Friday, June 23, 2006

Preachers Should Quit Acting as Agents of the State

I did it for years but no more, not only because nobody asks me these days, but because I think it misses a fundamental distinction. When clergy perform marriages and sign a legal document, they are acting as agents of the state. Most of us have done so without thinking much about it. It is just something you do by law and custom. But why should we participate in this egregious violation of the separation of church and state?

Will Campbell is right. A Christian minister should perform a rite of Christian union between two people who pledge their life-long love and loyalty to each other and who intend to spend the rest of their lives together as companions.

If people want a legal document certifying they are legally married in the eyes of the state, with all the rights and responsibility thereunto appertaining, let them go to a officer of the court legally authorized to do do such things.

When church and state are thus separated, then churches need not worry about what the state does about gay marriage. Churches and ministers can do their proper work of performing a Christian rite of union without approval of the state. They can unite a man and a woman, two men, or two women, in a religious ceremony in accordance with they own convictions.

Now it will be a great sign of progress when states and the federal government recognize gay marriage or at least civil unions. But that is a political battle. Let us make it plain that clergy act as agents of the church and not of the state.

Let us quit rendering to Caesar what belongs to God and let Caesar take care of the legalities, and let us take care of our proper business of attending to the relationship of committed couples to each other and to God in the presence of those who love them.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Iraq Debate

What strikes me about the current debate on Iraq is that nearly everyone who states a position seems to assume that there is one and only one policy that is right and practical while all the others would be disastrous. If they have reservations about their own ideas, they remain unspoken. Should we stay indefinitely until political stability and relative peace are achieved? Leave now? Announce a phased withdrawal? Set a date now for a total withdrawal? The truth is that no one knows the best course to follow, for no one knows what the consequences of each would be.

As best as I can tell the arguments for one policy are about as convincing as for any other given what we know and our inability to know what the future will bring. So pundits assume their own insight is impeccable, and politicians try to win points with public opinion and with voters in the coming elections.

We have a tiger by the tail, and it is not clear what we should do to remedy the situation. It was a mistake to go there in the first place, but we did, and now we have to deal with the mess we created the best way we can, and nobody know what that best or least bad way is.

I will grant that qualifying one's position by saying, "On the whole, by and large, generally speaking, taking everything into consideration, in my opinion my proposal is probably best given the uncertainties in the situation" does not make one look like a decisive leader, but it might be closer to what the situation requires. At least one's opponents would not feel obligated perhaps to state an alternative with a confidence and certainty that is foolhardy under the circumstances. The likelihood that debaters will begin noting the probable weaknesses in their policies and the strength of the alternatives is about as likely as Dick Cheney admitting that he has been wrong from the start.

I suppose stating a position and trying to refute all others without acknowledging the complexity, difficulty, ambiguity, and uncertainty in the situation is the way we do things these days. It is not a compliment to our democracy that such is the case.

Ann Coulter

Which of the following are true?

1. Ann Coulter makes one wonder whether women's liberation is a mistake.

2. If we descended from monkeys, Ann Coulter is evidence that the descent has been regressive.

3. Ann Coulter would have no interest in insulting people if there were no money or fame in it.

4. The existence of Ann Coulter should
assure Phil Mickelson that he is not the only idiot in town.

5. Ann Coulter is proof that freedom of speech is not always a good thing.

Ann Coulter should wear a dress that is long enough to cover her knees, keep it pulled down, and shut up.