Wednesday, March 09, 2011

St. Paul, Defender of the Faith.

One of the things I have liked about Congressman Ron Paul is that he's often been on the side of deregulating private life and consensual behavior, but either he doesn't mean what he says or is willing to say what he doesn't mean in order to curry favor with the Great Regulators of the Religious right.

Speaking in Iowa recently, Mr. Paul said:
"The Defense of Marriage Act was enacted in 1996 to stop Big Government in Washington from re-defining marriage and forcing its definition on the States. Like the majority of Iowans, I believe that marriage is between one man and one woman and must be protected."

That resonates in my ears as a statement of his religious persuasion and of course he was speaking to a group of religions conservatives representing denominations opposed to letting people decide for themselves about such matters. Other religions might have other ideas and indeed some do. In other words these are people quite open about forcing their definition on Americans.

I find it curious that proponents of defining marriage according to religious definitions always use the word "is" where one expects "should be," "ought to be" or "must be" and there must be a reason for it. Marriage, after all is a human institution and marriage customs vary amongst groups of humans. Perhaps "is" is a way to pretend that it's written into the fabric of the cosmos like general relativity or the uncertainty principle. It isn't.

Of course Paul couched his opposition to doing away with the Defense of Marriage act in terms of states rights and whether or not he was following in the tradition of all the other "states rights" defenses of so many other things we now see as unjust, it's a defense of something with as limited a future as our embarrassing misogyny laws of recent memory. A minority of the country oppose preventing people from marrying whom they will and I can't help but find my feeling that the history of humankind's progress toward democracy is once again being thwarted by the notion of a divine will that opposes our allegedly innate liberty.

When someone who has been so stalwart in defending the Constitution and restraining government power, promotes such peremptory views on the most personal of choices, it seems a jarring discontinuity that makes on question the man and everything else he's described as being unconstitutional. It's hard to understand why he's willing to use government power to defend a certain Faith when that is something the government is expressly forbidden to do.

Yes, I know. I've been talking a lot about religion of late, but to me, there is no other force in American affairs more intractable than the movement to force compliance to religious standards on people who have or wish to have no affiliation with those standards and prefer the right to make personal choices according to their own consciences. That ability, that kind of freedom is the beating heart of liberal democracy. If we lose that, we lose it all.

It's sad to see Congressman Paul speaking this way. I once had high hopes for him, if not as Presidential material, certainly as a voice of reason and restraint at a time when the Republican party seems increasingly controlled by anti-democratic, anti-libertarian influences. Now he seems far less of a libertarian, far more of an authoritarian and indistinguishable from any other politician grovelling before the powerful.


Anonymous said...

I think you are spot-on regarding the Religious Right's desire to impose their religious views on all Americans. I just have a comment about the "is" vs. "should be" thing.
I think that for most of the people in the Religious Right movement, marriage is NOT a "human institution". To them, I think, marriage is official permission from their religion to have sex. That's what it is. There is no should be about it.
Just a thought.

Buffalo said...

I am ... disappointed.

Capt. Fogg said...

I'm disappointed too, Buff. We have long been behind the rest of civilized mankind on many similar issues.

You're quite right, anonymous. Absolutely. The trouble with divine will however, is that it's not discernible from the will of human institutions and not everyone agrees what it is. Yes, that is an ironic understatement.

The people who say God made our marriage laws would like to forget that we ignore most of his laws as it suits us and we always have, even when we belong to the same "faith." People have been slaughtered over minor matters of ritual for centuries, so it takes a bit of hubris to tell us all just what God is thinking these days. Nobody is of course asking any church to bless such unions, only that they not interfere with other people's religions and that's never been something churches have been good at -- ever.

Don't forget that when we rebelled against King George, it was described as rebelling against God. Your opinion might vary as to just what God wanted there.

Of course Paul and anyone else is entitled to his own conscience and his own vote, but I wonder why he's against institutional incursions into our lives only when it comes to money. Sounds like a fair weather Libertarian to me.

Like Buffalo, I'm disappointed.

WaryTale said...

Thanks for your reply, Capt. Fogg. (I'm Anonymous from comment #1)I've been reading this blog daily for several years. You're doing a great job.
I've been a long time believer that organized religion has been one of the most destructive influences in human history. Such a shame when so many of the most positive ethical teachings in human history have come from the core principles of the world's religions.
I post comments at a few other blogs as ---

Capt. Fogg said...

Thanks - it's nice to find someone who agrees with me. It's public religion, or religion making public policy that is the problem, private convictions are - for want of a better word - sacred.