The Fall of Rome, Reality Based History – and Gay Adoption

The vocal opponents of family equality are fond of making sweeping statements (in flagrant disregard of the evidence) about how marriage has “always” been between one man and on woman, how the proponents of equality are “redefining” evidence, quite ignoring the ways in marriage has been constantly redefined in the past – not least by the Christian churches. A variation on the theme has been that homosexuality has destroyed great civilizations, such as that of Rome. Illinois state Rep. Ronald Stephens has repeated this claim, blaming “open homosexuality” for the fall of Rome.

In a fun, sane response in the Chicago Sun-Times, Neill Steinberg dismisses the claim, basing his response on, well, historical fact, not what he calls Stephens’ talking points. His most important observation is that the best known extensive study of the fall of Rome, Edward Gibbons “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire“, concluded that Roman civilization collapsed not because of homosexuality, but because of – guess what? Christianity.

Would that be a argument to ban Christianity today, for fear that it could cause the collapse of modern Western civilization?

The point I want to make is not that Gibbons was either right or wrong, but to heartily endorse Steinberg’s larger point, that grand claims about the lessons of history really ought to be checked against the facts. This is certainly true in the secular sphere, but also in religious discourse. The often -repeated Vatican claims of Catholic “constant and unchanging tradition” are a smokescreen, often used to used to hide the importance of recently introduced changes, as Martin Pendergast noted recently, writing about gradualism in Benedict’s theology.

But today, I do not want to explore this theme of the Church’s constantly changing tradition. Let’s just enjoy, instead, Steinberg’s thoroughly delightful response to rep Stephens’ ignorance. Here are some extracts: Read the rest of this entry »

Religious Leaders Argue “Religious Freedom” Requires that Prop 8 Must Go.

Catholic Bishops are fond of arguing that “religious freedom” should require that they be granted exemptions from complying with laws on inclusion and equality with which they (but not most lay Catholics) disagree. However, some bishops conveniently ignore this principle when dealing with their own members who apply it to the right to dissent from Vatican doctrine on sexual ethics – or to the formulation of legislation in the first place. The Catholic  and Mormon churches made vigorous efforts in support of Proposition 8 to deny marriage equality. However, this is not a simple issue of civil rights in a tussle with religious principle.  People of faith disagree among themselves, and so some religious leaders argue that “as a matter of faith“,  Judge Vaughn Walker’s ruling that struck down Proposition 8 must stand.

Christian and Jewish clergy voice support for gay-marriage ruling

A dozen Christian and Jewish clergy offered support Wednesday for a U.S. District Court ruling in August that found California’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. The case is now before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

At a Los Angeles news conference, the group said it planned to file an amicus brief in support of Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision to strike down Proposition 8, the 2008 initiative that banned gay marriage.  The judge said the measure violated due process and equal protection for gays and lesbians.

Representatives from the Los Angeles Episcopal diocese, the United Church of Christ, the Progressive Jewish Alliance and other liberal religious groups spoke of marriage equality as part of religious freedom Wednesday in the gathering at the St. Paul Cathedral Center, the Episcopal diocese headquarters.

“It is not an issue of legal matters, it’s an issue of faith,” said the Rt. Rev. J. Jon Bruno, the Episcopal bishop of Los Angeles.

The Rev. Fernando Santillana, pastor of Norwalk United Methodist Church, called it a Christian responsibility to speak up for equality.

“We are all divine creations. Some are heterosexual and some are not.  But we are all God’s creatures,” Santillana said. “We have to be the voice that speaks for God in a society that is divided.”

Rick Rojas, LA Times

 

 

Connect the Catholic Dots in Minnesota.

This is easy: there are only 4 dots.

