I don’t believe in God, which I know probably makes a good number of you worry for my eternal soul. Yet, for reasons never quite clear to me, a significant portion of my friends, online and off, are practicing Christians. We disagree about something pretty enormous, but we somehow manage to like one another. I suspect this is because we have two things in common: we acknowledge we don’t know everything and we are respectful of other people’s voices.
That explains why we were able to have a productive discussion around here on Monday. A discussion in which people, you know, listened to others with differing points of view.
Religion is about truth. A person who is committed to a particular sect must believe that her faith is the vessel of truth. American civic life, however, is composed of truths in the plural. It must encompass every belief set, giving space for a multitude of viewpoints. This is why church and state work better kept far away from one another, because the state needs to leave room for many churches, not to mention us heathens.
There is one glaring area in which church and state are hopelessly intertwined. One area where my rabbi can execute a binding legal contract. One area where it is impossible to separate the legal and the religious definition of the word. The M-word.
So, maybe it is time for the state to get out of the marriage business. Instead of legally marrying people, maybe the government just needs to only offer civil unions to all couples. If people want a religiously-defined marriage in addition, go for it. But leave it to the religions to define their truths about marriage, while the legal contract is kept completely separate.
That would lead to a much more civil union.