A statement on (traditional) marriage

So a group of religious leaders released an open letter yesterday affirming that marriage is between one man and one woman. Period.

The letter repeats a common argument of recent years, that maintaining the traditional understanding of marriage is not only right but the best thing for everyone.

“Marriage is an institution fundamental to the well-being of all of society, not just religious communities,” says the short letter, officially called “The Protection of Marriage: A Shared Commitment.”

The letter is signed by 26 religious leaders. You can, more or less, guess who they are: Archbishop Dolan; Leith Anderson of the National Association of Evangelicals; H. David Burton, presiding bishop of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention; and other Orthodox Christian, Orthodox Jewish and conservative Christians leaders. Also: Manmohan Singh of the American Region of the World Sikh Council.

Who’s missing? Who do you think? Episcopalians. Presbyterians. Non-Orthodox Jews. Other liberal or progressive religious types.

Here’s the full text of the letter:

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Dear Friends,

Marriage is the permanent and faithful union of one man and one woman. As such, marriage is the natural basis of the family. Marriage is an institution fundamental to the well-being of all of society, not just religious communities.

As religious leaders across different faith communities, we join together and affirm our shared commitment to promote and protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman. We honor the unique love between husbands and wives; the indispensible place of fathers and mothers; and the corresponding rights and dignity of all children.

Marriage thus defined is a great good in itself, and it also serves the good of others and society in innumerable ways. The preservation of the unique meaning of marriage is not a special or limited interest but serves the good of all. Therefore, we invite and encourage all people, both within and beyond our faith communities, to stand with us in promoting and protecting marriage as the union of one man and one woman.

A ‘Jewish’ wedding for Chelsea?

If Bill Clinton could be the first “black” president, as Toni Morrison famously called him, why can’t Chelsea Clinton be the first “Jewish” former first daughter?

Or something like that.

I came across a fun little AP story about whether Chelsea’s upcoming marriage to her Jewish fiance, Marc Mezvinsky, could entail a “Jewish wedding.”

Or a Jewish-style wedding.

tjndc5-5tfbgykwn3b1iauph2oe_layoutThe story notes that the couple haven’t said anything about their intentions (the picture is of the couple way back in 1996).

However, “The bride and groom have a range of choices, including conversion or a melding their two traditions into one ceremony.”

Chelsea grew up attending a Methodist church with her sec-of-state mom. Apparently, she attended Yom Kippur services last year with her future hubby at the Jewish Theological Seminary, the flagship Conservative seminary in NYC.

The article notes that it could be hard for the couple to arrange a “Jewish wedding” if Chelsea remains a Christian: “Some rabbis will officiate at interfaith marriages even though major Jewish movements bar or discourage them from presiding. Interfaithfamily.com links interfaith couples with rabbis and cantors. Only a small number will co-officiate with clergy of another faith.”

Intermarriage is, of course, one of the most talked about issues in the Jewish community, the chief threat to “Jewish continuity.”

While many rabbis like the Clintons, it could be real hard to find one who would officiate at such a high-profile Jewish/Christian marriage.

But we’re just speculating.

Chelsea and Marc could opt for a justice of the peace.

‘Under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s’

Just checking in after finally crawling out of my sick bed.

I’ve had something — Swine flu? — since Thursday. Whatever it is, don’t get it.

I don’t have any idea what’s been going on, but a few emails about the Manhattan Declaration caught my attention.

Looks like it could open a new round of the Culture Wars.

It’s a no-sense, strongly worded statement from Catholic, Orthodox and evangelical leaders that basically says they will give no ground when it comes to abortion, marriage and religious liberty.

The statement urges nothing less than civil disobedience if it comes to that.

You should read it for yourself. But here’s a piece:

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Because the sanctity of human life, the dignity of marriage as a union of husband and wife, and the freedom of conscience and religion are foundational principles of justice and the common good, we are compelled by our Christian faith to speak and act in their defense. In this declaration we affirm: 1) the profound, inherent, and equal dignity of every human being as a creature fashioned in the very image of God, possessing inherent rights of equal dignity and life; 2) marriage as a conjugal union of man and woman, ordained by God from the creation, and historically understood by believers and non­believers alike, to be the most basic institution in society and; 3) religious liberty, which is grounded in the character of God, the example of Christ, and the inherent freedom and dignity of human beings created in the divine image.

