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Sightings: "The Hard Middle" by Martin E. Marty

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  • umcornet
    Monday, March 1, 2004 Sightings The Hard Middle -- Martin E. Marty Sensible Center Is Lost in Gay Marriage Debate headlines a column by Cokie and Steven
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 1, 2004
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      Monday, March 1, 2004
      The Hard Middle -- Martin E. Marty

      "Sensible Center Is Lost in Gay Marriage Debate" headlines a column
      by Cokie and Steven Roberts, who have the misfortune of not having
      been born or having developed as ideologues. Their approach is rare
      in these days when politically the fire-power and firing come from
      hard-liners on both extremes, and will grow more rare as this year of
      political destruction continues. So it goes in the religiously fired-
      up secular world.

      In the ecclesiastical world, all U.S. church bodies except the
      Unitarian-Universalist and United Church of Christ, who have "moved
      on" from the issue, find moderators, presbyters, bishops, presidents,
      and lay leaders quaking as they foresee disastrous splits when their
      bodies take a vote on "gay marriage" or on ordaining homosexuals who
      are in committed relationships.

      On that front, in my (ELCA) tribe, Luther Seminary professor Marc
      Kolden asks "Can we agree to disagree?" in the Lutheran Forum (Winter
      edition; request at bagnall@...). Agree to disagree on
      essentials like the Trinity or the Incarnation, or on dealing with
      poverty and injustice and homelessness? No, in our epoch the
      armament in churchly "culture wars" is in the hands of warriors over
      sexual themes.

      Kolden would be typed as a conservative and finally opposes
      ordination of gays and blessing of same-sex unions. One does not
      have to follow his theological reasoning or his practical suggestions
      ("Denominations: don't vote on such things!") to find reasons to take
      him seriously when he asks "Can we agree to disagree?" He uses
      Dietrich Bonhoeffer's distinction between ultimate and penultimate
      matters. Thus, "The Church may allow or accept divorce as the best
      solution or at least the lesser evil for a bad marriage, but it
      doesn't endorse or promote divorce." Etc. "So also with same-sex
      unions: the Church may acknowledge them and include persons in such
      unions in its membership, but should not endorse or bless them."

      Cokie and Steven Roberts and Marc Kolden appear linked here not
      because one agrees with their proposals but because of their
      positioning. Often we hear "moderates" and "reconcilers"
      and "peacemakers" dismissed as wishy-washy, mealy-mouthed cowards or
      dreamers. The more Sightings notes political and churchly battles on
      these and other things we find it fair to ask: where is the real
      courage being shown during these unsettled times?

      Line up with the ideologues on either side of any issue in the
      culture wars and you will be fortified by the support of those who
      also have everything simply thought out in a complex world. What
      looks like courage can then be bluster. But step into the middle,
      try to hear both sides, propose ways finally unsatisfactory to both
      sides whose minds are made up and whose fists are shaped, and you
      will find yourself pelted and fired at from both extremes.

      What state and church need these years are the voices of people on
      whom flak from the gunners on both sides now falls. Pity them for
      trying to find what the late Cardinal Bernardin called a "Common
      Ground Initiative" and for which he was almost obscenely attacked.

      So, gentle Robertses and Koldens, keep speaking up quietly -- but
      wear a helmet!

      Columns may be quoted or republished in full, with attribution to the
      author of the column, Sightings, and the Martin Marty Center at the
      University of Chicago Divinity School.
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