Saturday, April 6, 2013

Divorced Michael Reagan: Casting the First Stone at Same-Sex Marriage

Before Michael Reagan launches into a diatribe about the evils of same-sex marriage, he might want to review the Bible's view on divorce. He might not be able to look at himself in the mirror.

Michael Reagan was on Piers Morgan the other night giving (free of charge) his opinions on gay marriage. He said he didn't believe in it. Piers also called upon Reagan to explain his recent op-ed piece in which he equates same-sex marriage to “polygamy, bestiality, and perhaps even murder.”
It's not an original argument, of course. Limbaugh and Beck and Bachmann and so many other lunatics have trotted it out time after time.

In that article, Reagan called upon churches of all denominations to "fight back" unless they were cowards who were "afraid to lose their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status by engaging in political activity." (A taunt that could prove costly to many violating organizations if the IRS could ever be roused from its slumber.) 

Reagan wrote:
Where’s the moral outrage? Why aren’t thousands of our pastors, priests and rabbis shouting from their pulpits? Why aren’t they leading their congregations through the streets in mass protest?
In itself the rant combined hysteria, false equivalencies and a dash of macho bravado. Standard fare from the religious Right Wing nowadays.
Are they Are they afraid to be derided as religious nuts and cultural Cro-Magnons by the liberal media?
Or are our churches and their comfortable leaders simply no longer willing to fight for what is right?
A concern troll with a famous name. A psychoanalyst could say that Michael Reagan is a searching for the kind of attention from the public that he never got from his father. Whatever.

However, what Piers really wanted Reagan to explain was this:
There is also a very slippery slope leading to other alternative relationships and the unconstitutionality of any law based on morality. Think about polygamy, bestiality, and perhaps even murder.
Gay marriage and murder? As repugnant as it is to give a wider platform to people with such absurd ideas, it is important to call them out and have them explain precisely what they mean. To take responsibility for their lunacy. Reagan defended his view in the interview, by stating:
“I think if you accept the redefinition of marriage then you’re going to have to accept the redefinition all the way down the line.”
Whether such backward notions are rooted in ignorance or in hypocrisy is hard to know. But Reagan's remark sparked my interest. (The results of the research, I think, will amuse you.)

In the modern age, the definition of the institution of marriage has never been static, despite what Reagan would have you believe. This is, by no means, not the only time there have been religious questions about the details of a traditional marriage. For instance, take its attitude on what was once such a controversial subject that it ended up splitting the Catholic Church.

Divorce as Adultery

Since the formation of the faith, the Church has always taken a dim view of divorce. The New Testament's view on divorce is far more unequivocal than its view on same-sex marriage. 
Need proof? There's plenty to find in the New Testament.
The book of Matthew, specifically in Matthew 19:9, states:
I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery."
That definitive statement is repeated in  The Book of Luke
"Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
In the Book of Mark:
He answered, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her.
And again in 1 Corinthians:
To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband.
But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
Not much wiggle room there. 
Even then, according to The Shepherd of Hermas, once considered canonical scripture by some of the early Church fathers, declared that if the wife repented her sins and showed contrition, then the husband had to take her back.  (No mention of the husband's sins, of course.)
That rejection of divorce was a response to the dominant "liberal" Roman view that considered marriage merely a contract that could be dissolved at any time.  Virtual pagans that we are, this is the basis for modern law, based not on Church principles but on practicalities. 

The State and the Church might share in a common morality on many subjects but laws are not based on religious doctrine. In this case, the law of the land- supported by secular governments- decided that it was far more immoral to force unhappy couples to remain united in marriage. (Conversely, it could be argued that it is far more immoral to deny the happiness- as well as the equal legal recognition- of couples who have decided to be united in marriage.) 

