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  #1  
Old Apr 30, '09, 3:53 pm
Leela Leela is offline
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Default Mere Civil Unions

C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity on Christian versus secular marriage:

"Before leaving the question of divorce, I should like to distinguish
two things which are very often confused. The Christian conception of
marriage is one: the other is the quite different question-how far
Christians, if they are voters or Members of Parliament, ought to try
to force their views of marriage on the rest of the community by
embodying them in the divorce laws. A great many people seem to think
that if you are a Christian yourself you should try to make divorce
difficult for every one. I do not think that. At least I know I should
be very angry if the Mahommedans tried to prevent the rest of us from
drinking wine. My own view is that the Churches should frankly
recognise that the majority of the British people are not Christians
and, therefore, cannot be expected to live Christian lives. There
ought to be two distinct kinds of marriage: one governed by the State
with rules enforced on all citizens, the other governed by the Church
with rules enforced by her on her own members. The distinction ought
to be quite sharp, so that a man knows which couples are married in a
Christian sense and which are not."


It sounds like he would agree with me that the government should get out of the "(re)defining marriage" business and simply license civil unions across the board while letting the churches decide who they want to marry.

Best,
Leela
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  #2  
Old Apr 30, '09, 5:57 pm
Thales Thales is offline
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Default Re: Mere Civil Unions

Hello,

Thanks for bringing up great topics! My first reaction to this issue, and one which seems not to have been touched upon, is the value to the society of marriage and divorce regardless of its connection to religion. Many atheists seem to look upon a thing that religions espouse, as simply that alone. In reality much of religion is very beneficial to a society. God wants what is best for all of us. His laws and guidelines steer us on that course. When we veer off that course by preferring our will, which is sin, we find ourselves in trouble, not as punishment but consequence. Marriage between a man and a woman is good for society because it is the best environment for the raising of children. A child has the best chance of developing into a good charactered, successful, functioning, adult member of society when raised by a loving mother and father. Yes, there are exceptions, but that’s exactly what they are, exceptions. Nothing in life is a guarantee. That is why I say, “the best chance.” A good government is obligated to support and incentivise institutions which benefit a society, this is precisely why governments should be and are involved. There is no benefit, I see, to society from same-sex marriage or civil unions and therefore the government should give no credence or condemnation.

There should be only one definition for marriage authorized by the state: the union between a man and a woman recognized by the state as marriage for the benefit of its people and their future prosperity. On there own individuals can do what they like, live with who they want, and union with what they like. As a Catholic I will always denounce these choices and ways of living as ultimately damaging and hurtful to the individuals involved. This is the duty I accept as a Catholic but not the duty of the government.
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  #3  
Old Apr 30, '09, 8:17 pm
JimG JimG is offline
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Default Re: Mere Civil Unions

Lewis's idea seems practical. Christian marriage for Christians. Civil marriage for others.

Of course, the way it has actually worked out in practice has not been quite ideal. Gresham's law appled: bad money drives out good. Bad marriage drives out good.

Liberalized divorce laws were adopted eagerly not just by non-Christians but Christians as well, so that eventually, with a 50% divorce rate, many complain that we no longer have marriage but only serial monogamy--or more accurately, serial polygamy.

Marriage has now declined to such a state that some Christian denominations have adopted a form they call "covenant marriage" to try to distinguish it from the ordinary form of marriage, whether civil or religious. By covenant marriage, the mean, I suppose, that this marriage will be permanent, that the vows will be kept for life, and that only death will tear us apart. (That's what all marriage used to mean.)

So in the end, it was the Christians who had to end up creating a new form of marriage.
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  #4  
Old Apr 30, '09, 8:45 pm
Pahlavan Pahlavan is offline
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Default Re: Mere Civil Unions - The Wrong Focus

Marriage and Divorce - the joining of a man and a woman & the dis-joining, if you will, of that union - have little to do with the man and the woman, per se. Marriage & Divorce are critical to society because it affects CHILDREN!

The fact that there exists a linkage between religion and the state when it comes to marriage/divorce is simply that the two worked in parallel for all but the past few decades. The whole concept of "civil unions" had no meaning until recently.

The question we should be asking and answering is not "Christian or religious marriage vs state recognized marriage" rather: what is the effect of altering marriage/divorce laws/definitions on children? What are the long-term consequences?

Prove to me that society will benefit from civil unions by promoting the nurturing of children and I will be first in line to sign the petition. Why is it that even in the most atheistic of countires, the former Soviet Union, Red China, Cuba, North Korea, et al, that marriage is not only permitted, but regulated in a fashion that is functionally indistinguishable from the institution found in Christian, Islamic, Jewish and other "religious" societies?

