(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?