Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What if evangelicals started saying they were "Standing on the Side of God"?

They made a fancy campaign with a facebook group, wrote songs, preached sermons, all about how God would be just pleased as punch with them and everything they believe and how their political positions must all be correct ones for the world since they've decided that God agrees.

Their views on Abortion? God's.

Their views on Immigration? God's.

Their views on Gay Marriage? God's.

Their views on minimum wage laws? God's

Their views on whether route 66 should be expanded in parts of Northern Virginia? God's.

Etc, etc, and soforth.

Naturally, this sets up a dualistic situation where if you disagree with evangelicals on a given political position, even if you are an Evangelical, you are standing on the side that God is against.

Wouldn't that campaign seem appallingly arrogant?

Wouldn't the idea that people were saying you're against God if you disagree with them politically be abhorrent to you?

Wouldn't it be pretty laughable that a group of people would decide that God must agree with them in all things?*

So why on earth does the idea of applying the "Standing on the Side of Love" slogan to ALL oppression-related-majority-UU-approved political ideas not completely suck? I realize that we haven't gone as far with it as the evangelicals in my example, but we do seem to be on the way. I can understand the slogan's applicability to same sex marriage, but I think applying it to anything else is a big mistake.

CC

*Which is not to say that plenty of people haven't decided that in the past.

55 comments:

Joel Monka said...

I've been wondering about that- when I signed up for the "Standing on the side of love" email list at GA, the volunteer said it was a new program about marriage equality. Now they're starting to sound like Rev. Sinkford when he would speak not merely for all UUs, but for all "seriously religious people" or "people of conscience".

Bill Baar said...

If an Evangelical told me that, I would quote them 1 Corinthians 11-13,

11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Love doesn't ask me to stand with it. Love abides. With whom Love stands, I only hope.

That's what I would tell an Evangelical who would tell me where Love Stands.

Universalists used to tell Evangelicals that too, but I fear we've lost that.

Chalicechick said...

Well, technically, the Evangelicals were telling you where God stands.

CC

Bill Baar said...

I send any who spoke for God this way back to their Bibles.

Chalicechick said...

And then, they would say "Well the Bible says God believes X, Y, and Z, and all of those things relate to my political issue the following ways, so God is clearly on my side."

CC

Robin Edgar said...

As you rightly point out. The UUA's 'Standing On The Side Of Love' campaign, from its inception to its present form, "stands on the side of love" for pet causes of Unitarian*Universalists. If one suggests that U*Us might want to stand on the side of love for various other causes that U*Us are not so keen to support, such as standing on the side of victims of U*U clergy misconduct by demanding restorative justice for ALL victims of clergy misconduct one is usually pointedly ignored. . . As far as I am concerned the UUA's 'Standing On The Side of Love' campaign provides an excellent foil for showing up the two-faced hypocrisy of too many U*Us and I will continue to use it as such until such a time as U*Us actually do stand on the side of love for ALL victims of U*U clergy misconduct and victims of various other U*U injustices and abuses that exclude and/or marginalize and/or oppress people or otherwise cause harm to them.

To quote Rev. Dr. Serene Jones,

"Love is about justice, not sentimentality. Standing on the side of love is choosing to stand with *ALL* those excluded, marginalized, and oppressed – without succumbing to hate for the oppressor. Nothing could be harder - or more essential for our common flourishing."

I see little evidence of U*Us standing on the side of love for *ALL* those people who they have excluded, marginalized, and oppressed over the years. . . Do you?

smijer said...

Yeah, it's a little high-handed for a ... what? marketing campaign? I prefer the lower-key rhetoric. One of those things about being a tiny denomination (association for sticklers)... it's hard to get enough of the right people doing the right kind of thinking into the right positions. We're better on the congregational level.

Bill Baar said...

And then, they would say "Well the Bible says God believes...

For a pragmatic, what-works, faith, this is one UU's should put to the test.

