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 Today's Take:  NCR's daily Web column
Each weekday over the course of a week, a member of the NCR staff offers a commentary on one or more topics in the news.  It's our way of introducing you to some of the people carrying out the NCR mission of faith and justice based journalism.

November 20, 2003
Vol. 1, No. 154




Tom Fox (un)Holy Matrimony

By Tom Fox, NCR publisher

Prepare for a flood of sanctimony about the institution of marriage. Waves have been lapping at our shores for months. But a tidal wave is coming.

Other Today's Takes by Tom Fox
Nov. 19, 2003 Talking about celibacy
Nov. 18, 2003 Why bishops won't talk about celibacy
Nov. 17, 2003 Supporting gay and lesbian Catholics
Oct. 10, 2003 Why Catholics are jittery
Sept. 26, 2003 Priest of the poor
Sept. 25, 2003 A revolution deferred: sex and the church Part II
Sept. 24, 2003 Sex and the mission of the church
Beware. It's a ruse. It is an act of political manipulation.

Hours after the Massachusetts high court ruled Tuesday that banning gay and lesbian couples from marriage violates the state constitution, President Bush was already promising -- quite sanctimoniously -- that he would work with the U.S. Congress to defend "the sanctity of marriage."

What he really wanted America to hear was that the Almighty had joined his re-election campaign.

Before I continue, allow me to say something about marriage. I am all in favor of it. I have been married for 32 years and 11 months. I am praying I will be blessed with another 32 years.

Let me say something else. I have never felt closer to the Creator that got this whole thing started and somehow, mysteriously and well beyond my limited comprehension, is with us as it all unfolds. I believe that Jesus plays a pivotal role in all of this and in my life. Jesus was fully imbued with the Divine, a God/Person. I also like what he had to say.

I think this makes me a Christian. As for being a Catholic, it's great. We have wonderful family fights and come to the same table and share a wondrous sense of the sacred.

That said, I have to tell you that I am very suspicious when God-talk enters our political conversations. I get really down on folks to who tell me who God wants me to vote for. I even get down on folks who call God's blessings upon America, as in: "We're going to war God bless America." I sort of like to think that God is blessing everyone, with or without the admonition, and that to try to channel God's blessing smacks of manipulation. In its worst form, political manipulation. Which gets me back to the start of this Today's Take.

I find myself turning against God. Not the God that I embrace in a very personal way, not the God of our ideals that graces our lives, thoughts, our very beings. No, I am against the "God" that is put before me by calculating politicians. I am against the "God" who politicians cite as their chief policy architect. That "God" is a false god.

For these reasons I find myself highly suspicious of any politician who is going to now preserve "the sanctity of marriage." I ask: Who gets to define the sacred? And why is it the "sacred" is used as another tool of war? Or a weapon in a re-election campaign?

As one committed to the institution of marriage, allow me to say: Beware those who come wrapped in "the sanctity of marriage."

Consider the wider context. The economy is in the tank after huge tax cuts to the very rich. Iraq has become Vietnam -- or worse. The unemployed have given up hope. Traditional allies have turned against us. Bush's re-election effort is finding no traction on foreign policy or economic issues. He is down in the polls and hasn't had a new idea since he told us we are going into a forever war against terrorism.

Brace yourselves. Here comes the tidal wave of sanctimony. Here comes endless, unctuous God-talk. Having pledged to save the world from tyranny, Bush is now apparently going to save the institution of marriage ... with God at his side.

Truth be told, Bush has finally found an issue. So prepare: Bush dressed as Moses; the flag is not enough.

It is all so calculating and so much a part of a wider corruption of values. We are better off without the God-talk, because it keeps us from the real issues. Without it we could better focus on human rights -- as in each person has dignity and value and equality under the Constitution.

Meanwhile, we who profess a relationship with a Diety must be especially diligent to remind ourselves that no one has the full picture, no one can claim an inside track. Believers and non-believers alike will be better off when humility reins in certainty, when policies are shaped by attempts to understand and offer care to the hurting and insecure. There's enough pain out there already. No one need step on another in the name God.

Tom Fox is NCR publisher. He can be reached at

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