Sunday, November 09, 2008

How Religion Causes Good Men To Do Evil: Gay Marriage Edition

There's been a lot of talk about how African-Americans disproportionately voted against gay marriage in California while simultaneously voting for Barack Obama. It's true that they did vote against it disproportionately -- 70% to 30% -- but focusing on race misses the point. The driving factor, of course, is religion. African-Americans just happen to be more religious than whites.



84% to 16%. Wow. That beats even the "White Republicans" demographic, which went for prop 8 by 82%-18%.

Previously: How Religion Causes Good Men To Do Evil, Parts One and Two. Mormons Dominating the Fight Against Gay Marriage.

27 comments:

The Candy Man said...

I have been thinking about this as well.

Religion is definitely the main factor, and thanks for bringing some stats on this (it's more than the papers could do!). WHY African Americans are so religious is an interesting question. I part, I think it's because the church accepted them as equals before secular society did.

Educational and economic opportunity also has something to do with it.

In addition to the religion factor, I think that people in the midst of their own civil rights struggle may be too busy to get involved in the struggles of other groups.

htrouser said...

Interesting stats. Just to temper this slightly, at the legislative level the congressional black caucus has by far the best gay rights agenda of any congressional group. And we have to be careful with these sorts of numbers when considering how to fight homophobia. In the US, at least, I'd wager it would be more effective to convince religious folks that fighting homophobia can be part of a religious agenda than to convince religious people to become ardent secularists. Members of the United Church of Christ or Reconstructionist Jews probably aren't among people voting for Prop. 8 (nor, indeed, are many Episcopalians or Reform Jews). We're much more likely to see religious people change their minds on this issue than to see religious people become atheists.

Random said...

You miss the even more fun point - it was Obama who put P8 over the top. Is he evil too? (This isn't a joke. If blacks and hispanics had voted in their usual proportions P8 would probably have failed - whites and asians were against by a narrow but clear margin - it was the increased turnout generated by enthusiasm for Obama that brought enough minorities to the voting booth to vote down P8.)

Of course he isn't, and nor are the yes voters. It isn't evil to support full equality under the law (heck, even the Mormon church supported civil unions) while insisting that the traditional understanding of marriage be respected. If you are going to describe peacefully voting in support of the only definition that "marriage" has had in the entirety of human history as evil then you are debauching the word of all meaning and will have nothing to use when the real thing comes around.

"I think that people in the midst of their own civil rights struggle may be too busy to get involved in the struggles of other groups."

Actually, it's probably worth pointing out that a lot of black people seem to find this sort of equivalence to be deeply offensive - "the government refusing to call your civil union a marriage is not the same thing as having police dogs set on you when you try to vote" as it was put on one blog I saw. Whether many black people voted in favour of P8 out of protest at having their history disrespected this way I have no idea, but I rather doubt it helped.

jewish philosopher said...

Male homosexuality should be a death penalty; I see nothing wrong with voting against gay marriage.

shavuatov said...

Jewish Philosopher: You truly believe that male homosexuality should be a death penalty?

Wow.

Comrade Kevin said...

Not only that. The church continues to be the focal point in the African-American community in ways that no longer exist for whites.

htrouser said...

Wow, Jewish philosopher, you are wishing death on several of my good friends, including the person who officiated at my marriage and the two witnesses who signed the certificate. I have nothing but pity for you and your sad, hateful world view. Okay, maybe a giant dollop of contempt too. I can't begin to understand how and why you could hold such views and, frankly, I don't want to know, except in so far as I want to understand the nature of evil. Shame on you and your pathetic hated.

Holy Hyrax said...

Actually, it's probably worth pointing out that a lot of black people seem to find this sort of equivalence to be deeply offensive - "the government refusing to call your civil union a marriage is not the same thing as having police dogs set on you when you try to vote" as it was put on one blog I saw. Whether many black people voted in favour of P8 out of protest at having their history disrespected this way I have no idea, but I rather doubt it helped.

Random

I actually mention this as well on my post as well

http://holyhyrax.blogspot.com/2008/11/propistion-8-and-lessons-for-gay.html

shavuatov said...

Jewish Philosopher - oh, and another thought. Do you differentiate between gay men and lesbians, or are the whole lot just to line up for the electric chair/lethal injection/hnaging, drawing and quartering?

By all means, have your opinions on gay marriage, but really.

Jewish Atheist said...

Random:

You miss the even more fun point - it was Obama who put P8 over the top. Is he evil too?

