Jefferson on Proposition 8October 30, 2008 — Deacon Duncan
Ladies and gentlemen, former President Thomas Jefferson:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
The United States of America was launched by these words, which define its reason for existing. Yet there is currently a proposition on the ballot in California whose stated purpose is to eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry (a statement, by the way, that greatly provoked the proposition’s sponsors, who wanted to use the deceptive title “Marriage Protection Amendment”). By deceit, political oppression, and mob rule, the Christian majority in that state is seeking to deny that all men are equal, and to deprive certain individuals of their right to “Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
It goes without saying that this bigoted and un-American proposition ought to be opposed by all decent and conscientious persons, but I just wanted to make one or two points about the motives behind such bills. In particular, I want to look at why its supporters decided to frame it as “marriage protection.”
Obviously, banning marriage for certain couples does absolutely nothing to protect marriage. Yet the “marriage protection” meme resonates strongly among a certain segment of our society, most particularly among evangelical, conservative Christians. Why is that?
In a nutshell, the root cause is that God does not show up in real life, and thus fails to give Christians a reason to keep believing in Christianity. Therefore, they need some other means of inducing people to believe. That other means is a subtle but effective form of emotional blackmail.
Coming from untold millions of years of evolution, our species has a strong drive to reproduce, a drive that translates into a desire for a safe, healthy, and harmonious family. What the Christian church has done is to insinuate itself into that drive, by claiming that God is the source and ruler of family relationships, and that you cannot satisfy your instinctive desire for a healthy family unless you submit to His authority and leadership.
Hence the term “family values,” a code word to reinforce the notion that, while God does not show up in real life, you’d better believe in Him anyway, or else. Or else what? Or else no happy family for you, bub! God owns “the family,” and therefore you need to be a Christian if you want one of your own.
This subtle but inexorable extortion manifests itself in many ways: the exclusivist claim to “family values,” the frequent accusation that non-Christians are trying to “destroy the family” (by daring to be non-Christian), the push to take your kids to Sunday school even if you don’t go to church (because it will be “good for them”), and of course ministries like Focus on the Family, who build an entire industry out of selling the notion that only God can give you the happy family you instinctively need.
Gay marriage is a terrible threat to this little scam. Though anti-gay activists will wail and moan about how gay marriage will allegedly destroy society and produce devastation and suffering for millions, what they really fear is the exact opposite: that gay marriages will produce healthy, happy, nurturing families.
What’s a fundamentalist to do? You can’t claim that gay marriages are ordained and blessed by God, for Christ’s sake! But if you admit that there are happy and healthy marriages that don’t require God’s blessing, you’re equally screwed, because that blows the whole “family values” scam out of the water.
Proposition 8 isn’t about protecting healthy families, it’s about protecting a selfish and deceptive form of emotional blackmail that Christians use to justify continued faith in a God who does not show up in real life. A nation founded on the principles of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness is a nation that has no business letting a bunch of believers ruin everyone else’s lives just to shore up their own crumbling foundations.