idea.) It’s like the three elements on my banner spell out; think. When reading through the bible, don’t behave like a piece of OCR software and just take everything at face value. Instead, pause for a few moments, taking the extra time to read and consider the context of what the book’s authors were positing, and in what mode it was posited.

     Within Christianity, the bible has often been referred to as the believer’s “sword”. The trouble is, that when most people think of a sword, they think “weapon. swing. slay.” Swords however, are actually so much more; they are pieces of art. If one stops to actually consider a sword, they begin to notice things like craftsmanship, style, metallurgy, parts. While the blade might be fashioned from one type of metal, the hilt might be something completely different. While the length of the blade was fashioned by forging, hammering, tempering and quenching, the hilt and guard were formed and gilded by other means, and all of the separate parts were then brought together and assembled with the care and craft of the swordsmith. But alas, too many have contented themselves with simply grabbing a hold of the sword, and hacking away.

     Were not automatons, people. God gave us brains capable of rational thought, for a very good reason. Let’s start using those brains to process each piece of information we are presented with, placing it within its proper perspective. Otherwise, those bibles are no better than wasted trees; forested wood, processed into paper with ink applied, bound not only by glue and thread, but also by our failures to reach for higher levels of epiphany and enlightenment.

Faith and Religion: Do YOU Believe In The Bible? (Bibliolatry, Part One)

Part and parcel of deity, or guidebook?

Part and parcel of deity, or guidebook?

     TLDR ADVISORY: This article exceeds 1,000 words, and may be lengthy for some readers.

     Back in December of last year, immediately upon the completion and subsequent publishing of my article on “Christianity’s Idolatrous Tendencies”, a reader submitted a comment in which he discussed the right and left fringes, their penchant for being the most vocal, and also suggested that I compose an article on the topic of Bibliolatry. So, I did what I often do before committing nouns and verbs, consonants, vowels and punctuation to article space; I started reading…

     Although the simple concept of worshiping religious texts wasn’t foreign to me, this word was. “Bibliolatry”. I’d never heard it boiled down into one word, one nice little eleven-letter package, before now. It turns out that the word has been used in some pretty heated theological debates lately, on exactly how certain denominations view the scriptures in their entirety. (At the end of this article, I will be furnishing you, my fine young readers, with some links on the topic that you can follow and read, in order to expand your understanding of the word, as I have.)

     As a result, that’s going to be more or less what this article is about; expanding our understanding of the concept, and how it relates to the wider realm of theological debate. In order to best accomplish this, we’ll take a simple “six essential questions” approach. I suspect that’s also what this particular reader, the one that suggested the article in the first place, was also after; for me to expand my knowledge, and become a better writer in the process. (Good looking out, Chris Randolph!) It’s pretty easy to point a finger, but it takes diligence to drill into an issue! (Please by all means, try digesting this article in sections, lest it become “TLDR”!)

What is Bibliolatry?

     First of all, we need to get a firm idea of what “bibliolatry” is, exactly. If one googles a quick definition of the word, they get the following:

bib·li·ol·a·try: noun /ˌbiblēˈälətrē/

1. An excessive adherence to the literal interpretation of the Bible.
2. An excessive love of books.

     Another word that often comes up within this context is the word “worship”, and the idea that some people of faith “worship” their bibles. What does it mean to “worship” something? Once again, let’s look to the “Webster Word” definition of worship:

wor·ship: noun \ˈwər-shəp also ˈwȯr-\

1. (chiefly British) a person of importance —used as a title for various officials (as magistrates and some mayors)
2. reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power; also : an act of expressing such reverence
3. a form of religious practice with its creed and ritual
4. extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem <worship of the dollar>

     So, within the scope of Christianity…Bible worship. Does it exist? The answer to that greatly depends on who you ask, and from which “school of thought” that their answer comes…

Who is engaging in Bibliolatry?

     One of the first questions that I was posed with, right from the outset of researching this topic, was if this idea, this concept of “Bible worship” even exists. There is the perception by some observers that some of the more fundamentalist denominations within Christianity often engage in bibliolatrous behaviors and statements. (Try saying that three times, really fast!) Make no mistake though, this issue is not limited to Christianity. I’m sure that at least some of you have noticed the tendency of fundamentalist and / or radical Muslims to react violently when the Qu’ran is, in their opinion, defiled or disrespected in some way. (Unless you’ve been dwelling under a rock, or in some remote mountain community without access to media since 2001, you’ll know full well what I mean.) In addition, the idea of worshiping religious texts also seems to be found in the Sikh faith, by virture of the manner in which their sacred text, the “Shri Guru Granth Sahib” is viewed. But I digress…

     In the process of researching this article, I had the opportunity to speak with ministers from a few different faiths. The Lutheran pastor that I spoke with seemed to think that bibliolatry is nonexistent, while the pastor from the local Assemblies of God church acknowledged that some of the more conservative denominations may in fact be engaging in the practice, based upon their view of scripture.

     Likewise, some on the outside of mainstream Christianity have also asserted that those fundamentalists who refuse to accept scientific fact, in favor of a literal interpretation of their bible, are indeed engaging in a form of bibliolatry.

How does the Bible address Bibliolatry?

