(Please understand before you read that these are my first reactions to today’s announcement. I am convinced this issue will be a defining moment for the church in the West and should be carefully considered. Also, as I dialogue with more and more people from the LGBT community I struggle with how to be faithful to biblical teaching and show unconditional love. I am still striving to find that balance.)
President Obama came out in favor of same-sex marriage today (click here). I really don’t think his “change of mind” surprised anyone. His handlers threw out a trial balloon with comments by Vice President Biden (click here). I guess it tested well and they saw some type of political advantage of making the announcement now. Nothing happens by accident in politics. The announcement was a calculated risk. Time will tell if it paid off.
The issue I want to discuss is not the political ramification of the President’s announcement, but the social justice issues this debate causes.
The sexual relationship between two people is a spiritual act before it is a physical and emotional act. On this point I agree with the Catholic Church’s teaching that marriage (and sex) is an ordinance of the Church. (On a side note, this is the reasoning behind the prohibition of marriage for priests and nuns. Priests and nuns take a vow, and marry, the Church.) Somehow the sexual relationship between two people illustrates the union (“becoming one”) a believer has in Christ when they confess their sins and profess Him to be Lord. It is for this reason that I believe the Bible reserves sex for marriage only and defines marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman. (I have blogged about this on another blog site. Here the links to those posts: link #1, link #2, link #3.)
So, the question becomes, where does justice fit in the same-sex marriage debate?
Here are some of my initial reactions to today’s announcement:
First, every human being, regardless of sexual orientation, has dignity because they were created in God’s image. As human beings, the LGBT community deserves equal rights under the law that is given to any person.
Second, every culture and every people group have some form of marriage that regulates sexual activity. In other words, no society anywhere allows for sexual relationships to happen at any time, any place, anywhere, between any people. Thus, regulating sexual activity is something every culture does. The difference is in how it is regulated; and there is more diversity in how this is done than you think.
Third, the manifest functions of marriage seem to be reproduction and socialization. As such, every society reserves the official term “marriage” to be a relationship between a man and woman (sometimes more than 1 of each), that may or may not have children but does have the potential to have children.
Finally, from my perspective, the balance in this debate is to not redefine marriage, but somehow, under the law, recognize committed same-sex relationships, and grant equal rights regardless of sexual orientation. All I ask is that we protect institution of marriage for the benefit of society as a whole.
In reality, under the law, my authority as an ordained minister to perform marriage ceremonies comes from the State, not the Church. However, because we do believe in the separation of church and state, if I, a clergy member, choose not to perform civil ceremonies between homosexual or heterosexual couples, I should have the freedom to do so.
What is wrong with that compromise?
Do you think it will ever move beyond giving gays/lesbians the right to marry into the clergy world? What I mean is … Do you think a close stepping stone is making clergy marry whomever chooses to be married? As an ordained clergyman, I wonder if it will always be my conviction to wed a couple or not. With the kind of authority the gov’t seems to strive for (right and left), I’m kind of wondering how long this “separation” of church and state will last.
Those are good questions Nic. I don’t know the answers but I do believe clergy members have some tough decisions to make in the days ahead. I could foresee a time when as a clergy member, if you want to have the authority to marry people you will have to agree to marry anyone. At that point I would have to choose not to marry anyone. Then what would happen is couples in my church would have to go to the justice of the peace for the “legal” wedding and then me for the “religious” wedding which would carry no weight legally.
All laws are created, passed, and enforced in the USA based on the democratic majority imposing their morals on the minority. People who may think it is moral to steal are not allowed legally the right to exercise those morals because stealing violates the morals of the majority. Because I do not want marriage redefined does not mean I hate the gay and lesbian community. It means that my morals tell me that our country will be worsened with the redefinition, along with the ramifications and other precedents it brings.
As believers, we are called to love everyone, extend grace, and not judge people. We are not called to accept sin (in ourselves or others) or not fight for a society to live in and raise our families in that mirrors God’s laws.
As far as pastors performing marriage, you can be absolutely sure if same sex marriage is made the law, you will have to perform them to make a legal marriage or you will lose your right to perform civil marriages. I also predict churches that don’t recognize gay marriages (if they are passed as legal) will jeopardize their tax exempt status.
I am ready not to be allowed to perform legal marriages and to lose our tax exempt status.
Good for you, and glad to hear it. In your opinion, will that be a majority opinion among your pastor peers? I would hope so, but I doubt it. Sadly, I believe a majority of pastors will cave to political correctness and reputation/financial pressure.
I think most of my personal, pastoral friends will make the same decision. However, as a whole, just knowing how the Church (big “C” church) has reacted in history, too often they take the wrong side on issues like this. One example would be to read Erwin Lutzer’s book, “Hitler’s Cross” which painfully shows the church role in Nazi Germany.