It would have been nice for Obama to have been more active in opposing prop 8, for sure, although at least he did publicly oppose it. I strongly disagree with Obama on the issue of gay marriage in general, of course.

If you are going to describe peacefully voting in support of the only definition that "marriage" has had in the entirety of human history as evil then you are debauching the word of all meaning and will have nothing to use when the real thing comes around.

Look, it's not as evil as murder, but it's not much better than those who voted to make interracial marriage illegal.

Actually, it's probably worth pointing out that a lot of black people seem to find this sort of equivalence to be deeply offensive

They can find it offensive as much as they want. That doesn't make them right.

"the government refusing to call your civil union a marriage is not the same thing as having police dogs set on you when you try to vote"

No, but the government taking away your right to get married is pretty much exactly the same as the government taking away your right to get married.

Holy Hyrax said...

>but it's not much better than those who voted to make interracial marriage illegal.

who voted?

Leisha Camden said...

the only definition that "marriage" has had in the entirety of human history

Random, you're full of shit. You obviously don't know what you're talking about. The current perception of marriage is quite young, people throughout history have looked at marriage so differently from how we see it today. Gay marriage, even, has been accepted in the past, and officiated by the orthodox church in the eastern empire for centuries. You and everyone who agrees with you need to educate yourselves!

Jewish Atheist: Interesting post, thanks.

Holy Hyrax said...

>so differently

Please define "so differently"

>You and everyone who agrees with you need to educate yourselves!

Don't be snooty. Educate us. Where are sources that the churches used to marry gay couples in the past?

Anonymous said...

Do you have an actual source for that chart you put up?

Jewish Atheist said...

Anonymous:

Oops! Sorry, forgot to link it: CNN.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the chart you have posted is not accurate.

If the picture/chart you posted was accurate, then Prop 8 would have been

49.77% voting YES on 8 and 46.31% No on 8, however we know that that's not what the actual vote was.

Jewish Atheist said...

Anon:

I assume there were some who just didn't answer the question. If you add up the percentages of church attendance, it only reaches 97%.

Tigerboy said...

From writer historian Jim Duffy:

A Kiev art museum contains an icon from St. Catherine's monastery on Mt. Sinai. It shows two robed Christian saints. Between them is a traditional Roman pronubus (best man) overseeing what in a standard Roman icon would be the wedding of a husband and wife. In the icon, Christ is the pronubus. Only one thing is unusual. The "husband and wife" are in fact two men.

Is the icon suggesting that a homosexual "marriage" is one sanctified by Christ? The very idea seems initially shocking. The full answer comes from other sources about the two men featured, St. Serge and St. Bacchus, two Roman soldiers who became Christian martyrs.

While the pairing of saints, particularly in the early church, was not unusual, the association of these two men was regarded as particularly close. Severus of Antioch in the sixth century explained that "we should not separate in speech [Serge and Bacchus] who were joined in life". More bluntly, in the definitive 10th century Greek account of their lives, St. Serge is openly described as the "sweet companion and lover" of St. Bacchus.

In other words, it confirms what the earlier icon implies, that they were a homosexual couple. Their orientation and relationship was openly accepted by early Christian writers. Furthermore, in an image that to some modern Christian eyes might border on blasphemy, the icon has Christ himself as their pronubus, their best man overseeing their "marriage".

The very idea of a Christian homosexual marriage seems incredible. Yet after a twelve year search of Catholic and Orthodox church archives Yale history professor John Boswell has discovered that a type of Christian homosexual "marriage" did exist as late as the 18th century.

Contrary to myth, Christianity's concept of marriage has not been set in stone since the days of Christ, but has evolved as a concept and as a ritual.

Professor Boswell discovered that in addition to heterosexual marriage ceremonies in ancient church liturgical documents (and clearly separate from other types of non-marital blessings of adopted children or land) were ceremonies called, among other titles, the "Office of Same Sex Union" (10th and 11th century Greek) or the "Order for Uniting Two Men" (11th and 12th century).

These ceremonies had all the contemporary symbols of a marriage: a community gathered in a church, a blessing of the couple before the altar, their right hands joined as at heterosexual marriages, the participation of a priest, the taking of the Eucharist, a wedding banquet afterwards. All of which are shown in contemporary drawings of the same sex union of Byzantine Emperor Basil I (867-886) and his companion John. Such homosexual unions also took place in Ireland in the late 12th / early 13th century, as the chronicler Gerald of Wales (Geraldus Cambrensis) has recorded.

