Third Way: Is a path possible between opposites?

An On Off switchGood vs. Evil.

Sacred vs. Profane.

Liberal vs. Conservative.

Seeing the world as patterns of opposites is a universal human phenomenon. Think, for example, of our polarized politics: Republicans vs. Democrats.

Or consider the debate about same-sex marriage that we covered last week on OurValues. For many Americans, it comes down to the question: Right vs. Wrong. The irony is that many people on each sides in the same-sex marriage debate see themselves as right—and their opponents as wrong.

A THIRD WAY?

Our question this week: Is there a possible pathway through the opposites?

Seeing the world as dualities is so common that anthropologists, historians, and sociologists have observed it around the world and throughout history. The perception may arise from the essential conditions of human experience, where we observe apparent dualities like night/day, male/female, life/death, and so on. These observations of everyday experience translate into more abstract dualities in modern life.

Consider, for example, the LGBT issue that confronts churches today. Seen as a pattern of opposites, the issue pits those who offer an inclusive approach against those who want to exclude or limit members of the LGBT community.

There is another way, a way beyond the opposition. Ken Wilson calls it the Third Way and talks about it in his book, A Letter to My Congregation. Essentially, he says that we can agree to disagree “in order to be together based on common values—concerns we do share.” The LGBT issue is a “disputable matter” and we should err on the side of side of full inclusion.

Wilson bases his approach on the counsel of Paul to the church in Rome. As Wilson summarizes, “It recognizes that we can enjoy a deep unity in the Spirit, indeed have an obligation to guard this unity given, despite having severe disagreements over important moral questions. In other words, our unity in the Spirit transcends our shared moral consensus.”

The Third Way—a way beyond opposites—applies in many areas of life, as we’ll see all week.

What do you think of Wilson’s argument—that there is a Third Way?

Is there a way to rise above the oppositions?

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Same-Sex Marriage: Where do religious groups stand?

CNN reports on Public Religion Research Institute study

CLICK on this graphic to read a CNN report on the Public Religion Research Institute study.

The U.S. Supreme Court is deliberating a decision about same-sex marriage that will become a landmark in jurisprudence and public policy. Overall, a majority of Americans support the legalization of same-sex marriage, but how much does support vary by religion?

So far this week, we’ve discussed how same-sex couples are a very small numerical minority, which tests the Jeffersonian principle of majority rule, minority rights; the tension between the values of conservative politicians and growing public support of gay marriage; whether same-sex marriage might be just a matter of when, not if; and, a possible compromise solution. Today, we examine the attitudes of members of different religious groups.

For a baseline, consider that over three-fourths (77%) of the religious unaffiliated support the legalization of same-sex marriage, according to a comprehensive survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI).

Are there any religious groups that show support at the same level as the religiously unaffiliated?

There are two, according to PRRI’s data: 77% of Jews and 80% of Buddhists favor same-same marriage. Catholics are the next most-supportive group, with six of ten (60%) in favor. A majority of Hindus (55%) also support same-sex marriage.

Support falls under 50% for each of the following groups: Muslims (42%), Black Protestants (38%), and White evangelicals (28%). Mormons exhibit the lowest support for gay marriage, with only 27% in favor.

Are you surprised at the high level of support among Jews and Buddhists?

How about the low level of support among Mormons?

At the end of this week, what’s your prediction of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision?

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Same-Sex Marriage: An obvious compromise solution?

Brookings website by Richard Lempert

Click this image from the Brookings website to read the entire column.

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering two questions about same-sex marriage: Is same-sex marriage a constitutionally protected right? If not, should states with same-sex bans be required to recognize gay marriages made in states that allow them?

These questions are contemporary manifestations of perennial tensions about values: states’ rights versus federal rights. The majority of observers expect the high court to invalidate bans on same-sex marriage, which would be an assertion of federal over states’ rights by imposing a uniform definition of marriage. But there is a compromise solution that would retain some state rights, Richard Lempert of Brookings wrote this week:

“An obvious compromise is to allow states to define the requisites for marriages conducted within their borders but to require them to recognize as valid same-sex marriages performed in states where they are legal…. Although same-sex couples might still complain of dignitary harm attendant upon living in states with laws denying them the right to marry, they could marry elsewhere, knowing they would thereafter be treated as married in the state of their residence.”

In a sense, this would be a classic negotiation outcome: each side wins some and each side loses some.

Would you support this compromise solution?
In the question of same-sex marriage, which should prevail: states’ rights or federal rights?

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Same-Sex Marriage: Just a matter of when?

Huffington Post covers Supreme Court same sex marriage case

Click this Huff-Po graphic to read the entire column by Reilly and Bendery.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme court began hearing oral arguments for and against legalizing same-sex marriage. Are the justices considering if same-sex marriage should be legalized, or just when it should be?

Judging by the questions and comments the justices are making, they appear to be considering issues of timing, according to court observers Ryan Reilly and Jennifer Bendery.

Writing yesterday in the Huffington Post, they said:

“During oral arguments, the nine justices weighed whether now is the right time to force states to let same-sex couples marry, pointing to how quickly public opinion has shifted on the issue. Thirty-seven states and Washington, D.C., currently recognize same-sex marriage.”