Sometimes are quest to be relevant leads us away from the cross. The phrases “mainstream Christianity” or “mainline denominations” is an oxymoron.
I think John Piper made some good points in his comments on the issue. I think that he makes a great point when he says that Christians should not call it “gay marriage,” but instead say “so called gay marriage” because God has already ordained what marriage truly is. He also makes a great point about the fact that to sanction “so called gay marriage” is to sanction them as a foundation for our society which is dangerous.
Well said: Have you read “When a nation forgets God” by Lutzer?
That’s sound familiar but I don’t know if I have read it or just heard Lutzer talk about it. I really like Lutzer.
“Finally, from my perspective, the balance in this debate is to not redefine marriage, but somehow, under the law, recognize committed same-sex relationships, and grant equal rights regardless of sexual orientation. All I ask is that we protect institution of marriage for the benefit of society as a whole.”
Good Morning Kevin. The big problem is the LGBT movement will never be satisfied with anything less than full societal acceptance of their relationships as marriage. Not equivalent privilege or rights but no difference no discrimination at all. Granting domestic partnerships full rights equal to marriage has never satisfied. They will forever push for the title of marriage for their relationships. They will continue their unrelenting push for this not only in society but also in the Church.
John, I fear that you are right. And to me, at least for those who push the gay rights agenda, it shows their heart and intention. Most (not all, but most) of the LGBT people I know would be fine with civil unions that give equal rights and protection under the law.
“But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:6-9).
Kevin, I started with the Scripture above not to tell you anything you don’t know, but to reframe this debate about marriage. First, in your post, you state that “every culture and every people group have some form of marriage that regulates sexual activity. In other words, no society anywhere allows for sexual relationships to happen at any time, any place, anywhere, between any people. Thus, regulating sexual activity is something every culture does. The difference is in how it is regulated; and there is more diversity in how this is done than you think.”
Your observation is correct, of course. Cultures around the world have regulated marriage – and at least attempted to regulate sexual activity to some degree – via laws. I’m afraid, however, that many, perhaps even you, have confused this regulation of marriage or sexual relations with the actual “right” to define marriage. The above Scripture text is the definition of the marriage relationship. The definer of marriage is – God.
I should note also that our Founding Fathers never mention marriage in the Constitution. That is because “marriage” is not a “right” – but a “rite.” They left this to the several States – in accord with the Tenth Amendment. Part of the reason they left this to the States was that, at the time the Constitution was constructed, 11 or the 13 States had “State Churches.” It was, of course, “unconstitutional” for the Federal Government to “establish a “religion,” (see Amendment 1), but the States did, and had. Over the next several decades, however, all the States gradually adopted the “Rhode Island” (or “Baptist”) Plan, renouncing the “State Church” policy. The last was (believe it or not) Massachusetts, in 1833.
There was one important remnant that remained constant in the States – and in every State of the Union since – that has only recently come into distress. States retained the practice of making the Minister of a Religion an “Agent of the State” in order to officiate a marriage. They did this in recognition of the institution of marriage – which was understood by the Founders generation in its Judaeo-Christian (Biblical) definition.
The implications of these facts are (1) God defines marriage, not men nor Governments (2) The Federal Government of the United States has no business meddling in the issues of Marriage – it is and always has been a State issue (3) The States may choose to change their legal contracts laws – but they cannot change the definition of marriage, because marriage is created and defined by God. Calling something “marriage” does not make is so, anymore than calling a person sitting in a garage a “car.”
I believe you are asking for nothing more than the recognition of “committed same-sex relationships [that] grant equal rights regardless of sexual orientation.” You must understand, however, that the radical and militant LGBT activist community (a minority though they may be) will never accept nor settle for anything less than “marriage.” They want that “golden ring,” pardon the pun. They don’t only want the Government to recognize their perverse lifestyle – they want society – they demand that the Church approve of it. And not coincidentally, in two States where “Gay Marriage” has already been approved, lawsuits against Evangelical Churches that refused to either perform or accommodate “gay weddings” have been sued. Don’t fool yourself.
As a Minister of the Gospel, my authority to perform marriage ceremonies comes from God. The State, recognizing the essential nature of the marriage relationship to the survival of the family and society itself, grants me status as its agent to give this relationship legal standing. If there is ever a time when the State decides that they can “redefine” marriage – when they can dictate couples whom I can and cannot marry (and they will if “Gay Marriage” passes), then I will be a criminal. This is especially true if the Federal Government usurps the authority of the States and enforces so-called “equality” regulations in the name of “Civil Rights” or “Social Justice.”
