Monday, December 22, 2008

The Darkside of Democracy

Pastor Rick Warren is, according to Rod Dreher, a “moderate” in the…flaming debate over gay marriage. How’s that, you ask? Well, because the majority, of which Rick Warren is a member in good standing, has spoken. After all, if “two-thirds of all Americans with an opinion on the subject are against same-sex marriage”, who could reasonably object? Well, I suppose it could be argued that if two-thirds of all Americans were in favor of same-sex marriage then the principle would hold in reverse: homosexuals could freely tie the knot. But that's just silly.

As it happens, one such contrarian (sic) has some affiliation with both Warren and Dreher. “I have a great deal of respect for Rick Warren”, says Randall Balmer, who “would even go so far as to count [Rick Warren] as a friend”, and ventures that “he might say the same” about Balmer.

“Warren”, Balmer goes on to suggest, “is no fan of the Religious Right, and he recognizes that it is inappropriate for people of faith in a pluralistic society to impose their will on others simply by majoritarian fiat.”
So that is why I found his announcement on October 23 that he supports California's Proposition 8 so disturbing. Proposition 8, a ballot initiative, seeks to overturn the California supreme court's ruling that gay marriage is constitutionally permissible.

Warren has every right to his views on the definition of marriage, which he insists (not without foundation) is mandated in the Bible. Millions of Americans - a majority, I'm sure - agree with him. "If you believe what the Bible says about marriage," he declared on his website, "you need to support Proposition 8."

Warren goes on to note that, by his reckoning, gays and lesbians make up only 2 percent of the population in the United States. "We should not let 2 percent of the population change the definition of marriage."
Despite having outgrown the evangelicalism that my parents so diligently labored to instill, I’ve not entirely jettisoned faith. To the contrary, I tend to think of myself as an introspective theist. That said, for practical pluralistic purposes, I'd say that “what the Bible says”...about this or that isue is incidental to what the Constitution and the various statutes might say about the same issue. In the case of marriage—a legally binding civil contract between, theoretically, consenting adults—the Bible ought to inform those for whom it’s authority is recognized; and only those. Conversely, to those who see little or no difference between the Christian Bible and, say, e.g. the Qur’an or the Book of Mormon, the idea that a religious text (or rather, the impassioned adherents thereof) should preclude them from entering into a contractual agreement to which all parties willingly agree is…ludicrous.

To those who seek to deny homosexuals the right to marry on the grounds that ‘it’s offensive to God’, I'd put the following question: Would you silently submit to Sharia Law so as not to offend Allah? No? So hypocrisy is justified as long as one happens to be a member of the almighty majority, which therefore gives one the right to dictate to those unfortunate enough to be counted among the minority?

A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.

-Thomas Jefferson