Monday, August 18, 2014

A Musing About The Minor But Predictable Gordon Howie Civil Unions (Or Not) Imbroglio

On Saturday, Pat Powers published two posts about United States Senate candidate Gordon Howie's views on same-gender marriage. In the first post, he does his best to place Mike Rounds, Powers's preferred candidate, to Howie's right.
"Apparently Gordon Howie is closer to RIck Weiland and Larry Pressler on the issue of gay marriage than Mike Rounds."
Getting to Howie's right on anything requires political maneuvering that, were it a military effort, would require the combined military genius of Sun Tzu, Alexander the Great, Napoleon, and George Patton. As a political matter, one should question the efficacy of attempting to move to Howie's right, but that's a subject for a different post.

Perpetually angry Bob Ellis gave his obligatory angry retort: the "liberal media" and RINOs have written "defamation articles" "to distort what they hate," which involves marriage, family, and apparently, although Ellis doesn't write about them in the post, puppies, angels, and apple pie.

Ellis then gets to the matter at hand.
Sure enough, when I read the articles and carefully separate the quotes from the author’s “interpretation” of what was said, I find that nowhere in the article was Gordon Howie quoted saying he supported “civil unions” (which are nothing more than mimicry of marriage), much less supporting “gay marriage” (i.e. counterfeit marriage)....
Howie supports–as I do–allowing homosexuals continued access to the same rights that every American enjoys regardless of sexual practice and proclivity.  In other words, if a homosexual wants to leave his property to his homosexual partner upon his death, that is a legal right any American enjoys, so why should the same right be denied to the homosexual?  If a homosexual wants his homosexual partner to be able to visit him in the hospital, and he makes prior legal notice of that–just as any American can do–then why should he be denied that right?
Coincidentally, Rod Dreher has a post this morning on the American Conservative website that is more thoughtful than Ellis's and points to some major problems with Ellis's conservative agenda that purports to mix Christianity with political action. Dreher writes,
1. Traditional Christians should quit lying to themselves (ourselves) about the possibility that politics can adequately address the core problems we identify in American culture. It’s not that politics are inconsequential, but rather that what can be achieved through politics is limited. It always was, of course, but now it is especially so. . . .
Do we think we are Christians because God has blessed us with material things and liberty? What use have we made of these blessings? Because we build megachurches, bishops’ palaces, McMansions for our own homes? Is it possible that God is judging us? I ask of all Christians, not just traditional ones? I ask it of myself.
2. If the core of our problems are moral and spiritual, then we must build the institutions and communal structures that will address those problems, and attempt to solve them. No politician, Republican or Democrat, saved anyone’s soul. Again, this is not to say that our religious beliefs do not have political consequences. They do. But it is to say that we have to keep straight in our minds what our goals are, and what the means to reach them are.
3. As a Christian and conservative, I have become interested in voting for the candidate who can most be trusted to work for the maximal protection of religious liberty and an autonomous sphere within which traditionalist Christians (and others) can work to build our own institutions (churches, schools, voluntary associations) that enable us to live out in common our conception of the moral life. This means that I will support a candidate who favors gay marriage rights if I believe that that candidate can be trusted to fight for religious liberty, and if that candidate is the most viable rightward candidate.
Dreher, I think points to three things that all voters need to think about as we enter the campaign season that will be full of short TV ads and charges and counter-charges of lying, defamation, and despising all that is good and holy.

First, Americans over most of my lifetime have done a rather poor job of "adequately address[ing] the core problems we identify in American culture" and have lived under the mantra, spoken or unspoken: "It's the economy, Stupid.". Since Madonna sang about  being a material girl in a material world in the 1980s, we haven't even bothered to mock ourselves and our emphasis on securing the material at the expense of nearly everything else.

Second, politicians have really lost the ability to think long term. Everything is about issues, tactics, and the horse race. Voters trust them to deliver on their promises at the voters' peril. More importantly, the difficulty Madison enunciated the Federalist 51 remains: humans are not angels.

Third, focusing on the hot button issues at the expense of the bigger issue, in this case preserving religious liberty, is counterproductive. Also, going for an all or nothing political approach is likely to gain the latter.

One wonders what the political and social landscape would look like now if, in the 1990s, Ellis and his conservative cohorts had pushed for a law that extends to gay and lesbian couples the civil benefits he claims to support with the caveat that churches could marry or not marry anyone they chose.

I don't have the answers, and I don't know where the lines should be drawn, but Dreher's approach makes a lot more sense than Ellis's

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