Tuesday, April 14, 2009

commentary: which whos are Whos

received a political email forward today which contained at least one statement I do in fact wholeheartedly agree with:

"But the meaning of marriage – how it is defined and who defines it – is tremendously important for our entire society, because it has implications that go well beyond the desires of two consenting adults."

The italics are mine, because that is indeed what I see to be the central struggle: how it is defined, and who defines it.

The power of defining is, as this statement suggests, a political one. And in this country, which at least attempts to place political power in the hands of a broad constituency rather than concentrated in the hands of a few (rich white male) persons, the power of defining ideally belongs to everyone--more accurately, all citizens (leave aside who has the power to define "citizen," although that question truly gets at the heart of the difficulty of inclusive democracy, and the immigration issue in this country puts that front and center, yes?).

Which means that "the power to define marriage" is (again, ideally) a collective power shared by all citizens. And as long as you're honest enough to admit that there are in fact gay people who are American citizens, then you ought to be honest enough to recognize that they too are (ought to be) included in the "who" who gets to define things. Including marriage, which as this statement at least implicitly grants, is a social and political institution in addition to being whatever else you might believe it is.

Or, you're claiming they're not a "who." They're a They.

And as Horton would remind you: "a person is a person, no matter how small; a person is a person is a person, after all."

1 comment:

J-Wild said...

But isn't marriage also defined within a theological frame work as well. In attaching a definition to marriage it seems to me that the word might not be capable of absorbing the meanings associated with it from the social, political, and theological approaches. Each of those avenues assert it's right to define marriage with some convincing as well as flawed arguments. But they don't work well mashed up together.

Can commitment between two individuals regardless of orientation be defined by the state in a manner that is theologically neutral but socially and judiciously recognized as binding and equal? While pastors, priests, Imam's, Rabbi's, and religious communities uphold and advocate their theological understanding of what defines a life-long commitment based on their understanding of scripture. Provided that those commitments adhere to the "theologically neutral" framework of the law within society.

I understand there are theological cases for recognizing life-long, committed relationships regardless of orientation within communities of faith. But trying to work that through within the context of a social and political framework doesn't seem possible or appropriate.

I suppose the risk in that approach is that marriage then becomes vulnerable to the fate that baptism has experienced within the church. If you switch churches do you then have to get "re-married" in order for that community of faith to recognize your commitment as being theologically valid.