Might this not be a case of "don't fool with Mother Nature?" Beware the unintended consequences of changing the fundamental institutions of one's society.
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  #5  
Old Apr 30, '09, 9:39 pm
JimG JimG is offline
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Default Re: Mere Civil Unions - The Wrong Focus

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pahlavan View Post
Marriage and Divorce - the joining of a man and a woman & the dis-joining, if you will, of that union - have little to do with the man and the woman, per se. Marriage & Divorce are critical to society because it affects CHILDREN!
You are right. In the deconstruction of marriage over the past 50 or 60 years, children have been the big losers. And when children lose out, so does the society, since children will be the ones to carry on the civilization. Or not.
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  #6  
Old May 1, '09, 10:37 am
ricmat ricmat is offline
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Default Re: Mere Civil Unions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leela View Post
C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity on Christian versus secular marriage:

...snip....

It sounds like he would agree with me that the government should get out of the "(re)defining marriage" business and simply license civil unions across the board while letting the churches decide who they want to marry.

Best,
Leela
Leela, you make a reasonable point based on what CS Lewis said.

But to really makes sense of this whole issue, isn't it necessary to first define what marriage is? What is the purpose of marriage? And in an even more basic sense.....what is the purpose of having sex? And what is the purpose of gender in the first place?

Marriage is more than just a contract defining "civil union" type rights. It's more than a document which says "A officially loves B". It's more than a piece of paper saying that A has the approval of society to have sex with B.

Marriage (traditional) is the most basic institution of human civilization. And until the last few years, it was always fundamentally intertwined with children. Either the actuality of children, or at least the possibility of future children. Marriage is the institution in which children come to life in a way structured by society which defines who is responsible for their welfare.

To have children, both male and female are required.

Marriage is fundamentally about procreation, and defines the restrictions on, and responsibilities of those involved towards each other and the children.

Having sex with no intention to have children, or while attempting to circumvent the natural process by which children come to be is not part of marriage. This obviously restricts marriage to male/female. This is also the reason for the Catholic Church's stance against artificial contraception. God created 2 genders. Male and female must partner together to create more persons, in imitation of the Trinity in which the love which reflects endlessly between Father and Son becomes a new person in the Holy Spirit.

There are those who wish to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage, for the purpose of satisfying lust, or for the purpose of showing love for another person (but not to the extent of bringing new life into the world). This turns the "marital embrace" into something much less than God intended it to be. We no longer become cooperators with God in the creation of new persons, rather, we misuse our gender and those gifts to create into something merely used for personal pleasure.

I know that this issue of marriage and civil unions is a huge thing these days. I probably suggested this at one time in the past, but I'd like to recommend it again (so you can get the Church's perspective on this). Please read "Theology of the Body for Beginners" by Christopher West. There are also similar books which might be better, but I'm familiar with that one.
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  #7  
Old May 1, '09, 12:47 pm
Thales Thales is offline
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Default Re: Mere Civil Unions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leela View Post
C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity on Christian versus secular marriage:

It sounds like he would agree with me that the government should get out of the "(re)defining marriage" business and simply license civil unions across the board while letting the churches decide who they want to marry.
I wonder if C.S. Lewis would agree with you? It seems he does with your idea of making a clear distinction between state sanctioned marriage and Christian marriage, but I think you make the leap of assuming your defenitions of marriage and civil unions are equal.

I found an excerpt from a Lewis letter, which can be found in Sheldon Vanauken's autobiography, "A Severe Mercy". In this letter Lewis gives his views on homosexuality and what one such person should do with it. He makes it clear homosexuality is a disorder, like blindness, and the person who suffers from it should bear his cross, accept what deficiencies it brings, and find a way to 'turn the necessity to glorious gain.'

"Perhaps any homo. who humbly accepts his cross and puts himself under Divine guidance will, however, be shown the way. I am sure that any attempt to evade it (e.g. by mock or quasi-marriage with a member of one's own sex even if this does not lead to any carnal act) is the wrong way."
So, if one is trying to equate Lewis' Mere Christianity quote with your ideas of civil union
and same-sex marriage one has to take into account the above quote.
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  #8  
Old May 1, '09, 2:24 pm
Leela Leela is offline
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Default Re: Mere Civil Unions

