Friday, March 15, 2013

The Case Against Gay Marriage - Is A Secular Argument Possible?

The video which is embedded below was produced by Wall Street Journal Live. The interviewee is Ralph Reed, best known as the first executive director of the Christian Coalition during the early 1990s. 

Reed was hired by religious broadcaster-cum-Presidential candidate Pat Robertson as executive director of the Christian Coalition in Virginia Beach, Virginia. 

Reed led the organization from 1989 to 1997. Once Federal prosecutors began investigating charges by the Christian Coalition's chief financial officer, Judy Liebert, Reed resigned from his post, and moved to Georgia . The Coalition's finances were collapsing, and the Internal Revenue Service and Federal Election Commission were investigating.

The Coalition organized former Robertson supporters and other religious conservatives to oppose political liberalism. Abandoning confrontational tactics of street protest learned in college, Reed attempted to project a "softer" public face for Christian conservatism, self-described as "guerrilla", putting "enemies" in "body bags" before they even realized he had struck.

Reed appeared on the cover of Time on May 15, 1995, under the title "The Right Hand of God: Ralph Reed of the Christian Coalition."

In 1996, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) brought an enforcement action in United States District Court, alleging Reed and the coalition "violated federal campaign finance laws during congressional elections in 1990, 1992 and 1994, and the presidential election in 1992." The FEC prevailed in this action.

One could perhaps be excused if, in light of all this history, Ralph Reed's Christian Values seem to be not very Christian at all at times. Never-the-less, like most right wing Christian Conservatives, Reed has absolutely no problem in presenting his religious views as the only valid view possible on secular (not overtly or specifically religious) social issues

As I have pointed out many times, Reed and his followers are not the only type of Christians which exist in the world and particularly in the United States. There are, in fact, millions of liberal minded Christians like myself who have a totally different view of what Christianity is and should be; a totally different view of the Christian faith to which we are called.

It is clear in the video above that when Reed speaks of "social issues" he is really talking about "religious issues" or a "religious view" of social issues. He clearly has no concept whatsoever that social issues in the United States of America are, by Constitutional Law, secular issues. What I mean by that is that our Constitution forbids the government from promoting religion or religious dogma. Instead, the government of the United States must be a secular (non religious) body.

Reed thinks social issues should be hashed out in the public arena or in the legislatures instead of the courts. As a liberal Christian, I don't necessarily disagree with his "words." I do vehemently disagree with the unspoken meaning he gives to his words. When he says social issues should be legislated in the public arena, he means that the point of view of Conservative Christians should prevail in the courts of public opinion because Conservative Christians are (they believe) the only true Christians and they are uniquely (they believe) called by God to protect and promote Conservative Christianity and thus save the country from the Godless liberals.

When he says he thinks social issues can also be legislated in the chambers of elected representatives, he takes that view because over the last two decades, Christian Conservatives have tried their best to pack state legislatures and the Congress with as many Christian Conservatives as they possibly can. The Federal Courts, on the other hand, are headed by unelected judges who serve for life and who are thus more likely to be guided by the principles of law than by the dogma based views of the Christian Conservative mob.

It has been rightly said that the more educated one becomes the less confident one becomes in his personal viewpoints. This is true because traditional education exposes one to and schools one in the use of critical thinking. Within the philosophical frame of critical social theory, critical thinking is commonly understood to involve commitment to the social and political practice of participatory democracy, willingness to imagine or remain open to considering alternative perspectives, willingness to integrate new or revised perspectives into our ways of thinking and acting, and willingness to foster criticality in others.

Right wing Conservative Christians often choose not to participate in the traditional educational process, and they often choose to limit their reasoning to the "truths" of the Bible which they see as the only real source of truth. They see the truths of the Bible as being in conflict with scientific theory and scientific knowledge. 

Because of these views, right wing Conservative Christians often eschew public schools and colleges in favor of Christian schools and colleges. In these schools and colleges, the Conservative Christian view of science which holds that the earth is no more than 10,000 years old and was created in six 24 hour periods by God is often taught as fact. They also teach that man was created by God in the form in which he presently exists rather than by an evolutionary process. These educational practices make right wing Conservative Christian thought incompatible with critical thinking.

I again hasten to add that right wing Conservative Christians are NOT the only Christians. Liberal Christians are quieter, less confrontational, less evangelical and almost always the product of traditional educations. Liberal Christians see no conflict at all between Biblical scriptures  and evolutionary theories. Liberal Christians see no conflict at all between the Bible and scientific knowledge. This is so because Liberal Christians see the Bible as a good and sufficient guide to faith rather than a science book or a history book. Liberal Christians understand the Bible is not the literal word of God but rather a collection of allegories, the purpose of which is to teach moral lessons, not establish scientific truths.

