What moves people in the Church to equivocate on the question whether marriage is exclusively heterosexual or not? It is important to know the impetus here. I am, admittedly, taking an issue that is so firmly centered in the right brain of emotions and looking at it through the left brain of logic.
We are emotional beings and our emotionality produces the spark of inspiration and joy. We can never divest ourselves of the duality of our brains and should not want to. To do what is right may cause us to suppress our emotional side. Our emotions can take us to foolish and dangerous places so to make decisions merely on the basis of emotion can be a ticking bomb.
There are hosts of reasons for allowing same-sex marriage circulating out there. I am going to list some of those reasons given and think out loud (or on cyber paper) about them. Among the reasons given are:
- We should be able to love who we desire to love
- This is a civil-rights issue
- There is no threat to traditional marriage
- Same gender attraction is genetic
- Public opinion supports same-sex marriage
- The Old Testament restrictions are no longer valid and the New Testament does not address homosexuality
- God is loving and affirms all
We should be able to love those we desire to love…
Perhaps when you read this statement you totally agree as you play in your mind the plot of Romeo and Juliette, West Side Story, Titanic and a host of other films and books with star-crossed lovers. To this we also add the fact that as we look at people in love some of the relationships truly cause us to scratch our heads. “How could those two ever get together?” we think. “Ah, amore’”. Cupid’s arrows strike unusual pairings and those arrows penetrate deep. Emotionally, we root for the lovers and no one likes to see another unhappy.
But, happiness is not the deciding factor that makes the relationship good or proper for society and in the eyes of God. I would further say there is no lasting happiness in doing what is not right in the eyes of God. There are obvious examples that come to mind, adultery being one of them where the persons involved may feel very right and justified in their actions but are still ultimately in the wrong. The wrongness of adultery is agreed upon both in society and religion. We do not have the right to love who we want if we are married and want to step out of the boundaries of the marriage. The boundary is set for the good of both married spouses and for societal stability. Although we all want to be loved by someone of our choice adultery is still ultimately a sinful, self-centered action. Adultery is not a victimless sin as spouses and children are often wreckage left in the wake of the illicit relationship.
The emotional feelings of mutual love, or passion, do not necessarily make a relationship right in the eyes of society or God. So to define, if a love relationship is proper, the propriety cannot stand alone on the intensity and joy of the feelings. Rightness or wrongness is far broader than just the two individuals involved. The law of God determines the rightness of a union; not the emotions or will of people. God will not affirm two adulterers and call it good. Is this hard? At times the denial of our self can really, really hurt and no one denies this. Life requires self-denial at times and on this earth and we will never reach total relational, emotional and physical nirvana. We cannot have it all our way, all the time.
This is a civil-rights issue…
It is no secret that the Gay community has adopted the playbook from the civil-rights movement for African-Americans in the 1950s and 1960s. Certainly gays deserve equal treatment in regards to civic employment and against mistreatment and persecution due to their lifestyle in civil affairs, for example. However to equate the right of gays to marry, as some have, to the African American former slaves gaining the right to marry after the end of the Civil War, is an apples and oranges comparison. Heterosexual African Americans were previously denied the right to marry due to their race and position and now wished to enter into marriage with the opposite gender regardless of their race. The right of marriage previously was largely denied on the basis of skin color. To state the obvious, no one gets to choose their race. However, a person still ultimately has a choice as to whether they engage in homosexual sexual behavior or not. Behavior is a choice. We will get into the issue of gay choice further on.
There is no threat to traditional marriage…
When you take a building block of any culture and alter it radically it is disingenuous to say the change in the boundaries and scope will have no impact. Speaking from logic alone this comment makes no sense. The gay bishop who brought the disagreement to a boil in the Episcopal Church divorced his spouse so he could take a gay lover. So his marriage was ended due to Robinson’s decision to pursue a man.
I have another friend from college who after several years of marriage had his wife leave him for a lesbian relationship. Although these incidents are antidotal I suspect the numbers of these de-cleaving to cleave anew are growing. The simple fact is one party in the relationship pursues their own personal happiness, perhaps at the expense of the soon to be former spouse and perhaps the children. We cannot say with any certainty what all the dynamics involved could be but this issue of bailing from marriage to another is still potentially there. Regardless of the exact numbers, relationships will be altered not necessarily with the consent and approval of all impacted.
Another argument used under this general category of harm to traditional marriage is the oft repeated idea that traditional marriage is a deeply troubled institution anyway, so let’s loosen the boundaries. There is no denying that divorce is prevalent. The cause for the current number of divorces is not the institution of marriage but the practioners in that institution. The concept of marriage as it currently stands is not a fault but people who marry someone who does not want to play by the rules of kindness, fairness, civility and consideration. Or perhaps both do not abide by the ‘rules’ that create a good marriage. Marriage is work and sometimes the struggles frankly can leave one party or both wondering how they can fake their own death.
Same sex relationships fracture as well. It should also be mentioned that in countries where same-sex marriage is legal that the divorce rates among those unions is not lower than traditional marriage. So for the cause of human nature alone we would think that these relationships would not be any more viable or long-lasting than heterosexual marriages. In other words, the same selfishness that dooms heterosexual relationships will also doom same-sex marriages. The fact is that if we see prevalent same-sex marriage we will also see same-sex divorce. Would we then say that the institution of marriage is broken? Or is it those who practice it?
Same gender attraction is genetic
This has been reported to me by individuals, that their same sex attraction had an early onset. This does fairly raise the issue of a genetic and or biological component and clinical studies have gone back and forth on what causes homosexual orientation. Let me say from the get-go that I have no scientific expertise or real intensive knowledge in this field of study.
