A speech I gave on "Why liberals are not against marriage"

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A speech I gave on "Why liberals are not against marriage"

Please let me know if I miss-spoke what UU theology is....

Religious Liberals are not out to destroy marriage.

How many times have we heard the rallying cry. “The liberals are out to destroy marriage”. Today, I’d like to explain how liberal denominations such as the Unitarian Universalists are not out to weaken or destroy marriage.

As a church we are interested in people’s souls. As one of our UU ministers said, soul work “is the work of the church”. Soul work is looking deeply at ourselves, knowing our own souls and working on the problems we find there.

Soul work doesn’t just happen with individuals, soul work happens between couples as well. Let’s go back to the illustration of Dr Williams here, Back in her day, if you got pregnant, you got married. You made your bed, you were expected to lie in it. And over time you were expected to work it out.

Working that out over thirty, forty, fifty years would take some serious effort. Making any marriage last, regardless of the courtship takes effort. Over time this effort will refine the souls of the couple involved. All churches, liberal ones included, are interested in the growth of the souls of their members. So all churches are interested in strong, long lasting marriages that foster soul growth.

Interracial marriage used to be quite a no-no. Yet our church supported it. Why, because the color of the skin does not stop people from doing soul work in their marriage. Interracial couples will do soul work just like same-race couples.

The same can be said for mixed-religion couples. Catholic, protestant, Jewish, Muslim, would any of these parings be magically protected from deep relational work? No. Our church would support mixed religion couples because their marriage would result in soul work.

That same soul-purifying process would occur between same sex couples. So we can support their journey as well.

Now let me give another similar line of argument. People who have died and been brought back to life consistently faced the same question. “Did you learn to love?”

All churches believe that learning to love is a basic task in life. And marriage is a great place to learn to love. Our church believes this applies equally to all couples, whether heterosexual, inter-racial, mixed-religion or same-sex couples. Because any of these parings will have to deal with the basic life task of learning to love.

In all these cases we are out to extend marriage to more people. We do not believe expansion itself will dilute marriage. No more than having a second child dilutes the love for a first child. The more love you give it away the more love you have. So allowing more people to commit to the love of their life, is an effort to grow more love, not weaken or destroy it.

Now one of the fears is that opening the door to same sex marriage will trivialize marriage as an institution. People could do it for all the wrong reasons. “I’m going to marry George just because I can and there is nothing you can do to stop me”.

People fear liberal ministers will welcome such behavior with open arms. To be fair there may be a few ministers who would want to be the first to jump on the bandwagon. But most liberal ministers feel a deeper calling to true ministry than that.

My wife and I ran into that with our own minister. He had concerns with the ceremony we wrote. We wanted to publicly stand and commit to each other. But coming out of messy divorces, we did not want the legal entanglements of a state marriage license. Our minister wanted stronger wording and he wanted to know whom we would be accountable to if not the state. He did not want to perform a marriage without staying power. He would be just as concerned about the staying power of a same-sex union as he was with ours.

In another example, Dr. David Sammons, a UU minister was quoted in USA Today as saying…”If marriage is something you’re going to play at, I don’t want to be involved.”

Liberal ministers are not busting the gate to marry everyone just for the hell of it. Watching people you have married take their vows trivially and throw them away casually eats at your soul pretty quickly. You either find ways to better screen whom you are going to marry, or you are not likely to remain a minister for very long.

A better way to strengthen the sanctity of marriage is to raise the qualifications to get married. Does the couple understand what they are doing? Do they have the skills, the desire and the commitment to make it last? There are couples of all persuasions that have what it takes to make marriage work. We should not prohibit any of them. On the flip side, anyone who approaches marriage too casually should be stopped from weakening the institution, regardless of who they are.

It is the character of the participants, not the orientation, that strengthens or weakens the institution. And our magazine, the UU World has called for a strengthening of marriage character even as we seek to broaden the base of applications.

We are not against marriage; we want to make marriage equally available for all couples with the character to make it work, regardless of their race, religion, class or sexual orientation.

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Sources:

D. Paul Harris “Proudly Liberal” Unitiarians gather here”, St Louis Post-Dispatch 6-23-2006

Rev Marjorie Bowens-Wheatly, “Family Stories”, Sermon presented in First Parish UU church in Plymouth, MA. March 18,2001

William J. Doherty, “Time to Commit”, UU World, January/February 2005

Dr. Angela Williams, Classroom comments, Public speaking class, Cincinnati State, Summer 2006

“FYI – The Liberal Desire to Destroy Marriage”, The Arizona Media B.S. Monitor, http://azbsmeter.blogspot.com/ , Thursday, May 25, 2006

“Support of the Right to Marry for Same-Sex Couples”, Resolution of Immediate Witness, Unitarian Universalists National convention, 1996

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