The Church's Double Standard

This religious attitude of "holy matrimony" and eventually became a strict principle of the Church. The idea is so fixed that it appears in the traditional Catholic marriage vow in the line, "What God has joined, men must not divide." 
Certainly that should include divorce lawyers and secular lawmakers.
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One Catholic site, -written for the layperson in painfully "hip" style- explains it this way:
Marriage was instituted by God with Adam and Eve, one man, one woman and was given to all races. After the fall of man, marriage got all screwed up, and the devil has been at war on marriage and families ever since. When Jesus came he did something new for those who believed in him. He made marriage a sacrament.
For Christians, according to the Church, the sacrament is all important. Without it, a Christian is not in communion with God. They become a non-entity in the eyes of God. 
When Christians get married properly, there is a special kind of power from the Holy Spirit that lands on them and permanently seals the marriage until death and gives them Grace to live out their vows. This is the sacrament of marriage, an "indelible" seal, which can never be broken, regardless of any decree from any human authority, including the Church or even the Pope himself (Catechism #1640).
And yet, as Michael Reagan should well know, today there are millions of Christians breaking this indelible seal, in direct contravention of Church doctrine. Priests and pastors and rabbis don't seem to have too much problem marrying couples that have been divorced.
Well, I have news for them.
Each and every one of these people, at least according to the Church, are living as adulterers, bigamists and- well, fornicating sinners. 
So why aren't Catholic priests decrying society's practically-universal acceptable for divorce? Where is the moral outrage? Why aren't they fighting?

If the clergy were ever fighting a battle against divorce, it seems like they pretty much surrendered in defeat. Since the 1970s, a number of countries, such as Italy (1970) Portugal (1975) Spain (1981) and Ireland (1996) and Malta (2011), countries which are overwhelming Roman Catholic, have allowed couples to divorce. Society did not collapse.

Despite the blitzkrieg of separating couples, there was barely a whimper from the pulpit. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the divorce rate of first marriage is around 50 percent; second marriages are at 60 to 67 percent and third marriages are at 73 to 74 percent.

Why isn't the church being so lax about such a major breach of faith? Why is it wasting time worrying itself so unduly about the comparatively minuscule numbers of gay couples who want to marry? In fact, you'd think by their endorsement of divorce (through silence) and their stand on gay marriage, that the church leaders just don't like marriage in general.

But they have a good reason for their opposition to gays getting married and the reason is very simple. Gays are a minority who have the mixed blessing of being able to blend in (at least superficially) to the rest of society. They may not choose to be gay but they can choose to hide it and, to falsify their lives. And they cannot, under any circumstances, display their love openly like the rest of society.

As long as they pretend, they can have the blessing of the Church and the approval of society. Not what most of think of as a recipe for happiness. In truth, people like that are easier to bully into silence.

That was once true for women too. As most women already know, silence in the face of brutality and oppression denotes the consent of the victim. If you don't say "NO" you mean "maybe." If you don't demand your rights, you might as kiss them goodbye.

However, It is difficult to form a unified political response when there are places where being openly gay can be dangerous for your health. There are still places inside US borders where politicians can make outlandish but irresponsible remarks about gay citizens with any political repercussions in their own community.

So, for people like Michael Reagan, it is quite easy to tell that small number of very quiet people what they can and cannot do. But just try to imagine the reaction to Reagan's rant would be if it had been aimed at the huge number of divorced couples?

Happily Sinning Couples

Here's where it gets really interesting.
As mentioned above, since divorce is not sanctioned by the Church, second marriages would, in turn, not be recognized.  That's bad news for Michael Reagan.  He was divorced in 1971 after one year of marriage and re-married in 1975. 
Sinning Adulterer, Check.

But hold on, there's an even more amusing side. What about his famous father? Reagan was, in fact, America's first divorced president. Nancy Reagan was not Reagan's first wife. As it was Reagan's second marriage, in the eyes of the Church, (the same critical eyes that take such a negative view of marriage equality of gay couples) the President and the first lady were actually living in sin. 
Dreadful! Steeped in adulterous sin, these people were allowed to occupy the White House? What's next? Murderers, and polygamists? Bestiality? (Think of the farm animals, the next time you vote, people.)