This profound difference in viewpoints between right wing Conservative Christians and Liberal Christians enables Liberal Christians to take a more tolerant view of the world and of social issues. Liberal Christians understand Christ never said a single word about his feelings concerning homosexuality. In fact, because homosexuality seems to be a congenital condition, Liberal Christians often feel homosexual persons are created by God for a purpose. Thus Liberal Christians, more often than not, join with the secular community in growing support of same sex marriage and the rights of same sex partners under the law.

Reed and people like him talk about social issues, but what they really are talking about are religious issues and how social issues are perceived in the light of their own religious dogma . The fact is, when they make a case against gay marriage, they are making a dogmatic religious case against it. Liberal Christians do not make such a case. They are more apt to see social issues as secular Americans do. As a Liberal Christian, I can point out good and not so good things about gay marriage. For instance, I believe it has been sufficiently proven that a child is best raised by a loving father and a loving mother. However, I think it has also been sufficiently proven that a child is better raised by two loving fathers or two loving mothers than he is being raised by the child welfare and foster care system. The fact is, I do not think one can even make a secular case against same sex marriage. Looked at from a secular viewpoint, same sex marriage is a collection of both good and bad points just as traditional marriage is. Like traditional marriage, same sex marriage can serve society well in spite of its faults.

The fact is, there are many very good people who are Conservative Christians. Many of them are my personal friends. Some are Conservative Christians in name only because grandma and grandpa and mom and dad were Conservative Christians. These people tend to keep their names on the rolls of conservative churches and quietly practice their own more liberal views. Other Conservative Christians have reasoned out on their own that there are things one just cannot know if one is honest with himself. These people may remain on the rolls of  Conservative Christian churches simply because they know no no one can know the truth to as it pertains to the mind of God, but they too tend to keep a low profile and individually practice their own faith more liberal view of faith. My own mother was such a person. A Conservative Christian since childhood she had become traditionally well educated, but she chose to remain in a conservative church as an honest voice of dissent. Raised in the same church, I made a different decision and left the church for a more liberal congregation in which I could feel at home. My mother's critical evaluation of conservative Christianity from inside it was a great value to me in my coming to understand my own views of what it means to be a Christian.

As I have already stated, the is the United States of America and right wing Conservative Christians have a right to their religious views just as more liberal Christians do. However, Conservative Christians do not have a right to impose their conservative religious views on other Americans under the guise of social policy.

Right wing Conservative Christians have so successfully projected themselves as the face of Christianity that many people do not even realize there are such things as Liberal Christians. Many of the people who are falling away from the church are doing so because they cannot define their faith as believing the unbelievable or professing the unknowable as the word of God. My feeling is that everyone needs something bigger than himself to believe in. Those people who realize this about themselves should consider seeking out the Liberal Christian church rather than forsaking religion altogether. There are many of them in every community.

The fact that truly Conservative Christians are, contrary to their propaganda, in the minority in this country is illustrated by the ever increasing number of Americans who support gay rights, who support reproductive choice and who support scientific reasoning and critical thinking.  Conservative Christians are, in fact, fighting a loosing battle. Unfortunately, we may expect the right wingers to become more and more regressive in their thought processes and actions as their social standing becomes less and less stable and as the world, in their view, travels further and further down the road to Hell.

Jack Scott


  1. The fact that people must face is that constitutionaly there is no case for the government regulating marriage based on religion. The fact the left isn't any better legalize same sex marriage (i am for it) but want to regulate games and movies, which is freedom of speech, and shouldn't be infringed for the sake that there the great evil. Same thing with guns.

    So give us equal marriage, guns, and ways to express ourselves, and put that money into schools teaching kids and inspiring them to be something other than a entitled d bag.

  2. Thanks TJ, not at all a bad way to look at it.

    I for one am tired of the Nanny state. The government, both state and Federal, need to get about 75% of their rules, regulations and laws out of our lives.

    Religious people need to practice their religious values in private and leave others alone.

    Appreciate your comment.

    Jack Scott

  3. I found myself talking back to my computer screen as I watched the video clip. I wish there had been better follow-up questions to the assertions of Mr. Reed.

    For one, he uses statistical studies to imply the benefit of hetero marriage as if the case studies were contrasting it with same-sex unions which it was not. He warns us not to do social engeneering "willy-nilly" on a national level but the defense of marriage act does exactly that... it blocks same-sex couples who are legally married in a state that has supported such unions from having the over 1500 federal benefits that were implimented to promote stability in marriage. Children, the ones that the religious right is always saying they are driven to protect, are adversly affected by the denial of these federal rights. In other words, there is not a level playing field.

