We are in the eye of the storm of social issues. Between last November's presidential election and next year's mid-term, a lot of messages are coming at us from many different sides. Those messages will sway opinions and plot the course to victory for a number of ballot battles Americans will face next year.
We can already see the temperature of abortion arguments rising, and issues related to gay marriage will be hanging over all of us like low-pressure systems collecting moisture in the Gulf. As voting patterns are tracked, and storm-warnings issued, Americans will stock-up supplies.
As commentators, activists, lawmakers and voters mark positions and hone messages; it is fair to wonder where the messages come from in the first place. Messages are created for impact, tested for stickiness, and sharpened for efficacy. Yet the question remains: Will messages we receive — as voters – actually come from the Almighty above or will they stem from man-made hierarchies with nothing more than a political agenda, all in the name of God?
Two weeks ago I participated in a television debate with a local pastor about the Supreme Court's decision to strike down part of the Defense of Marriage Act. When questioned by the moderator, the pastor quoted Ralph Reed, a conservative political activist, stating the Court's decision was "an Orwellian act of judicial fiat" which undermined states rights. Surprisingly, he uttered not one word of a mandate from God or of God's will.
It was stunning to see a pastor argue the merits of the Supreme Court and use his time to make a case against federalism. He even labeled Florida as a bellwether for the "southern coalition of red states." It was clear the pastor's default message was strictly a political one – a message he admittedly attributed to the observations of the political activist Ralph Reed who repeated the same quote on Meet the Press four days later.
God and moral law were nowhere to be found in our debate, and the moderator and I certainly weren't going to bring God into the conversation. The politics of gay marriage is in my wheelhouse, but instead I chose to speak from my own personal experience being denied civil marriage. Unlike the pastor, I had no need to quote anyone, only my own circumstances and those of my family and friends.
I simply don't believe marriage is the union of one man and one woman. I believe marriage is a union of two families, to support a new family.
Be ready to hear a lot more messages about abortion, too. The ones we've been hearing lately are caustic and ignorant. We've been forcefully fed stories about the abuse of abortion as birth control, and other revolting acts related to medical procedures intended to evoke visceral responses. The closest a nationally targeted message about God, or the bible, will be encapsulated in the carefully crafted idioms like "the right to life" or "the sanctity of life."
We won't have the opportunity to hear many personal stories of women who had to face the difficult decision of terminating an unplanned pregnancy or of the close friends who supported those women through a difficult time. Those stories should respectfully remain between a woman, her family and a physician. No woman should be forced by a political hierarchy to reveal her personal story just to move an electorate or to make a rebuttal to arguments involving God.
Message is king, which is why anti-abortion activists turned to the Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, to co-sponsor one of the strictest anti-abortion bills to hit the U.S. Senate. Abortion is a sensitive subject and social conservatives are getting tongue-tied trumpeting torrid talking points, turning voters off.
Rubio is a master of persuasion and appeals to a large audience. His art of articulation was lost in the obstructionism of Immigration reform, but managing a socially conservative message about abortion just may be what he feels he was born to do. Whether it's a calling from Almighty God or from a political calculus, I'm betting it's the brewing storm he needs to clear a path to the White House, with or without messages conceived from above.
Tony Plakas is the CEO of Compass Community Center. He can be reached at TonyPlakas@post.harvad.edu