Custom and law have recognized marriage as a union of a man and a woman for a very long time. While this is factually true, it is also true that many variations of marriage have existed in this country and elsewhere. Across cultures and history, polygamy is more common than monogamy.

Do you agree or disagree that the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage is a foregone conclusion?
If it’s all a matter of timing, when is the right time?

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Same-Sex Marriage: What happens when values and public opinion clash?

New York Times story on politics of same sex marriage

Click on the image to read the entire New York Times story.

The surge of public support of same-sex marriage has created a dilemma for many conservative politicians who oppose gay marriage because it violates their values, but they want to get elected.

Our question today is: What happens when values and public opinion clash?

A clash of public opinion and values is a big problem for candidates who have to appeal to a broad base for support. And so we see a lot of verbal maneuvering on the issue, as The New York Times reported yesterday.

Here’s a recent quote from presidential hopeful Marco Rubio. At first it appears to be a straightforward position, but you have to read between the lines:

“There is no federal constitutional right to same-sex marriage. There isn’t such a right. You have to have a ridiculous, absurd reading of the U.S. constitution to reach the conclusion that people have a right to marry someone of the same sex. There is no such constitutional right.”

Rubio is absolutely right. There is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage. But there’s also no constitutional right to marriage between a man and a woman. The Constitution is silent on the issue of marriage.

The real question is whether same-sex marriage is a constitutionally protected right. For example, does the part of the Constitution that guarantees equal protection under the law extend to same-sex marriage? About half of all Americans say yes, as I’ve discussed before on OurValues.org. About 41% say no. The remainder doesn’t have an opinion.

If your values lead you to see marriage as only between a man and a woman, then how should you behave in the public sphere?

What does one say?

Does the subject become a private matter now?

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Same-Sex Marriage: How many same-sex couples are there?

Free Press headlines on same sex marriage

Click this image of Detroit Free Press headlines to read the editorial.

Tomorrow the U.S. Supreme Court begins hearings on same-sex marriage: Do two men or two women have a constitutional right to marry, or is this a matter that should be handled at the state level?

This issue is a lightening rod as reflected in front-page headlines coast to coast. Here in Michigan, the story was both on the front page of our statewide newspaper yesterday—and was the subject of a major Free Press Editorial.

Many states have bans on same-sex marriage. A ruling from the high court that gays and lesbians have the constitutional right to marry would overturn all of them. A ruling that the matter is a state issue would reinforce these bans, and it might encourage other states to reinstitute bans or create new bans.

But how many many Americans might be affected by the court’s ruling? How many same-sex couples are there?

The number of same-sex couples in America is an interesting question from the perspective of values because it represents what Thomas Jefferson called a “sacred principle.” He expressed this principle in his First Inaugural Address (1801): “though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect and to violate would be oppression.”

Gallup just provided estimates of the number of same-sex couples in America. All told, there are about one million same-sex couples. About 390,000 are married couples, with about 600,000 domestic partnership couples. This means that less than 1% of the American population, currently at 243 million adults, is involved in same-sex marriage or partnerships.

Thus, the question of same-sex marriage in America in 2015 evokes the sacred principle that Jefferson asserted in 1801: majority rule, minority rights.

Are you surprised at the number of same-sex couples in America?
Did you think there were more—or less?

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Our Kids’ Earth: What’s your best web link for our kids?

NASA Earth Observatory Home Page Image

CLICK this image from NASA to visit the homepage of the agency’s fascinating online “Earth Observatory.”

The web has so much information about the environment that it’s hard to know where to start. What are your recommendations? Below are a few of mine.

This week we’ve covered the growing conundrum of how to get kids off their electronics and outside in nature (and the benefits of doing so), the stories that help kids fall in love with nature, how kids around the globe worry about the Earth, and how many American kids fear the end of the Earth as they know it. Today, we look at some links that can help educate our children (and ourselves) about the Earth.

Sharon Lowe, founder of Habitat Heroes—sponsor of the survey that revealed how terrified our children are—says we have to find a way to educate our children about the environment without scaring them. According to a press release, she said:

“I am more committed than ever to help educate children around the globe in a way that is not scary to them. Hopefully Habitat Heroes fills a void and gives us the opportunity to raise awareness in ways that children embrace to maintain a healthy and beautiful planet.”

Here are links to five resources I really like:

NASA—The agency’s earth observatory offers awesome photos of the planet

GREEN STRIDESThis is a collection of links from the US Department of Education for schools, teachers, students, and parents; it covers reduced environmental impact and cost, health and wellness, environmental and sustainability education, state-based green school programs, and more.

KIDS.GOVHere’s a collection of links to resources for young children, parents, and teachers from the official kids’ portal for the U.S. government.

EPA—Of course, there’s the U.S. EPA’s website for teaching and learning about the environment.

GEOLOGICAL SURVEY—I also like the U.S. Geological Survey resources for learning about the water cycle—in a multitude of languages.

Now, it’s your turn …

What’s your favorite web link for our kids? Share your ideas in a comment, below, or on your favorite social media using the hash tag we created: #OurKidsEarth

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