My experience is few UU's chose to engage Evangelicals this way. I suspect if serious UUs, and serious Evangelicals did (serious meaning excluding the sloganeers) we'd find some interesting Theology emerge. Not just gee we're all greens at heart, or Budgets are Moral documents, but talk about what Love is exactly and if it stands with us, or we need to stand with us, or as Paul told us, that above all Love Abides.

Now that would be interesting.

And get us out of Marketing and Sloganeering.... and talking about things people of Faith should feel.

smijer said...

Mark today on your calendar. I agree with Bill Baar.

Chalicechick said...

Robin, I'm actually encouraging UUs NOT to apply the slogan all sorts of other places, so I can't say I agree with your application of it to yet another cause.

Chalicechick said...

(((My experience is few UU's chose to engage Evangelicals this way. I suspect if serious UUs, and serious Evangelicals did (serious meaning excluding the sloganeers) we'd find some interesting Theology emerge.)))

This certainly has been done by bible experts on both sides of the "Is homosexuality sinful?" debate, and nothing much useful has come out of it that I have seen.

CC

PG said...

I have a gripe against making arguments for legalizing same-sex marriage based on "love," given that love is not mandatory for contracting and maintaining a marriage (sex kind of is, in those states that make non-consummation grounds for annulment). True equality means that people should be able to have loveless same-sex marriages just like they can have loveless opposite-sex ones.

Chalicechick said...

PG, you're correct, but you should never work in marketing.

CC

Bill Baar said...

Well, Is homosexuality sinful?" a bit of a non-starter.

For what Christian isn't sexual activity outside of marriage not sinful? For what Christian isn't all human activity marked by sin?

Try engaging an Evangelical (or a Humanist) on the question: can we tell On Which Side Love Stands, and if you know, How do you know?

Does your knowledge give you authority to act, set policy, define marriage, to judge? I bet you'll get a different outcome.

Your not going convince Christians to perform Same Sex Marriage but you'll get deeper theological perspectives.

We'll be a better Church for it.

smijer said...

PG's more right than the logic presented indicates. Romantic love is *very* auxiliary to marriage. Marriage is about nesting and romantic love is only one, optional, aspect of nesting.

Paul Oakley said...

Standing on the Side of Love made perfect sense as a slogan to go with the marriage equality position. I mean, do you allow love to be supported by the institution of marriage or not? The slogan meant something specific and logical when used in that context, even if politically fraught. But applying the slogan to the wider array of social issues does come off as ham-fisted, heavy handed, and self-righteous.

But what I truly don't understand is why UUs think we need to take denominational positions on political issues at all. (That is not to say that we should not be involved in social justice issues that have political implications.)

I'm not at all sure that it is appropriate, strike that, I am sure it is not at all appropriate for us to be passing resolutions that assume one approach to an ethical problem is the correct one - correct enough to receive the Imprimatur and Nihil Obstat of the UUA.

Take for example the ever contentious abortion argument. The UUA has weighed in with an official position. However, I do not agree with that position. I am not a member of the so-called Pro-Life camp, but the so-called Pro-Choice camp is equally offensive to my ethical sensibility. But Pro-Choice (capitalized) is the position of our denomination. I think far more nuanced approaches are needed if our response to the issue is to be in any sense of the word ethical. And I believe that individuals and, to a much lesser degree, congregations should be wrestling with the complex ethical issues rather than going with the "Voice of God" at the denominational level.

But the UUA has voted. "God" has spoken. The seal has been pressed to the vellum. Debate is cut off. And if your personal position is a "wrong" one, are you merely tolerated? Castigated? Corrected? Reproved? Are your UU credentials suspect? I would like to say not. I hope not. But if not, then the whole process of the UUA voting on a particular position is nothing more than farting outdoors on a windy day. The stink doesn't amount to anything.

How about we refrain from ethical resolutions at the denominational level?

Chalicechick said...

(((For what Christian isn't sexual activity outside of marriage not sinful?))

When the woman is a slave:

Exodus 21:7-11

When you're raping a woman whom you've captured in a war.