We are Christians who have joined together across historic lines of ecclesial differences to affirm our right—and, more importantly, to embrace our obligation—to speak and act in defense of these truths. We pledge to each other, and to our fellow believers, that no power on earth, be it cultural or political, will intimidate us into silence or acquiescence. It is our duty to proclaim the Gospel of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in its fullness, both in season and out of season. May God help us not to fail in that duty.

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And here’s the sword-waving close:

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Going back to the earliest days of the church, Christians have refused to compromise their proclamation of the gospel. In Acts 4, Peter and John were ordered to stop preaching. Their answer was, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Through the centuries, Christianity has taught that civil disobedience is not only permitted, but sometimes required. There is no more eloquent defense of the rights and duties of religious conscience than the one offered by Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Writing from an explicitly Christian perspective, and citing Christian writers such as Augustine and Aquinas, King taught that just laws elevate and ennoble human beings because they are rooted in the moral law whose ultimate source is God Himself. Unjust laws degrade human beings. Inasmuch as they can claim no authority beyond sheer human will, they lack any power to bind in conscience. King’s willingness to go to jail, rather than comply with legal injustice, was exemplary and inspiring.

Because we honor justice and the common good, we will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo­destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia, or any other anti­life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriages or the equivalent, or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family. We will fully and ungrudgingly render to Caesar what is Caesar’s. But under no circumstances will we render to Caesar what is God’s.

Studying the Mormon role in the marriage debate

We’ve heard about the strong role that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had in promoting California’s Proposition 8, which defined marriage as between man and woman (and not man and man or woman and woman).

Now the Wash Post writes that gay marriage advocates around the country are studying the Mormon Church’s involvement — both out of respect for the church’s commitment and to defeat the church down the road.

The article notes:

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Mormon officials have tried to stay out of the controversy that followed the California vote, when the church’s prominent role in the marriage fight became clear. A spokeswoman in Salt Lake City declined to say whether the church is involved in debates going on in states such as New Jersey and New York, except to say that leaders remain intent on preserving the “divine institution” of marriage between man and woman. The faith holds that traditional marriage “transcends this world” and is necessary for “the fullness of joy in the next life.”

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By the way, the Rev. Joe Agne, pastor of Memorial United Methodist Church in White Plains, is being honored as “Person of the Year” by the Westchester County LGBT Advisory Board.

Agne recently invited the Loft, Westchester’s main gay and lesbian community center/advocacy group, to move its HQ to Memorial United’s church building.

‘…we speak from the truth of human nature itself…’

I’m not sure how much the gay-marriage issue has come up at the RNC (I don’t recall having heard much).

But the U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference and the Orthodox Union — which represents Orthodox Jewish congregations — have released this joint statement:

“Created in the Divine Image”

Many communities within the United States are now engaged in a new conversation on the meaning of the word “marriage”, questioning whether it should describe a union only between a man and a woman. As leaders of our respective faiths, we, as Orthodox Rabbis, communal leaders and representatives of the Roman Catholic Bishops of the United States, wish to affirm our shared commitment to the ordinance of God, the Almighty One, who created man and woman in the divine image (Gen. 1:26-27), so that they might share as male and female, as helpmates and equals (Gen. 2:21-24), in the procreation of children (Gen. 1:28) and the building up of society.

We now confront a demand that same sex unions be classified as marriage. Advocates of this position argue that to do otherwise is to engage in a form of discrimination against homosexuals. We recognize that all persons share equally in the dignity of human nature and are entitled to have that human dignity protected, but this does not justify the creation of a new definition for a term whose traditional meaning is of critical importance to the furtherance of a fundamental societal interest.

God’s design for the continuance of human life, as seen in the natural order, as well as in the Bible (Gen. 1-3), clearly revolves around the union of male and female, first as husband and wife, and then as parents. A unique goal of marriage, which is reproduction and the raising of families, exists apart from that of same sex unions, which cannot equally participate in this essential function. While others may claim the right to establish private relationships between persons of the same gender that simulate marriage, the legal classification of such relationships as marriage dilutes the special standing of marriage between a man and a woman. Since the future of every society depends upon its ability to reproduce itself according to this natural order and to have its young people reared in a stable environment, it is the duty of the state to protect the traditional place of marriage and the family for the good of society.

While others have the freedom to disagree with us, we hope that even those outside of our common religious traditions will recognize that we speak from the truth of human nature itself which is consistent with both reason and the moral life. We also call upon our local faith communities to consider carefully the long held traditions of Jews and Christians on the nature of marriage as built upon the commitment of a man and a woman desirous of establishing a family for contributing to the common good of humanity.