In light of the Supreme court proceedings this week, Jim and I have been bombarded by questions from folks in our church about “gay marriage”. Before posting this I circulated this to some close friends of mine who both disagree with me and agree with me and asked for feedback. I was struck by how thoughtful people on both sides were, but of course they are my friends so I didn’t expect anything less. It also strikes me that people who disagreed with me, didn’t label me a “hateful bigot” nor did people who agreed with me express themselves as such. Often it’s the extremes that get all the press, not those who are truly trying to think things through well.
Believe it or not, generally speaking culture wars don’t typically suck me in or gather much of my attention. I typically take the view that I will see and experience many things in my life that I disagree with but I can learn to be a redemptive presence in the midst of the culture I live in. I have however been deeply bothered by the current culture war regarding so called, “gay marriage”. The perceptive among you will already pick up on my unwillingness to refer to “gay marriage” as a reality. Not because I’m trying to close my eyes and pretend something isn’t so, that clearly is on its way to becoming so, but rather because I believe there are some realities we cannot redefine even if we want to, or for that matter vote to. Marriage, I believe is one of those realities. One of the reasons I believe that those who support the historical, traditional view of marriage, also formally known as the “conjugal view” are failing to get their point across is because they are arguing from points of logic and assuming that those logical points should hold some sort of authority. We live in a culture where feelings are the cultural currency that sways decisions. So while many that defend the historical view of marriage make sound points and coherent arguments, it fails to have effect because sound points and coherent arguments are no longer authoritative, feelings are. So it is not uncommon for someone who claims to follow Jesus and believe the Bible to say, “I just feel like God would want people who love one another to experience marriage”. End of argument.
I’m not going to make this a post about all the problems and dangers of moral relativism, not to mention the impracticality of it (literally no one can live that way). What I do want to do is make two fundamental points that I’m hoping to expound on perhaps in a sermon or a seminar later this year.
1) There is an argument to be made for marriage defined as being only available between one man and one woman, totally apart from the Bible. Different people are perfectly willing to deny marriage to all kinds of people. The “right” to be married is one of the most often denied rights in our country. We deny the right to be married to children. We deny the right to be married to groups of people, 3 or more who wish to be married. We deny the right of the polygamist immigrant from another country to be legally married to multiple women in our country. We deny the right of a person to marry an animal or a tree. We deny the right of a bi-sexual to marry a man and a woman. Why? Why do we do this? You might respond with saying “well that’s simply not what marriage is”. I would wholeheartedly agree with you, that is correct. Then I would ask you this, “what exactly is marriage?”. You see that’s what this debate is about. This is about what marriage is. You might begin by saying “marriage is between two people….” And I would ask you, why? Who says? And why do you get to deny the right of people who want to be married to several people their right? You may think my examples are absurd and there is no way we would ever reach a point where we would allow someone to marry multiple people, or animals. Again the question would be, on what grounds would you deny this to people? It was once absurd to think marriage could be anything other than between a man and a woman.
You see people often ask what’s the harm? How will allowing same sex couple’s to marry hurt anyone or anything. Often I hear, “if you don’t like gay marriage, don’t marry a gay person”. I understand the approach but its fatally flawed. You see if we can no longer define marriage, if it ceases to have boundaries and lines, it will cease to exist at all from a legal, civil perspective. The government will be forced to be increasingly involved in all kinds of relationships it was never involved in before because now they will carry the status of “marriages”. So when a gay couple breaks up, now the government has to be involved in divorce proceedings, the division of assets, property and custody issues that may ensue. The same will be true for the inevitable marriages between groups of people. For that matter what is to deny a couple close friends from getting married for the tax benefits. Should we discriminate against those who want to be married but have no sexual relationship with one another, but love one another?
Same sex marriage will inevitably result in more government involvement in marriages, relationship and civil disputes. The question is where do you want to draw the line, and when you choose to draw it, how will you defend why you drew it there. What will be your defense of marriage as it is currently defined then? Once you let go of marital norms such as one man and one woman, why do you have to hold onto marital norms like monogamy, exclusivity, and permanence? Its not a slippery slope argument, there will be no slope to slide down, we will have slid all the way to the bottom.
2) I am a follower of Jesus. People often say that Jesus didn’t have anything to say about homosexuality or sex outside of the context of marriage. This is not true. Jesus talked about what marriage is and who could participate in it. Jesus, when defending marriage against the damage that heterosexuals had done to it in his culture quoted from Genesis when he said “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let man not separate.” Matthew 19:4-6
For the record I believe that heterosexual’s have done far more damage to the institution of marriage than homosexuals ever have. It began with “no fault” divorce in the 70’s and we are seeing the fruit of it today. At the same time it is undeniable from a Biblical perspective that God created marriage, instituted marriage and defined it as being between one man and one woman. This is why I refer to “gay marriage” as so-called “gay marriage”. I believe based on the Bible, which is my authority for life and the number one value at Flatirons that God defines marriage and no human institution can change that, we can only choose whether we want to acknowledge it or not.
There is much more to say about this and there will be time to say it Lord willing in the coming months. If you want to hear more, you can listen to two sermons that Jim and I have preached over the years. Locked Up: Sexual Bondage part 2 and Behind Closed Doors: Behind Closet Doors. Our views have not changed, because God’s Word has not changed. At Flatirons we try our best to live in the middle of the tension between Grace and Truth. We try our best to lead with Grace and follow with Truth as we see Jesus do time and time again in scripture. I’m sure we don’t always get it right, but this is our aim.Tags: gay marriage, Homosexuality