New York and Obama

New York just legalized gay marriage. I doubt we’re going to see that particular civil right granted in Texas anytime soon, but it does prompt in me a mild criticism of the President. Where’s his leadership on this?

Now let me be clear, to borrow a common Obama line. The President’s beliefs on this issue (currently “evolving” the last time I heard him say something on the topic) are irrelevant to state law. The states continue to do what they want, despite the confused belief among many voters that Presidents singlehandedly decide whether or not abortion is legal, or if the 2nd Amendment is in effect or not.

I suspect Obama’s objections to gay marriage are more religious than political. I once considered writing him a letter to the effect that there was no scriptural basis for objecting to it, if that was indeed the reason he was on the fence. And yes, that’s right, there isn’t any scriptural basis. There is tradition, of course, but if you want a quote from Jesus or even the ultimate conservative document, Leviticus, that states men and men or women and women can’t be legally married, you’re going to be disappointed, because there is no explicit condemnation.

There IS condemnation of homosexual sexual acts in Paul’s letters and Leviticus, but that’s not marriage, and even so, not binding on any modern Christian. No modern Christian follows the countless injunctions in Leviticus – they’re really only useful as weak proof texts for saying “It’s in the Bible!” – and no modern Christian with a drop of feminism in their blood will pay attention to Paul’s behavioral preferences for Christians, given his injunction for women to keep their traps shut in church (possibly interpolated, but still).

There is the confused idea that Jesus “defines marriage as between a man and a woman” in Mk 10:2-12, but that ignores Mk 10.3, where Jesus’s reply is framed in the context of Moses’s command. As such, it’s not his reply as much as a restatement of a passage in Genesis, which concerns itself entirely with divorce and adultery.

Now if you want quotes from Jesus whether or not you should love other people, that’s easy. Mt 22:37-40 and John 13:34-35 are pretty unambiguous: love each other, and you’ll be cool. That’s Christianity at its idealistic best, cutting right through the weak civic piousness of Roman paganism. The reality, of course, is typically disappointing, at least to me.

One thought on “New York and Obama”

  1. Obama has been on a tactical extravaganza this week: massive drawdown of Afghanistan troops by the month of the DNC, evolving views on gay marriage, and (another example that I forgot — persuasive, I know). Still, as you might know, I doubt that Obama’s on-the-fencedness with this issue is due to his religious beliefs. I have said before that I don’t think Obama is a particularly religious guy. If I had to guess (SHEER guessing), I would say Obama has a hope (which is to say a doubt) that God exists, and assumes that if God does exist God either A) should play no role whatsoever in any worldly policy, or B) has beliefs that very neatly parallel Obama’s own opinions about the good and the just and how they can be furthered through policy.

    If I had to speculate on his relative silence about gay marriage, I bet it is that he is smart enough to understand that this issue will be resolved in the next 10 years without his intervention and that it is a battle that is low on his list of “battles to fight.”

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