Liberty & Those who Oppose It: the Aftermath of Obergfell v. Hodges

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I rejoiced yesterday when majority of the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality throughout the country. I believe that this was an important continuation in or understanding of ever expanding liberty found in the Declaration of Independence that Abraham Lincoln said in 1854 was the standard maxim of free society …constantly spreading and deepening its influence,” ultimately applicable “to peoples of all colors everywhere.” 

Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to Samuel Kercheval in 1816 that we should take to heart when we look at changes in laws that religious traditionalists oppose so vehemently:

“I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.” 

When Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion in the case of Obergfell v. Hodges he made a comment that echoed the words of Thomas Jefferson when he wrote:

Changes, such as the decline of arranged marriages and the abandonment of the law of coverture, have worked deep transformations in the structure of marriage, affecting aspects of marriage once viewed as essential. These new insights have strengthened, not weakened, the institution. Changed understandings of marriage are characteristic of a Nation where new dimensions of freedom become apparent to new generations.

In the aftermath of Obergfell v. Hodges these people are scrambling to carve out exemptions to the law in order to ensure that the prejudices ingrained in their “sincerely held religious belief” can remain. Of course for churches that is not an issue, churches can grant or deny the sacraments or ordinances of their faith to anyone they chose to and this they routinely do. If you desire to get married in a church you must follow the rules for that church, and the clergy of that church are free to deny sacraments, including marriage to anyone. If you are not a Roman Catholic in good standing you are not permitted to receive the Eucharist, you may not be married in the church, and other churches including many Baptists and other “free” churches have similar prohibitions that no court has dared to overturn. This even includes rules that discriminate against women who cannot be ordained clergy. So when I hear pastors screaming that somehow they will be prosecuted or jailed for refusing to marry gays I have to throw the bullshit flag.

Now this may not apply to the “ministers” who set up their own so called marriage chapels where unconnected to any church they operate as for profit businesses. Sometimes courts do find in favor of litigants in civil proceedings when such businesses use their prejudice to deny services to people, especially gays.

While I am a historian and should know better, I am amazed to see many American Christians doing all they can in the name of protecting their Religious Liberty to deny rights to those that they disapprove. I shouldn’t be surprised, Thomas Jefferson wrote of what happens when preachers and priests lead political movements. Jefferson so rightly noted:

“History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance, of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.”

James Madison, who crafted the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment wrote:

“Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other sects?”

Currently this is the case with the Republican Party, a party that I remind you that I belonged for over three decades, beginning with my work for the Ford campaign as a high school student. I left the GOP in 2008 after years of disillusionment, and lies when I returned from Iraq.

Barry Goldwater, a conservative if there ever was one, a man that would be driven out of today’s GOP spoke on the Senate floor in the early 1980s at the beginning of the Reagan Revolution and the commandeering of the party by politically minded preachers like Jerry Falwell, James Robertson, Dr. D. James Kennedy, James Dobson and of course our local Tidewater Taliban Mullah, Pat Robertson. Goldwater so wisely noted:

“Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.”

Well, now the preachers have control of that party. Every declared candidate for the GOP presidential nomination kowtows to these religious leaders and nearly every one of them has come out to announce their opposition to the Supreme Court ruling.

Some are suggesting that thousands of preachers run for office in the GOP in order to foist their agenda on the rest of the population. Right now Conservative Christians for all intents and purposes run many state legislatures. In the ones that they have controlled for the past number of years they have been enacting all sorts of discriminatory laws against those they find offensive, and have attempted to shackle the study of science, history, and roll back voting rights for minorities.

This is particularly true of the conservative Christian, antipathy towards Gays, Lesbians and others in the LGBT community. In the past number of weeks I have seen proposed legislation in several states that would allow people to discriminate against anyone simply based on a sincerely held religious belief.

Other laws passed within the six moths at the state level in Arkansas and West Virginia to nullify any city or county ordinances banning discrimination against gays. In other words, religious zealots in control of state houses are imposing heir beliefs on cities, towns and counties that are more progressive in regard to the treatment of gays.

