What makes a gentleman?
Today, we call any man who conducts himself with distinction and grace a â€œgentleman.â€ But in the preface to his classic book, Mere Christianity, author C.S. Lewis gives a historical background on the word:
â€œThe word gentleman originally meant something recognizable; one who had a coat of arms and some landed property.â€
This meaning can be borne out by independent research as well. Lewis goes on to write:
â€œWhen you called someone â€˜a gentleman\’ you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a fact. If you said he was not â€˜a gentleman\’ you were not insulting him, but giving information.â€
Lewis then describes how certain people argued, prevailing so, that the thing that mattered about a being â€˜a gentleman\’ was not whether one had a coat of arms and land but that one behaved in a particular fashion. The ultimate consequence of this argument is that â€œgentlemanâ€â€”a word that once held a specific meaningâ€”has been altogether redefined and rendered useless for its original purpose
So, in light of recent discussions on same-sex “marriage”, what do you thin would be the perspective of a Christian gentleman.
For one, I think he’d caution us that certain words with specific meaning and rich tradition can be lost in one generation if not faithfully defended from redefinition no matter how noble the sentiment.
President Barack Obama has made public his personal belief that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community should be allowed to have same-sex â€œmarriagesâ€. Previously, President Obama had been a longtime advocate for â€œcivil unions.â€
Here\’s a quick primer on the differences:
|Federal Status||Marriages are afforded the right to many federal health, tax and other benefits.||States that allow some type of same-sex union are able to grant only state rights. The Defense of Marriage Act passed in 1996 prohibits same-sex couples from receiving federal marriage rights and benefits.|
|Portability||Marriages from any state are recognized in every state.||Because civil unions are the statutory creation of certain states, they do not have to be recognized by all states. Such agreements are not always valid when same-sexcouples cross state lines.|
While these are the two biggest legislative issues, the major distinguishing factors between “civil unions” and “marriages” is the dignity and rich heritage afforded the term â€œmarriage.â€ The emotive power behind the choice of words is not lost on same-sex marriage advocates nor is it lost on President Obama who commented, â€œI had hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient. I was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people, the word marriage was something that invokes very powerful traditions and religious beliefs.â€
President Obama went on to explain how his Christian faith informed this decision for he and Michelle Obama:
â€œThe thing at root that we think about is, not only Christ sacrificing himself on our behalf, but it\’s also the golden rule â€” you know, treat others the way you would want to be treated. And I think that\’s what we try to impart to our kids, and that\’s what motivates me as president.â€
It seems that not only is the term marriage up for redefinition for President Obama, but also the meaning of the â€œGolden Rule.â€
How about the term “democracy?” Has that one been redefined? My Social Studies class taught me that democracy was where representatives voted the will of the people. Well the states have overwhelmingly expressed a preference to limit the term â€œmarriageâ€ as expressed by the fact thatÂ 39 of 50 states have taken action to protect â€œmarriageâ€ as traditionally defined between man and woman.Â Only 11 of 50 states recognize or have legalized same-sex marriage. See details below.
Ultimately, the hearts of our nation will not be determined by politicians in Washington but by you and meâ€”the people on the ground at the grocery store and office and neighborhood park who have the opportunity to let our lights shine before our neighbors, co-workers, family and friends.
Same-Sex Marriage in the United States
|Same-sex marriage legalized:||Connecticut, District of Columbia, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont
Laws not yet in effect: Washington (November 2012), Maryland (January 1, 2013)
|Same-sex marriage recognized, but not performed:||California# Maryland Rhode Island|
|Civil union or domestic partnership legal:||California, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, Wisconsin|
|Same-sex marriage prohibited by statute:||Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, West Virginia, Wyoming|
|Same-sex marriage prohibited by constitutional amendment:||Alaska, Arizona, California#, Colorado, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Tennessee|
|All types of same-sex unions prohibited by constitutional amendment:||Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Wisconsin|
|Recognition of same-sex unions undefined by statute or constitutional amendment:||American Samoa, Guam, New Mexico|
# California’s laws on marriage are complicated: All out-of-state same-sex marriages are given the benefits of marriage under California law, although only those performed before November 5, 2008, are granted the designation “marriage”. The constitutional ban on same-sex marriage remains in limbo following a federal case finding the ban unconstitutional, which is currently stayed pending appeal.