Monday, October 03, 2005

Civil Contracts v. Church

Will it come down to reality v. meme? The same-sex-marriage debate here seems often to center on marriage law versus perceived tradition.

It is the scio versus cognito knowledge, the real and verifiable versus the felt sense. Apparently in this case, more of the latter comes from clerics than from Granny and Aunt Ida.

We ran across that over a year ago when speaking with the head priest at a large Boston church. He held forth about the role and influence of the church in marriage here from colonial times. He was very sure and very wrong. Yet, I don't think there was any malice or attempt to deceive. He simply said what he had been taught at home, parochial school and church. It was ignorance as folklore.

Likewise, so many ordinary folk who oppose same-sex marriage here, in particular, believe:
  • That Jesus instituted marriage as we know it
  • That for thousands of years, marriage has been codified as one man and one woman
  • That the marriage laws of Massachusetts are based in religion instead of civil contracts
Those are all quite wrong, but they remain deeply held beliefs by many.

Detailing how plastic and evolving marriage has been both long-term and in the past century does little to convince those who were taught differently. Discussions of how the traditional marriage was a polygamous one, a man (including our Biblical patriarchs) had as many wives and mistresses as he could afford, will bring howls of denial. Details of how in colonial life and more than a century of nationhood, men owned their wives and were not the idealized partners many claim God created fall to the ground when presented to those who would believe otherwise.

There may be no compromise here. If the deep emotional basis, the faith, for these recent beliefs does not yield to facts or reason, does not even listen to them, the division will surely remain.

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