Zechariah 14:1-2

Numbers 31:7-18

Deuteronomy 20:10-14

Judges 5:30

Actually, the bible is cool with rape of unmarried women in general as long as you pay a fine and marry the victim later:

Deuteronomy 22:28-29


CC

Chalicechick said...

(((But what I truly don't understand is why UUs think we need to take denominational positions on political issues at all. (That is not to say that we should not be involved in social justice issues that have political implications.) )))

Preach it.

CC

Paul Oakley said...

Come, come, Chalicechick. There is light between Christian teaching on marriage and Biblical teaching on marriage. :)

smijer said...

Ah, CC - you're cheating! Bill asked, "for what Christian"? - Not how do you interpret what passages from Christian scripture? ...

A good 95% of Christians follow an interpretation of (all) canonical scripture which they believe forbids any type of extramarital sex. A few very liberal denominations makes some nice exceptions, sometimes even with accompanying exegesis for them.

Chalicechick said...

No, Bill is the one who cheated.

He took a question about biblical interpretation and made it about what modern Christians believe.

I just put it back to being about biblical interpretation.

CC

smijer said...

You both cheated... He took a question about what the Bible says and assumed modern interpretations. You took one and assumed ancient interpretations.

Asking what the Bible says is a lot like asking what the library says.

Chalicechick said...

Most of the biblical interpretation debates I've seen do focus on what the bible said and what it would have meant at the time.

That's what I was going with.

Chalicechick said...

Also, I was going to let this go, but Bill's post strongly implies, with no facts backing up the statement, that no or almost no modern Christians believe that premarital sex isn't necessarily sin.

I don't know how many Christians he knows but that's not even in the neighborhood of true of the Christians I know, and I know many. I realize that's anecdotal, but seriously...

smijer said...

at the time.

Same in the forums I regard most favorably, but ignores Christianity in favor of history.

And, like I said - to people with our perspective, asking what the Bible says is like asking what the Library says.

When Evangelicals talk about what the Bible says, they have already laden the collection with a great deal of prior interpretation: that it is a single, unified, and coherent literary unit, and that apparent disharmony between various pieces of scripture is due to mistaken understanding on the part of moderns.

I think Bill is right that you can't appeal to the Bible directly to support the non-sinfulness of homosexuality, but you can appeal to it to support tolerance and the Golden Rule as it applies to marital institutions.

Bill Baar said...

CC,

Your quotes are all from non-Christian texts. They're Hebrew.

My assertion that most Christians find sex outside of marriage sinful based on my experience growing up Congregationalist, and raising my kids as Catholics. I think that's the case.

For Catholics the Bible is of far less consequence too. It's the Church's history and tradition cited more often than not; on sexual ethics and a great many other thinks.

Bill Baar said...

....but you can appeal to it to support tolerance and the Golden Rule as it applies to marital institutions.

Exactly!

Which is why I think I find so many gays in Christian Churches, who find UU practice unappealing, despite Christian Ethics seemingly ruling them out.

We can be a pretty harsh too but then you find gems like Corinthians on abiding Love.

We've let politics (in this case the politics of SSM) overtake a deeper truth.

We're divvying up folks on the Love divide, while the Evangelical out there talking abiding Love.

Which preaching do you turn to in crisis? Which preaching do you turn too for hope?

I wouldn't call myself a Chrisitan, but I still keep Paul's words at heart here. There is a truth I feel in them.

Mickbic said...

The Protestants may call their entire 66 books of the Bible the basis for their belief and behavior as divergent from one another as they may be.

They claim that it is the teaching of the Holy Spirit to individual believers that keep one from falling into serious error or sin and in interpreting scripture.

Unfortunately the Holy Spirit is a little unreliable, or apparently given to doling out contrary interpretations.

Of Christian love, C S Lewis pointed out that it was a matter of will rather than of feeling. That is something we also must grapple with.

Chalicechick said...

Ok, this is making my head hurt.