The irony is that the people who complain about Federal laws which trump state law are doing the same thing that they object to in order to ensure that citizens of their states are treated less than equal.

The target of these laws are gays and the LGBT community, but anyone with half a brain knows that once they are on the books they provide ample room for religious zealots of any kind to discriminate and even persecute those that they despise.

They may start with the gays, but be assured, those who pass these laws will extend them to apply to anyone to whom they believe harms or interferes with their sincerely held religious beliefs. Jefferson also noted “In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.”

It is something that our founders wisely chose to avoid, not wanting this nation to become like the European nations whose state churches had denied rights, persecuted and killed those that they deemed heretical. While the proponents of these new laws to “protect” religious liberty claim that they are done with no intent to discriminate, there is only one reason to enact them, that to give legal protection to people who want to discriminate. Is this not what is happening throughout the Middle East as Islamic fundamentalists of various sects impose similar laws on Christians as well as others including Moslems of rival sects?

Now just imagine for one moment living in such a society, a society where someone who was not of the right race, or belief did not enjoy the same freedoms of other citizens. Imagine a society where those that started with laws to supposedly defend their religious liberty, or rights then supported other more far reaching laws, laws which deprived those that they demonized and refused to serve of citizenship, freedom of association, freedom of movement, and robbed them of their homes and businesses, banished them to ghettos and eventually exterminated them. While the Nazis primarily went after the Jews, they also went after the gays.

Of course the Nazis did this in the years leading up to World War Two in their actions against loyal German Jews who simply wanted to fit in, and well we Americans, let’s not even go there… but the let’s go there. We have the extermination and the ghettoization of our Native American population, we have the African slave trade and the institution of slavery, we have the human trafficking and exploitation of Chinese workers in the 1800s, the Jim Crow Laws, and yes the incarceration of Japanese Americans in what we called “internment camps” in World War Two.

Now for one minute tell me that those that propose such barbarous laws now to be used against the gays, simply because Christians want to have a law that allows them to discriminate against those they hate and condemn to hell are that much different than those Christians, be they American or German who justified their actions with law based on their deeply and sincerely held religious beliefs? I think not. In fact the whole proposition that we enact such laws flies in the face of the wars that these same people want to send in the ground troops to fight Islamic State over. Heck, the Islamic State is actually acting out the fantasies of the most extreme American Christian anti-gay preachers. They are killing gays, throwing them off the roofs of tall buildings. Sadly, many American Christians so consumed by the hate and paranoia being preached in their churches and by right-wing political groups which pose, as Christian ministries don’t see that their actions are simply a different breed of the same animal. Right now, the difference is just a matter of degree.

I think that is why Thomas Jefferson wrote this very pertinent warning to us who might want to return to the barbarous ways of our ancestors:

“I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.” 

I personally do not want to live under the laws of our barbarous ancestors, and I will fight for the rights of those who are being targeted, primarily the LGBT community, but anyone else, by the lawmakers and supporters of such laws.

That my friends is why I rejoice in the Supreme Court ruling in Obergfell v. Hodges. It is a step to moving forward in liberty and progress and away from barbarism.

So have a great and thoughtful Saturday,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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13 Comments

Filed under civil rights, faith, History, laws and legislation, LGBT issues, News and current events, Political Commentary

13 responses to “Liberty & Those who Oppose It: the Aftermath of Obergfell v. Hodges

  1. Dreamer9177

    Awesome post

  2. Mike Solomons

    I have to disagree. As a christian, even though I disagree with my country’s “legal” ramifications, and ‘some’ will disagree with my beliefs, my Dad and ancestors, yes Yankees/Southerners, fought in wars so that everyone could have the Freedoms we have against tyranny. This ain’t over…but The Good Lord’s Word will be the judge on That Day….”it is finished “.

    • padresteve

      Mike, I hate to disagree but the only people who have been beating the drums of tyranny have been Christians and other religious conservatives, people who have since the days of abolition have sought to deny rights to everyone from enslaved blacks, backed Jim Crow, worked to keep women from voting, championed the extermination of native Americans in the name of Manifest destiny, exploited nearly every immigrant group that ever showed up, who have for the past 40 years done all that they can to demonize gays. Disagree with me if you want, but liberty for the gays does not hinder the rights of Christians. Christians can still discriminate all they want in church. That being said your use of Jesus’s dying words on the cross to end your argument terribly bastardized the text and is blasphemous when one considers what Jesus died to purchase the forgiveness of all of us. Gays included.

