Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Separating Marriage from Government

It is now old news (from a 2000 Barna survey) that conservative Christians have higher divorce rates than any other religious groups, atheists and agnostics. And it is also old news that Baptists have higher divorce rates than any other established denomination.

While Southern Baptists continue to deny their high divorce rates, Ron Barrier, Spokesperson for American Atheists, declared of the Barna survey: "These findings confirm what I have been saying these last five years. Since Atheist ethics are of a higher caliber than religious morals, it stands to reason that our families would be dedicated more to each other than to some invisible monitor in the sky. With Atheism, women and men are equally responsible for a healthy marriage. There is no room in Atheist ethics for the type of 'submissive' nonsense preached by Baptists and other Christian and/or Jewish groups. Atheists reject, and rightly so, the primitive patriarchal attitudes so prevalent in many religions with respect to marriage."

Fast forward seven years, to the present. Baptist Press, the promotion arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, is now publishing about one story a day that deals with the topic of marriage. Southern Baptist leaders, in short, seem to be infatuated with their own "sins," condemning others for what their own are extremely guilty of. Or perhaps they are trying to be disingenuous, hopeful that their rhetoric will blind the world to the sins of Baptists.

Yet there is another dimension to the Southern Baptist marriage propaganda, as Southern Baptist leaders routinely seek to use government money and muscle to force others to do that of which their own are the worst offenders. For Southern Baptist leaders to claim that they are the champions and guardians of traditional marriage is like a fox claiming to be the champion and guardian of the hen house. But at least the fox doesn't solicit tax dollars to cover his dirty deeds.

John Fife, a retired Presbyterian minister from Tucson, Arizona, suggests that the time has come to separate marriage from government by recognizing only civil unions, and leaving marriage to the church:

So how do we begin to clean up this marriage mess?

How about going back to a basic American value and tradition - the separation of church and state?

The state should confine its interest to the legal registration of couples in civil unions. Those couples would then avail themselves of all the legal rights and responsibilities that a registered civil union would provide.

The state could legislate certain qualifications for civil unions that are in the state's interest (no polygamy), but could not define marriage for the church and could not discriminate against any groups.

Marriage would become solely a matter of faith and the traditions of diverse religious communions.

Marriage vows would be restored to sacred vows before "God and these witnesses" within a community of faith interpreting its own sacred texts.

It seems that Fife is thinking more like a Baptist than many Baptists today.


Tim said...

You know, I've been thinking the same thing, lately.

Why don't we leave "marriages" to churches, and "civil unions" to the state. If we think about it, Marriage is a Religious ritual/service. The state should have nothing to do with it.


Anonymous said...

I completely agree. The state has a compelling interest in regulating contracts and in the welfare of children. But marriage is not something for the state to engage in.


Anonymous said...

"Since Atheist ethics are of a higher caliber than religious morals, it stands to reason that our families would be dedicated more to each other than to some invisible monitor in the sky. "

China, the Soviet Union and other aetheist states murdered 120+ milion people last century. Aethesim has a god and his name man. The rules and morality are made up by whatever "man" is in charge.

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