As far as I can tell, Bill's argument is as follows:

1. UUs should engage Evangelicals in discussions of the biblical support for their views. (Bill's 11:49am post)

2. A discussion of the biblical basis for the idea that homosexuality is sinful is a "non-starter" because "For what Christian isn't sexual activity outside of marriage not sinful?" (12:34am post)

3. My examples of extramarital sex that the bible does not perceive as sinful are don't apply, not because the bible doesn't have them, but because Exodus, for example, is a "non-Christian" book of the bible*.

The Evangelicals will defend their biblically-based objection to homosexuality by using church history as the basis for their position rather than the bible. (2:16pm post)


Am I reading Bill correctly? If so, I'd say that he alone has proved what I was saying about the pointlessness of trying to engage people in a discussion of the biblical roots of their political views.

CC


*How refreshing to know that Christians don't believe that part of the bible counts. Since Exodus is a "Hebrew book" the folks who want the Ten Commandments put up in courthouses must actually be Jews. All that talk they made about the US being a Christian nation had me totally fooled.

Chalicechick said...

((((I think Bill is right that you can't appeal to the Bible directly to support the non-sinfulness of homosexuality, but you can appeal to it to support tolerance and the Golden Rule as it applies to marital institutions.)))

Of course Bill was the one saying that UUs should engage envangelicals on the Biblical basis of what they believe.

I was the one who has been saying that would be pointless from the beginning because scholars far smarter than we are have tried it on issues like homosexuality and not much has come of it.

CC

The Dancin' Hippie said...

Why are Evangelicals being lumped into one big group along with all Christians? Why are all sorts of assumptions about what it means to be a Christian and exactly what Christians believe being made?

Back to the original point of the blog post, what would I think if Evangelicals started saying what God believed and drawing line of who is righteous and who isn't? I wouldn't really care. Each of us in on our own path. If this is the truth that an Evangelical has found, who am I to say otherwise. If the Evangelical wants to have an open and respectful discussion, I should be open to that and actually listen to what they have to say, just as he/she should listen to what I say. A free and responsible search for the truth should be limited to members of a UU Congregation.

Chalicechick said...

Well, the original topic was technically the application of the "Standing on the Side of Love" campaign to a growing number of social issues and the evangelical thing was only an illustration.

I do see your point, though, that people of other faiths might well simply ignore "Standing on the side of love." In one sense, that might mean it isn't doing any harm. In another, that might mean that we're only talking to ourselves anyway, so we might want to think about a campaign that people outside of UUism might be more likely to feel kinship with.

The Dancin' Hippie said...

OK, you got me. My last comment was about the original rhetorical device, not the underlying point. I think the comments have taken a life of their own.

To the point, should the campaign slogan be applied to majority-UU-approved political ideas, I guess that would depend on if the political idea supports inclusion/rejects exclusion and oppression. So, applying it to support of pro-choice positions would be inappropriate.

Bill Baar said...

I'll come back to the details tonight, but I think SSM is one issue I would never engage anyone on without a lot of preparation.

It's amazing to watch people talk completely past each other on it.

I didn't see UU's Standing on the Love message as closely linked to UU stands on SSM as CC has here.

I think engaging Evangelicals and other Christians --especially Catholics who really give the brain power to Evangelical thought I think-- on our slogan and the theology behind it would be interesting.

Just getting into the habit of linking some Evangelical sites when UU bloggers reference Evangelical thoughts would be useful engagement.

I've toyed with doing a post on Inerrancy using the Chicago Statement on just what's meant by Biblical Inerrancy useful.

When you live in Northern Industrial cities, the Evangelical presence is a lot different. It's important for UU's who are often in reaction to another faith, to understand there are many different kinds of Christianity we can be in reaction too.

Joel Monka said...

This reminds me of what the character Rimmer said in Red Dwarf- "my family is Seventh day Hopists. You see, their version of the Bible had a typo; it said,'...Faith, Hop, and Charity, and the greatest of these is Hop"- so every Sunday was spent hopping. If soup was served at lunch, you had to wear a s'wester."

