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Same-Sex Marriage?: A Christian Ethical Analysis Paperback – June 1, 2004
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Mr. Ellison offers an incisive, historical and spiritual critique of marriage, its social and political history, and the roll it plays in today's society. From the outside same-sex marriage gets polarized into an issue of traditionalism versus progressivism, right versus left. The tendency to coerce the issue into a simple bi-polar political discussion really offers little room for discussion and preserves the status quo.
Rather than arguing that marriage is an institution all should be allowed to participate in, Mr. Ellison first asks what marriage is and defines it within certain parameters that allow both criticism and approval. Marriage is not a static concept, he claims, but an ever changing idea that means different things at different times. He details the coercive and repressive ways marriage has affected women over the years and asks is this something that gays and lesbians want to participate in.
Mr. Ellison argues effectively that marriage is afforded too much weight in society. The normative nature of its centralization in today's paradigm of relationships pushes others to the margins, and not just gays and lesbians. He shows how marriage has a detrimental effect on those who choose not to marry but live in long-term relationships, no matter their sexuality, and asks if the state can ethically play a role in endorsing a whole group of people while alienating another.
In a Rawlsean sense, Mr. Ellison asks his reader to envision an ethic that is inclusive of all. He makes the case that marriage can't be a valid spiritual institution until all are included or until it is decentered. Wonderfully researched, clearly written, and well supported, Mr. Ellison re-aligns the discourse on marriage, moving it from simple left-right politics, into a discussion of justice for all and sexual inclusiveness.
The book is very uneven. The author is very good in summing up the arguments for and against SSM by the traditionalists, marriage advocates and marriage critics. These chapters are insightful and interesting. The chapter on the "Justice lens" of marriage was a good read, and posed some new perspective to the institution.
Unfortunately, that is all the good thing one might say about the book.
There is absolutely nothing Christian in the author's ethics and the line of thought, apart form the reference to it in the title's sentence. Mr. Ellison never, during the whole discourse quotes or refers to any well know Christian ethicist of any sort. There is not even one citation from the Scripture. We are exposed to some very disturbing and arguable critique by modern North American feminist [...] theologians, whose link with Christianity of any sort is tenuous to say the least, and whose preponderance throughout the book makes one wonder if there are any other theologians left. Mr. Ellison seems to be unaware of them.
In the last chapter, the author proposes legalizing multi-party relationships, which is not only dubious form the Christian point of view, and plays into the hands of conservatives that argue that the next step after legalizing gay marriage will be legalizing polygamy.
I am very sorry to have bought the book, and I will certainly not come back to it again. The question is why Mr. Ellison chose to call it "A Christian Ethical Analysis"? I cannot escape the notion that it was only to stand out in the same-sex marriage debate. Unfortunately we are still missing a Christian ethical analysis of the issue.