Unions in Pre-Modern Europe lists in detail some same sex union ceremonies found in ancient church liturgical documents. One Greek 13th century "Order for Solemnisation of Same Sex Union", having invoked St. Serge and St. Bacchus, called on God to "vouchsafe unto these Thy servants [N and N] grace to love another and to abide unhated and not cause of scandal all the days of their lives, with the help of the Holy Mother of God and all Thy saints". The ceremony concludes: "And they shall kiss the Holy Gospel and each other, and it shall be concluded".

Another 14th century Serbian Slavonic "Office of the Same Sex Union", uniting two men or two women, had the couple having their right hands laid on the Gospel while having a cross placed in their left hands. Having kissed the Gospel, the couple were then required to kiss each other, after which the priest, having raised up the Eucharist, would give them both communion.

Boswell found records of same sex unions in such diverse archives as those in the Vatican, in St. Petersburg, in Paris, Istanbul, and in Sinai, covering a period from the 8th to 18th centuries. Nor is he the first to make such a discovery. The Dominican Jacques Goar (1601-1653) includes such ceremonies in a printed collection of Greek prayer books.

While homosexuality was technically illegal from late Roman times, it was only from about the 14th century that antihomosexual feelings swept western Europe. Yet same sex unions continued to take place.

At St. John Lateran in Rome (traditionally the Pope's parish church) in 1578 a many as 13 couples were "married" at Mass with the apparent cooperation of the local clergy, "taking communion together, using the same nuptial Scripture, after which they slept and ate together", according to a contemporary report.

Boswell's academic study however is so well researched and sourced as to pose fundamental questions for both modern church leaders and heterosexual Christians about their attitudes towards homosexuality.

For the Church to ignore the evidence in its own archives would be a cowardly cop-out. The evidence shows convincingly that what the modern church claims has been its constant unchanging attitude towards homosexuality is in fact nothing of the sort.

It proves that for much of the last two millennia, in parish churches and cathedrals throughout Christendom from Ireland to Istanbul and in the heart of Rome itself, homosexual relationships were accepted as valid expressions of a God-given ability to love and commit to another person, a love that could be celebrated, honoured and blessed both in the name of, and through the Eucharist in the presence of Jesus Christ.

Tigerboy said...

The bigger issue is:

Pair-bonding with the partner of one's choice certainly took place between men and women, men and men, and women and women, since LONG before recorded history.

Organized religion did not invent marriage, nor does it own the right to define its terms.

Ancient pair-bonding is the bedrock of marriage. Human rights don't get much more basic than the right to choose a life partner.

Neither religion, nor government, OWNS the concept of marriage. It is inextricably intwined in human history since time immemorial.

Marriage is not the exclusive property of heterosexuals, nor of the religious.

Random said...

"Random, you're full of shit. You obviously don't know what you're talking about."

Funny isn't it how people who demand tolerance and respect for themselves are so reluctant to extend it to people who disagree with them?

"Gay marriage, even, has been accepted in the past, and officiated by the orthodox church in the eastern empire for centuries. You and everyone who agrees with you need to educate yourselves!"

Actually, I have. Assuming what Tigerboy links to is the same thing you are talking about, then what is being described is the ceremony of adelphopoiesis. The literal translation of this term is "making of brothers" and it is usually assumed to be a form of mutual adoption, similar to a blood-brother type arrangement. Only Boswell translates adelphopoeisis as "same sex union" and his interpretation is, to put it mildly, somewhat controversial.

There are problems with describing it as a relationship equivalent to marriage; firstly that the Greek Orthodox Church itself (which is after all the organisation being cited in support of the idea) explicitly denies this and affirms the idea that adoption, not marriage, is what it's about. And secondly the rite itself explictly affirms that the relationship being solemnised is a spiritual, not a physical, one - "hina genontai pneumatikoi adelphoi hyper tous sarkikous" (they become spiritual brothers rather than fleshly [carnal] ones - Boswell's translation). Other problems with the idea that this is marriage are that the rite is not exclusive (more than two men can be joined), and that marriages between the families of the men involved become forbidden as such relationships are now incestuous (unlike in real marriage, where if man A marries woman B, no bar is created to A's sister marrying B's brother) - as you would expect if it was a ceremony of adoption rather than marriage.

