Sadly, Kansas Republican Rep. Tim Huelskamp was not joking when he published an op-ed piece in the Washington Times about marriage equality. He might have been intentionally stupid, however.
Mary Elizabeth Williams at AlterNet called it an “onion-like parody of the absurd” and it was certainly that, and so much more. Titled The War on Marriage and Motherhood, this brave Republican defender of womanhood opened his barrage on our shared reality by proclaiming, ” President Obama and I have very different notions of what a family is.”
Good thing he told us. I don’t think anyone would have known, otherwise.
Williams called his piece “unambiguous” . This is true: as in an unambiguous assault on the common sense Huelskamp pretends to be defending. Take a look at Huelskamp’s straw man:
For liberals, the family can apparently be everything from “Heather Has Two Mommies” to “Daddy’s Roommate” to Hillary Rodham Clinton‘s “It Takes a Village.” In the opinion of electoral majorities in Kansas and 40 other states, however, that does not a family make.
For conservatives, the concept of family is the same as the Judeo-Christian model God ordained, a model supported by every other major world religion. It is the same unit recognized by the laws of nature, the laws of government, and civilized societies for thousands of years: one man, married to one woman, with so many children as God should see fit to entrust to their care through birth or adoption. In my case, that means me, Angela (my wife of 18 years), and our four children (who happen to be adopted).
You wouldn’t know from this that there are many more gods – or many less – than Huelskamp proclaims. There were many gods before the God of Abraham and many people now assert there are none. Many others have vastly different conceptions of the divine than Huelskamp.
The term “Judeo-Christian” is a non-starter. As I’ve pointed out before, there is no tying Judaism to Christianity. Christianity spent the better part of its 20 centuries of existence damning Judaism and Jews to hell as “Christ-killers” – those wicked spawn of Satan who put Jesus to death. You can’t fool us now, you know. We all know how you really feel about Jews: people who continue to deny Christ, who need to be perfected.
Judaism has just one God, undivided and indivisible. Christianity has a trinity. There are good reasons Jews have continued, after 2000 years, to reject Jesus. And all that “Jews for Jesus” crap doesn’t fool anybody, least of all actual Jews.
But ideological constructs like “Judeo-Christian” aside, we could look at the reality of marriage (because we certainly can’t look at the marriage of reality and Huelskamp’s conservative Christianity). Judaism did not invent marriage. neither did Christianity. People were getting married a long time before anyone had heard of the hill tribe called Jews, first mentioned in the historical record c. 1220 BCE by the Egyptian pharaoh Merneptah, who had chastised them, and other, more powerful groups, on a tour through Palestine.
Essential to conservative Christian mythology is the idea that marriage is a religious institution. But marriage is not a religious but a social institution, and often a very political one. People were being married long before Moses and without the interference of religious authorities. There is nothing inherently religious about marriage.
But if God ordained marriage and Christians have the only God (and if cave men played with dinosaurs) then, of course, Christians have control of marriage and are in a position to tell us how we can and cannot define it.
Sadly for Huelskamp and their allies, neither history nor science are on their side. Nature abounds with homosexual behavior among animal species. Marriage in the ancient world could include same-sex partners. Even Christians for many centuries cared little about homosexuality, but for all the fuss they make now you would think the entire Bible was written with only homosexuality in mind.
Huelskamp is making a mountain out of a molehill but that is not his chief offense. His chief offense is his soaring hyperbole: claims that marriage equality is somehow unpatriotic and will destroy not only the family, but motherhood itself.
It is too late for conservative Christians to pretend to be protectors of mothers, when so much of their legislation insists mothers must die, and have no rights to their own bodies or reproductive systems. But nobody is taking mothers out of the equation. As long as we have a human race we will have mothers. The existence of other gods and other religions, or of no god at all, does not preclude Christianity and Christians and their God anymore than marriage equality precludes mothers and motherhood.
Having his hyperbolic tiger by the tail, Huelskamp proclaims, “Redefining marriage to remove parents of both sexes from the equation would further the destruction of the family, the most fundamental building block of society. If that definition is changed by the court, the purpose of marriage devolves to mere recognition of an emotional union. In so doing, the children of America will be shortchanged — and the will of the American people would be once again short-circuited by black robes in Washington.”
He warns us that if the Supreme Court does not block Obama, “the high priests and priestesses of political correctness will have done irreparable harm to yet another pillar of the American paradigm for our patriotic, wholesome culture — ‘God, the flag, mom and apple pie.'”
I don’t know about you, but if the Supreme Court does not block Obama, I’m going to honor my gods, fly my flag, and serve myself a hefty serving of apple pie.
Huelskamp is wrong. We will still have families. We will have more families, families of men and women and men and men and women and women. Where is the destruction of the family? Nowhere. The damage done to science and to common sense if Huelskamp gets his way is another matter.