My own family stopped quoting the Old Testament when I pointed out 28 passages that said there is one God, indivisable, denying the possibility of a Trinity. They've discovered it's really difficult to oppose gay marriage or witchcraft using only the New Testament.

Chalicechick said...

If anyone wants to look at what the UUA is using the slogan for currently, that's pretty easily answered by going to Standing on the Side of Love's Website.

smijer said...

My examples of extramarital sex that the bible does not perceive as sinful are don't apply, not because the bible doesn't have them, but because Exodus, for example, is a "non-Christian" book of the bible*.

True enough, 1) it's a Jewish book, and Jewish exegetes are often better at figuring it out than Christian ones... But it is a *part* of the Christian Bible... and a part of "the Law" that the Paul's epistles indicate Christians (especially non-Jewish ones) no longer live under. 2) you are oversimplifying the import of the passages. For instance, Zechariah 14:1-2 does not advocate, justify, or legitimize rape - it simply defines for the Israelites how they will be treated by those sent against them by the Lord. 3) These are "among" things that the Bible says, but they aren't the definitive stance of "the Bible" (assuming it has a unified and coherent stance).

The Evangelicals will defend their biblically-based objection to homosexuality by using church history as the basis for their position rather than the bible. (2:16pm post)

No, trust me - they will use the Bible. Catholics will also discuss the Tradition of the Church. Protestants generally will *employ* church history in forming their exegesis, but they will be *appealing to* scripture. Especially Paul, whose writings are normative for most protestants in a way that Exodus is generally not.

I'm not trying to harsh your buzz. I like you - & this is a tricky subject. I'm just a Bible enthusiast, and sensitive to efforts to take a post-modern approach to the Bible in attempt to communicate with Christians who treat it as sacred..

I hate blogger for not allowing blockquote.

Chalicechick said...

(((These are "among" things that the Bible says, but they aren't the definitive stance of "the Bible" (assuming it has a unified and coherent stance).)))

Oh, I totally get that. I was merely using them as evidence that Bill Barr's implication that all Christians think all premarital sex is sinful is an oversimplification.

I don't view the bible as PRO-premarital sex at all, I just think that there is enough ambiguity on certain points that the homosexuality argument cannot be instantly laughed out of court on those grounds.

Besides, I didn't ask about homosexual sex, I asked about homosexuality itself. Bill's answer went straight to the assumption that all homosexuals have sex. While most of them do, "being homosexual" and "having homosexual sex" are not entirely interchangable concepts.

But yeah, while those having the discussion are free to use Paul to try to get around those parts of the Old Testament, there is still an interpretation argument to be had and that's all I was trying to show.

In law terms, Bill was effectively declaring that there should be summary judgement on the matter and I was making an argument that there were enough issues of fact to justify a hearing.

Heck, it took LinguistFriend this much explanation to address the question of whether Mary consented.

((((No, trust me - they will use the Bible)))

Good, because the "church history" argument is a little too "because we said so" for my taste.

CC

PG said...

smijer,

I'm not sure what you mean by nesting. Is a migrant worker not genuinely married if he spends 9/10 of the year out of his home country and away from his family so he can earn a living to support them?

I'm uncomfortable mandating any more for marriage than the law generally requires. The law (with variations among states) requires mutual financial responsibility, sex, sexual fidelity (adultery remains a crime in many jurisdictions and has been prosecuted), etc.

I don't think the law has any business inquiring into either romantic love or "nesting," and marriage is a legal status. If we're talking about religious marriage, that's a whole other matter and frankly I don't think gay rights activists (among which I'd count myself as at least an ally) should go into it. If churches don't want to perform certain marriages -- if, say, the Orthodox Jews wouldn't want to marry me to one of their own even if I converted -- then that's very strictly the business of the congregation and of no one else. Thankfully, in America we don't require people to get married religiously in order to be recognized as married.

((((No, trust me - they will use the Bible)))

Good, because the "church history" argument is a little too "because we said so" for my taste.


