As a Christian, I get irked by a lot of comments from atheist friends where the word “religious” becomes a pejorative term. To many folks, the mere presence of faith or spirituality marks me as a fool or a willing dupe. To be called a Christian is to be labeled by default as intolerant and misinformed. The majority of the time, when I see the word atheist, I read “asshat.”
Unfortunately, as someone willing to struggle with my own faith and ask tough questions about what it means to be loved by God and how I am obligated to share that love with others, I have the same reaction in the other direction. As someone who once served in professional ministry and now works in a secular environment, I am frequently regarded as secondhand goods, unable to meet the rigors of a spiritual life. So, unless I know someone personally or associate them with someone I respect, when I see the word Christian I still read the word “asshat.”
I suppose that I really view people unwilling to have a serious and respectful dialogue about difficult topics as asshats.
Once again the national rhetoric has heated up to the point where I want to resign from the human race and say “yeah, I don’t know those people.” The noise to signal ratio has risen to the point where nothing can be heard. Ironically, I choose to add to the noise:
Maybe it’s time to take marriage out of the hands of government.
That statement probably makes my conservative Christian friends cheer. Be patient, I’ll probably piss you off too. What I mean is that maybe it’s time to divide civil unions from marriage. If marriage is an institution defined by God and mandated as an expression of spiritual faithfulness, then let it remain within the domain of religious institutions.
On the other hand, allow the government to categorize people as “primary beneficiaries” as opposed to spouses for the purposes of taxes, health benefits, and legal responsibilities.
We do not honor God or exhibit a moral superiority by denying people the right to:
-stay with someone in a hospital or intensive care room after visiting hours.
-designate someone as deserving of health care benefits.
-receive estate or retirement benefits as intended.
-receiving the tax benefits of sharing property, possessions, and incomes.
On the other hand, the government should have no say in defining how a religious institution defines and structures marriage. Churches should retain the right to choose which kinds of unions they will honor and sanctify. Churches should be allowed to become the moral compass they are intended to be for society. Let them lead by example, regardless of whether that example is one of strictly defined guidelines or open acceptance of diverse standards. Churches should be the place where people look to see the ideals of marriage exemplified and honored best.
The bestowing of legal benefits to another individual under the law is not a degradation of the moral fiber of society. It is instead an affirmation of the foundations of equality established at the founding of the United States. Defining the debate over same-sex unions as a moral imperative is a disservice to both Christians and secular citizens alike. Forced morality is a poor way to govern, and it is a terrible witness to the life of a Christian.