Why Should Gay Marriage Matter to Christians Who Love All People?
I highly recommend Kevin DeYoung's book What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality? He has an appendix on gay marriage that's terrific. Kevin posted it recently in his always excellent blog and I want to draw attention to it because both the book and this small appendix are really worth reading and discussing in our churches.
Why Not Gay Marriage?
As the Supreme Court hears oral arguments in DeBoer v. Snyder, it’s worth asking the question: Is there any reason a decent, rational, non-bigoted American might oppose same-sex marriage? Just as important: Are there any decent, rational, non-bigoted Americans who are willing to consider why other Americans might have plausible reasons for opposing same-sex marriage? This blog post is my way of saying “yes” to the first question and “let’s hope so” to the second.
I’m a pastor, and my main concern is with the church—what she believes, what she celebrates, and what she proclaims. I don’t expect the world to be the church (and I pray that the church does not become the world). And yet, no one who lives in the world (that’s all of us) and no one who cares about the wellbeing of those in the world (that too should cover almost all of us) can be indifferent about marriage. With everything that may divide us, proponents on both sides of this debate can at least recognize that something truly significant is at stake in this debate.
I’m concerned that many younger Christians—ironically, often those passionate about societal transformation and social justice—do not see the connection between a traditional view of marriage and human flourishing. Many Christians are keen to resurrect the old pro-choice mantra touted by some Catholic politicians: personally opposed, but publicly none of my business. I want Christians (who are, after all, the main readers of this blog) to see why this issue matters and why—if and when same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land—the integrity of the family will be weakened and the freedom of the church will be threatened.
I know this is an increasingly unpopular line of reasoning, even for those who are inclined to accept the Bible’s teaching about marriage. Perhaps you agree with the traditional exegetical conclusions and believe that homosexual behavior is biblically unacceptable. And yet, you wonder what’s wrong with supporting same-sex marriage as a legal and political right. After all, we don’t have laws against gossip or adultery or the worship of false gods. Even if I don’t agree with it, shouldn’t those who identify as gay and lesbian still have the same freedom I have to get married?
That’s a good question, but before we try to answer it we need to be sure we are talking about the same thing. Let’s think about what is not at stake in the debate over gay marriage.
- The state is not threatening to criminalize homosexual behavior. Since the Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), same-sex intimacy has been legal in all fifty states.
- The state is not going to prohibit gays and lesbians from committing themselves to each other in public ceremonies or religious celebrations.
- The state is not going to legislate whether two adults can live together, profess love for one another, or express their commitment in erotic ways.
The issue is not about controlling “what people can do in their bedrooms” or “who they can love.” The issue is about what sort of union the state will recognize as marriage. Any legal system which distinguishes marriage from other kinds of relationships and associations will inevitably exclude many kinds of unions in its definition. The state denies marriage licenses to sexual threesomes. It denies marriage licenses to eight year-olds. There are almost an infinite number of friendship and kinship combinations which the state does not recognize as marriage. The state doesn’t tell us who we can be friends with or who we can live with. You can have one friend or three friends or a hundred. You can live with your sister, your mother, your grandfather, your dog, or three buddies from work. But these relationships—no matter how special—have not been given the designation “marriage” by the church or by the state. The state’s refusal to recognize these relationships as marital relationships does not keep us from pursuing them, enjoying them, or counting them as significant.
Justin Taylor, whose blog is equally excellent, interviewed Kevin on the subject of homosexuality. Don't miss these resources—the blog, the video and especially the book.
Many Christians in evangelical churches aren’t understanding the true issues involved, and believe that the kind, gracious and loving thing to do is to embrace the legitimacy of gay marriage. We need to think more carefully and more biblically, and to realize that the popular position that appears the most loving is sometimes ultimately the least loving and most destructive to those in need of the transforming work of the gospel –and that includes all of us, doesn't it?