Friday, October 21, 2011

What shall we render to Caesar?

In much the same way that the Christian churches and the secular culture of the United States use the word “Christmas” to refer to two vastly different phenomena, we find ourselves in the midst of a long-running dispute over the definition of the word “marriage” and the identity of the institution which has the power to define it. In 2005, Donna R. Techau invited readers of Liturgy to reflect upon these conflicting definitions, and the way in which they muddy the waters of the Church’s witness to covenant relationships.

By pushing for a constitutional amendment to protect marriage (as he sees it), Dobson has removed the definition of marriage from the hands of the (apparently inept) church, and has instead placed marriage squarely in the realm of jurisprudence – wherein infidelity or rupture or breach of contract is assumed as the bedrock for protective laws. A clearly post-lapsarian view is assumed, as well as a fidelity to the state as the proper arbiter of marriage. “It has never been clearer,” Dobson said, “that the FMA is our last, best chance to preserve marriage for future generations.” Is it possible that Dobson has rendered the church mute? Is it possible that the state is being asked to take over the goods most properly belonging to the church? Who makes a marriage? The church or the state?
…Both of these men [Dobson and Falwell] bolster their political rhetoric with theological claims to the god-ordained status of marriage, apocalyptic biblical references against homosexuality, and Pauline admonitions against the same; none of which are under debate within this present article. There is more at stake in the current discussion than sexual acts. What does finally belong to the state? And what does ultimately belong to God?
Liturgy, vol. 20, no. 1, p. 48.
Donna R. Techau is Senior Operations Manager at Kaplan University. She is the author of Blessed are the Violent: Towards a Postmodern Hermeneutic of Violence.

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