I've only gotten started. Let's keep digging.
Lucky for him, Micheal was adopted before Reagan's second marriage. So his parent's sinning ways shouldn't affect his soul. Reagan was formerly married to Jane Wyman. Since Michael Reagan was the adopted son of Jane Wyman and Ronald Reagan, he would be safe from any moral outrage and would only have been a bastard only in the non-technical sense. 

But not so fast, fellow-researchers. Think again. That was Jane Wyman's second marriage! (Her first marriage was to a man with the lovely name of Myron Martin Futterman.)  
Therefore, the Reagan-Wyman marriage would already have been considered adulterous. And yes, before you ask, according to her biographical notes, Jane Wyman's religion is listed as Roman Catholic.
So, Michael Reagan, future adulterer, was adopted by a pair of adulterers. (Ronald Reagan was, therefore, a fornificator times two, if we stick to what the Bible says. As far as Michael Reagan, I am not sure what that makes him in the eyes of the Church but I think that "B" word ain't the kind of language fit for high society.

Based on Michael Reagan's own logic, he should be outraged that his own mother and father, who- no doubt, swimming in the moral muck of Hollywood, chose to ignore the clear prohibitions based long-established religious tenets on marriage. Not once, but twice! He should also be upset about the adoption which put him smack-dab in the middle of a union practically drenched in sin.

Open and Affirming

However, there's quite a different story when we turn to Michael's adopted father, Ronald Reagan. Reagan's father was also a Roman Catholic but, according to his biography, he was raised in his mother's Disciples of Christ denomination.

The Disciples of Christ Church is what is called as a congregational church, meaning each congregation determines the nature of its worship. The Disciples of Chris) believe that "it is in the local congregations where people come, find, and know God as they gather in Christ's name. "

In other words, each individual congregation has the autonomy to discern on issues such as marriage equality and come to their own unique decision. Quite the opposite of the hierarchical rule of the Roman Catholic Church based on unquestionable dogma.
Incidentally, Michael Reagan's half-sister, Patti Davis, with the magical power to divine what her dead father would have thought recently claimed that Ronald Reagan would have endorsed same-sex marriage. Perhaps. Maybe he, unlike his adopted son, would have searched his soul, recalled the religious instruction of his youth and given his stamp of approval. (For whatever that's worth.) I rather doubt it. I imagine he would instead have listened to poll-conscious advisers or the evangelical crowd that followed him, like poorly house-trained raccoons,  into the White House.

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And now for the good news.
Although Michael Reagan is probably not aware of it, at least one small congregation of his father's church, The Douglass Boulevard Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky has decided to embrace a more modern view
"In 2008, the church voted to become an Open and Affirming Congregation, which means it welcomes persons of all sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions."
It was not an easy decision to make in a less-than-progressive state like Kentucky. But the congregation did not stop there. In 2010, after 18 months of prayer and deliberation, the Church decided to end the practice of signing marriage licenses because the licenses give legal benefits to heterosexual couples that aren’t available to homosexual couples. That's the kind of moral outrage that's hard to find in the evangelical Church.
Senior Pastor Derek Penwell explained:
"We thought a statement that said we would no longer sign marriage licenses until all couples – both heterosexual and homosexual – were treated equally would be the approach to take.”
“We took this position because we think we have a responsibility to pursue just and equitable arrangements for all people in our congregation, regardless of their race, gender and sexual orientation."
Calm thoughtful decisions like that, true to the once-welcoming heart of the Christian creed,  sure beat shouting from the pulpits and tussling with potential converts.
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Here's the problem for people like Michael Reagan. 
Once you start getting into the act of judging the personal lives of others based on ancient religious doctrine there's no telling where you'll end up. (Especially when you decide to pick and choose which parts of the Bible to support.) 
It's what they call a "slippery slope."  
Because in this world there's always somebody doing something somewhere that can provoke disappointed sanctimonious frowns and moral outrages. The degrees of sin are vast and there's nearly always somebody that throw stones at, if people are so inclined. (Stone-throwers usually start on women and move to gays and lesbians soon after.)

And, sadly there will always be people like Michael Reagan, (adulterer and son of adulterer!) who are ready to launch a noisy crusade against sinners... like himself.