     First of all, the Bible itself would seem to prohibit its own worship, by virtue of the first of God’s “ten commandments”, also known as the “Decalogue”:

1 – “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

     The entire crux of the bibliolatry debate seems to come down to the way people of faith view their bibles, and there are indeed a few passages with regard to this. Denominations such as the Southern Baptists, who hold the Bible and its authority in high esteem, point to verses such as 2nd Timothy 3:16-17, in which the epistle’s author (believed to have been the apostle Paul) states the following:

(16 )”All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

(17 ) That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (KJV)

     Critics of this school of thought also find biblical reinforcement for their position, in passages such as John 5:39-40, where Jesus himself is quoted as saying;

(39 )”Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.

(40 )And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life.” (KJV)

     I think this might be a good point at which to stop, so that you all have a chance to digest what I have posited here thus far. In the next article, I will address the remaining three questions on the topic…so stay tuned! In the meantime, here are a few links to articles on the subject of bibliolatry, and church responses;

1) Article on “Bibliolatry” at Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bibliolatry

2) “Bibliolatry: A Fraudulent Accusation”, article by Dr. A. William Merrell, Vice President, Southern Baptist Convention.

3) “Postcard from San Diego: Fighting ‘Bibliolatry’ at the Evangelical Theological Society”, article written by Ted Olsen, at Christianity Today.

4) “Is Bibliolatry the Real Danger?”, short article by Kevin DeYoung, at The Gospel Coalition.

The Marriage Equality Debate: Definitively Speaking

     Everyone who has read at least some of my blog articles knows where I stand on the topic of Marriage Equality. In this entry, I will attempt to posit some of the reasons behind my stance so that you, my fine young readers, might be better enlightened.

     Let’s start right at the top, with our nation’s own “Pledge of Allegiance.” This pledge, originally written in 1892 by Christian Socialist Francis Bellamy, then altered here and there in the intervening years, the pledge that every patriotic American knows by heart, reads as follows:

     “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands: one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”(1)

     The words that I would like to focus on are the six at the end. They are a noble and profound statement of how the people should be treated. These six words, “with liberty and justice for all” convey the idea that every American is entitled to enjoy the same freedoms, and be protected under the same judicial standards regardless of age, gender, race, religious preference, creed, sexual orientation or otherwise.

     Now, let’s look at marriage from a purely legal perspective. The legal dictionary defines marriage thus: 

     “The legal status, condition, or relationship that results from a contract by which one man and one woman, who have the capacity to enter into such an agreement, mutually promise to live together in the relationship of husband and wife in law for life, or until the legal termination of the relationship.”

     In essence, “marriage” is a civil union between two persons of an age where they are legally able to consent to and enter into the contract, for the purpose of creating kinship, facilitating long-term cohabitation and having the ability to access all rights, privileges and liberties granted by law to both parties in the marriage. It is a liberty that every American enjoys….EXCEPT those in the LGBT community!

     Measures such as California’s “Proposition 8: California Marriage Protection Act”(2) and the federal government’s 1996 “Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)”(3) have been introduced by social conservatives and Dominionists in an attempt to solidify the traditional legal definition of marriage. Both of these measures have been challenged in court lately in respect to their constitutionality.

     When the principles of DOMA and Proposition 8 are placed against the Pledge of Allegiance, we get something to the effect of; “…with liberty and justice for all, except gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender persons.” Ladies and gentlemen, I don’t recall the Pledge reading that way. In my opinion, both DOMA and Prop 8 should be stricken down permanently, and “marriage” as a legal arrangement should be redefined to meet current demographic considerations.

     From a theological standpoint, the tired arguments of the “Religious Right” appear at face value, to be nothing more than an attempt to force their own perceptions of the morality aspects of a belief system on others. As I recall, this was not the “Great Commission” that believers were given. The commission was to deliver the “Good News” of salvation through faith in Christ, not to force it upon others, either at the ballot box or otherwise. The addage that I have always equated to this is;

     “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink. If you try to force the horse to drink, you will only succeed in drowning the horse.”

     I have my own personal suspicions that this may be exactly what the people backing initiatives like DOMA and Prop 8 are attempting to do. They’re actively trying to “drown the horse.” More often than not, this endeavor is being undertaken with the same intolerance for the LGBT community that some of the forerunners, the great-great-grandparents of these same Fundamentalists and social conservatives, applied to African-Americans a mere century ago. The more one looks, the more similarities become apparent.

     In regards to the “Great Commission,” the Bible instructs the believer to deliver the message of salvation to all who have ears to hear. In the “Parable of the Sower,” Jesus describes the varying results of delivering the Gospel, also referred to as “sowing the seeds:”

    Mark 4:13 “And he said unto them, Know ye not this parable? and how then will ye know all parables? 14 The sower soweth the word. 15 And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts. 16 And these are they likewise which are sown on stony ground; who, when they have heard the word, immediately receive it with gladness; 17 And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended. 18 And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, 19 And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. 20 And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred.” (KJV)

     Again, nowhere in the above passage do I read anything regarding forcing seeds to grow where otherwise they’re not meant to. Regardless of what I personally hold to be true about the Bible, faith, morality and such, it is not my place to force others to live by my beliefs.

     Clint Eastwood, self-avowed Libertarian actor and former Mayor of Carmel-By-The-Sea, California, granted an interview to GQ magazine last month in which he stated the following:

     “These people who are making a big deal about gay marriage? I don’t give a [expletive] about who wants to get married to anybody else! Why not?! We’re making a big deal out of things we shouldn’t be making a deal out of … Just give everybody the chance to have the life they want.”(4)

     I tend to agree.

______________________________

This post is part of the “Gay Agenda” series. (Remember to print a copy and put it in your agendas!)