Alternative Political Conversation

APC Topic Index

Instructions for APC

Primary Contributers

Same-Sex Marriage: Living with our Deepest Differences

Two facts stand out in my thinking about same-sex marriage . One is that putting same-sex unions on par with traditional, male-female marriages is to water down the whole concept of marriage and what it is. And marriage and family life is already being battered by many modern currents to the detriment of the common good of society. The second fact is that men and women with a same-sex orientation have, to our shame, often been treated unjustly by society, including by many Christians. They have been discriminated against in employment, bullied at school, and made the butt of jokes. In what admittedly is a very sensitive area, the question thereby becomes how to protect and defend marriage as it has rightly been understood and at the same time treat those with a same-sex orientation with the respect they as God’s image bearers deserve.

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What is Marriage?

In a pluralistic society such as the United States, the connection between God’s intended purposes for marriage and public policy must be made using arguments that carry weight with those for whom scripture is not a credible source. This is not to say that the biblical witness has no bearing on the public square. Indeed, the truths of scripture are manifest throughout the creation, which allows Christians to make biblical arguments without relying on scripture explicitly, relying instead on logic, sociology, history, science, and other means.

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TOPIC # 7: Same-Sex Marriage

Please consider the following potential leading questions


#1: What do you believe to be the meaning of “marriage,” and how does that meaning relate to what politicians say about “family values” and your own understanding of “family values?”


#2: Given that there is significant disagreement in our pluralistic society, both within and outside of religious bodies, as to the meaning of “marriage,” what role, if any, should government play in setting public policies that embrace one particular meaning?


#3: Since same sex marriage is now legal in some states and is likely to become legal in others, what steps can and should be taken to protect the freedom of persons and organizations with religious objections to same sex relationships from having to take part in, support, or in some ways treat same sex couples in the same manner as traditional, heterosexual couples? 


#4: Since having a variety of state laws on the subject of same sex marriage leads to legal confusions and conundrums, should there be a federal law or Constitutional amendment that establishes one policy on same sex marriage (either outlawing or providing for it) for the entire nation?


#5: It is argued that to allow civil unions for all couples, but to limit “marriage” to heterosexual couples, is a form of unjust discrimination. What is your assessment of this argument?


#6: It has been argued that government should, for the most part, get out of the business of sanctioning marriage vows for any couples, thereby enabling any couple, heterosexual or same-sex, to identify that Church or civic authority (e.g., a Justice of the Peace) whose beliefs and practices allow for their marriage to administer marriage vows. What is your assessment of this argument?


When will we weep?

In the course of history, moments come and go when leaders rise up and they lead. Such moments happen every day in families, churches, and communities across the country. Most times most of us never learn their names, but the world is a better place because they spoke, they set the course for action, and they counted and paid the costs of leadership. On the national stage of history such leaders have not only shaped the course of American life. Their passion, their words, and their actions have shaped America.

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Clear Mandate, Complex Solutions

Poverty is a complex problem with many deep-rooted causes. Although the biblical mandate to care for the poor is quite clear, the search for solutions will lead well-meaning Christians to different conclusions. In the following essay, I will consider some biblical principles that offer us guidance and suggest a few examples of public and private remedies that may help address the problem of poverty in the United States.

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Poverty in the United States

The United States is blessed with many God-given advantages that have contributed to the prosperity of our nation. But several key developments over the last 50 years have weakened our nation economically, contributed to growing income inequality, and entrenched a multigenerational underclass.

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Economic Justice as Moral Duty

Let me begin with my main claim: the fact that poverty continues to be found within America is an offence against the Gospel. The existence of pervasive poverty--46 million people, according to the Census Bureau--in a country as wealthy as the United States is not something that is merely sad or unfortunate or unpleasant, but more than all these, it is something immoral: it violates norms, founded in Scripture, concerning how human beings living in stable societies should care for each other.

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Poor in the U.S.A

These examples illustrate a critical point in any conversation about poverty in America today. There are two kinds: short-term and long-term. Generally speaking, it is the difference between someone whose temporary life circumstances have resulted in insufficiently adequate income to meet basic needs versus someone whose inability to provide for themselves is, essentially, permanently fixed. Public policy is devised to recognize this distinction and adapt accordingly. The crux of the argument is how government services can best help move poor individuals from positions of temporary poverty to self-sustenance.

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Two Half Answers to Poverty

Last fall the U.S. Census Bureau reported that the number of our fellow Americans living in poverty had increased for the fourth consecutive year. It found that 15 percent, or 46 million persons, are living in poverty, up some two and half million persons in one year. Forty-six million is not a mere number. It represents great human suffering and destroyed dreams. It means 46 million persons facing a daily struggle merely to survive. This is no small matter.

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Please consider the following potential leading questions.


#1: What are the root causes of poverty in the United States?


#2: Whatever you believe are the cause(s) of poverty in the United States, what roles do you envision for the following “actors” in addressing the cause(s): government (national, state, or local); individual initiative, faith-based organizations, charities, and other mediating institutions of civil society; the workings of a “strong, growing, free enterprise economy?”


#3: Do you perceive a growing gap between the rich and the poor in the United States? If so, do you view that as problematic? Why? And, if you see that as a problem, how can it best be addressed?


#4: What social programs, if any, are most conducive to minimizing poverty in the United States (e.g., welfare cash payments, job training, housing programs, health services)? 


#5: What “tax policies” are most conducive to minimizing poverty in the United States?


#6: In your opinion are the positions taken by one of the political parties or presidential candidates this year particularly helpful or particularly unhelpful in addressing the issue of poverty in the United States?"

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