I don’t have to have any expertise to address the reasonable question that arises as to the ‘rightness or wrongness’ based on these factors. A genetic or biological predisposition does not absolve a person of personal responsibility for their actions. We do not have the luxury of saying ‘my genes made me do it so it must be right and reasonable to do so’. Allow me to use an example that hits close to home for me. Obesity is my constant struggle and I have failed terribly at times. I am loosing weight now but it is not easy. When I say constant, I mean that there was a time when I was at a good weight but it didn’t last.
I have heard that there is a talk of a ‘fat gene’ or there is a genetic component in obesity as well. Regardless, I have an option as to how much and what I eat. I have an option as to whether I will be active or not. Please know that I am not equating homosexuality and obesity; I am making a point about responsibility. Simply put I can choose a course of action. I am still responsible for my decisions that pack on pounds. To say we have a genetic propensity and must follow those genes blindly is to deny personal choice and responsibility. This is not to say that fighting the genetics is easy. However we must own our choices.
Another point raised by some is that if this is genetic that fact alone makes the behavior ‘normal’ If it is normal, how can it be opposed? The assumption is that any genetic difference is good. Someone who has sickle cell anemia may strongly disagree. Please be clear; I am not calling homosexuality a disease. I am merely addressing the absurd position that some hold without carefully thinking through the implications.
Public opinion supports same-sex marriage
Honestly, we can get in deep water with public opinion. If we survey history we quickly see the subjectivity and fickleness of the public. In first century Rome in all likelihood, the masses if they were polled would say that gladiatorial games to the death were acceptable entertainment. During the seventeenth century the New Englander majority may have approved the idea to take land from the native Americas. Doubtless the average person in the southern states of America would have approved of slavery in 1840. Need I go on? Opinion defines a trend, not absolute truth.
The Old Testament restrictions are no longer valid and the New Testament does not address homosexuality.
It is common for people to create a dichotomy between the Old Testament verses the New Testament Yahweh. The thought is that rules and judgment are aspects of a God who has somehow become more accepting and kind. The opinion is that all of the rules of the Old Testament where meant only for the Jewish culture. We do not love and serve Yahweh who has somehow evolved and changed. Indeed, God says of Himself “For I the LORD do not change…” (Mal 3:6)
The New Testament does not eradicate all requirements of the Law of Moses and all boundaries of behavior. For the believer their sins are covered by the blood on the cross, past, present and future. Clearly, in the New Testament the sacrificial system was ended due to Jesus’ all sufficient sacrifice. In the early church the dietary laws were abolished with exception of food sacrificed to idols, ingesting blood and food where the animal is strangled. Otherwise they could now enjoy crab-legs at dinner. This also meant that circumcision was no longer a requirement for males to be Christians (which doubtless brought many sighs of relief from gentile converts). The governance laws, the cultural laws were not passed to the early Christian church.
Sexual immorality however, was forbidden to both the Jewish as well as the gentile churches. Sexual immorality had been defined in both old and new testaments as adultery, fornication, incest and men and women engaging in same gender sexual relation. No other conclusion can be reasonably drawn from the text than that God does not grant carte blanche on sexuality and sexual expression. The only way in which a person can disagree is if they hold the position that this is not what God means. They are saying, “God couldn’t have been in control of what was said or, God are you serious?
Gene Robinson, the gay bishop in New Hampshire says that God is a loving God who wants to affirm everybody. I would pose the question is why is the Bible right when it says God is love but is denied when God places restrictions on sexual behaviors? It is interesting that they will say this part of the Bible isn’t true but this other part (whatever suits their purpose) is.
Why is the Bible taken literally when it prohibits murder but not when it addresses sexuality? No one in Robinson’s camp would deny the injunction against theft which is a literal interpretation of the text, but the scripture cannot be taken literally when it condemns sexual immorality. The only logical conclusion we can draw is that the prohibition against homosexual is ignored because they do not wish to obey it.
God is loving and affirms all (ergo he accepts a cornucopia of people, or is that a rainbow)
The assumption held by those who make this assertion is that total love means total tolerance (or that is a least where they are headed). When we read the Bible what we learn of Yahweh is that He is a jilted lover who desires his people to return to Him that He may heal and restore them. The God of scripture offers for us, a redemption. Yet it seems that those who yearn for same-sex marriage deny that this redemption is truly needed. God does not accept our brokenness as fixed and unchangeable. He desires to restore and heal; He goes to extraordinary lengths to demonstrate His love for us.
A mark of co-dependency is the willingness to submerge your own emotional and physical health, truly, your own person-hood for the love of another. God is not codependent; He does not lose His identity, His character, His holiness in His relationship with us. God is patient and tolerant but there are limits to His willingness to be so.
A wise parent does not indulge their child in every behavior or whim but places boundaries that are not to be crossed. God is our father; Jesus called Him Abba which translates as ‘daddy’. A good dad protects his children as best he can. We need our Father God for nurture, and guidance as we need wise and good parents to do this for us when we are children or bone-headed teen-agers. Sometimes children and teen-agers need to be protected from themselves and God will do this in our adult lives as well. The parent protects regardless of agreement or understanding of the child.
As I grew in adulthood I realized the wisdom of my parents who understood and could see so much of what I could not in my inexperience with the world. I realized the scope of my parent’s life experience and so saw in them what I never even suspected. A child, for their own good must trust the mystery that is their good parent’s will as they see the problems ahead. God sees all of time and space.
Just as a small child does not have to completely know every aspect of their parents and their lives to trust their wisdom neither do we really need complete understanding of God’s plans for the globe. At this point the comparison falls short because a child my grasp virtually everything of the parents but we will never fully grasp or understand God. God’s parental love for us will cause Him to say “no” at times. He will give us what is for our ultimate good but not necessarily for our temporal desires. We are called to rest in the arms of His love, mercy and goodness.
We are called to trust, and obey.