      • Mike Solomons

        I know your point is sincere, but our “rights”, if at all backed by a “living God”, are based on His Word. Jesus died ‘once, for all’ sin to be forgiven… my point, as Jesus put it with the woman caught in adultery,
        ” Go, and sin no more”. We either read, listen and obey His Word, or we don’t. I hope this clarifies my meaning.

  3. Mike Solomons

    Steve, how do you justify what you just said with the words of Paul the Apostle: Romans 6 is what I believe. Do you believe in righteousness or is it unattainable? Is there another definition other than biblical?

  4. Marty

    Why should Christians whine about whether gay people can share the civil rights guaranteed by a neutral civil authority? If God is going to judge us as individuals on that “Last Day,” then everyone will get a just reward or punishment. What the Supreme Court has said or done won’t change that. Folks who think homosexuality is a sin, should pray for the sinners and not just spew hatred that makes a mockery of Christian love. Our government is not in the sin-or-righteousness business. ( People don’t want the government “messing with” health-care, but think it should be involved in religion??? What a hot mess THAT would be.) If we accept the premise that all people are equal under the law, then we should allow all people to have equal rights under the law. If you’re against giving rights to people who don’t share your religious beliefs and think a State Religion would be a good idea, then congratulations, you have something in common with ISIS. I for one am glad Church and State are separated in this country. I’m a Christian and I want to worship as *I* choose, not the way Mike Huckabee thinks I should. If that means I have to let other people worship (or not worship) as THEY choose, and yes even MARRY whomever they want to, so be it.

    • Mike Solomons

      So….you’re okay with the definition of marriage changing to suit anybody? Slippery Slope…and since when did I say I ‘hated’ anyone – not all so-called “christians” will be accepted into the Kingdom…that doesn’t come from ‘me’…but oh, christians can no longer quote scripture or teach ‘the biblical’ Truth without being hated…you know, God’s Word will never change just because you or someone who disagrees created a law of “acceptance” for their own pleasures. Solomon was right, “vanity, vanity, all is vanity…there IS nothing new under the Sun.” Losely quoted, of course by me, a sinner, but also a christian now, forgiven, struggling daily to follow His Word, not what someone excuses it to be for self-service, but towards eternity.

      • padresteve

        Mike, not ignoring you just too tired to answer tonight. Will answer both of your comments from today tomorrow.

      • padresteve

        Mike

        Thank you for your patience in allowing me to get back to you. I would have done so last night but I was really tired.

        I am going to answer both of your last two comments in this response.

        First as far as how I deal with the subject in the light of Romans 6: I have to answer in the context of Roman’s 13 which forms the basis is the Apostle Paul and Martin Luther’s understanding of the spiritual and the secular kingdoms something that Jesus himself referred when he told Pilate that his kingdom was not if this world.

        That understanding that the secular government is the instrument of God, even when it is not Christian was key to Paul’s understanding of the Christian faith in its relationship to the world. Paul’s example is important for us today. Paul was a Jew and a Pharisee, to him the understanding of God’s relationship with Israel was a bedrock of his faith. Though he was a Roman citizen he did not hesitate to persecute Christians for their apostasy from the Jewish faith that he defended. That changed in an instant when he was confronted by Jesus on the road to Damascus and instead of defending Jewish tradition he became the defender of a different faith.

        Paul reframed the Jewish understanding, and even the Jewish-Christian understanding of the relationship of the secular state and people of faith. While Paul certainly believed that those redeemed by Christ should try to live their lives free from sin, he did not expect that the secular government to enforce that, otherwise he would have said so. Paul certainly left enough writings to make that clear and as such his understanding marked a clear departure from the Jewish understanding of a faith which was inseparable from the secular government, in fact his friends among the Pharisees as well as his opponents the Sadducees but believed in a theocratic state where a priestly and religious class ruled over all.

