By Bob Geary - They gathered last week in Wake Forest [N. Carolina], a convocation of conservative Christians and Republican conservatives—the overlap of politics and religious dogma was total—rehearsing their case for Amendment 1, or as they call it, the Marriage Amendment. The setting, appropriately, was the chapel at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Some 500 people attended, representing 2,000 churches, according to one of the organizers.
They began with a prayer. "We pray," said the Rev. Jarrod Scott, chairman of the Christian Life & Public Affairs Committee of the Baptist State Convention of N.C., "that the people will hear not only our view of marriage but also our view of God."
The campaign for Amendment 1 centers on the Bible and what conservative Christian Republicans think it says about marriage: That marriage must and can only be a union of one man and one woman. "The God of the Bible" made it so, they say. And God must be obeyed.
A few libertarian-leaning conservatives have tried to make a case for the amendment without claiming to know what God wants. Their position is that to allow same-sex couples to marry or enter into civil unions when they cannot, by themselves, produce children, undermines an important societal norm: Marriage should be about procreation, not adult expressions of love or affection.
But most Amendment 1 supporters do claim to know God's thinking. Although they acknowledge that some theologians disagree with them, those theologians, they insist, are wrong.
Richard Land, the keynote speaker in Wake Forest, is a leading evangelical Christian who has spearheaded the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission since 1988. He cited the Book of Genesis and its story of a man and woman "cleaving" to each other and "becoming one flesh" for the purpose of bearing children. "When people try to redefine marriage or expand the definition of marriage beyond what God has ordained," Land said, "that's above their pay grade."
That the Bible, and people's various interpretations of it, should be weighed alongside other values—like equal rights for all citizens—in determining how our society should be organized is simply not a position most amendment proponents accept...
...It wouldn't be fair to say that the amendment's supporters entirely ignored the issue of discrimination against LGBT citizens. Harris, in fact, directed that question to Daniel Heimbach, senior professor of Christian ethics at the seminary. Heimbach said he's writing a book that will allay any such concern.
For starters, gays can marry, he said. They just can't marry each other. Heimbach then spun out an amazing circular argument: Restricting marriage to straight couples cannot, by definition, be discriminatory as long as marriage is defined as a man and a woman and same-sex couples are barred from marrying or entering into civil unions.
It was as if he had said that, because voting was at one time was limited to white people, not allowing blacks to vote wasn't discriminatory because, well, blacks weren't white.
Heimbach said marriage is defined now as the union of two people who together can produce a child. "If marriage is radically redefined as a way of just affirming loving feelings of attraction," he said, "then equality will require allowing people who love dogs to marry dogs. And people who love ice cream to marry ice cream."
That's what he said.
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