Expressing Our Concerns about Same Sex Marriage in a Pluralistic Culture
Last week, same sex couples were married all over California.
The future is predictable. Streams of people will come from all over the country to be married in California, and then will go back to their home states and argue that their marriage licenses should be honored. What will the states decide?
The biblical basis for opposition to same sex marriages is expressed in online articles such as "What does the Bible say about same sex marriage?", and in D. James Kennedy’s book What's Wrong With Same-Sex Marriage?
But how do we articulate a concern about same sex marriage among those who don’t believe the Bible? Is there a cultural and historical and ethical framework in which we can still speak the same language and agree in certain areas with many unbelievers, even though we live in a largely post-Christian society? I think the answer is yes, and I would use other illustrations, including the abortion issue, to demonstrate it.
I have long been touched by the passionate prolife stance taken by Nat Hentoff of the ultra-liberal Village Voice. An atheist and human rights advocate, at age 83, Nat is still speaking out for causes he thinks are right, not caring whether they're liberal or conservative. (He recently hammered on Barack Obama for arguing for Terry Shiavo's death.) Decades ago several associates at the Village Voice stopped speaking to him because he spoke up for unborn babies. I love the guy, and I pray he'll come to know Christ. (My dad came to the Lord at age 85, and I say he was a harder case than Nat Hentoff; God's grace can pierce the heart.)
I vividly remember standing at prolife rallies that were joined by Atheists for Life. I didn't buy one of their t-shirts, but we did have some good conversations, and I'm glad they were standing up for babies. A number of atheists speak out online in defense of unborn children, including Judy Ferris and Randall Jones, neither of whom I know, but just Googled.
Francis Schaeffer called Christians "co-belligerants" with Jews and Muslims on certain points; likewise, Christians may share with agnostics and New Agers a common concern for taking good care of our planet, even though we have extremely different world views. People can disagree about heaven and hell and even Jesus yet still stand together against child pornography and drunk driving and animal abuse, or for cleaner water, lower taxes, or better parks and schools.
In this spirit, novelist Bill Kritlow (see his books) put together a list of talking points for his church on the same sex marriage issue. He shared them with an online writers group I'm part of. I thought they were very good. So I asked Bill if I could post his reasons on my blog. He said no, but I’m doing it anyway. (Just kidding, he was fine with it.
These are mostly (with a few exceptions) extrabiblical reasons for the social and spiritual importance of marriage continuing to be the church and state blessed union of one man and one woman:
· Men and women fulfill different roles in society and the family; children need to see and experience those roles to understand and emulate them.
· A male father and a female mother nurture and protect children in different and equally important ways; children need both forms of nurture and protection.
· Society has flourished on the one man, one woman model of marriage for thousands of years; to change it will introduce change, some of which will produce negative social issues we cannot foresee.
· The mother, besides giving birth, fulfills the important role of nourishing the children, which creates a bond between mother and child that lasts throughout life.
· Men and women see the world differently, and a child must have the benefit of both perspectives in order to live a balanced life.
· Children learn about their opposite gender from the parent of the opposite gender.
· Maintaining hearth and home requires skills dominant in both men and women: women are better suited to multitasking, the very requirement for raising multiple children, while men are more project oriented, the quality needed by the hunter/gather.
· God, who arranged the command structure in the home to minimize conflict and maximize nurture, has stated that the husband (man) is the head of the home.
· Marriage has been the societal building block for millennia; it has developed as the method by which cultures pass on, from generation to generation, who and what they are. Since cultures are made up of men, women and children, to effectively pass on cultural values the family should reflect the cultural makeup of one man, one woman (an equal number), and their natural children where possible.
· Marriage between one man and one woman is perfectly integrated by sex. An identical number of men and women get married each year, side-by-side, hand-in-hand. The mechanism of marriage is perfectly balanced. No man may become a husband unless a woman becomes a wife at the same moment.
· As the societal building block, the family has also developed as the best gauge—the canary in the mine—that protects culture from harmful change. Since change can harm men, women, and children (and the family as a whole), the most effective harbinger of detrimental societal change is the traditional family.
· A procreative marriage, one where children are the offspring of the husband and wife, is more stable and long lasting—the husband and wife have the added incentive of keeping the relationship healthy and alive since leaving it involves leaving their natural children.
· Children have the inherent human right to expect that they will be born into a societal and spiritual norm, the best family structure their God and society has created, and not into a family structure that thousands of years of human history has deemed to be, at best, a social experiment. Children have a right to be born into intact one man, one woman families. The society should work to make sure that happens as often as humanly possible.
· Marriage encourages men to share the burdens of child rearing and binds fathers to their children.
· Marriage provides the optimal setting in which mothers and fathers can raise their own boys and girls to enter a world that consists exclusively of men and women.
· From time to time war visits a nation, and in our culture, and we suspect others, male soldiers (the predominant gender of soldiers) fight more fiercely and selflessly, sustain greater hardships, maintain more steadfast commitments, when fighting for their families—wives and natural children, or girlfriends.
Athol Dickson, also a novelist in our group, proposed one final talking point to add to Bill's excellent list:
"Homophobia" and discrimination have nothing to do with opposition to same-sex marriage. Opposition to it is not an attack on homosexuality or homosexuals; it is simply the belief that marriage should remain between a man and a woman, based on practical cultural and social reasons as the list above makes clear.
Also, "discrimination" necessarily involves infringement of a basic human right. A marriage license is not a basic human right. It is a privilege which has always required the government's permission, as do many other parts of life, such as getting a driver's license or a business license (to sell food, for example). Just as the ability to freely move about on roads and the ability to pursue the occupation of one's choice both require certain preconditions, so it must be true of marriage. One of those preconditions for the granting of this privilege (in addition to age and health based considerations) is that the participants must be one man and one woman, for all the reasons listed in Bill's talking points.