Meet textualism versus originalism...

smijer said...

Is a migrant worker not genuinely married if he spends 9/10 of the year out of his home country and away from his family so he can earn a living to support them?

Yes, he most certainly is - in a quite tragic way.. But yes, mutual support is nesting, especially at the subsistence level - it's sharing responsibility for the nest where, ideally, you share space and grow your family. The migrant worker is unfortunate because he has to also provide a "side" nest for himself where he doesn't get to see the family he is helping to nest, at least for much of the year.

I've always objected to the notion that marriage is some sort of "love" contract. I think you should treat your family with love, and should be able to expect love from them. But the first time I tried marriage, I thought it was some kind of pledge that the teenage romance would go on in perpetuity. Didn't quite work out that way - my expectations were all wrong. It's about making a family, and working together with them to make a nest for that family to live life in. It's only in this sense that I can see it has real and broad value. And it is only in this sense that the public has an interest in making it an institution.

PG said...

It's about making a family, and working together with them to make a nest for that family to live life in. It's only in this sense that I can see it has real and broad value. And it is only in this sense that the public has an interest in making it an institution.

What do you consider "making a family"?

TogetherBeth said...

I would be interested to know if this campaign is getting beyond UU-land at all. Like many things UU, it seems to be internal. If we're going to grow as Morales would like, then we should probably look at what evangelicals are doing well.

CC, our minister is making this campaign an "emphasis" this year. Should be interesting...

Chalicechick said...

Oh, and let's not forget the sermon series on the seven principles.

I vote that YRUU do the time for all ages for one of those sermons. Non-Creedah the Cheetah MUST make an appearance this year.

Sigh.

CC

Bill Baar said...

Wow...we're off on a tangent, but @PG re:

Thankfully, in America we don't require people to get married religiously in order to be recognized as married.

Illinois requires a marriage cermony --of no partricular type-- by an official licensed to perform one.

One odd twist is the cermony has to be performed in the county the license is issued in.

If your licsenced to marry in Cook County, you need to marry in Cook County, or else Illinois will not consider you married.

Talk to Illinois Clergy and you'll hear stories about this rule.

Paul Oakley said...

Bill, being from IL as I am, I always just assumed that the rule that one marry in the county that issued the license for the marriage to be valid was the law everywhere in the US rather than an oddity. (Never safe to universalize from one's own experience, though, I guess.)

My earliest memories of talk about weddings include people warning each other to make sure they got the license at the right courthouse. That was 41 years ago when I was 8 and my youngest uncle was getting married. I was too young to remember the surrounding talk at the earlier weddings for my older cousins.

The ceremony thing I also encountered in New Jersey, when my oldest daughter was married in a civil ceremony by the vice mayor of the township where we lived. It was short and sweet, but a definite ceremony.

I understand the same-county rule because no county reasonably has jurisdiction to authorize or record anything taking place elsewhere. But the ceremony requirement seems a mere relic from a former time, since it is the recording of a legal document that serves as the verification of the marriage's official existence.

But then, "ceremony" can mean anything. Unless defined otherwise by law, the ceremony could just be the gathering of official, marrying couple, and legal witnesses in one space and signing the document.

What is a bigger illogical relic, though, is the authorization of clergy to perform a state function. Now THAT is problematic.

IMESHO, the official wedding should be state only. People are always free to have any religious ceremony their religious institutions allow or that they do on their own, without there being any need that the minister serve as if a government official.

hsofia said...

It is really hard to please UUs ... is all I can say.

Bill Baar said...

Marriage Licensing came to be after the Civil War. I always thought it part to enforce miscegenation laws but I'm not a historian on it either.

I've joined the Ron Paulites on this one and think Government best to get out of the Marriage Licensing business all together.

Any entitlements linked to marriage should be uncoupled and linked directly to individuals.

We're heading towards a culture of radical, autonomous, individuality so we best retrofit our institutions to accommodate it.

That's why UUisms Marriage Equality frame so archaic.

