DATE: 1/21/2005 09:23:00 AM
And It Begins - Social conservatives are upset over the report that President Bush will not spend political capital on the Federal Marriage Amendment. Tony Perkins, of the Family Research Council, is so upset that he's losing all perspective:
"I believe there is no more important issue for the president's second term than the preservation of marriage.""No more important issue," huh? Not a thing that's more important than passing a largely symbolic law?
Pardon me while I kick something. No, wait...I'm at work. Deep breaths, then.
Okay. There are plenty of reasons to be annoyed at this statement. Let me deal first with the obvious - President Bush has a lot on his plate this term. A lot. Like a war in Iraq that's part of a global war on terror lot. Maybe Mr. Perkins hasn't noticed, but some Islamic terrorists killed a whole bunch of people a few years back. They want to keep killing us, and the president wants to keep them from doing that. Some in Congress are fighting this effort tooth and nail, and the president is expending a lot of political capital keeping the war effort going.
Obvious point number 2 - it's actually the Senate on which Mr. Perkins should focus his attention. The votes are not there. I can name two senators who wouldn't vote for the FMA and they're both Republicans and both from Maine. Sixty-seven votes are needed to pass a constitutional amendment. Republicans only hold 55 seats, and we've already eliminated two votes from that number. That leaves 53, and not all of them would vote for the measure. So you'd have to get, at absolute minimum, 14 or 15 Democrats to vote with you on this bill. These guys aren't going to listen to a president most of them hate. The math doesn't work.
Semi-obvious point - conservatives don't have a lot of credibility on the issue of preserving marriage. Here's something I wrote back in June:
A few months ago, pop star Britney Spears was married for just over 50 hours. When asked to explain her quick marriage and annullment, she explained the whole thing as being a joke between two friends. Conservatives said little about her pseudo-marriage, and lost an opportunity to bolster their credibility on the issue of protecting marriage. If marriage is sacred, then conservatives should treat it as such, regardless of the sexual orientation of those involved. The silence of conservatives and the church on the increasingly light treatment of marriage by society makes the entire idea of the FMA look more anti-gay than pro-marriage.
The church's behavior in the areas of cohabitation and divorce further erode its credibility on the issue of preserving marriage. George Barna has made a career out of surveying the Christian community and the general population about religious topics. His findings on how Christians treat divorce and cohabitation are disappointing:Barna's numbers should shame social conservatives and give a measure of humility to the Tony Perkinses of the world. I know that groups like the Family Research Council and Focus on the Family have done quite a bit to help married couples realize the importance of the institution, but given the terrible numbers from Barna, more work needs to be done. If social conservatives want to have any credibility on this issue, they need to begin that work immediately. For years, a myopic focus on gay and lesbian relationships has allowed them to ignore the problems, and the hard work necessary to fix them, in their own community.
Stop picking on SpongeBob and start doing the hard work.
--25% of born again Christians had cohabitated
--Born again Christians are just as likely to get divorced as are non-born again adults. Overall, 33% of all born again individuals who have been married have gone through a divorce, which is statistically identical to the 34% incidence among non-born again adults.Barna found that over 90% of those who experienced divorce did so after making a committment to Christ, not before. These numbers show an appalling lack of respect for the institution of marriage among self-proclaimed followers of Christ, and is a huge weakness in the argument that an amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman would protect the institution. The church's behavior undercuts its argument, and it's a shame...Instead of fighting the weakening of marriage at the beginning, the FMA seems both a belated and half-hearted attempt at protecting the social institution we've allowed to decline for so many years.