        That is why I am able to accept the ruling of the Supreme Court from a theological as well as Biblical point of view. This leads me to the second part of my answer regarding homosexual marriage itself.

        In Matthew Chapter Eight Jesus encounters a Centurion who asks Jesus to heal his beloved servant. The problem is for Biblical literalist who condemn homosexuals is that the word for servant is the Greek word Pais is the word used in many Greek texts to to describe a homosexual relationship. The use by Matthew (Mt 8:6) in his account of the healing of the servant of the Centurion used the word Pais to describe the servant, not the typical Doulos which is used for slave or bond servant as is most common throughout the New Testament. Since Matthew as a Jew who understood the Greek language as a tax collector, he would understand the difference between the two words, and that profound insight cannot be ignored if we want to be Biblical. Likewise, if Matthew is correct in what he said that Jesus did when he dealt with this man, telling him that “he had not seen such faith in all of Israel” and healing the Centurion’s his servant without even going to him one has to assume that Jesus not only understood the relationship of the Centurion and his servant but chose both to heal the servant and to commend the Centurion, who if the Biblical text is correct was most likely engaged in a homosexual relationship.

        That is the uncomfortable truth about trying to be Biblical, it does not always help our theological, political, or social biases.

        Again I thank you as always for your kind words, comments and even the respectful way that you address differences with me, that my friend demonstrates, at least in my mind the heart of one who seeks to follow Jesus.

        Thank you again

        Peace

        Steve+

  5. Mike Solomons

    Hi again Steve,

    First of all, thanks for letting me express my beliefs and I do consider what you stated when you said, “that is the uncomfortable truth about trying to be Biblical, it does not always help our theological, political, or social biases.” However, I do not believe in the opinions of men when it goes contrary to God’s Word.

    Secondly, in Kyle Butt’s article from ApologeticsPress.org, (http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=1627&topic=36) he clearly states what Jesus says is acceptable marriage (Matthew 19:4-6) according to what HE (God) established – after all – He (Jesus) is the Creator of us all (you know Adam/Eve being joined together as one). As Kyle goes on to explain: “By defining marriage as between one male and one female, Jesus effectively condemned all other arrangements, including but not limited to one man and two women, one woman and two men, three men and one woman, three men and three women, one man and one man, one woman and one animal, etc. You can see the overwhelming logic of such. For Jesus to have to explicitly condemned every assortment of genders and numbers would be absurd. When He defined marriage between one man and one woman, He clearly showed that such an arrangement is the only one authorized by God.”

    Ephesians 5 is a great example of marriage – both for husbands and wives and their responsibilities to each other and our Lord’s relationship to the church in the same manner and visa-versa. I know that this is what He expects through Paul’s writings as instructed through the Holy Spirit. Anything else is what some men would believe, not me. (whether a court of decrees it or not – it may still go against His Word – and that’s what we have to deal with in our society whether we believe it to be good or bad)

    Men may judge us on earth as God has allowed the establishment of certain leaders/powers to be His stewards (whether they choose to be righteous or not), but God will judge us all through His Son for all eternity,

    In His Love and at your service,

    Mike S.

    • padresteve

      Mike,

      I certainly respect your opinion even if I do not agree with the apologetic methods that Mr Butt’s uses. It is not so much what scripture says as it is the hermeneutics method applied. We both have pointed out scripture that backs our point of view and obviously we will have to, for now agree to disagree and trust God for the ultimate truth, which as Paul notes we now “see through a glass darkly, but then face to face.”

      As always trusting in God’s grace, mercy and love,

      Peace and blessings

      Steve+

      • Mike Solomons

        Hi Steve,

        At least you were cordial enough to read my input and yes, I will trust God, for He wrote the Word for us to use and understand through the inspired writers of The Bible.

        In His service and at yours,

        Mike S.

      • padresteve

        Back at you Mike, though we disagree you demonstrate the best of Christian live and grace in our exchanges. I do wish everyone who claim the Name of Jesus would do as you do. Many blessings my friend.

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