The Marriage era of State Licensed unions followed by a Solemnizing Ceremony are coming to an end.

It's weird professed Progressives are at the tail end of history here.

Evangelicals can see this reality far more clearly and have all sorts of groups set up for the divorced, and single parent... we ramble on with appalling statements about our divorce rate is lower.. great.. who wants to go to a Church preaching that sort of smugness when ones own family can be fair from that Donna Reed family picture.

Bill Baar said...

@Paul, I always just assumed that the rule that one marry in the county that issued the license for the marriage to be valid was the law everywhere in the US rather than an oddity.

It may be. I've only looked at Illinois law. The Counties will vary too. I can't recall the differences now, but you can find them on the web.

I know there is a rule against marrying cousins under age 50. Over 50 is OK.

Jess said...

@Together Beth: Former UUA President Bill Sinkford just spoke yesterday or the day before at the national press conference announcing the "Respect for Marriage" act introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Jerry Nadler from New York.

Sinkford used the slogan at least twice, and the official SotSoL website has been pimping the video for the last 24 hours or so. (It was a pretty good speech, actually.)

PG said...

Marriage Licensing came to be after the Civil War. I always thought it part to enforce miscegenation laws but I'm not a historian on it either.

Eh, what? The government always has registered some people as married and some as not. How do you think prohibitions on bigamy were enforced? If it was all just based on what the church marrying the people thought of it, then a Catholic who obtained a legal divorce would have been unable to remarry, because the state would have been constrained by his Church's opinion that he wasn't really divorced at all.

Also, why do you think there was marriage licensing in states that never prohibited miscegenation? I had to go to the Marriage Bureau to get a license for my interracial marriage, even though I live in a state that's never banned such marriage at all.

Any entitlements linked to marriage should be uncoupled and linked directly to individuals.

What individual entitlements do you believe come with marriage? The obligations and rights of marriage, as one might expect, are in relation to another person. The ability to file jointly -- with another person. The designation of a related party with whom certain transactions will be "looked through" -- with another person. The default when you die intestate (without a will) of to whom your property passes -- to another person.

Bill Baar said...

The government always has registered some people as married and some as not.

Nope

My Minister did a whole sermon on it. Get yourself a book on the history of marriage.

When I started working for Social Security back in the 70s we had a guy who was an expert on custom and common law marriages because we would still see people legally married who never had a license but were married under common law, or by custom.

It was only in the 1920s that things really became standardized.

Wikipedia has a decent entry on the history of Marriage Licensing http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage_licence

Birth Certificates also a fairly recent thing i.e. recent meaing past 100, 150 years or so. Most people could not tell you exactly how old they were...

Paul Oakley said...

PG, licensing and recording/ registering are distinct functions: the former authorizes a future marriage; the latter gathers data regarding the marriage that has come into being. I don't have a clue about the history of it, but licensing could have been instituted at a completely different time than recording/ registering.

Bill Baar said...

What individual entitlements do you believe come with marriage?

Entitlement to Social Security Widow / Widower benefit.

Entitlement to a spouses benefit on my pension, even if we divorce.

Entitlement to Health Insurance on my Policy.

You can't die intestate by the way in Illinois anymore. Every Illinoisian has a will whether they know it or not. The State gives you one if you did not beat Illinois to it.

Bill Baar said...

Licensing and recording by the government are both late 19th century things, and still unknown for many recent immigrants to America.

An amazing number of people don't have a certificate or birth and can't quite tell you how old they are.

Licensing which is a privilege granted by the County and State was not widespread for a very long time in the US. As were marriage ceremonies by Licensed clergy. The whole notion of Licensing is a pretty modern notion.

John A Arkansawyer said...

I got a lot out of Michael Warner's The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life, which left me agreeing with Bill that marriage should be decoupled from the state, a la France. (Or is that ooh la la?) The slogan has bothered me a great deal. My reaction, sometimes, is that I myself am standing on the side of sex. I express it a bit more earthily, when I'm sure of my audience.