No one is questioning the principle of the inherent worth of every human being. No Christian in this age of grace should ever treat any sinner – any person – with any less dignity than Jesus treated the woman taken in Adultery. We should care. We should also care enough to be willing not to “leave them in their sins.” We should care enough to love them – and to tell them the truth. And we should care enough about the future of our Children that we don’t mind living a life of Grace and Truth.
You close your post by saying that you should have the “freedom” not to perform certain “marriages,” and the you ask “What is wrong with that compromise?”
Freedom? Going down this trail of “compromise” will not lead to liberty for anyone, it will lead to more bondage for everyone.
J. Dale Weaver, M. Div.
JD, you know I respect you, and I agree with most of what you are saying. If you read my response to divepix you will see I am more than willing for my church’s tax except status to be taken away and for me not to be able to legally marry someone, if that is what happens. I will not perform a same sex marriage of civil union. I know are country has lost its morals. But there is a part of all of that that excites me. We are becoming more and more like the world of the NT and that is when the gospel transformed lives. I am ready to see the power of God, not in condemnation, but in signs and wonders and NT stuff. Aren’t you? I guess I am trying to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness. So, no one has “fooled” me. I am a student of the bible and of culture.
I know you respect me, Kevin. I respect you as well. No disrespect was intended. I am willing to suffer persecution for the faith, for the truth, if and when that becomes necessary.
I, however, believe that this nation was founded to be different. We are certainly subject to the same criteria for judgment that other nations will face. In fact, we have been blessed with far more, so in some sense, more should be expected. But the United States was not founded in a vacuum. We were not born from a secular spirit, or dreamed up in the imaginations of humanist philosophers. It is not a mistake a man such as John Adams said, “The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God.” And a man such as Patrick Henry declared, “It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here.”
This Republic was founded to be “of the People, by the People, for the People.” When asked about what kind of nation we would have after the Constitutional Convention, Ben Franklin quipped, “A Republic, if you can keep it!” I suppose this is where we may differ. For the first time in history, a nation was created on the earth that allowed Christian People to determine for themselves how a nation ought to be governed. It was based on the ideal, as Thomas Jefferson noted, “That Government which governs least, governs best,” emphasizing self-government, morality and character. Because we have been given a Constitution (which in this nation IS the “higher powers” of Romans 13 — because we are “a government of laws and not of men” – John Adams), and “We The People” are to determine within that framework who represents us and what laws we will have.
I believe it is a part of our Christian duty as citizens of this nation to be good stewards of the responsibilities we have here. We have, indeed, dual citizenship — first in the Kingdom of God, and then to a nation on this earth. In the United States, we are uniquely blessed to be citizens, not subjects. That’s one of the many reasons the term “American Exceptionalism” is used of this nation. We are exceptional because of how we were founded, because of how our nation was meant to work, because of the unique blessings God has clearly given us — and because of the awesome responsibilities we have before Him. Not in the “legal” or official sense, as we know there is no institutional union of Church and State. But certainly in the “Spirit” that providentially guided our nation from even before its inception.
In summary, I am certainly excited at the prospect that no matter what lies ahead, the coming of the Lord draweth nigh. I am happy that, through all these things, the Lord continues to work, and souls will be — are being — saved. This does not motivate me, however, to simply accept the direction of this nation as it moves away from its historic moorings. It does not encourage me to compromise with or accommodate lifestyles contrary to both Christian Principles and American Legal Precedent with the idea that this might lead to “signs and wonders and NT stuff.” More often than not, the kinds of things legitimized homosexuality leads to are Sodom and Gomorrah and the collapse and judgment of the nations (Genesis 19; Romans 1:18-32).
I realize that this line of thinking is “Old School,” and that the Post-Modern among us will scoff, mock and have a good laugh at such anachronistic thinking. However, if we don’t understand moral issues based on the Bible, pray tell me what right do we have to call ourselves “Christians”? And if we don’t understand issues of governance based on the thoughts and intent of our Founders, pray tell me what right do we have to call ourselves “Americans”?
Blessings to you, Kevin.
J. Dale Weaver, M. Div.
After reading the comments, I would note that while we do live in a representative democracy, we also live in a classically liberal democracy which means that while we honor the rule of the majority it is always limited by certain protections of minority rights. No one has the Constitutional authority to simply say the law should be thus because God told me it should be. The fact is that people strongly disagree about the way God feels on a lot of different public policy issues. Conservative Evangelical Christians are a very vocal minority in the United States and their religious freedom should be protected but biblical interpretations alone shouldn’t trump honest debate on how to insure liberty and justice for all.
Excelent Argument for Real Marriage and why same sex unions cannot fit the bill, without recourse to Scripture.