  1. Across the US, and also more broadly across much of the rest of the world, Catholics are leaving the Church in droves.  In the US, the group of former Catholics now outnumber any denomination other than the Catholics themselves.
  2. Research has shown that the primary reasons for leaving the church are dissatisfaction with the inappropriate teaching on sexual ethics, and most especially on same sex relationships.
  3. The Minnesota bishops have been particularly hostile to gay and lesbian Catholics, most recently with the mass mailing of DVD’s opposing gay marriage.
  4. There are plans to close 21 parishes in the Twin Cities.

Is anyone surprised?

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Conscience & Legislation: Sanity From the Catholic Church in Malta.

In the US and Mexico, some bishops are working themselves into a froth over the possible introduction of legal recognition for same-sex unions. In the Philippines, the issue that has them excited. In Malta, it is the possibility of legal divorce. Unlike the other two regions, though, the Maltese church has allowed some sanity into the official discourse, recognizing the possibility of an informed conscience reaching a conclusion that differs from Church teaching, and so acknowledging that parliamentarians could in principle vote in favour of divorce legislation.

 

The Awakening Conscience, (Holman Hunt)

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Chart of the Day: Religion and Gay Marriage

Last week, Pew Research reported on the latest update in their continuing series of surveys on American attitudes to same-sex marriage. The headline finding, that for the first time fewer than half the sample opposed gay marriage was widely reported, as was the finding that support has been growing steadily since polling first began. From the viewpoint of the Churches, a further finding, that support is growing in all denominational sectors, and that opposition among Mainline Protestants has collapsed dramatically, had somewhat less attention.

Nevertheless, it is important to emphasise (as I did last week) that the battle over marriage equality has largely moved on from a struggle between the Christian churches and the rest, to one being waged within the churches. This prepared by the Economist from the Pew data shows the point clearly: Atheists, the unaffiliated and Jews show clear support.   White Catholics and Mainline Protestants are divided, but with pluralities in support, and have shown clear movement towards acceptance in recent years.

Only Blacks and White Evangelicals continue to show strong opposition, but even in these groups there has been some modest growth in support since the previous survey (for 2oo8/9). We can expect that within a few years, even these groups will become more closely divided, given the pronounced support among the youngest people from all religious backgrounds, while on the other side of the divide, there will be more Protestant denominations and local congregations moving to accept same sex marriage, even in church.

Gay marriage: coming (soon?) to a church near you.

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What Constitutes a “Family”? Empirical Study Finds A Wider View

Religious conservatives are regularly referring to the “traditional family” as a foundation for their beliefs, but there is no such thing. The conservative interpretation of the so-called traditional family is  a relatively modern invention, created to fit the conditions of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Western Europe and North America. In earlier times, and other parts of the world. family structures varied enormously from  this particular model.

Family history, like all other history, is constantly changing to fit new circumstances, so it should be no surprise that conceptions of family in the twenty first century are continuing to evolve, to fit a world that is no longer what it was in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Some of these changes are obvious, but like so much that is familiar, can easily be “hidden in plain sight.” A new study by sociologist  Brian Powell brings this into plain view. (His study is specifically of American views, but with the emergence of a shared world culture, many of his findings will also have relevance across a much wider geographic region.)

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The “Impact” of Iowa Marriage Equality – Findings From Evidence.

One important feature of Judge Walker’s verdict in the Prop 8 trial was his finding that the case against marriage equality rested on claims, of the “harm” done by same sex marriage and the supposed threat to children is based on no evidence whatsoever. The substantial evidence that does exist on gay parents, and the experience from Manhattan and the Netherlands where marriage is well established, is that there is indeed no demonstrable harm – to between sex marriages, or to the children of same-sex couples.
Now yet another independent survey, this one from  Iowa, shows the same finding. “Iowawatch” is an online news service for The Iowa Center for Public Affairs Journalism, an independent, nonprofit and nonpartisan news service. Their researchers conducted interviews with married couples and professional experts, and examined extensive published urnal articles, marriage statistics, census data, polls and court rulings.
The conclusion? There is no “harm” – at least no more than from the between sense marriages they so closely resemble. These are extracts from an extensive report at Press Citizen: Read the rest of this entry »