The Real Defence of Marriage

One of the more interesting outcomes of the 2006 election was the approval in all states but one of amendments defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. It was interesting because it ostensibly bucked the leftward lurch of the rest of the election. (It also didn’t do much to prevent that either!) Those who propose such amendments define them as the “defence of marriage.” An act of that name was passed by Congress (now more than ever the opposite of progress) and signed into law by none other than President Bill Clinton in 1996. But courts in such places as Massachusetts and New Jersey have made electoral exercises such as these a necessity. The judiciary is the elites’ supermajority these days, and the loss of influence via judicial appointments at the Federal level is the greatest tragedy of this election. But, to be truthful, marriage has been under attack for a long time. Gay marriage is just one more step in a long term campaign to weaken civil marriage. Up until now we have the following attacks:

  • Allowing conjugal relations outside of marriage. According to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, conjugal relations are one reason for marrying. By allowing these relations outside of marriage, two things are accomplished. The first is that it enables people to skip marriage if they want to have sex. The second is that we have to backtrack and define some sexual relations as unlawful and some as not, which is why we have the mess with relations between young people and adults that we do. Once you breach the boundary of marriage, any boundary you set–and that includes sodomy–is strictly artificial and a function of the taste of the moment. We discussed this earlier in the context of the Mark Foley fiasco.
  • “No-fault” divorce. This was hailed as a great legal step forward when it was legalised, but easy exit marriage debased the institution in an enormous way. It was supposed to be liberating for everyone, but women have taken the hardest blow from it; it’s just too easy for a guy to skip out on his obligations. At this point the only meaningful impediments to divorce are the financial obligations imposed at dissolution such as alimony (which doesn’t exist everywhere,) child custody/support and the division of property.
  • Requiring equal status for illegitimate children. This is one of those things that looks great on paper but has some unintended consequences. It may not be fair to those who came into this world under a cloud not of their own making, but doing this simply opens the door for people to have children without a spouse (and more often than not without the means to raise them properly.) We have added injury to insult in this matter by wasting precious courtroom time on parental rights for those who didn’t bother to get married but suddenly want all of the rights of fatherhood or motherhood of a child they had little interest in before.

All of these things have weakened civil marriage as an institution. Today marriage is perceived as a burden by many, which is one reason why we see so much shacking up these days. Take the issue of children. It’s almost easier under our topsy-turvy legal system for a guy to have a child out of wedlock and then to assert parental rights than to marry someone only to lose them in a divorce. Anyone who gives some thought to an attempt to undo the weakening changes above will realise that such an effort is probably beaten from the start. Even most Christians would probably balk at such a campaign. That being the case, the current “defence of marriage” effort isn’t so much an effort to preserve marriage as a “last stand” effort to keep it from being wiped out.

So what is to be done? There are two things that Christian churches can do to address this situation. The first is to require Christian married couples to take a serious look at what they are doing when they get married. Pre-marital counselling is common in evangelical churches but its application is uneven. Christian churches also need to think seriously about what they tell couples after they are married. One thing that would help is for “marriage experts” to stop panderning to modernist self-actualisation expectations and to encourage couples to adopt realistic expectations of life in general and marriage in particular.

The second is to start making a distinction between Christian marriage and marriage in general. This exposes a key weakness in evangelical churches: they are too dependent upon the state to define what constitutes marriage. This is one reason why they are forced to fight the battles they do. For example, Christians may not be doing themselves a favour by opposing civil unions (in general.) If the state simply went to civil unions entirely, the churches could concentrate on building up relationships that really reflected the relationship between Christ and his church rather than had proper legal status, because the two would have a clear distinction.

Christians have forgotten that, when God himself married the first couple in the garden, he did not need to good offices of the state to formalise the relationship. The family predates the state, and Christian churches’ unthinking assent to civil marriage as the definition of this central divine institution is an abrogation of the purpose the church was put here to accomplish in the first place. Although Christians have been remarkably successful in “defending marriage,” the unacceptable divorce rate for Christians and the possibility that left-wing elitists will use their disproportionate influence in society to advance their idea should be a continuing warning that simply defending things the way they are may not insure their perpetuation in the future.

