Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Sacred and the secular-Part 3

Following on from my two previous posts, I think it is important that the sacred marriage ceremony be uncoupled from the secular marriage contract. Yesterday, I showed one instance where the sacred and secular were successfully uncoupled, to the benefit of both church and state. Let me stretch that argument out a little more. First off, anytime the church and the state have become too intertwined, the church loses. Theocracy is a bad form of government and is a horrible way to glorify God; think Papal States, Henry VIII in England, Spanish Inquisition, modern day Iran. I think you get the point.

Second, marriage is a Biblical institution with the root of the word being based in the Bible. It is a covenant and not a contract, therefore it has a higher standard, but that standard is has become unclear and muddied because of heterosexual divorce and adultery.

Third, I have already made myself clear about homosexuality being a sin here. Have a read because I believe I highlight some inherent problems with the way the Church currently treats homosexuality and how we have a plank in our eye about the whole issue.

Yet, both the President and my mother-in-law (the two most socially-conservative people I know) agree that something must be done to allow homosexual couples to live together in a legally recognized relationship. Believe it or not, the argument is really over semantics. Christians don’t like homosexuals using the term marriage to describe their relationships. This isn’t all that strange, African-Americans seem ok with using “nigger” to describe one another, but get very offended when someone else uses it to describe them. I’ve heard homosexual women refer to each other as “dykes” as a term of endearment, but if I called them that I’d be in real trouble.

I propose the solution and it lies with decoupling the marriage covenant and the marriage contract. I propose that state institutions, which still have a vested interest in people entering long- term loving relationships, remove all language about marriage from the law books. The state would make all relational contracts something like “domestic partnerships” and that contract bestows upon all who enter this contract the rights currently given to married couples. This could be a heterosexual couple that find the idea of marriage scary or stupid or don’t want to keep to the higher standard of marriage. It could be homosexual couples. The language would not restrict by gender. This new contract would be analogous to birth certificates from yesterday.

However, the Church should keep marriage. This would be similar to baptism yesterday. The Church could then demand a higher standard for marriage like Jesus did; no divorce except in the case of infidelity. Churches could issue marriage certificates if they wanted. Christians can continue to be called apart and use their own terminology and we would have justice for all Americans.

This would satisfy all sides (except homophobes and Christianphobes), but we lack a sufficient word in English to describe this new relationship. Certainly “partner” works to replace “spouse”, but we need a new word to describe the ceremony and the verb to explain the relationship. My wife thinks I should invent a new word, but I think that “match” would work. A couple could be “matched” rather than married, they could go through a “matching” ceremony, etc.

Are their problems? Sure. Would my new “domestic partnership” contract be limited to two people or could we have an equivalent of polygamy? I don’t know. Would there be issues over homosexual couples adopting? Sure (but those exist now anyway). Would the church have to do a lot more to help couples keep the high standard that Jesus sets? Yes! Would a clergyman perform a matching ceremony or only a marriage ceremony? I don’t know. How would congregations relate to/accept matched couples? Hopefully like Jesus would.

Even with the above problems and others I haven’t foreseen, it is a move forward for Jesus and justice. Taking constructive criticism, so feel free to comment.