Let me make my position more clear. I don't want the government sanctifying marriage. Do you? This is the role that it would be taking on if it is viewed as defining marriage or protecting a certain definition of marriage. By "leave it to the churches" I also mean that I would leave it to individuals since individuals are the ones who choose to subscribe to a church or not. Individuals can choose to get married within a church that defines marriage in the way that they would like to understand marriage, or they can choose to subscribe to no church at all. I see marriage as a religious institution in that, historically, that's what it has been. It is religious in that a wedding is a sacred ritual and marriage is a sacred institution. A couple that chooses to get married feels that it is not enough that they as a couple hold their relationship to be sacred, they also want a larger community to view their relationship with the respect afforded to this revered institution. They are choosing to borrow on the reverence capital of the institution of marriage within some community, so it makes sense for communities offering this reverence to couples to want to insure that newly married couples will pay it back by being worthy of reverence for future generations. I understand the "defense of marriage" impulse (even though I think that much of the use of the term is really just a defense of bigotry as it was in opposition to interracial marriage). But as far as regulating marriage, I don't want to leave it to the democratic process of government to protect marriage, because I don't think that that is the proper role of government. I don't see government as having any right to define what marriage ought to be. Without the authority of government to regulate marriage, some people who should not get married will get married, and some people will not view their marriages as their community that sanctifies marriage views marriage at a cost to the institution of marriage itself, but that happens anyway. No community has any legitimate authority to enforce it's view of marriage on a couple who has not specifically asked that community to sanctify its marriage. If the community is a church, then that community already has the apparatus to enforce its view by refusing to marry. We'll disagree about whether it is a community of human beings that sanctifies a marriage simply by holding it to be sacred or whether it is the Church or God that sanctifies marriage through some supernatural means, but I think we should agree that it is not the government that should be viewed as sanctifying marriage. No married people want to think that their marriage could be redefined through an election or voted out of existence, for example.
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  #9  
Old May 1, '09, 3:09 pm
ricmat ricmat is offline
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Default Re: Mere Civil Unions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leela View Post
Let me make my position more clear. I don't want the government sanctifying marriage. Do you? This is the role that it would be taking on if it is viewed as defining marriage or protecting a certain definition of marriage.
"Sanctify" means to make holy, or to make free from sin and guilt. So the government doesn't have this capability in any case. Did you actually mean something else?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leela View Post
By "leave it to the churches" I also mean that I would leave it to individuals since individuals are the ones who choose to subscribe to a church or not. Individuals can choose to get married within a church that defines marriage in the way that they would like to understand marriage, or they can choose to subscribe to no church at all. I see marriage as a religious institution in that, historically, that's what it has been. It is religious in that a wedding is a sacred ritual and marriage is a sacred institution.
You realize, of course, that "Sacred" involves God. The term is meaningless otherwise.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leela View Post
A couple that chooses to get married feels that it is not enough that they as a couple hold their relationship to be sacred, they also want a larger community to view their relationship with the respect afforded to this revered institution. They are choosing to borrow on the reverence capital of the institution of marriage within some community, so it makes sense for communities offering this reverence to couples to want to insure that newly married couples will pay it back by being worthy of reverence for future generations.
So what you really want is for society to approve of same sex sex? By calling it marriage?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leela View Post
I understand the "defense of marriage" impulse (even though I think that much of the use of the term is really just a defense of bigotry as it was in opposition to interracial marriage).
Yes banning interracial marriage was bigotry. But interracial marriage was still between a man and a woman. They had the capability of making children from their sexual union.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leela View Post
But as far as regulating marriage, I don't want to leave it to the democratic process of government to protect marriage, because I don't think that that is the proper role of government.
The primary role of government is to provide for the well being of it's citizens, especially those who can't care for themselves (children).
Quote:
Originally Posted by Leela View Post
No married people want to think that their marriage could be redefined through an election or voted out of existence, for example.
A "marriage" between same sex partners is inherently impossible since it is not open to the creation of new human life. No matter what judges rule, or even what the majority of people think, something that can't exist to begin with can not be voted out of existence.

Again, marriage is more than a certificate which says that society must approve of a sexual union between person A and person B. It's all about children.

Even in those societies of old (Greece, Rome, etc.) where homosexuality was common, nobody ever conceived of a "marriage" between same sex couples. Because it didn't involve children.
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  #10  
Old May 1, '09, 4:47 pm
Leela Leela is offline
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Default Re: Mere Civil Unions

Quote:
Originally Posted by ricmat View Post
"Sanctify" means to make holy, or to make free from sin and guilt. So the government doesn't have this capability in any case. Did you actually mean something else?
Sanctify means "to give sanction to." Moral approval is connoted. I don't look to the government for moral approval. Do you?

Quote:
Originally Posted by ricmat View Post
You realize, of course, that "Sacred" involves God. The term is meaningless otherwise.
To you, I'm sure it involves God and is meaningless without God. But sacred means "worthy of respect or veneration." Non-theists can still hold things to be sacred.



Quote:
Originally Posted by ricmat View Post
Yes banning interracial marriage was bigotry. But interracial marriage was still between a man and a woman. They had the capability of making children from their sexual union.
Not all of them are capable. Would you argue that a sterile person should not be permitted to marry?