Why Bob Corker Won the Tennessee Senate Race

Probably the brightest spot for the Republicans of the 2006 election was Bob Corker’s victory for Tennessee’s Senate race. Being very familiar with this race and knowing many Republican candidates, officeholders and operatives, this is why I think that Bob Corker won this race:

  • Tennessee is a very conservative state. It is ironic that Tennessee, which contributes a disproportionate number of people to the war in Iraq, turns around and votes as the most “pro-war” state.
  • It is not a classically “Christian Coalition” state where the “religious right” did their usual “taking a stand” (and the party over.) Conservative Christian people are woven into the Republican establishment rather than forcibly grafted in, which is why the party came back together the way it did after two classically Christian candidates (Van Hilleary and Ed Bryant) lost in the primary. (This loss was avoidable; if one of them could have put his ego aside and dropped out, they would not have split the vote and money.)
  • Corker’s general election campaign started out as a fiasco, with poor ads and an unfocused effort. Corker had the wisdom to dump his campaign people and get people in who knew what they were doing and let them run his campaign properly. His ads improved along with everything else, including his poll numbers. His ability to change course for victory needs to be noted in the White House.
  • Corker did hammer at Ford’s voting record. The image that this campaign was strictly a series of negative personal attacks doesn’t tell the whole story. Corker had the advantage in that he could run against an opponent with ten years of votes in the House (when he bothered to show up, which he frequently didn’t) while Corker had been in executive positions, both in government and business. Ford’s voting record was atypically liberal for the state and Corker made the most of that.
  • Ford’s attempts to portray himself as an “ordinary Tennessean” couldn’t withstand the hammering of a competitive campaign. As Bob Novak hilariously pointed out, every time Ford mentioned the Lord he lost 1,000 votes. That’s part of Ford’s record problem. We took issue with that ourselves during the campaign.
  • Ford’s greatest gaffe was what I call the “parking lot debate” on 20 October when he crashed a Corker press conference in Memphis. That did not sit well with people here, especially independents. It was the beginning of his downward slide to defeat.

Important note to Anglicans: Corker is an Episcopalian.  But his former Rector actually appeared in Harold Ford campaign ads.  Nothing like gratitude.  The Episcopal Church is leaving you!  Maybe it’s time for the AmiA, Bob…

Leaving Our Fixed Positions

Election 2006 is finally over with. Sort of. There will be extended battles of many kinds; some in the courts of law and some in the courts of public opinion as people spin the results of the election.

As we noted in a previous post, our main concern is and always has been the legal status of Christianity–and Christian behaviour–in our country. We are not blind to the relationship between that and may other important issues–economic freedom, property rights, a straightforward rule of law, etc.. But we know all too well that the composition of the government–and in that respect it took a decided turn for the worse–can seriously affect people’s ability to choose their eternity unhindered by adverse pressure from the state.

But let’s look at another question: how did we get into this mess? The overriding issue is one that Christians don’t support with the enthusiasm that our opponents think we do, but it’s one that’s ended up hitting us hard: the Iraq war. There are many Vietnam-era excuses as to why this isn’t going well, such as the “quagmire” business, but the basic problem as far as we are concerned is that our President has taken a fixed, unrealistic position on this issue that doesn’t advance our long-term national security: his unbending insistence that we work and fight towards democracy in Iraq.

The Middle East hasn’t known democracy from the start; any realistic reading of the Bible will confirm that. But beyond that we have a President whose idea is that a fixed position is the way to victory. A lot of Christians look at world affairs–and life–in the same way. But a fixed position is like the Maginot Line in World War II: it only invites the enemy to go around it, as the Germans did the original and the jihadis are trying to do now.

There are only two really fixed things out there. The first is that heaven is our ultimate objective. The second is that Jesus Christ is the way to get there. Beyond that we have been given flexibility in how to acheive that objective for ourselves and facilitate it fo others, something Charles Finney pointed out a century and a half ago.

We need to ask ourselves some hard questions. What good does it do to spend so much effort defending life when we produce it only to turn it over to the world and the state to direct? Or put another way, if we cannot or will not evangelise people, is it better that they not be born? (There’s a New Testament answer to this, but we’ll leave it up to you to find it.) Is our desire to acheive success in our society part of the solution or part of the problem? Or are we supporting a system that will, in the long run, work against us?

We need to take a more realistic view out of what we can expect from the state. Part of our problem is that there are too many expectionations–from all sides–of what the state can do. Attempts to politicise Katrina have had varying degrees of success, but there’s no doubt that Katrina was the state’s lowest moment, and that low moment was a bi-partisan low moment. We can expect more like it. On the other hand, it was the church’s greatest one.

We as American Christians need to look at things from the standpoint of being Christians more than being Americans, and to not confuse the two. Although we need to recognise that what we do and what we are has social value, we must also recognise that social value isn’t the determining issue–it’s eternal value.

