FaithWorld

from Reihan Salam:

Are we having the wrong marriage debate?

The marriage debate is entering a new phase. As recently as 1996, a Gallup survey found that 68 percent of Americans opposed civil marriage rights for same-sex couples. On May 8 of this year, Gallup released a report which found that only 48 percent were opposed to same-sex marriage while 50 percent were in favor. The next day, in an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC News, President Barack Obama announced that he too favored the legal recognition of same-sex marriage, a move that delighted social liberals, many of whom believed that the president’s previous tepid opposition was rooted in political concerns rather than real conviction.

Even in the months since, the legal and political ground has continued to shift in favor of same-sex marriage. Just this week, a divided panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal Defense of Marriage Act, a law that limits federal recognition of marriages to couples consisting of one man and one woman, is unconstitutional. Meanwhile, ballot initiatives aiming to uphold laws authorizing same-sex civil marriage are leading in Maine, Maryland and Washington. Perhaps most strikingly, a re-energized Romney campaign has made little effort to capitalize on opposition to same-sex marriage.

Opponents of the practice have no intention of throwing in the towel; nor is it inevitable that the legal and political efforts of advocates will continue to succeed. In November, Sherif Girgis, Robert P. George, and Ryan T. Anderson are releasing What Is Marriage?, a vigorous intellectual critique of the case for same-sex civil marriage that has attracted wide attention in traditionalist circles. Moreover, opponents have achieved a number of political victories at the state and local level, most notably in North Carolina in May of this year.

Yet the deeper problem for opponents, as the political theorist Peter Berkowitz argued in a 2005 Policy Review article on “The Courts, the Constitution, and the Culture of Freedom,” is that what Girgis, George, and Anderson refer to as the conjugal view of marriage, in which procreation and lifelong marital fidelity are central, has been supplanted by a very different view. As Berkowitz put it, “children, once at the center of marriage, have now become negotiable, and what used to be negotiable -- love, companionship, sex -- has moved to the center.” The legal recognition of same-sex marriage thus represents “an adaptation of law to a profound change in social meaning.”

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In light of this deeper shift, one wonders if we have been having the wrong marriage debate all along. Though no one should discount the importance of the marital aspirations of same-sex couples, it is not the only marriage issue we face. The share of poor and middle-income American adults actually living in stable marriages has been hitting new lows.

from Bernd Debusmann:

America’s Republican extremists

The United States is in grave danger from domestic enemies:  Infiltrators from the Muslim Brotherhood have wormed their way into sensitive government positions, Communists wield influence in the House of Representatives, and President Barack Obama hates America and is trying to dismantle, brick by brick, the American Dream.

The first two assertions - Muslim infiltrators and Communists in Congress - come from Republican members of Congress. The third comes from the host of the radio talk show with the biggest audience in the United States. All three merit pondering about the current state of the Republican Party, a mainstay of American democracy for more than 150 years.

A brief look at the details of the claims first. In June, Michele Bachmann, a member of the House Intelligence Committee, said in a radio interview that "it appears there has been deep penetration in the halls of our United States government by the Muslim Brotherhood." In letters that came to light in mid-July, she asked the inspectors general of four government departments to launch inquiries into the depth of Muslim penetration.

from Tales from the Trail:

Santorum staffer questions whether God wants women presidents

A staffer in Rick Santorum's presidential campaign is under fire for an email suggesting a female commander-in-chief could be at odds with the Bible's teachings.

The Des Moines Register last week reported that Santorum's Iowa coalitions director, Jamie Johnson, sent an email over the summer asking, ‘Is it God’s highest desire, that is, his biblically expressed will … to have a woman rule the institutions of the family, the church, and the state?"

Michele Bachmann, a social conservative who campaigned heavily in Iowa, competed with Santorum over the conservative evangelical vote in the Iowa caucuses. She dropped out of the race after a dismal finish in the Iowa race.

from Tales from the Trail:

Door-knocking Romney reprises missionary days

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney could be excused for having flashbacks to the 1960s when he went door to door in Berlin, New Hampshire, on Thursday.

The former Massachusetts governor worked in France as a Mormon missionary from 1966 to 1968, one of the church's thousands of earnest young men (mostly) who knock on doors and proselytize. At that point Romney had plenty of doors slammed in his face, but on Thursday, not so much.

"This is a lot easier," Romney quipped to Reuters. "People speak English. They wish you Merry Christmas. They don't think you're a salesman. People used to come to the door [in France] and wag their fingers: 'No, I don't want anything.'"

Sleepy French hamlet seen at threat from Apocalypse sects


(Pic de Bugarach, 14 November 2007/Thierry Strub)

The tiny southern French hamlet of Bugarach has drawn scrutiny from a government sect watchdog over droves of visitors who believe it is the only place in the world that will survive a 2012 Apocalypse. A report by the watchdog, Miviludes, published Wednesday said the picturesque village near Carcassonne should be monitored in the run-up to December 21, 2012, when many believe the world will end according to an ancient Mayan prophecy.

Miviludes was set up in 2002 to track the activity of sects, after a law passed the previous year made it an offence to abuse vulnerable people using heavy pressure techniques, meaning sects can be outlawed if there is evidence of fraud or abuse.

Surrounded in legend for centuries, Bugarach and its rocky outcrop, the Pic de Bugarach, have attracted an influx of New Age visitors in recent months, pushing up property prices but also raising the threat of financial scams and psychological manipulation, Miviludes said in its report. “I think we need to be careful. We shouldn’t get paranoid, but when you see what happened at Waco in the United States, we know this kind of thinking can influence vulnerable people,” Miviludes president Georges Fenech told Reuters.