In response to "Tocqueville's" challenge to articulate a systematic point of view in regard to same-sex marriage, I have composed the following (which also appears in the comment section of the previous post):

1. The facts on the ground have changed. Same-sex "rights" are here to stay. I am still waiting to hear who agrees with Sommerville's premise that same-sex persons are entitled to all rights short of marriage, including civil unions. Are you ready for that?

No matter, we are going to have that much, at least. Perhaps that is a way station toward the redefinition of marriage. Only time will tell. But we are going to give away legal recognition as part of the negotiation to "protect marriage." That is what is ahead of us.

2. What does it mean? As a fairly traditional Baptist, I agree with my previously quoted friend: "homosexuality and same-sex marriage are not part of God's plan for our lives" (although I am troubled with what to do with persons whom I believe to be genuinely "wired" toward that form of self expression).

I intend to attend churches that uphold my traditional view of marriage. I intend to raise my children in accord with my beliefs.

However, I do not think legal recognition, or even same-sex marriages alone, will fundamentally alter what marriage is. Marriage will continue to be what mainstream, heterosexual and religious marriage partners make of it.

Marriage is in trouble--but not because of a homosexual assault. Marriage is in trouble because we have ceased to value marriage.

3. Why am I willing to allow divorce and adultery and same-sex marriage? I see it as part of the experiment in liberty. Because I do not believe that same-sex marriage fundamentally alters my freedom of expression, religion, speech, etc., I will accept the loss of collective moral strength in the name of free will.

Public morality in America (under our peculiar system of government) is all about consensus. For example, slavery was moral (or amoral) until a majority said it was immoral. Use of alcohol was moral, amoral, immoral and then amoral again. Abortion is an issue still under consideration. Public homosexuality is an issue still under consideration (but headed in a certain direction).

There are myriad public issues that are moral in character and, therefore, informed by our religious orientation.

However, an American Christian must, at times, be willing to lay aside his specific religious beliefs in the public square. For example, Christians who do not pay taxes because they do not believe in war or capital punishment may be good Christians, but they are bad Americans.

I am willing to lay aside my religiously informed view of homosexuality and same-sex marriage as we decide this public issue. That is, I am still a Christian believing and teaching that the "homosexual lifestyle" is not God's plan for our lives, but I am also an American participating in a public discussion, knowing that not all Americans will be persuaded by my particular religious beliefs. And, under our system, there is no compelling reason why they should be.

Therefore, I know that I must make a bifurcated argument. One that speaks to my particular religious community and one that speaks to the community as a whole.

4. Fairness. If the religious component is de-emphasized in the discussion, which it must be, if we are to speak to the community as a whole, then my arguments, in that case, must appeal to reason and principles of equality and justice and utility and the greater good.

At that point, the opponents of same-sex marriage must meet a much stricter standard of argument. Therefore, my questions: in a world of exceptions, why not make an exception for same-sex marriage? Why do we forgive opposite-sex offenders but not same-sex offenders?

And I hear your answer: same-sex marriage will "cut the legs off" of the institution of marriage, procreation will cease and we will be doomed as a species.

And, as I say, I do not agree. I do not see same-sex marriage as that type of threat. I do not see this as "Tocqueville" describes it, as "THE central moral and political crisis of our day." Not even close.

PS Opponents of same-sex marriage must be prepared to answer my questions articulately and completely, under my bifurcated criterion, if you want to prevail.

5. I admit that I am ambivalent on same-sex marriage. On one hand, I can say without equivocation: not for me. "As for me and my house...." On the other hand, as I say, I have sympathy for the small percentage of individuals who have same-sex orientations. What is to happen to them?

As I have written previously, my "principled case" for same-sex marriage is the same case for opposite-sex marriage sans procreation. (Although, as we have discussed, technology is changing the debate there as well.) If marriage is an institution that promotes stability, and we accept homosexuals as full-fledged citizens, why should they not be accorded the benefits of the institution? And why is it not in our interest to stabilize the homosexual community?

6. As for the ambiguity in my call to arms: mea culpa. Let me be clear. I believe we are in the midst of a moral crisis. But the same-sex issue is not a major theater of that war. I keep calling it a symptom of the greater disease. By that I mean: the same-sex folks are knocking on the door because they realize marriage doesn't mean much to us anymore. And they realize they have us over a barrel. They know that it will appear hypocritical for us to scream that we are protecting marriage, even as we have devalued it mercilessly over the last few generations.

The real battle is in our churches, our neighborhoods and our schools. The conservative fight is the fight for traditional "republican" virtues: morality, frugality, independence, public service, selflessness, community, etc.

Same-sex marriage is merely a distraction.

FTR: I should note that Okie Gardener's original posting on sex, marriage and same-sex marriage talked more about sex and marriage than same-sex marriage. Bravo. The RCA is doing the right thing in that regard. We obviously disagree in re the importance of same-sex marriage, but my hat is off to churches who are working to build stronger families.