Editor’s note: This is the first in a three part series, discussing President Obama’s decision to support same-sex marriage from three different Christian political viewpoints.
By Brian Brandau
“It was purely political.”
“It’s a heroic step forward in the equal treatment of gay Americans.”
“It was too little, too late. A tepid endorsement to say the least.”
“It was a radical leftist gloatingly severing his last tenuous ties with Christians and conservatives.”
I’ve read sentiments similar to all these things as the Internet exploded yesterday with the “shoot-first-shoot-back-shoot-some-more-until-everyone’s-too-irreconcilably-alienated-to-conceivably-engage-the-issue-fairly-and-neutrally-start-to-actually-think-about-it” brand of opining the blogosphere does best. This was all in response to President Obama’s announcement yesterday that he affirms the right of same-sex couples to be married.
What was really interesting about the announcement was that Obama partially used scriptural injunctions to support his newly-minted position:
“(Michelle and I) are both practicing Christians and obviously this position may be considered to put us at odds with the views of others but, you know, when we think about our faith, the thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it’s also the Golden Rule, you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated.”
In the past, Obama’s opposition to gay marriage has been rooted in the belief that marriage is an essentially religious institution and out of a respect for what people define as traditional conceptions that marriage is sanctified in the union of a man and a woman.
The evolution of his viewpoint could be really complicated: Coming out of the African-American religious background, he came to have a profound respect for the deep historical traditionalism of African-American church, a church which has very strong moral impulses, especially about the family. Upon entering Democratic politics, Obama was exposed to opinions across the spectrum and especially those of gay rights activists. Over the course of his political career, he kept an open mind and the arguments in favor eventually prevailed upon his analytical processes and he changed his mind after much consideration.
Or it could be really simple: He did it because he thought he could get some votes this fall.
What I know is that, politically speaking, this isn’t a game-changer. The gay rights movement was going to vote for Obama one way or the other. Those with strong opposition to gay marriage were going to vote against him, one way or the other. His support for gay marriage will have about as much impact on his electoral prospects as announcing what he had for breakfast this morning. Maybe less so if said breakfast put him out of sorts with the vegetarian demographic.
His support for gay marriage will have about as much impact on his electoral prospects as announcing what he had for breakfast this morning. Maybe less so if said breakfast put him out of sorts with the vegetarian demographic.
This leads me to believe that he had a genuine change of heart and felt that gays and lesbians deserved his affirmation as a key piece in the maker of public policy and as a symbol representing the American people. Whether you’re in favor of or opposed to gay marriage, I think it’s difficult to make the case that this would is really going to help the President get re-elected in November. So this is probably one of the few election season soundbites that was done entirely to express a conviction and not calculated to garner a vote.
Even if you’re opposed to gay marriage (or ambivalent to it, as I am), there’s something to admire there.