By Michelle Rafferty
In the second part of my conversation with David Sehat, author of The Myth of American Religious Freedom, we discuss the influence of the moral establishment today – on women as well as the gay community. Read on to find out why evangelical Christian families like to keep “sexy” in the family (i.e. the Sarah Palin effect)! For the back-story, go to Part 1.
Me: So marriage is completely transforming. And not just because of gay rights. When the recession hit we heard about a lot of moms taking over the family unit. Young people (pre-adults) are putting marriage off or forgoing it all together (woman no longer needs man). What do these shifts mean, when the moral establishment is concerned?
Sehat: I think the law has evolved in exactly the way that Stanton wanted [for more on Stanton see Part 1]. She essentially wanted no-fault divorces, in which people could decide that it wasn’t working out, for whatever reason. That development in law didn’t occur until the 1970s, which coincided with the dismantling of the moral establishment by the U.S. Supreme Court during and after the 1960s. But I’m not sure that marriage is over. Marriage still involves a powerful set of legal incentives – we’re talking about property rights, hospital visitation, tax benefits. And that’s why many gay activists want gay marriage -to erase the stigma of gay relationships and to gain access to this powerful legal status without having to go pay a lawyer several thousand dollars to arrange for the transfer of assets at death and the various legal protections that come automatically with marriage.
Me: As same-sex marriage becomes legalized in more states, do you foresee the moral establishment…letting it go?
Sehat: I don’t see conservative religious advocates letting it go, because for them marriage is the center-piece of a society in which religious norms are defended in the community as a whole. For religious conservatives, society is not a collection of individuals, but of families. And families are central to the perpetuation of godly norms. Gay marriage is an affront to that ideal and the last place where they can make a stand, since they have lost so much ground with at-fault divorce, the acceptance of sex out of wedlock, etc.
Me: And where exactly in the bible does is say homosexuality is evil? Ooo and that I’m a slave to man? Would you mind refreshing me on those passages?
Sehat: There are a bunch. In addition to the idea that women were created to help man, in Genesis 3:16, after God found out that Adam and Eve had eaten the apple, God says to Eve:
I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing, with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you.
That last part, “and he will rule over you,” is the foundation of Christian patriarchy. There are also examples in the New Testament of women being commanded to stay silent in church and to submit and obey their husbands. Ephesians 5:22:
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.
And there are several negative references to homosexuality. The obvious one is the Sodom and Gomorrah story, which is where we get the term sodomy. And there are some New Testament references, like Romans 1, in which God gave sinful human beings over “shameful lusts” so that men “abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another” (1:26).
Me: Ah, oldies but goodies.
Aren’t there homosexual, or at least homoerotic relationships in the bible?
Sehat: This falls a little outside my expertise, but most homosexual relationships are represented as examples of perversion. But there are relationships between older and younger men, like that between the future King David and the older King Saul, that could be viewed as examples of pederasty, which can have a homoerotic dimension.
Note that pederasty is different than pedophilia, which is how many people see it.
Anyways. I have one last question, and then I’ll let you get back to grading papers! If that’s ok.
Me: Earlier you mentioned how some politicians still encourage females to “behave according to standards.” I started googling and found this website.
See headline: Christian Values vs. The Liberal-Atheist Slutocracy
Sehat: Gosh. I think that might just speak for itself.
Me: haha (and speaking of, there’s a Solomon quote at the top).
Sehat: Nice. I didn’t see that Song of Solomon quote. There appears to be a strain of evangelical Christian culture that celebrates sexuality but tries to keep it within the family. I guess that is the idea here. Those sexy women who spread it around turn into, in the site’s charming phrase, “old ugly skanks.” But those sexy women who keep it in the family become…Sarah Palin, I guess.
Me: Keeping it in the family. Interesting…
Sehat: Sarah Palin is a phenomenon unto herself, though, so I wouldn’t necessarily want to try to explain her success.
Me: ha, well, Palin is probably a good cut-off point, no? As always, I’ve learned a lot!
Sehat: Cool. Have a great rest of the day.
Me: You too!