As for Giraldus - if you actually read "Topography of Ireland" for yourself instead of relying on someone else to do it for you, it's clear that what is being described there is also a blood brother ceremony, and furthermore it's being cited as evidence of how barbarous the Irish are, not with approval (the parties in question literally drink each other's blood to formalise the relationship, often taking so much that one or both will pass out from the loss - if that sounds like marriage to you, then you've been to some more interesting ceremonies than I have).

"Marriage is not the exclusive property of heterosexuals, nor of the religious."

It's not the property of homosexuals either, which means they do not get to redefine it regardless of the opinions of anybody else. If it is the property of anybody, it is that of the community as a whole, which means the community as a whole needs to give their opinion to change the meaning. As has happened in California (and note this is not the first time Californians have voted in favour of the traditional definition of marriage - P8 only came about after an earlier vote was overturned in the courts). Whether you like it or not, for the health of society questions like this are best settled democratically, not by seeing who can afford the best lawyers.

Holy Hyrax said...

Tigerboy

You are taking one single interpretation of that icon:

You can read more here.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Christianity_and_homosexuality

Kylopod said...

"I strongly disagree with Obama on the issue of gay marriage in general"

C'mon, he's ASSMINO -- Against Same Sex Marriage In Name Only.

He's done more in support of it than any other presidential nominee in history. I predict that within the next two election cycles, we'll be seeing a serious candidate who openly supports it.

Heck, even Biden almost sounded like he supported it during the debate: "We do support making sure that committed couples in a same-sex marriage are guaranteed the same constitutional benefits as it relates to their property rights, their rights of visitation, their rights to insurance, their rights of ownership as heterosexual couples do." I know he was only expressing support for civil unions, but notice that he used the term "same-sex marriage" to describe the people he was claiming to protect the rights of--probably a slip-up.

Holy Hyrax said...

Kylopod,

I think we all support what Biden said regarding rights.

Kylopod said...

HH,

But a more careful politician would not have said he supports the rights of "couples in a same-sex marriage." What he probably meant to say is simply "same-sex couples." The way he worded it seemed to acknowledge same-sex marriages, yet the whole point of civil unions is to avoid doing so.

Tigerboy said...

Mr. Duffy cited a few examples, from the Christian church. There are so many others.

Greek soldiers devoted their lives to, and had sex with, their soldier partners.

Ancient Egyptians buried same-sex couples together, in the same embrace, in the same fashion as opposite-sex married couples.

Aboriginal peoples, from the South Seas to the Americas, have celebrated their same-sex couples, and even their transgendered members.

Homosexual pair-bonding has an equally ancient history as heterosexual pair-bonding. Straights didn't invent marriage. People did. (Actually, many animals bond for life.)

Tigerboy:
"Marriage is not the exclusive property of heterosexuals, nor of the religious."

Random:
"It's not the property of homosexuals either, which means they do not get to redefine it regardless of the opinions of anybody else. If it is the property of anybody, it is that of the community as a whole, which means the community as a whole needs to give their opinion to change the meaning."

Partially correct. "If it is the property of anybody, it is the property of the community as a whole . . . "

Yes. The community of Man. This is an "inalienable right." This is not the type of right that should be voted on. This issue will not be settled until the Supreme Court rules on it. You watch. They will, eventually, rule on the side of allowing citizens to marry the partner of their choice.

One cannot expect a church to allow gay marriage (although they have in the past).

One can expect NOTHING LESS than fair treatment for all citizens from our secular government.

The ban on interracial marriage could not be subject to a vote by the community. Neither will gay marriage be.

Random said...

"Mr. Duffy cited a few examples, from the Christian church."

The problem is that Duffy's article is drawn more or less wholly from Boswell's book, and to describe Boswell's theories as "controversial" may well be understating things. See here:

"All in all, then, this book does not begin to accomplish what it set out to do. (The reviews, after the early burst of hopeful publicity, have been notably skeptical-even from sources one would expect to be favorable.) Indeed, the author's painfully strained effort to recruit Christian history in support of the homosexual cause that he favors is not only a failure, but an embarrassing one."

(Incidentally, this article offers a particularly interesting perspective not just because of the author's expertise in the area - which far exceeds Boswell's or Duffy's - but because she herself has undergone an adelphopoesis ceremony with another woman and so can bring personal experience to the discussion. She is of no doubt that the ceremony in question was about sanctifying a friendship, not a marriage, BTW.)

"Greek soldiers devoted their lives to, and had sex with, their soldier partners."