    What IS interesting is that studies that are being published now show that children raised by gay couples are as stable as those raised by a hetero couple. Since the playing field is slanted against gay couples succeeding, one can only conclude that there is a greater commitment to raising their children.

    As to the shift in public opinion, the interviewer should have been prepared for a follow-up question. Mr. Reed essentially said the shift reflected the impact of a younger generation. I would like those numbers to be broken down. I can tell you that my generation (baby boomers) are changing their attitude and it is predominantly because we are being made aware of this issue for the first time. Just this week Republican Senator Rob Portman came out IN FAVOR of same sex marriage. Why? Because his son came out to him & he realized he & his fellow right-wingers were keeping his son from having the same rights that were given to his "straight" children.

    This is why I have come out publicly & the world knows about my marriage to my partner. My mother, who will be 90 years old this year has embraced our union & is proud to introduce us to her friends. Ireland embraces us & encourages us but the US continues to make us scramble to just be together!

    1. Well, I have to say that I'm glad something I wrote about got you so riled up that you were talking out loud to your computer screen. That is the best news a blogger could ever hear I think.

      Reed and his colleagues are experts at using all the tricks to make their case. I'm glad you saw through the tricks and recognized his message for what it is, a carefully choreographed lie.

      As a baby boomer myself, I agree with you that it is not just young people who are changing their outlook concerning gay people. As I stated in the blog, the right wing conservative Christians will get more and more vocal and outrageous in their propaganda as they loose more and more support from the rank and file man and woman on the street in America. Those of us who already recognize them for what they are need to be ready for that.

      Most of all, those of us who are liberal, thinking Christians who are willing to let God decide who, what and when he wishes to condemn us or those among us, must make sure that people who feel abandoned by the world and by their faith understand there are accepting people everywhere now and there are even accepting liberal Christians.

      It is something you and your partner have already recognized. Congratulations and best wishes.

      Jack Scott

  4. Jack, I agree with what you have written. I have wondered of recent if the right wing religous christians are starting to dimminsh in popularity and justification in their cause. The fact that the truth of science has proven many literal obsevations of the 18th century interpertations of the bible false shows how deep the actual teachings of the bible are. I myself have recently started to reread and study the bible and I have found that what is written and what is interpeted are very different. I think what most people read in the bible they let others interpet for them which can lead for a biased veiw. I could go on rambling but I think you have an idea what I am trying to say

    I have recently had converstions with a preacher who is married and has admitted his bisexual nature like myself. As believers we still have a job to do ultimatly as christians. We are just wired differnetly.

    On another note have you been watching The Bible on the History Channel. I have found it to be very good and enlightning.

    1. Cary, thanks for your comment. I so appreciate it.

      You could not be more right about the role interpretation plays in reading the Bible. I have no formal training in theology, but on my own, I"ve probably achieved at least a Masters, if not a PhD in Theology.

      What I don't understand fully is why when the Bible contradicts itself, and no matter what the Conservatives say, it does, some people seem to always choose to accept the interpretation that casts God in the role of an angry and vengeance crazed old man rather than the interpretation that shows him to be a merciful and loving father.

      My schedule has not allowed me to see the Bible on History Channel though I did catch one episode while I was in Asia. From what I see in the media it is having an impact on people. That has to be a good thing.

      The best thing that could happen to America is that the majority of the people come to see the Bible as a good and sufficient guide to faith, and not as a science book or history book.

      Thanks again for your comment.

      Jack Scott


I deeply regret that I must reinstate the verification process for those who want to leave comments on my blog. This is due to the intolerable amount of spam that spammers are attempting to leave on the blog.

At the same time I am changing settings so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will not have to have your comments moderated. My hope is this will encourage more readers to take the time to comment. The fact is I want to read comments with those of you who disagree with me as well as those of you who agree with me. All I ask is that you keep your comments clean and non-threatening.

The only reason I take the time to write this blog is to spur your thoughts and comments. Please do not let the spammers cause you not to comment. I know entering the verification words and numbers is a pain in the ass, but I hope you will not let the spammers cause you not to comment.

I still very much look forward to hearing from you.

Jack Scott

Anyone can comment on what I write in this blog. Regretfully, the recent amount of spam in my email account as required that I reinstate the word verification process for comments which I personally hate.

But at the same time I have loosened the comment moderation process so that those of you who have a Google Blogger ID or other recognized blogger ID will no longer need to wait for your comment to be moderated. I'm hoping this will tempt you to take the trouble to comment.

The truth is I want respectful comments both from those who agree with me and those who do not. All I as is that you keep comments to the point, clean and non-threatenting.

I look forward to hearing from each of you.

Jack Scott