Sunday, January 19, 2014

Same-Sex Marriage: Is there any such thing? A Dialogue

This page links to a somewhat unhinged collection of texts on same-sex marriage. The oddness of many of these texts doubtless derives from my own oddness. I'm an American Catholic writer and teacher, now living in Taiwan, who in 2011 posted an essay on the issue that has grown into a lengthy debate/dialogue. The whole of this debate is indexed below.

Since the marriage equality movement first started to gain steam in the mid-2000s, I've been very much on the fence: sympathetic but unwilling to support redefining a central cultural institution. Defense of my position, which is quite different from that of most Christians, takes up most of these posts. Though my thinking has been informed by Christianity, I've done my best here to argue from a more historical or anthropological perspective. (Also: Though nearly all the texts form part of an ongoing debate, much of the writing consists of attempts to work out the grounds of my arguments for my own sake--to get to the bottom of exactly what it is I'm opposed to.)

In the course of the debate, my position changed somewhat. While most of my writing below argues against recognition of same-sex marriages, I can no longer take that stance. My second thoughts came about as a result of my decision to press my arguments brazenly on the progressive online community Daily Kos, where I was predictably reviled, attacked, spat upon, etc., for opposing what to the community seemed such an obvious gain for civil rights. If saliva could fly online, my laptop would have short-circuited mid-debate. But I've no hard feelings. Though my fight with the Kossacks was a bitter one, it was worthwhile. At the end of the day I realized I actually needed to thank some of the people there (those who stuck to the issues rather than just the spitting) as it was they who showed me I was wrong in parts of my argument. Our lengthy wrangle might make for interesting reading if my own part in the debate hadn't been so "epic" (read: wordy) and fevered.

After reassessing my original arguments, I'd now describe myself, at least for the time being, as a marriage equality agnostic. There is much in the marriage equality movement that I oppose. Especially: I will continue to support the rights of religious organizations to maintain their own beliefs as they see fit and to opt out of recognition of these newly minted marriages, whether in their places of worship or in public life. I do not at all support those in the LGBT movement who seem hell bent on infringing Americans' religious freedoms.

Here I've presented mainly my own side of all this. But of course many people take part in the linked pages below, including my friends Steve Johnson and Renge Grace, who argued against me. In short: These texts are not all my thinking on the issue, but a debate/discussion.

Though Catholicism isn't mentioned frequently in these pages, I am a Catholic and my concerns about same-sex marriage grew in large part from this religious background. Pope Francis' efforts to promote more direct and open dialogue on issues of sexual orientation have always had my support. I'm proud to have this man leading my Church.

What, then, would I like to see from my Church on this? I have great respect for the teaching authority of the Church, but still can hope for change. Specifically, I'd like to see the Church finally develop a theological ground on which it can, as it were, legitimate the love lives of that 6% of the human population that is gay or lesbian. I'd like to see this because the people who make up this 6% really exist, they were born the way they are, and they are endowed with the same dignity and potential for grace that the Church respects in the other 94% of humanity. I cannot bring myself to believe their sexual orientation is sinful. LGBT people need the Church's guidance as much as anyone else, and for the Church to continue to insist they refrain from sexual relations throughout the whole of life seems to me misguided and cruel. Perhaps worst of all from a Christian point of view, such an insistence is surely responsible for keeping millions of men and women away from the Church. I propose a possible theological route for rethinking sexuality in the essay "Christian Homophobia for Beginners". I place this essay before the actual debate texts.

But Catholic issues take up hardly any space in the texts below. Debating with non-Christians, I've tried to fight this debate almost exclusively on secular grounds. Readers of what follows will nowhere be subject to homily or sermon.

I welcome anyone to weigh in on any or all of these posts, but hope that those who do so will be civil. I've wiped away enough spit for the time being.

Being now agnostic on this particular issue, I cannot say with confidence which way my final thinking will develop. Having studied mainly the anthropological and historical issues, I now will spend more time assessing the psychological studies (of children and their well-being in same-sex households) and the theological side of the debate, both pro and contra.

Eric Mader


Christian Homophobia for Beginners (An Essay in Dissent)


Homosexuality: Three Routes the Catholic Church Might Take


I. I support gay rights; I'm against gay marriage

II. On Same-Sex Marriage: Renge Grace

III. Against Same-Sex Marriage: Am I a "bigot"?

IV. Same-Sex Marriage: "Legal Reform" or Progressive Overreaching (with Steve Johnson)

V. Different Ways of Touching (with Steve Johnson)

VI. What is a marriage? Who has the right to validate a marriage?

VII. Kossacks Only Breed with Kossacks

VIII. Learning a Few Things at Daily Kos

IX. Marriage and Categorization in the Study of Culture: An Anthropologist Weighs In

X. Protecting Religious Liberty in the Era of Marriage Equality

XI. More Squabbles with Kossacks

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