I am well aware that the Sacred Band fought to the last man in defence of Thebes because of the fear of showing cowardice in front of a lover, and that Philip the Great ordered them to be buried with full military honours out of respect for their courage. They never married each other however, and I thought that was this discussion was supposed to be about? Even ancient Greece, a society which arguably held (male) homosexual relationships in greater esteem than heterosexual ones, still regarded marriage as being between a man and a woman.

"Ancient Egyptians buried same-sex couples together, in the same embrace, in the same fashion as opposite-sex married couples."

Which is interesting, but hardly conclusive given how little is actually known about ancient Egyptian marriage law. Evidence that homosexuality was accepted is not evidence that homosexuals were allowed to marry.

"Aboriginal peoples, from the South Seas to the Americas, have celebrated their same-sex couples, and even their transgendered members."

Again this is interesting, but you need to provide more evidence to show that this is marriage rather than an equivalent of blood brotherhood or adelphopoesis. And frankly if the relevant scholarship is at the same level as that which "proved" adelphopoesis was equivalent to marriage, then I'm not optimistic.

Look, if I may offer some honest advice as somebody on the other side of the argument - lay off the conspiracy theories. Claiming that gays have always been allowed to get married but there has been some vast conspiracy by straights to suppress the historical evidence of it just makes you look like those nuts who claim NASA faked the moon landings - if even ancient Greece (a society remember which actually elevated male homosexual relationships above heterosexual ones - lesbians were not included in this, women as always got a raw deal) didn't have gay marriage then probably no serious civilisation (I leave open the option that some obscure tribe in the middle of the South Pacific may have done it) ever has. Stick with the stuff about fairness instead (stuff like why one partner should be allowed to inherit from another, or be allowed to visit the other's hospital bed and make decisions on their behalf about life saving treatment, for example) - there is real sympathy for this argument out there, even with those of us who are opposed to same sex marriage on religious grounds, (it's why I support civil partnerships with full legal equality like we have here in Britain, for example) and you're far more likely to make progress with it.

"This issue will not be settled until the Supreme Court rules on it."

And if they rule in favour of the traditional definition of marriage? Will you regard it as "settled" then? I doubt it, somehow. In any case, you really should ask the pro-choice crowd how well that approach worked in taking the controversy out of the abortion debate. Issues like this can only be settled democratically - it's why neither abortion nor gay partnerships have anything like the same level of controversy attached to them in Europe after all. Doing it democratically allows the losers to accept their defeat, stealing it through the courts just adds fuel to the culture wars.

"One cannot expect a church to allow gay marriage."

A non-trivial element of the opposition to same sex marriage (as distinct from civil unions) is precisely the fear that once it is granted through the courts the same courts will be used to try to force churches to carry out marriages, or risk being shut down under "hate crime" legislation. This fear may be somewhat overblown at the moment, but it is not wholly groundless if other nations are anything to go by.

Tigerboy said...

Random:
"you look like those nuts who claim NASA faked the moon landings . . . "

I make no claims about conspiracy theories.

You claimed that gay people want to redefine what it is to be "married." My point is that the idea of pair-bonding, that is, life-long devotion of one partner to another, devotion that is recognized by the society in which the couple lives, far predates government and/or organized religion. Homosexual couples have been devoted to one another since prehistory.

Actually, I was a bit reticent to post Mr. Duffy's writings, not because I disagree with him, but rather, because it makes it seem as if I think the issue turns on the past choices of the Christian church.

It does not.

Life-long, devoted pair-bonding is the basis for marriage, not the church. The church is the one who *redefined* the types of marriage it didn't like, including interracial marriage.

Regarding the Supreme Court:

"And if they rule in favour of the traditional definition of marriage? Will you regard it as "settled" then?"

No. You are absolutely correct. I would not see it as "settled, then." As I said, I see this as an *inalienable* right. The United States of America should not offer rights to some of her law-abiding, tax-paying citizens, while denying them to others.

Would the issue have been settled had the Supreme Court ruled that only men should be allowed to vote? No.

Women, as you point out, "always got a raw deal." This is largely the result of, and fully supported by, the teachings of the church. It is our government's place to make sure that all her citizens are treated with fairness, despite the teachings of the church.

Whether you religious folk like it, or not, homosexuality is a part of Homo sapiens, and has been, from the very beginning. It is a perfectly natural trait that occurs in a certain percentage of our population. These people deserve the same rights and opportunities as everybody else.