At this point in American history, the state has the power to drive Christianity underground. A church that is caught up in equating Christian life to secular success is very vulnerable to attack. Elections such as this only put such a kulturkampf closer to reality. But the party hung on what we call Dzerzhinskii’s Dilemma will soon find itself pressed by more deadly enemies than evangelical Christianity so, like the persecution spawned by Diocletian and his colleagues, the time of troubles may be shorter than somewhat.

Christians need to stop being afraid of innovation and do so serious “outside the box” thinking on how the church will progress in a hostile culture. Like the Republicans, we need to stop focusing on deals with only short-term gain and start looking at what really counts. Only then will we not only outlast our enemies, but what the Watchtower calls their “system of things” too.

Persecution is Closer to Home Than One Thinks

The release of Eritrean Gospel singer Helen Berhane after two years of imprisonment is a great relief, although being incarcerated in a shipping container–with its extremes of heat and cold–has broken her health. Such a stand puts to shame a lot of what passes for Christianity in the West.

It’s also a reminder that such events could, in fact, “happen here,” contrary to what most people think. The Eritrean government equated Pentecostal Christianity with Islamicism as destabilising to the country. This is no different than the left’s idea that “all fundamentalism is the same.” Almost five years ago we wrote that, had Al Gore won the election in 2000, he would have unleashed an attack on evangelical Christianity in the U.S. after 9/11, in spite of the fact that it had nothing to do with the attack, based on this idea of the left.

That is the principal reason–beyond the economy, Iraq, and all the other problems we have these days–why I cannot bring myself to vote Democrat. Should you?

Ann Coulter Finds Voting in Palm Beach Tricker Than It Looks

We cannot resist saying something about the problems that Ann Coulter is having in establishing her proper precinct to vote in in Palm Beach.

First, I find the whole concept of voting at either St. Edward’s Catholic Church or Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church–where I grew up–to be an entirely fascinating concept.

Second, I think that the whole business of working towards prosecuting Coulter is on par with the prosecution of Rush Limbaugh: a political effort of the "God-hating liberals" to get someone they don’t like. Palm Beach County election officials obviously had good reason to believe that something was amiss with her address and should have been more proactive. That’s their job. To sit around and let something like this happen–assuming it happened as they described–and then "call the dogs out" is somewhere between irresponsible and entrapment.

But the fact that both of these conservative stalwarts are in Palm Beach at all is something that I, personally, have a difficult time with. The U.S. was a country which was led by nationhood by an enlightened elite. But they could not have done that without a general population with a reasonable sense of personal responsibility. That fact was the cornerstone of "Jeffersonian democracy," and was one of the founding precepts of the Democrat Party. My own years in Palm Beach–with many drug and alcohol besotted classmates raised by the help–convinced me that "rich kid" raising would not result in people capable of leading any society through survival, let alone victory, something that was slipping out of our grasp in Vietnam. The subsequent course of history has led us to the dilemma that I described in my piece on 9/11 five years after.

But most modern conservatives are oblivious to the fact that, if we’re really serious about fixing our nations’s leadership problems, a solution is going to have to start by getting a new leadership class and system altogether. Both Coulter and Limbaugh, for all their stridency, are content with trying to "restaff" the system as it is with its elite places and–more significantly–its elite schools. That’s why I found Coulter’s insistence on an Ivy Leaguer at the Supreme Court hard to take.

The longer our system goes on as it is, the more divorced it will become from reality, and the less capable it will become to deal with the real problems the rest of the world presents it. Coulter and Limbaugh can live anywhere they like, but unless they tackle the "reality check" issue, we’re doomed to stumble from one disaster to another no matter which side is in power. Remember: Ronald Reagan, our last non-Ivy Leaguer President, suceeded by tapping the energies of "ordinary" people.

Gay Marriage is Still Bourgeois and Philistine

The situation in Colorado with Ted Haggard is an illustration that homosexuals–well, at least some of them–will stop at nothing to try to sway the public to allow gay marriage, even when others among them know they have blown it on the issue. First, a word about people like Ted Haggard from someone who actually does ministry work: the only way to persist in God’s work is to be focused on what one is doing for God and not dependent upon the performance of other people. Although the accuser at this point can’t back up his charges, our ultimate confidence must be in God, not in people.  (Unfortunately many in his church haven’t seen it this way, as is usually the case.)

