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Theological Thursdays: Senator Grisanti’s Dilemma

Tomorrow, when the State Senate votes on the Marriage Equality Bill, Buffalo’s Mark Grisanti could make the difference between the bill, which would allow for same-sex marriage in New York State, passing or failing.

Grisanti, who had previously stated that he would vote against such a bill, has announced that he is now undecided.  He has stated that he believes in the issue from a civil rights, standpoint, but has difficulty reconciling that with his Catholic beliefs.

From the Buffalo News: “If I take the Catholic out of me, which is hard to do, then absolutely they should have these rights,” Grisanti said.

“It has nothing to do with politics. It has to do with my own personal belief.”

What, however, is the basis of Grisanti’s “should?”

According to the Declaration of Independence, people have “certain unalienable rights” that are “endowed by their creator.”

So if gays have the right to marry, as Grisanti believes, shouldn’t it follow that the right comes from God?

Many Believers have advocated again and again, that belief is necessary for morality–that people need God to do the right thing.  Grisanti, is becoming a living counter-point to that argument.  He seems to be saying that he knows what the right thing is, but his religion prohibits from doing so.

Senator Grisanti, if you believe that God would prevent you from doing something that is right, something has to change.  Either your understanding of the thing isn’t right, or your understanding of God isn’t right.

While many non-believers might seize the opportunity of a statement like Grisanti’s to call for the end of all religion, it seems more productive, in a world filled with believers, to use the opportunity to seek clear theological thinking.

It is conflicts like these that produce calls on politicians to lay aside their faith, so that they can best represent a diverse people.  Chris Smith at lays out the argument beautifully.  But this same impulse creates conflicted people, people who say and do one thing, but believe something different.  While this practice is common, it hasn’t exactly been good for the political landscape.

Maybe, instead of “laying aside” his faith to do the right thing, Grisanti should look deeper into it.  I believe that God can handle our questions, and a great first question is, “why am I experiencing this dilemma?”  My hunch is that his instincts to vote for the bill are every bit as faith-based as his instincts to vote against them.  Scriptures (from many traditions) are pretty clear that we should treat others the way we would like to be treated.  Or, perhaps Grisanti will be able to develop a clear rationale for why a vote for this bill is NOT the right thing to do.

But stating that your religion keeps you from doing the right thing doesn’t help anybody.

For an older “Theological Thursday” on Marriage, click here.

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