Blogs > Cliopatria > God's on My Side

Oct 23, 2004 4:44 pm

God's on My Side

As a Red Sox fan, I thoroughly enjoyed the recent series with the Yankees (unlike many of my students), although one event struck me as odd. After his remarkable Game 6 victory, when he played on an injured tendon in his ankle, Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling was asked to explain his performance. His response: before the game, “I prayed and prayed.” (Apparently, Schilling, a born-again Christian, hadn’t prayed enough before his disastrous Game 1 start, the most important game, to that time, in the team’s season.) I await the time when a reporter asks an athlete who gives such a response whether this means God didn’t help out the opposition player, or whether God allowed both sides to play to their utmost ability, but simply had endowed the victorious athlete with greater physical talents.

Nicholas Kristof’s column in this morning’s Times reminded me of Schilling’s comment. As Kristof observes, the Bible can be a flexible document, able to provide a rationalization for almost any political position, and he faults supporters of gay marriage for not engaging in the religious aspect of the battle. It would be hard, indeed, to argue that the Bible’s condemnations of homosexuality appear more often than calls to help the poor, for example.

Kristof’s column provides a reminder of what remains a potential hidden factor in this year’s election: the gay marriage debate. Anti-gay marriage amendments are on the ballot in two critical states for Kerry: Oregon and Michigan. Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but polls from both states show Bush staying surprisingly close. Huge Christian turnouts in either or both states could be enough to tip the margin to Bush. When added with a stunning poll in this morning’s Honolulu Advertiser showing Bush ahead of Kerry in Hawaii, the first state to outlaw gay marriage through a state constitutional amendment, the Kerry camp has ground for pause. (A poll at a comparable time in 2000 showed Gore ahead of Bush by 20 points in the Aloha State.)

The state constitutional amendment strategy, in reality, has an audience of one: Anthony Kennedy, since Kennedy would have to provide the fifth vote for any Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage. Anti-gay marriage activists clearly hope to pressure Kennedy into preserving the status quo by showing him that a decision allowing gay marriage would invalidate a host of state constitutional provisions. In this respect, the anti-gay marriage movement is even more aggressive than the opponents of civil rights from the 1950s and 1960s, who by and large refrained from going the state constitutional amendment route. The few states that did take this approach are still dealing with the consequences: a 2002 referendum to remove from Alabama’s state constitution the prohibition on interracial marriage (a ban illegal since 1967) passed with only 60 percent of the vote. This year, the state has a similar vote on removing references in the Alabama constitution to segregation by race.

Perhaps it’s God’s mandate for the United States to deal with the gay marriage issue for a prolonged period of time.

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Oscar Chamberlain - 10/25/2004

While I do find some player's invocation of deity a bit tiresome, it's a very human and not altogether bad thing to feel closer to one's god when blessed as opposed to when cursed.

I believe the book of Job has much to say about that.

Danny Loss - 10/23/2004

To be fair, I think Curt Schilling said that he prayed for strength, rather than praying to win. I'm not sure if that lets him off the hook for questions like, "Why would God want the Red Sox to win instead of the Yankees?", but it might.

Robert KC Johnson - 10/23/2004

Interesting. Perhaps US reporters should pick up from the French!

Robert KC Johnson - 10/23/2004

I believe there are amendments on 11 states in total this year (the Ohio one might get bumped from the ballot because of a legal challenge), but only in MI and Oregon is there any chance of Kerry carrying the state, assuming the OH one gets bumped.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/23/2004

You are probably right, Oscar, and thanks for the point. Georgia's amendment is on the ballot for November, though there have been legal challenges to it in the courts already, as you might imagine. We may very well end up like Louisiana, having it ratified by the electorate but nullified by court action.

Oscar Chamberlain - 10/23/2004

Ralph, I can't speak for Georgia but part of the confusion in numbers may arise from the amendment process in many states. In Wisconsin, for example, the legislature passed a particularly ugly Gay marriage amendment. However, it cannot go to the public unless the next session of the legislature approves the same amendment.

That two-session procedure is pretty common, and I expect that in a number of states, the issue is on hold until the next session convenes.

Richard Henry Morgan - 10/23/2004

French reporters, after Michael Chang won the French Open, asked him precisely those questions. He looked puzzled, as I remember, and rather toned back his public professions.

Ralph E. Luker - 10/23/2004

I haven't done a complete check, but there are marriage amendments pending in more states critical to John Kerry's chances than this indicates. Ohio certainly comes to mind. We also have an amendment pending in Georgia.

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