Many heterosexual couples marry with no intention of having kids, and many homosexual couples choose to have kids. This objection always seems to me to come from a distaste for homosexuality rather than a concern for making or raising babies.
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  #11  
Old May 1, '09, 4:57 pm
Leela Leela is offline
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Default Re: Mere Civil Unions

Quote:
Originally Posted by ricmat View Post
So what you really want is for society to approve of same sex sex? By calling it marriage?
I guess, but that's not the issue. I'm not suggesting that the government ought to put it's stamp of approval on homosexual sex. I'm saying that the government has no business putting stamps of approval on any types of personal relationships or social roles whatsoever. It can sanction marriage or civil union as an economic institution but not as a social or religious institution. It shouldn't say what marriage ought to be any more than it should say how brothers ought to treat one another or whether dads should take their kids to ball games. The churches and communities a can decide what they want to call a marriage and what they do not consider to be a real marriage. This just isn't the sort of thing that government should do. Government can continue to recognize marriages as civil unions, but to the government, civil unions as an economic institution is all that marriage has ever been. It's greater meaning is in the social role of spouse that is revered by the community rather than the government. The mistake is confusing the government with the society it governs which it does with limited power. The government has no power to define marriage.
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  #12  
Old May 1, '09, 6:13 pm
Texas Roofer Texas Roofer is offline
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Default Re: Mere Civil Unions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leela View Post
I guess, but that's not the issue. I'm not suggesting that the government ought to put it's stamp of approval on homosexual sex. I'm saying that the government has no business putting stamps of approval on any types of personal relationships or social roles whatsoever. It can sanction marriage or civil union as an economic institution but not as a social or religious institution. It shouldn't say what marriage ought to be any more than it should say how brothers ought to treat one another or whether dads should take their kids to ball games. The churches and communities a can decide what they want to call a marriage and what they do not consider to be a real marriage. This just isn't the sort of thing that government should do. Government can continue to recognize marriages as civil unions, but to the government, civil unions as an economic institution is all that marriage has ever been. It's greater meaning is in the social role of spouse that is revered by the community rather than the government. The mistake is confusing the government with the society it governs which it does with limited power. The government has no power to define marriage.
Help me out
When a woman has no money, and is pregnant with a baby and there are many problems who decides what to do and how to pay for it? Now using your logic we cannot say the parents because they as always those bigoted male female pair. So that only leaves the mom who cannot pay, so that only leaves the government (right)? Now if the child needs additional mother care after birth due to problems well does that not leave government to pay? Now what if the woman thinks she should stay home but there appears to be no extenuating reason who decides the woman or the government? Help me understand once we rid the world of the bigoted male/female pair who then decides and how does the finance work?
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  #13  
Old May 1, '09, 7:06 pm
Leela Leela is offline
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Default Re: Mere Civil Unions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Thales View Post
I wonder if C.S. Lewis would agree with you? It seems he does with your idea of making a clear distinction between state sanctioned marriage and Christian marriage, but I think you make the leap of assuming your defenitions of marriage and civil unions are equal.
I'm not arguing that civil unions equate to marriage. I'm arguing that civil unions are all that government has any right to sanction, and that from a government point of view, civil union is all that marriage is, though to our communities, marriage means much more. It is to these communities such as churches rather than the government that the question of who can be married should be left.

I actually doubt that C.S. Lewis actually would agree with me about allowing civil unions for gay couples. I expect that the idea would have been unthinkable to him since he was a product of the time he lived in.
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  #14  
Old May 1, '09, 7:11 pm
Leela Leela is offline
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Default Re: Mere Civil Unions

Quote:
Originally Posted by Texas Roofer View Post
Help me out
When a woman has no money, and is pregnant with a baby and there are many problems who decides what to do and how to pay for it? Now using your logic we cannot say the parents because they as always those bigoted male female pair. So that only leaves the mom who cannot pay, so that only leaves the government (right)? Now if the child needs additional mother care after birth due to problems well does that not leave government to pay? Now what if the woman thinks she should stay home but there appears to be no extenuating reason who decides the woman or the government? Help me understand once we rid the world of the bigoted male/female pair who then decides and how does the finance work?
I don't understand what you are getting at. Why couldn't parents decide what to do for their baby? Why do you think that I think that male/female pairs should be eliminated? I'm just recognizing that there are also male/male and female/female pairs and that many of these couples are raising kids. The issues you seem to be raising sound like economic ones which are the rightful concern of government. What I think is not the right of government is to define what marriage is. I'm surprised that Christians want to use government for that purpose.
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  #15  
Old May 1, '09, 7:28 pm
TheAtheist TheAtheist is offline
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Default Re: Mere Civil Unions

Let me piggyback this question with another one that might be quasi-related:

Does the Catholic Church even acknowledge marriage outside of its institution?

IE: Two Buddhists getting married - are they actually married? Or is marriage only valid within the Church?

Understand the consequences of your statement either way before answering.
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