Now to the matter at hand: I still have never heard a satisfactory explanation as to why gay marriage is preferable to no civil marriage at all from those on the left. You liberals were supposed to be freeing us from such social conventions and your volte-face on this is appalling. Why should we believe you on anything else? We need to continue to vote for marriage as a union of one man and one woman until the left stops this silliness, which doesn’t look likely in the foreseeable future.

Election 2006: Some Things to Remember

As the U.S. heads into the last weekend of campaigning (and television ads) before the election, we’d like to remind everyone of some of the pieces you can see about this election:

Finally, we have some words for Harold Ford on who loves God and who doesn’t.

Stuck in Iraq: Just Be Glad Someone Will Do It

John Kerry’s shot that those who don’t study will end up in Iraq betrays one of the central problems we have in this country: those from its upper reaches don’t end up in the military any more.When we had Selective Service, people from all walks of life ended up in the military and in combat. My father, coming from a privileged background, did his Coast Guard stint in World War II. Others did also. With the end of the Vietnam War and the draft, we basically ended up with an all volunteer army that is drawn largely from the less privileged parts of society. The military, to use the expressive phrase of one NPR correspondent, reflects lower middle class values, and it does so because that’s where its people come from.
Now liberals are whacking these people from both sides. One the one side, they moan and groan about how they need all of these new programmes to rescue people from backgrounds where their families are broken, they’re poor, etc. When our glorious public school system–the most imporant agent in helping upward social mobility–fails them and they turn to the military to fix the problem, they’re taken pot shots at by the likes of John Kerry.

Years later, my father, in one of his riper moods, observed that only rednecks would work in the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Department. My response to that was simple: “Who else wants the job?” We need military people, police people and firefighters to protect us, irrespective of whether you think that Iraq is the way to do that most effectively or not. I’m glad to be associated with groups like the Church of God Chaplains Commission, who help to minister and support these people with trained and spiritually vibrant chaplains.

Kind of reminds me of a line from Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick: “I’ve come from the upper class to mend your rotten ways…”

Subsequent to the above, we have been reminded that John Kerry “prophesied” the problem he alluded to above: in 1972, he feared that an all-volunteer army “would be an army of the poor and the black and the brown…We must not repeat the travesty of the inequities present during Vietnam. I also fear having a professional army that views the perpetuation of war crimes as simply ‘doing its job.'” Not a high view of people not of his own “kind,” if you please. But, as G.K. Chesterton used to say, the rich have already been bribed

The End of Employment at Will for Ministers

We were rather displeased to stumble on a decision by the UK’s Employment Appeal Tribunal that basically allows ministers to fight dismissal because they are employees of the church.  This decision is especially disconcerting when it takes place in one’s own church.

Putting ministers into this category–especially in Europe–will insure that it is impossible to dismiss less than optimal ministers.  The non-existence of employment at will in Europe is one of the reasons why their economic systems have the large number of structural rigidities they have.  (That includes the large number of people they have on the dole.)
It is also an attack on religious freedom.  For example, suppose a minister is dimissed because he or she has gone liberal (in the Church of England, who would know the difference?)   Would a government that leans in that direction sympathise with that?  Hardly.

Judge Not, Harold Ford

We have ringside seats to what is without a doubt the ugliest race this election cycle: the race between Harold Ford and Bob Corker for the U.S. Senate seat from Tennessee.

It doesn’t surprise us that Harold Ford has tried to play to religious voters. In Tennessee, it’s almost a necessity; there aren’t enough secularists here to carry the day. Now Ford informs us that Republicans only fear God while Democrats fear and love God, and he tells us not to judge.

We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but there are two truisms in government that make such statements absurd.

The first is that government is all about judging. Government gets things done by exerting its coercive powers on people. It’s that simple. That involves judgement. Anyone who watches any television show about courts–real or fictionalised–knows that. You decide, for example, that speech against certain groups of people are “hate crimes,” then people who do these things are deprived of their liberty because you thought such things were wrong. Tax increases? You judged that the government needed to take the people’s money (and thus their substance and life) because you wanted to do with it what you pleased and not let them keep it. Divide up Iraq, like you want? That’s a judgement too, Harold.

That leads us to the second point: government and love don’t go together. That’s one of the things that’s wrong with gay marriage: homosexuals want the government to affirm their love for each other, but love isn’t what the government is all about. Government is about power and control. We love our country, not our government.

We should also point out that the Democrat party is in fact the home of the “God-hating liberal,” as we learned the hard way growing up in a place where there were a good number of them. This may be hard to see from Tennessee, which is what Harold Ford is hoping for. That’s one reason why we wrote Electing the Unelected, which bears repeating at this stage.