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February 09, 2004

We need to think. 

I stole all of this from TheyBlinked. I re-published most of it here because I believe these concepts are the key that will bring us one step closer to embracing what it is to be a created humanity.

I look forward to reading much more from theyblinked especially on the topic of relationships, and marriage. The plethora of literature that is out there on these subjects falls far short of the mark that defines what is healthy for human consumption.

My immediate interest is directed toward the presumptions that are bought to the legal contract we call marriage. When two people set out to bind themselves in a mutually committed relationship under the auspices of a state sanctioned legal contract it is much like a merger: The state no longer sees just two people. The two people are now one legal entity. What each person does impacts the other because their actions are now done under the name of the marriage. All ownership is mutual. All indebtedness is mutual. What is interesting is that this oneness in marriage does not extend to matters of criminal law. Should one party commit murder the other is not prosecuted with them. So there is a distinction between the actions of the two in matters of the law.

What if every person was always already responsible for their own financial and legal decisions? Even under our current matrimonial legal framework this would simplify things. Couples would choose what to do mutually rather than being forced to do everything together. Large assets or debts could be chosen together as are other major responsibilities such as offspring, but the day-to-day decisions regarding purchases and debts would have no overlapping legal status.

What if this extended even to morality? What if the state got out of the marrying business altogether? Why is the state involved in legislating moral structures anyway? Basic frameworks of agreement regarding relational justice, appropriate age of consent, etc. would be federal matters, but all details regarding the ordering of the family would be left to the most local levels--our circles of friends, our churches, our mosques, our extended families, our townships, our temples, our synagogues and the like.

Why is it appropriate for a federal government to advocate for an overly particular matrimonial morality in their canons of law when it is not appropriate for the same government to advocate for particular religious views from which such morality inevitably springs? What is potentially at stake in such a question is "Natural Law." If one believes in Natural Law than one believes that there is a way to legislate morality without direct reference to authoritative canons of tradition--that somehow there is an objectivity that boils over from the various, isolated human subjectivities across all peoples that makes up this thing called Natural Law. This view seems less and less plausible as the curtain of objectivity has been pulled back and the seemingly endless double-helix of reality ascends and descends in all directions in an unmanageable spiraling complexity. Natural Law is now little more than a fascinating, calcified ideological museum piece used as visual aid in explaining the world of the founding generation and much of their modern peer group across the West. Outside of a Natural Law stance there is no adequate affirmative response to the question posed above in the context of an open democratic society.

If the state simply stopped certifying marriage unions; stopped recognizing them for matters of tracking, taxation and the like the issue of two people of any gender marrying or some future cry of injustice over multiple bisexual or mixed group marriage would evaporate. Marriage would remain of course, as it always has, in the local decisions of real people in real communities living out the relational expectations of their communities. The institution would be as it was from the beginning: A mutually navigated, locally sanctioned decision for a life together.


So, given that all of this rambling began as a quasi-response to what I have taken to be less than adequate responses to this post, how would one respond in a way that would spark my interest rather than elicit the barbaric yawn?

One would begin by differentiating between the generalized structures of coexistence that those of us who privilege a certain egalitarian, democratic society fight to keep open and the local narrative communities within which we each come to know of our own existence and that of the various others that do not share in our particular, idiosyncratic tutelage of the world. If this distinction, even momentarily, is not possible for you than perhaps we ought to put another pot of tea on the stove and settle in for a quiet evening of thoughtful conversation and storytelling.

Should said distinction not be anathema to one's totalitarian ideological instincts one could then begin to ask the questions of appropriate moral boundaries, communal ethical borders and nature/nurture identity (pre)dispositions within the shared narratives and master words of a given community. This then takes one out of the reified realm of world-implied pronouncements and into the land of local, enacted interpretation. This is the clearing in which the questions of chosen communication patterns (ways of trust/truth), power relationships (politics), financial and sexual mores (ethics) are meaningfully engaged. Beginning here one could begin along many streams of questioning that would be both fascinating and satisfying given enough mutual commitment to patient time together, careful listening and honest, well-formed speech.

It is in this space that bringing up such things as the Mosaic or Levitical challenges to homosexual practice or that of The Letter to the Romans would be at home and posed in a manner other than mere polemic. This space would also be sufficient to begin to draw out the many threads of difference between textual pronouncement, ancient experience on record and the nuanced situations we now find ourselves in.

The invitation to the ongoing process of interpretation must be engaged if we are to be a people with a measure of historical vision and yet have our decisions in this moment be invested with a certain hope for what has not yet come. In this moment of interpretation we would do well to, "read as wounded and as haunted" as Brueggemann would say.

We are always already within the text; the textures of a certain interpretive matrix casting before our eyes, giving view of, a certain state of things whose unyielding demand is to be engaged. This demand that can not be not met is navigated at the cadence of our choosing. Finding our way through our affiliations and co-creations in this life with a certain humility, a simple expectancy, a hope for the yet unknown provides the benefit of both carrying our various traditions with a sense of continuity and loving our neighbor--that other encountered along the side of the road--as ourselves.

Whether the controversy of the moment is sexual ethics, (civic or communal as shown in the Massachusetts ruling and the recent Anglican Bishop appointment) religious tolerance or cultural difference (both seen so acutely in the various subtexts of the "War on Terror") how we cast the story around the conflict, how we go about speaking with the combatants begins in the manner in which we think about the world and in the end is the deciding factor with regard to whether or not we in fact have loved our enemies, our neighbors and the stranger at our door.

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