Friday, 18 December 2009

Christmas Time Is Here

Well, it's one week until Christmas. Tree is up. Presents are bought (if not wrapped). Plans made. Much misteltoeing. Kids jingle-belling. Everyone is, indeed, telling you'll be of good cheer.

Here in the Great Garden St, despite the economic mess, people are optimistic. A new regime is going to Trenton in January. Maybe Chris Christie will succeed where Jon Corzine failed.

Why do I sense a bit of grinchiness in the air?

Glad you asked.

On the radio the past couple of days, battling ads are running about a possible vote to "legalise" gay marriage. You see, the lame duck legislature have been debating these past few days whether to extend marriage rights to gay couples. Setting aside that Gov. Corzine has had four years to do this, and that this plainly looks political, I am struck by the general nastiness of the tone of those who putatively are out to "protect" marriage.

Now, I typically tend to lean to the right of Atilla the Hun on most issues, and generally think that the Democratic Party are out to sea - and have been out there for so long that they've long forgotten why the set sail to begin with and the general direction of the land - on virtually everything. My right-wing bona fides are seldom under question. I personally have been called a crypto-fascist by Morton Kondracke, and I assume he does not hand out that badge the way John D. Rockefeller used to hand out dimes.

But on this issue, I think that largely, the conservatives are about as wrong as they possibly could be.

The arguments range from the bizarre and absurd (allowing gay couples to marry will lead to various pairings such as man and goat, or triplings, or others in a smorgasbord of weird permutations) to the sincere and wrong (religious objections).

I honestly do not see how any of these can stand scrutiny.

What is marriage? I don't mean from the sense of playing card games like sixty-six or from a cultural or nostalgic point of view. What I mean is, since this is largely a discussion about government and the laws, what is marriage in the way it is viewed by the State? How it ought to be viewed by the state?

Simply, in my estimation a marriage is a contract between two people that spells out certain privileges and obligations. It's not about love (though a good marriage should have a healthy dose of that). It is a commitment between two parties that they will share debts, legal burdens, be allowed to make certain decisions should the other become incapacitated, who will get what in the inevitable instance that one dies.

That's pretty much it.

The human-goat (thanks Michael Savage for that one) argument is patently absurd, since a contract cannot be entered into by a party that is non compos mentis.

I understand the religious tradition, and even the utilitarian perspective that marriage ought to promote fidelity, stability, and continuity. I've seen the data, and am completely convinced that children are far better off raised in married families. But that's beside the point. Allowing gays to enter into legal contracts will not make unmarried couples less likely to have children out of wedlock, and they can scarcely make the data on illegitimacy or divorce for that matter worse.

From a religious perspective, I go to Mass pretty much every Sunday. My own personal views on morality of homosexuality are irrelevant. What the people living next to me, let alone in California or Maine do has no bearing on my marriage or my views of marriage. Unless one of them is my father in law, I don't really see how they can, and if how other people live their lives somehow undermined the serious regard I have or do not have for the sacrament of marriage then my faith would have to be pretty shallow indeed.

There is a famous passage in the Gospels where Jesus, confronted with the conundrum of whether to pay tax (which the Pharisees viewed as potential blasphemy) or not (which they new was a crime under Roman law), answered by showing a coin and asking whose image was on that coin. When the answer came back Caesar, he famously said that one is to render unto God what is God's, and to render unto Caesar what is Caesar.

From my understanding of the Gospels, he was not saying you should pay your taxes, but rather, that His Kingdom was not of this earth, and things such as money (and by extension, contracts) were of this world. The coin of His realm is the soul, and the wage is how we behave and how we treat one another. Whether you view homosexuality as a sin, He also was quite plain in saying to whom judgment was reserved, and I am pretty sure it's not me.

Frankly, the only real reason I see for anti-gay marriage ads is meanness. I do not know a lot of gay people, but I do know more than one. Some are nice people. Some are obnoxious. Whether or not I think gays are acting according to God's will, I do not see why the government should deny them the basic right to enter into contracts with one another, and to treat those contracts with the same respect as any other.

So this year, at Christmas time, in the time of miracles and of the forgiveness of man (the reason Christ came into the world), instead of puffing ourselves up "defending" marriage and righteousness, let's take a look at how we are living up to one of the few things that He asked when He came to the world.

How are we treating our fellow man?

The answer to that question is far more relevant in my view than any Propositions we sign or lawmakers we call to defend marriage against a threat that just does not exist.