One Answer Within a Great Discussion

If you’ve tuned out my failed efforts to make Donkeyrock own up to the consequences of his words, I want to bring your attention to a far more edifying discussion over on my Baptist post. Some truly excellent and respectful back and forth.

And I want to respond to something commenter Bruce asked:

You say that the purpose of marriage is to support those relationships. And then you criticize Dennis and many other Southern Baptists for saying they don’t support those relationships. But, you also say that the US would never require churches to perform gay marriages. How can you demand Jay Dennis vote in favor of gay marriage and then say that he’d be perfectly free to not perform those weddings?

First, I simply have never and would never demand Jay Dennis vote in favor of gay marriage. I have criticized him harshly for leading an effort to assure Florida can confer no legal status on any committed gay relationship. (Anybody can enter a contract. That’s not sanctioning of anything.) But just because I work to discredit his political position does mean I demand he share mine. And even if I did, I rightly have no power to anything about it. I can demand Donkeyrock stop inciting anger against American Muslims, but it doesn’t mean he’ll stop, and I can’t use the power of the state to make him. Nor does it give me the right to burn down his house.

But what’s really interesting about this question is the full second sentence.

How can you demand Jay Dennis vote in favor of gay marriage and then say that he’d be perfectly free to not perform those weddings?

I actually take this to mean, “how can you push for legal gay marriage and then say that he’d be perfectly free to not perform those weddings?

To me this is so blindingly obvious, so unconflicted, that it’s strange to see anyone ask it. And yet, these types of odd disconnects of understanding sometimes are the unwitting obstacles to reasonable compromise.

20100710_12The First Amendment of the Constitution, the same one that gives the Cordoba Center the right to locate wherever it wants in compliance with zoning laws, prevents me from imposing anything by law — anything short of prevention of criminal behavior — on how First Baptist Church chooses to be Baptist. At the same time, it allows me to taunt Jay Dennis from the bottom of my gut, and he can’t do a thing about it as long as I don’t lie about him.

When we talk about marriage in this debate, we are talking about the bundle of rights and privileges that legal/civil marriage confers on persons. We are not talking about the blessings or sacraments provided by pastors and congregants. The courts are in the process of deciding if the state has the right to exclude gay men and women from the bundle of legal rights that come with marriage simply because the marriage is to someone of the same sex. The anti-gay marriage folks have yet to win a serious legal case, but you never know what the Supreme Court will do.

I guess it hasn’t been formally litigated, because it’s preposterous on its face, but the First Amendment certainly guarantees First Baptist the right not to marry gays in its church or under its traditions. Even if gay civil marriage becomes fully legal, religious marriage is an entirely separate category.

I’m quite capable of holding those two concepts in my head simultaneously. It doesn’t even seem hard. But I wonder if gay marriage advocates would have been more successful these years if they just declared upfront “we’re not ever gonna come in your church if you don’t want us.”

Bottom line: American law gives me no right to impose on Jay Dennis my vision of what a Baptist should be. At the same time, it prevents Jay Dennis from imposing on me his church’s vision of what an American should be without due process and equal protection under the law.

But the law does not prevent either of us from offering opinions on either matter. And the point of my original post was to offer the opinion, backed by evidence, that the Southern Baptist Convention has consistently held a view of America, which it sought to enforce, that excluded many Americans.

I’ll answer the rest of the Bruce’s latest batch of points tomorrow or on the weekend.

Creative Commons License photo credit: Tom Hagerty for Lakeland Local

52 thoughts on “One Answer Within a Great Discussion

  1. OK, I just made the stupid mistake of typing out a response and then losing it all to your spam filter. I forgot to type it in a separate Word document. I’ll try again another day. But, I haven’t forgotten about this discussion.

  2. OK, I just made the stupid mistake of typing out a response and then losing it all to your spam filter. I forgot to type it in a separate Word document. I’ll try again another day. But, I haven’t forgotten about this discussion.

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