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Weekend Reading: Notes from around the Internets

May 19th, 2012 | 5 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

Over the past six weeks or so, we've been populating our Facebook page with links to other articles and things of interest on the internet.  It's simply our way of inviting you in not only to what we're writing, but what we're reading as well.  Follow us on Facebook for it:  we list on average two posts per day, and none on the weekends, so it's not overwhelming.

We also wanted to take some of those posts and excerpt the choice parts here at Mere-O on the weekends.  Links and excerpts don't constitute endorsements of anything than that the piece merits your attention.

Why Young Voters Won’t Tip the Gay Marriage Debate Anytime Soon

If 18- to 30-year-old voters did in fact split almost evenly on Amendment One, this casts some doubt on the theory that gay marriage will ride to acceptance due to overwhelmingly supportive young voters. While young voters do seem more supportive of gay marriage, and support increases the younger the demographic in question, the operative word is supportive. Only moderately in favor of gay marriage themselves, young North Carolinians were in no position to outvote their older neighbors.

In fact, even if nobody over age 45 had voted Tuesday, the amendment still would have passed by around 8 percentage points, according to the adjusted data above.

Therefore, any strategy of waiting for demographics to realize the maximalist position of gay marriage advocates across the country looks to be, at the very least, a lengthy endeavor. States on the margins, like California and Washington, where initial bans commanded marginal majorities, might support gay marriage in the near future. But on a wider scale, movement on the issue, though real, is likely to be far too slow to bring about dramatic change nationally anytime soon.

Gay Marriage Makes a Lot of Sense

On this common ground, same-sex marriage is a no-brainer. Some people are happier and more fulfilled in committed same-sex relationships. There’s no use trying to refute other people’s emotional expressions of their own subjective states of consciousness. Do same-sex couples wrestle with tension, anxiety over a partner losing interest and being attracted to someone else, infidelity, and so forth? Looking at the state of traditional marriage, how exactly are these couples uniquely dysfunctional? A 2006 Amicus Brief presented to the California Supreme Court by the nation’s leading psychological and psychiatric bodies argued, “Gay men and lesbians form stable, committed relationships that are equivalent to heterosexual relationships in essential respects. The institution of marriage offers social, psychological, and health benefits that are denied to same-sex couples…There is no scientific basis for distinguishing between same-sex couples and heterosexual couples with respect to the legal rights, obligations, benefits, and burdens conferred by civil marriage.” Well, there you have it. The new high priests of the national soul have spoken.

How would someone who believes that sin is unhappiness and salvation is having “your best life now” make a good argument against same-sex marriage? There is simply no way of defending traditional marriage within the narrative logic that apparently most Christians—much less non-Christians—presuppose regardless of their position on this issue.

Why American Evangelicals Love the British

THE AFFINITY FOR BRITAIN among American evangelicals has a long history. This attachment is difficult to disentangle from the colonial roots of many evangelical denominations in English and Scottish churches, as well as the transatlantic careers of the greatest American and British revivalists throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But in the decades after the Civil War, American evangelicals began to diverge from their brethren across the pond. Thanks to social and theological dynamics peculiar to the United States, evangelicals here rebelled more sharply against modern intellectual trends, particularly the theory of evolution and the audacious decision of scholars to study the Bible as they would any other historical document. By the time of World War I, conservative American Protestantism was riven by fundamentalism—a movement of Christians who militantly opposed liberal trends in culture and thought, whom H.L. Mencken mocked as uncultured bumpkins who spent their time “denouncing the reading of books.”

Ever since then, evangelicals have been struggling to overcome an intellectual inferiority complex, to convince the wider world that confidence in the Bible’s authority is compatible with scholarly achievement. For decades evangelical colleges and seminaries have sent many of their most promising students to the United Kingdom to pursue advanced degrees—to work with particular scholars known for evangelical sympathies, or simply to receive that imprimatur of intellectual gravitas, the PhD from Cambridge or DPhil from Oxford. (New St. Andrews College, an upstart evangelical school in Idaho, has attempted to import that Oxbridge aura to America by requiring Latin and Greek and dressing students in black academic gowns for each week’s disputatio.) A degree from a British university impresses Americans—and evangelicals long ago figured out that escaping to foreign universities allowed them to avoid many of the prejudices and difficult questions they sometimes encounter at American schools, where faculty tend to associate evangelicalism with wacky Young Earth science and a right-wing political agenda.

Two Steps from Reasonable about Marriage

Under these conditions, it would make sense for the whole community, and its individual members, to recognize this momentous event for what it is. From these bodies, male and female, through this act, a child is brought forth into the world—a child who needs to be protected, nourished, and taught. The community now has a reason to say several things: First, this act that we men and women have been doing together is an act that has extraordinary consequences for the whole community—consequences that our acts alone or in the previously isolated communities did not have. Second, it has extraordinary implications for the couple who have received both a gift for which they yearn to care, and a grave responsibility. Third, it has serious implications for the child, who finds herself born into the world, in need of care, education, and the security of knowing who she is, where she comes from, and where she is going. Fourth, now that they see what their bodies and urges are for, the members of the community understand that their earlier acts were in fact an improper use of their bodies and a misplacement of their longings (though none of this was their fault, given the incompleteness of their information).

Thus, it is in the interest of the community, the couple, and most especially the child that human sexuality be protected and nurtured such that it will be used aright. For this reason, entering into a sexual relationship with a member of the opposite sex is a matter of great importance for the community and the couple, worthy of a rite of recognition and acceptance, of being made secure in and by the community, and of rules governing their sexual practice. It is only here that the notion of marriage can be brought forth—not from the desires of the couple for recognition, not from feelings of affection and closeness, but in the face of the reality of human sexuality.

Of course, this story is a thought experiment, not history. It illustrates that it is within the realm of human experience for human beings to form bonds of friendship that are centered in, and enhanced by, mutually pleasant acts. But it also illustrates the unreasonableness of the notion of marriage in a world where a pleasurable act cannot, by its nature, lead to children; in other words, it shows the unreasonableness of marriage being merely about the desires, pleasures, and affirmation of adults—the contemporary conception of marriage.

Now to you:  What else should we be reading that we missed this week? 

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.