Dishpan Theology (Updated)

March 9th, 2004  |  Published in Uncategorized

If you aren’t up for more queer marriage ruminating, here’s a table of contents:

First things first:

A few posts back I advocated what we could call the “Establishment Clause Dodge” to resolve the queer marriage issue. In a nutshell, I argued it’s best to simply secularize the process so people with a big bone in their throat over calling marriage between two people of the same sex “marriage” could quit the field with honor and retreat to whatever congregations they attend, where they aren’t forced to acknowledge that kind of union.

Some friends we had over for dinner expressed a concern that this approach would protract the process of recognizing queer marriage because of a need for case law to accrete around the recognition of a civil union as a marital equivalent, but that’s not what I was proposing. I was arguing that the act of being in a marriage should be acknowledged as “religious” enough that the state shouldn’t have a say in it, but that the act of being in a domestic partnership with all the benefits of marriage should be considered secular enough that the church folk shouldn’t have a say in that. I believe the most practical, constitutional way to resolve the debate is to break civil marriage off from “holy matrimony,” and call it something that doesn’t imply anything so much “holy” as pragmatic and contractual.

One of the reasons I thought it’d be a good idea to de-religiousize the contract the state recognizes as marriage was to defuse a potential misunderstanding on the part of folk afraid that their churches would be forced to perform queer marriages. It was just a guess on my part that those fears would exist, largely because you can’t be a minister’s kid without being exposed to a lot of well-intentioned (or not so well-intentioned) fear-mongering from a portion of the population that feels radically alienated from the secular culture around it. Every subculture passes around “outrage of the week” tales, whether they’re “atheist boy sat on by principal until he acknowledges god” stories from the backwoods of Alabama or “Methodist martyr girl forced to eat her own bible in front of jeering school assembly” tales from somewhere in the suburbs of Babylon.

As it turns out, at least one local weblogger (Tammy, at Dishpan Dribble) expressed exactly that fear:

“And don’t tell me that the rights of Christians are not going to be infringed upon by gay marriages. How long do you think it will be before our churches will be forced to marry these people under some twisted version of the Constitution?”

There are a few people in the comments to that entry trying to disabuse her of that notion (including a good delineation between religious and civil marriage by b!X, who’s doing ace coverage of the local news on this issue), but at least one other commenter who apparently left gratified that Tammy had pointed out an angle she’d never considered.

It seems clear to me, though, that the Establishment Clause Dodge is doomed.

Tammy’s convinced queer marriage is a homintern ploy to get at tax exemptions, and folks who aren’t against queer marriage are split on how eager they are to accept a less objectionable term for their marriage contracts than “marriage.” I think I’ll just be showing up wherever licking stamps or demonstrating to fight the remaining anti-marriage measures takes place, because it’s clear the debate has been framed around the words “gay marriage,” regardless of how uselessly inflammatory that is to a defensive and self-marginalized portion of the population.

And now to our Theology Minute:

The Theology Minute: Once Saved Always Saved? Says Who?

Outside of coming from a denomination that had a fairly long tradition of not bothering with the secular world’s laws except to get the secular world to leave it alone (which fuels a lot of my discomfort with the people in front of the Multnomah Co. Courthouse waving scripture signs… why wake the beast that is the state and get it to renege on a century of honoring, for instance, conscientious objection), I don’t think my baptism preparation class had a lot to say about the nature of salvation outside “Get saved and be good.” I always assumed that my salvation wasn’t dependent on a single act of submission to God/acknowledgement of Christ as it was on my ongoing acknowledgement of Christ and continued attempts at acting like him. But a commentor on Tammy’s site notes:

“Tammy believes in a doctrine that is colloquially know as “once saved, always saved”, which means that even if [someone] were to become a consort of the devil, so long as he once accepted Jesus as his personal savior he’s got an express ticket to heaven when he passes away.”

I found that positively novel. I know I’ve got at least one minister who checks in here now and then as well as a friend or two who are pretty up on a few variations of mainline protestantism in the US. Exactly where do we find this doctrine in use? I’ve gotta say I’m not buying it. As much as it might be a nice escape clause, I’m not real thrilled with eleven-year-old me being allowed to make binding deals with any particular team, regardless of the debauchery this doctrine would seem to allow for.

Update: Tammy was kind enough to show up in the talkbacks and point out that the “once saved always saved” school of thought is more often referred to as “eternal security.”


Googling has yielded a boatload of results, including an unfortunate preponderance of damnation talk from some decidedly unhappy folk and a few attempts to compare/contrast the belief with the Calvinist “Perseverance” doctrine, which Ed helpfully summed up as such in a quick IM session:

The Reformed (Calvinist) Perspective says: God decided long ago whether you were going to be saved or not. Things that happen in your life, like Sinners’ Prayers, are at best evidence of that decision. You can do nothing about it. Get on with your life and do what’s right without trying to earn salvation by it. Oh, a corrolary: If you’re worried about whether or not you’re elect, you’re probably elect. Stop worrying about it.

As Lenin said to Trotsky, it makes the head swim.

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